The Magical and Ridiculous Gadgets of Tomorrow, or, the One Post to Read About CES

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Hello! I just found a handful of wonderful technology in Las Vegas, an oasis in the desert, at CES, the country's biggest electronics show.

There are over 100,000 people here to see roughly 20,000 gadgets brought to the light of day in less time than it takes for a rattlesnake to shed its skin.

Without hype, these are the gadgets that will be worth knowing about in 2012. I found about 9, with the help of my friends.

(Below these, I've listed a few dozen that were lauded, but I believe are not very important, interesting, or relevant.)

A HOBO PHONE: The most important phone at CES is the SpareOne, a simple phone that can run off of an AA battery--perfect for stashing as an emergency phone along with a prepaid SIM card.

ART CAMERA: This is the only gadget at the show that melts my heart every time I think about it. Fuji has a new interchangable lens camera called the XPro-1 that follows up their adored X100 street camera, which even regular people lusted after. Why? The X100 looks like a rangefinder/leica, manual controls when you needed them, and took great photos with its fast, fixed lens. X1-Pro camera is the followup that will have changeable lenses and potentially be able to use Leica M mount lenses with an adapter, said Fuji. It will also have an awesome lens collection of three primes: a wide, 50mm equivalent and a modest zoom macro. These are the kinds of fast lenses that can give your photos those romantic out of focus backgrounds that make every place look like Paris. The body alone is $1700, which is DSLR priced, but the images should keep up with DSLRs of the same price. I want this more than anything else I've seen at the show, and I think I might get one over the also amazing Sony NEX-7 Camera, which is technically astounding but has a mediocre lens selection that is not worthy of a $1300 camera. If you want to know a LOT about this camera, check out DP Review's awesome preview.

That's all I care about in cameras at CES. But wow, I care about this camera a LOT.

A DRONE FOR THE REST OF US: The Parrot AR DRONE 2.0 is an update to the ipad-controlled quadcopter toy that makes it a bit more serious and a lot cheaper as a tool for aerial photography. The new one is better at staying in place (it has an air pressure sensor that lets it maintain altitude more steadily) and an HD wireless video camera. When I saw it running, the drone was loitering in place, occasionally flipping over in mid air. It is also cheaper than the last model than at $300. I want one. My dream is to fly one over the beach and film the ocean from above.

BIG TV: The real action in TVs is, as always, not with the mega high end concept televisions but the Panasonic and Samsung plasma TVs that are the ones people will end up owning.

Samsung's amazing D7000 plasma HDTV was one of the best TVs of last year, and its follow up in the PNE8000, will also be great as a TV. It will have gesture and voice commands, which are a useful way to control the TV when the remote is on safari. Considering how hard it was for Microsoft to master Xbox's Kinect and its voice and motion controls, it could suck.

Samsung is also going to be dropping 2 to 4 sets of 3d glasses in the box of every new 3D tv. These generally cost over $100 each, so this is more than an afterthought-it's serious charity that everyone else will have to follow.

Vizio, the king of cheap TVs, had a rough year in 2011 winning few awards. This year, they've also got a super widescreen HDTV called the cinemawide that is super cool. No, really-it's wide as a hollywood movie at 21:9 (2560 x 1080) instead of the more standard 16:9 and much wider than all other TVs you can buy now in the US. If you're a movie buff, this could make watching films super cool as long as the sets perform well. It's 58-inches. At the very least, it will look amazing in a livingroom. I want.

 

That's everything you need to know about TVs in the coming year.

THIN COMPUTERS: Everyone's talking about ultrabooks! I don't even know what an Ultrabook technically is, but they all seem to be Macbook Air-like, thin and powerful. That is a good thing.

But a real head turner at the show is the Dell XPS 13, which is lighter and smaller than a Macbook Air. It has some cloud connect thingy that lets it check your email and get it ready for you to read, among other tasks, while its in sleep mode so you can get back to work as soon as you open the lid. It has a backlit keyboard, and is aluminum and carbon fiber. Mark from Laptop Mag has a solid hands on here. The kicker? This pup starts at just under $1000. The thing that makes it inferior to the Air is its screen is lower resolution.

There's one laptop I liked with better resolution and slightly more power potential than the Air, although at a larger price and footprint: HP's Specter 14. It has a gorilla glass lid and a $1400 price tag. (The reason it's not the primary laptop of choice here is because most agree the XPS has it by wow factor.)

But here's the bottom line: Sometimes this year, Intel's faster chipset called Ivy Bridge as well as Windows 8 are coming out. Wait for them to get a PC.

That's all I care about in computers. (If you want to know about computer components, check out Anandtech.com)

WIRELESS SOUND:
I trust Bang & Olufsen to make good, expensive gear, and so I have a good bit of faith the Beolit 12 wireless speaker will be wonderful. Some Jambox wireless speaker competitors have tried and failed to take the throne, but this B&O airplay speaker is high powered at 120 watts, so it kind of opens up a new category out of nowhere: Wireless airplay speakers that can make you deaf.

MATERIAL MATTERS: Gorilla glass, the miracle glass that is strong enough to put on gadget faces like the iphone or even TVs, is now 20% stronger in version 2.0. This means it can be implemented in a thinner manifestation on future gadgets to improve touchscreen responsiveness, weight and thinness. It's amazing to think about Gorilla Glass as a lost technology that Corning couldn't monetize until Steve Jobs pushed them to convert a factory to start making it again, in 6 months. I can't recall exactly, but in Walter Isaacson's bio, I think the tech was decades old.

 

ANNOUNCING THE BEST GADGET OF CES: An expensive fridge by LG that can take a can of beer from warm to cold in 5 minutes. Here's a video by my friend, John Mahoney, for Pop Science.

Click through for the appendix, LOVED OR UNLOVED STUFF THAT DID NOT CAPTURE MY INTEREST (YOU REALLY COULD JUST PASS ON THIS SECTION AND BE JUST FINE)

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Brian Lam is editor of The Scuttlefish and The Wirecutter, and formerly editor of Gizmodo.

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