CES 2009: First impressions; CES Unveiled [Day 1]

Yes, it's that time of year again. Mere hours after my plane touched the tarmac in a surprisingly chilly Las Vegas, CES 2009 has kicked off with the unofficial opening to the show: CES Unveiled.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

CESYes, it's that time of year again. Mere hours after my plane touched the tarmac in a surprisingly chilly Las Vegas, CES 2009 has kicked off with the unofficial opening to the show: CES Unveiled.

With consideration to the terrible economic free-fall the world has and continues to experience, there are a surprising amount of people buzzing about the ballrooms at The Venetian for the event. Make no mistake: Princeton economist Paul Krugman may be heralding the second Great Depression, but vendors and press alike are oohing and ahhing at new gadgets anyway, Heinekens in hand.

What recession?

Though there isn't much news to report at an event like this -- stay tuned, most of the big announcements are slated for tomorrow throughout the day -- there is certainly some new gadgetry out on the tables to look and feel and play with (if you can get that close).

Here are some of my favorites:

Lenovo W700ds

Laptops and Desktops blogger John Morris first introduced us to this jaw-dropping notebook, which is a 17-inch behemoth that packs another 10.6-inch screen extension in the side of the display, not unlike a CD-ROM drive. It's one thing to look at product photos of this laptop, but it's a whole different ballgame to see it in person -- it's huge, and judging by the enormous bezel needed to handle the display hardware, it's not going to win any awards for being the prettiest belle at the ball. Lenovo reps told me that it's intended to replace the procedure of carrying around a second display -- but I'm not completely sold, since this thing feels heavy. Seems like trading one back-breaker for another.

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Asus had several notebooks on display, including iterations of the S101H introduced in October. Interesting note: saw several reporters tapping on Asus netbooks as they ate dinner. Apparently you can file stories and handle an amuse-bouche at the same time. Also of note: The T91, a 2 lb., 1 in.-thick notebook that carries a swivel display and packs an Atom processor, which was introduced while I was still in the air. No word on pricing or availability, but Gizmodo's got pics.

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Possibly an indication of just how important mobile devices are in 2009, people were raving over the Powermat, which despite not being a new product at this event, drew an enormous crowd. (Then again, maybe people just needed a charge after the six hour flight.)

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Divx released Divx 7 this morning, adding H.264 support to their old codec. The name of the game: high-def video.

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Excited about the latest models of MSI's popular Wind netbook? You're not alone. It's a good looking machine with a few Apple-esque (circa 2008) cues, and it drew a crowd not unlike Madonna would schlepping around London. The company also displayed its NetOn AE1900 and 1901 nettops, machines I'm still on the fence about. If everything's moving toward the laptop, are nettops useful in anything but institutional settings?

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Corsair had a gnarly Asus motherboard with its memory on display, but the spotlight was on its Flash Voyager USB thumb drives, packing a whopping 64GB into a little chip. Let the memory wars begin!

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LG had a humongous 55-inch, razor-thin display on hand, taking feeds from a settop box alongside it. The company also had its latest Blu-ray player on hand, but reps were mum on price and availability beyond Q2 2009.

Conclusion: Stay tuned

Macworld may not have impressed this year, but there's still plenty to discover at this year's CES. Tomorrow: New products and Steve Ballmer's keynote (unconfirmed rumor heard in transit: a Microsoft phone). Stay tuned!

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