Technology

A clash of the tablets in 2011?

The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up last week. While the show used to have the geeks' full attention in the past, nowadays it mostly just serves as a place holder to whatever 800-pound gorillas are coming down the pike from Apple and Google.

Some of this can be attributed to the far-off release dates for all the gadgets shown. (Most everything had "coming Summer 2011" attached to it.) But much of it has to do with knowing full well something being demonstrated by a company could be complete vaporware and might never see the light of day.

Last year's HP "Slate" is a perfect example: It was demoed by Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer during the CES keynote yet never actually became a real shipping product.

Keeping that in mind, the focus of the show was clearly on the coming wave of "iPad killers." Just about every heavy-hitter in the industry had one to show off, yet none were even close to being finished and no prices were announced. Apple has such a huge head start (and most people expect an iPad 2 this year) the battle is clearly for No. 2 in the tablet space.

Of note was the Motorola Xoom, which will sport a 10-inch screen, a dual-core processor, two cameras, Android 3.0 (the first Android OS designed specifically for Tablets) and offer 4G connectivity on Verizon.

A big disappointment was the Blackberry Playbook. Despite a beautiful 7-inch form factor and new custom designed OS, the device inexplicably must be tethered to a Blackberry in order to access the e-mail and calendar programs. Fine for Blackberry users, but what about the rest of us?

Besides tablets, there were plenty of gadgets and announcements that piqued my interest and might require the credit card later this year. Here are my favorites:

THE BEST OF CES

  • Sony's Bloggie 3D digital camera: Combining two lenses and two image sensors, this digicam can capture 5 megapixel 3-D images and video. It also has a glasses-free 2.4" 3-D LCD screen for viewing your handiwork without looking ridiculous to passers-by. Very cool, but you still need a 3-D enabled TV to really view your amazing shots. This is for the early adopter only -- and remember parents, kids younger than 6 are not to view 3-D images as it can damage their still-developing eyesight.
  • Vizio's Razor LED TVs: Sporting 50- and 58-inch options, these new 3-D TVs from Vizio will have Internet apps, bluetooth QWERTY remote controls and baked-in Google TV functionality. What sets them apart however is their 21:9 aspect ratio. Wider than the current 16:9 standard, this aspect ratio does away with those annoying black bars on the top and bottom of your screen when watching a movie. Vizio being Vizio, expect them to be competitively priced.
  • Motorola's Droid Bionic: The latest and greatest Android phone out there (well, for that week anyway), the Bionic will sport a dual-core processor and run on Verizon's 4G network. It makes this list because of the new "Mirror Mode" feature that will allow streaming of video to your TV. If it works, that may make for a very compelling device that could replace set-top Internet boxes.
  • And finally, the most important announcement of CES by far: Star Wars on Blu-ray will be coming out in September! Both trilogies will get the individual box set treatment, but, of course, the true geeks will be buying "The Complete Saga" 9-disc set with more than 30 hours of extra Star Wars goodness. No word yet on if the original-original trilogy will be included (Han shot first!) but that would merely be the little chocolate sprinkles on top of the icing on the cake that is Star Wars in HD.
  • Morgan Bonner is Pre-Press Manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette

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