As day one of CES comes to a close, some quick snapshots of three of the more interesting products I've come across both on the show floor, and at the myriad press-only events that accompany the show.
Belkin Conserve Surge Protector
Yes, you read that correctly. One of the most intriguing products I've seen at CES so far is a surge protector. Until now, the only solution I had for trying to eliminate phantom (or vampire) power - the energy that electronic devices draw even when they're turned off - is to pull their plugs out of the wall when they're not in use. Cell phone and laptop chargers even draw power when they're plugged but not attached to their respective devices. In a 2000 study, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Alan Meier estimated that phantom power was responsible for roughly 10-percent of energy consumption in US households (thanks, Wikipedia).
The Belkin Conserve ($49.99, available this summer) solves that problem by including an RF remote control that allows you to turn off power to six of its outlets - the remaining two can be used for devices that require constant power, such as a PVR. When you want to turn on the other devices, simply flip the switch, and everything that's plugged into the strip will get juice again. The $49.99 cost could pay for itself pretty quickly with lowered energy bills, and it's a heck of a lot more convenient than constantly plugging and unplugging your power adapters.
Sony XEL-1 t OLED TV
It's not often that a new product can get compared to IBM's PCjr, the Apple Newton, and the Diamond Rio all in the same article, but that's the risk Sony's ran when it decided to launch an 11-inch TV that costs $2,500.
Clearly at that price, this set's not for the masses. And while there's no disputing the fact that it delivers an exquisite picture, the headturning-feature of the set is its thickness, which measurers a mind-staggering three millimeters. With virtually all of the major manufacturers touting their new thin models, it's hard to believe that my year-old 50-inch plasma is practically a CRT circa 1978 in comparison to prototypes on the show floor.
Slacker Portable Audio Player
My colleage Shawn Morton who writes the Practical Gadgetry blog for ZDNet's sister site, TechRepublic, turned me onto this interesting new entry in the digital audio space. While Slacker's Personal Radio service made its debut at last March's South by Southwest conference, its new Slacker Portable marks its first physical player, and will play both MP3s and WMA files, in addition to being able to stream and cache streams from the Slacker service via USB or wireless (the player is 802.11b/g-capable).
The players, which range in price from $199 to $299, depending on the number of stations you want to access, will work with Slacker's free service. But if you want to take full advantage of all that Slacker has to offer - more stations, no commercials, and the ability to both save songs you like, and to skip through as many of the songs that you don't, you'll want to pony up for the company's premium service, which ranges from $7.50-$9.99 a month, depending on the length of contract. The Slacker Portable is an interesting product right out of the gate, but if the company can deliver on its promise, it gets really intriguing down the road, when the company introduces a satellite dock for the player, potentially making the player a far-less expensive alternative to XM and Sirius.
Though I only played with the product for a couple of minutes, I found the UI to be fairly intuitive, though the device itself felt a bit cheap, and in fact, the display on one of the two that I saw on display actually refused to turn on.