CES: Most Innovative Gadget Roundup

Summary:The CES is already winding down in Sin City and as expected tablets were the hot ticket items. Here's my short list of the most innovative mobile gadgets at the CES 2011.

The CES is already winding down in Sin City and as expected tablets were the hot ticket items. We don't always get to see innovative products at the big show, but this year a few unique gadgets caught my eye. Two of the devices making the innovative gadget list use mobile technology in unique ways, and with the expected glut of tablets a couple stood out from the pack making the list. Here's my short list of the most innovative mobile gadgets at the CES 2011.

Larry Dignan points out that Motorola Mobility had a good show this year, and as two of Motorola's new products made my list I tend to agree. Last year I had the pleasure of speaking one-on-one with Motorola Mobility's CEO Sanjay Jha about future innovation at the company, and he impressed me with his clear understanding that me-too products were not good enough in the competitive mobile space. The two gadgets making this year's innovative gadget roundup refreshingly show the RaZR is a thing of the past and the company is clearly looking to stand out from the crowd.

Motorola's XOOM tablet is a solid entry into the soon-to-be crowded Android tablet field. The XOOM will be released by Verizon in the U.S. running Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), Google's first version designed to handle tablets. The hardware in the XOOM shows the typical Motorola attention to detail, from the Nvidia dual-core processor to the 3G connectivity that can be upgraded to Verizon's 4G network. Motorola will offer accessories designed to extend the usefulness of the XOOM including a wireless keyboard and media dock to connect to a TV.

I have already designated the Motorola Atrix 4G and laptop dock as my pick for the best gadget of the CES and that selection still stands. The Atrix 4G smartphone cements Motorola's commitment to Nvidia as it also has a dual-core Tegra processor like the XOOM. The phone is a solid Android smartphone, but the magic starts when it is plugged into the laptop dock. The dock uses the processor, storage and memory of the phone to comprise a system with long battery life for those who find a full laptop is overkill. The Atrix and dock are optimized for online activities, for those times when a phone display and keyboard are just not sufficient. The Atrix will be sold through AT&T in the U.S., but no word has been given for pricing of the laptop dock.

Moving away from Motorola, the last gadget making my list comes from stodgy Lenovo, maker of the ThinkPad line of notebooks. The LePad Android tablet shown at CES would not make this list alone, but when paired with the U1 hybrid notebook shell it stands out from the crowd. I first saw this combo at last year's CES but Lenovo decided to hold off with the market release. This delay is the result of dropping its original proprietary Linux distro in the tablet, in favor of a highly customized Android distro in the current model. The LePad tablet is a full Android tablet that doubles as the display for the U1 hybrid notebook shell when popped into that unit. The U1 shell has a full Intel processor and Windows 7 onboard, so when the Android tablet is plugged into the shell the duo becomes a full Windows notebook. Lenovo has done a good job making the transition from one OS (and processor) to the other very seamless. Lenovo is readying the pair (sold separately) for China release shortly, with the rest of the world coming "later". The only down side to this innovative product is the pricing, with both units costing $1,800 as per Lenovo.

Topics: CES, 4G, Android, Hardware, Laptops, Lenovo, Mobile OS, Mobility, Tablets, Verizon

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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