Our Take: Favorites From CES 2011
by Devin Coldewey on January 11, 2011


The supreme madness of the CES season has passed on once more, leaving our team with sore feet and a tech hangover. If you were watching our live video stream, you know what sort of a show it was — pretty much CES 2010: The Next Generation, what with all the 3D TVs and tablets. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing worth seeing. Far from it, in fact; the show floor was packed with interesting devices, they just weren’t at the big players’ booths.

Here are our favorites from CES and impressions of the show in general.


John: CES is always a big show for us and this year I think we did a great job covering the big news and giving you guys a taste of what it’s like to be on the floor thanks to our constant live video stream. I wasn’t amazed my anything this year although we did love the Motorola Atrix and I liked the Sphero.

I also liked our song.

I think the CE industry just pulled out of a ditch thanks to the economy and is now motoring along quite nicely. Things can only go up. Here’s hoping next CES is ten times better.


Devin: While 3D TVs are getting more convenient (no more LCD glasses) and tablets more compelling (actual platform diversity), those things haven’t proven themselves quite yet and personally, I think I’ll wait until Android 3.1. No, my favorite at the show was Fujifilm’s X100, a DSLR-size-sensor (APS-C), fixed-lens (23mm F/2), retro-styled camera with a crazy viewfinder that may offer something unique in the crowded enthusiast camera genre. It reminds me of my old Canon FTb (though far lighter), and the hybrid viewfinder is a delight. We’ll see how the other things pan out, but I just get a good feeling from this camera.

I will say that I’m glad to see the status quo shaken up a little bit with the Windows/ARM and Android/Tegra 2 alliances. Hopefully this means more freedom for the consumer. Though it is far from certain whether the consumer actually wants this freedom.


Matt: CES is a trade show of new ideas, but this year it wasn’t the massive amount of new wares that impressed me — and there was a lot. No, it was the small companies that are sticking around and evolving into real players.

There was Boxee with a sweet looking iPad app that goes perfect with the just-launched Boxee Box. iTwin, the remote flash drive that launched at TechCrunch50 2009, is now shipping. Chumby outed another model and now has a full product line with a solution for nearly everyone. Plex has an Android app and now Blue Microphone showed off their new Flip microphone line. Even the Notion Ink was around for their second CES. The big boys don’t impress me anymore. They’re predictable and soulless. But these other companies, they have fire in their eyes and seeing that passion was the best thing of CES 2011 for me.


Nicholas: I will say this until my voice is even more hoarse than it was last week, but the Celestron Skyprodigy is my favorite item from CES, if for no other reason than process of elimination. I’ve no particular interest in tablets (this was “the year of the tablet”), and even though the Motorola Atrix is probably the best phone I’ve come across, the fact is that I’m a desktop guy: I like my big, hulking computer just the way it is. So the Atrix, while neat, checks boxes that I don’t necessarily need checked.

But the Skyprodigy, now there’s something I can get behind. In three minutes you’ve got a fully automated telescoped pointed at the heavens. You take the little remote control, type in “find Jupiter,” and the Skyprodigy does the rest (demo video here). Seconds later the telescope is trained on the planet, or whatever you requested, and you’re well on your way to learning about the cosmos. To me that just seems a heck of a lot more fun than, say, struggling to watch Hulu on a tiny tablet screen. So as far as things that left a positive impression upon me, yeah, I’d go with the Skyprodigy. That’s nothing particularly against all the other items we saw, but it probably comes closest to something I’d use in my spare time.

The show itself? I guess it was OK. I would have enjoyed it better if I weren’t sick as a dog for the first two days, then if I hadn’t lost my voice for the remainder of the days. It’s kinda hard to talk to companies when you try to speak and your vocal cords are all but broken! It seemed far more crowded this year than last, which I guess means the economy is fixed and we can all go back to buying Hummers and diamond-encrusted sneakers. One thing I particularly liked was that all the big press conferences were all on one day. It made that one day go on forever, but it left the rest of the week open for us to roam around the show floor trying to pick out some of the highlights for y’all.


Greg: Oh, CES; you sweet, sweet succubus. You are irrefutable proof that most tech bloggers/journalist-types are ever-so-slightly masochistic. You take us in, destroy our minds and bodies (especially our backs), chew us up, and spit us out. And yet, year after year, we come back with a child-like excitement and an ignorant glow.

I thoroughly enjoyed this show. Not because of any one gadget, or even the entire collection of gadgets that debuted at this show — but because of the mindset. Compared to the last few shows, it felt like people cared again. Manufacturers were bringing out their best gear, and pushing them as hard as possible. My fellow writers actually seemed to enjoy covering the flurry of news. These mindsets matter, and drive us through the year that follows.

I’m the mobile guy, so I suppose my favorite gadget should be something mobile — like the Motorola Atrix, for example. I did indeed love the Atrix and its wonky laptop/webtop trick at first glance, and it was great to see Motorola doing anything to stand out in a sea of growingly similar smartphones. With a bit more thought on the matter, though, I’m not entirely sure how appealing or useful it really is. So in the end, my favorite thing: seeing Samsung’s Flexible OLED displays in person. Seriously, full-color, touchscreen wrist computer. Give it to me.


There you have it. We’ll have plenty of follow-ups in the coming months as the items teased at CES actually become available and make their way into our hot little hands for review. We hope you enjoyed our coverage as much as we enjoyed producing it, and we’ll see you at the next show.

Love,
The Guys

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Devin Coldewey (it's "cold-away") is a freelance writer and photographer based in Seattle. His personal website is coldewey.cc, and you can reach him at devin at crunchgear dot com.

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