CES: My day one highlight? A surge protector

CES: My day one highlight? A surge protector

Summary: 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 ProtectorYes, you read that correctly.


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

Belkin Conserve Surge ProtectorYes, 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.

Sony XEL-1 t OLED TVClearly 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

Slacker Portable Audio PlayerMy 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.

Topics: Hardware, Collaboration, Laptops, Mobility


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Kudos for hiliting an important issue

    Phantom power drains are a big problem, kudos for calling attention to it.

    If the numbers are correct, think of the cancer,asthma,and developmental development causing pollution we can stop producing by using 10% less energy from fossil fuels.

    And yes, it does work that way - you could take more than a few generating stations offline (or scale back their production) with a ten percent reduction in demand.

    As "computer and gadget people" we should _continue_ to improve our performance in this regard.
  • Yep

    That's one of the reasons I turn my systems off when not in use by turning off the entire strip. Even my cable modem is turned off, denying all attackers from even sniffing until I'm at least back at my system.
  • RE: CES: My day one highlight? A surge protector

    Great. Another remote to carry around. Wonder how much of the savings is offset by the cost of the friggin' batteries.
  • barely makes economic sense

    I figure the stuff I would plug into this strip would draw about 10watts total on standby. Even figuring only 4 hours average daily use; i.e., 20 hours on standby. It takes 100 hours to reach a kilowatt (which is how we pay for power).

    Okay, since I am doing this in my head... 100 hours rounds to about 4 days. And assuming $0.20 per kilowatt (low some places, high others), that's a nickel a day... 20 days to reach a dollar. Now adequate surge protection can be had for about $20, making the premium on this unit, $30. 30 X 20 = 600 days until payback or about 20 months.

    Given that surge protectors generally are only good for an average of a couple years (that's not a lifetime warranty, it's an insurance policy - not quite the same thing), plus as pointed out, the cost of batteries... [and for our greener readers, the polution caused from the manufacturing and disposal of those batteries]... the actual selling price is going to have to be a lot less than $50 to convince me I'm doing much of anything for the environment.

    Want a better, cheaper idea? Put the dang switch on the end of the strip OPPOSITE the power cord, so I can more easily position the strip to just turn it off and on as desired.
    Jim Johnson
  • Powerstrip

    Remember the powerstrip (Or platform) you put under your Monitor?
    They had individual on/off switches right in front of you!! I think it would be as good or better. NO remote and individual control.

    Funny, all the Talkbacks are only for the "Powerstrip"...LOL
    • Powerstation under monitor

      The other day I saw two of them at the Amvets second-hand store. $6 and $4, the $6 one had phone line protection too. Believe me, I was tempted.
  • RE: CES: My day one highlight? A surge protector

    Since when did we get so lazy that we need a remote to turn off our surge protectors? How about bending over and reaching under your desk to turn it off or use a foot to flick the switch to shut off your brick. Also I am puzzled why no one realizes or is bothered that these surge protectors all use MOV's and will eventually get tossed out or hopefully recycled. Why don't you just stop the waste and use a surge box like Brickwall? Hey you can count on it for the rest of your life and pass it on to your kids!