CES: HD Camcorders, and set-top boxes, and cheap Blu-ray, oh my!

Another long day of wandering the floor at CES yielded some solid, albeit not paradigm-shifting, discoveries. And don't worry, no surge protectors today.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Another long day of wandering the floor at CES yielded some solid, albeit not paradigm-shifting, discoveries. And don't worry, no surge protectors today.

Canon VIXIA HF10 HD Camcorder

With my wife due to give birth to our first child in a couple of months, we're finally ready to purchase our first camcorder, and one of my goals of CES was to come up with our top choice. And though I'll want to wait for the first actual reviews, with Canon's introduction of its VIXIA HF10, I think we have our winner. The HF 10 is a "dual flash memory" high definition (1920x1080) camcorder, and includes 16GB of internal storage, as well as an SDHC expansion slot. Canon estimates the internal storage will hold up to six hours of footage.

The HF10 is actually smaller than it appears in the photo, it's remarkably light, and it felt great in my hand. I found the camcorder's widescreen LCD to be very bright with excellent viewing angles. The camcorder shoots in two modes - 24p, which Canon says allows "users to mimic the look of Hollywood-style movies" and 30p progressive mode that "delivers clarity for fast action events, such as sports or news, and is the perfect frame rate for clips intended to be posted on the Web."

At $1,099, the HF10 is reasonably priced for an HD camcorder, though clearly pricey for a consumer model. But come on, once baby has a new pair of shoes, baby's gonna have to have an HD camcorder, no?

Digeo Moxi Multi-Room HD-DMR
Moxi DMR
I first saw Digeo's digital media recorder at the 2000 CES, and couldn't wait to get my hands on one. It looked to have virtually all the DVR functionality one needed, a snazzy UI, and best of all, the ability to stream both audio and video content from one box to multiple rooms.

Seven years later, there's a lot more competition, and the Moxi DMR is still not available as a standalone device - it's only available directly through eight cable companies. Sadly, Time Warner Cable in New York City isn't one of them, so I'm still waiting for the chance to replace my cable box with it.

However, my wait may soon be coming to an end. If the company sticks to its schedule, the Moxi Multi-Room HD-DMR will be available as a retail product before the end of the year - though given the lengthy development cycle, I'm not exactly confident enough to go get in line at Best Buy just yet.

For those of us accustomed to the sluggish navigation found on many digital set-top boxes, the Moxi's clean, fast UI will be a welcome change. In addition to rich DVR and program guide functionality, the Moxi includes a DVD player, and it will be compatible with a variety of online services, including Flickr, online music service FineTune and CloverLeaf DotDaily news. And, thankfully, the ability to stream content to multiple rooms remains a critical piece of the puzzle for the Moxi, with the addition of a "Moxi Mate" client.

A number of questions remain - including the price (right now, a company spokesperson would only say "under $1,000), and how large of a hard disk it will include (the latter is a bit less of an issue given the fact that consumers will be able to add an extra drive through a USB port on the front of the device).

If you're a heavy user of video on demand, the Moxi DMR won't be a great alternative for you - it communicates with your cable company via cable card, and cable cards don't support VOD. It's also a surprisingly large product - unlike the VIXIA HF10, it's even bigger in person than it appears in the photo - roughly the size of an A/V receiver.

I can probably live with those drawbacks - to me, the biggest question is how far under $1,000 the final pricing come in. Hopefully far enough that I can finally scratch my seven-year itch.

Funai NB500 Series Blu-ray player

Funai NB500

With the return process underway for my Toshiba HD-DVD player (thanks, Amazon!), it's time to set my sights on a Blu-ray player. Of course one of the big knocks on Blu-ray players are their prices - the least expensive players still tend to be over $300. And with the demise of HD-DVD, consumers won't be able to count on format-driven price wars. But Funai today announced that it would sell its new NB500 series player for under $300, though other details were few and far between.

Haven't heard of them? You're not alone. Funai sells some products under its own name, but also produces units for Sylvania, Symphonic and Emerson. Time will tell if the player's any good, but hopefully at the very least, it will put some downward pressure on Blu-ray prices.

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