I didn’t make it to Las Vegas last month for the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. (What, give up being snowed-in and bundled up like that kid in A Christmas Story for sun and fun in short sleeves at the year’s biggest tech-geek confab? Well, actually, yes. Please, boss, may I?)
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t take note of the cool vid-tech gadgets I now have my lust-filled eyes on. So, here’s my first Wish List of the year, straight from the Best of CES 2012 Award Winners:
BEST OF SHOW
This was a big year at CES for “Smart TVs” — enhanced with apps and online access, as opposed to our previous Stupid TVs. So it’s no surprise that the big trophy winner in the TVs category also took the top Best prize.
It’s the new flagship TV from LG, the 55-inch EM9600 OLED TV. If this model lives up to the hype, LG’s organic light-emitting diode (or OLED) and proprietary imaging algorithm may just make reality itself look blurry and low-rez by comparison. Packed into its ultra-thin panel — we’re talking only 4mm / 0.1575 inches thick, or less than a stack of four CDs — are features such as smart-TV streaming (including social media), LG's Magic Motion gesture control remote with a built-in mic, and 3D capability.
Look for it in the second half of this year, most likely in September. There’s no pricing info yet, although it’s no secret that right now OLED technology comes pricier than LCD. However, LG says that within the next four years OLED prices will drop to LCD levels. And since LG’s chief competitor, Samsung, has also announced that its own 55-inch OLED TV will hit the market soon, I foresee a new price war coming.
Samsung is also already an aggressive player in getting you to think of your TV as a 55" social media dashboard, with apps for multiple social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube. So with LG and Samsung (among others) competing for the HootSuite-like territory, by this time next year I expect the marketing term "social TV" to be a Twitter hashtag made relevant by Wil Wheaton. But will it stick, or will it go the way of Blu-ray's "BD Live" bust?
Have you always wanted to learn how to record a show from DVR to a computer? In the home theater category, the trophy went to the Simple.TV DVR, which lets you record and stream TV to all your connected devices, even outside your home network. Simple.TV DVR will have some very impressive features and capabilities that surpass even the best streaming video capture software currently available. Due this spring, Simple.TV DVR is another example of how thinking in terms of “the cloud” is shaping how we manage our entertainment media.
Instead of having its own built-in hard drive, you hook up the small Simple.TV DVR box to your own USB drive for storage. Then you can stream either live or recorded HD network and basic cable programming to a Simple.TV app on your iPad, Roku, Boxee or Google TV. By adding Simple.TV’s premium service for $5 per month, you can stream your TV content outside your home network, à la Slingbox. The low monthly cost makes Simple.TV the closest thing to a DVR recorder with a hard drive and no subscription.
No word yet on whether the Simple.TV DVR is Wi-Fi-capable or bound to an Ethernet cable, so I’m not yet sure that it’s ideal for consumers (like me) looking to toss as many cords as possible.
I do a lot of traveling, and my iPad is as elemental a carry-on as my change of socks. So I’m loving the notion of another way to watch and record live broadcast TV, as well as watch any recordings on my home hard drive, anywhere I happen to be and on my own time. The future of TV unquestionably includes small boxes that bridge the gap between the home cable box and the devices we carry with us to access our video content. (At this moment while typing, I’m chuckling at how I automatically say “access our video content” when just a few years ago I said simply “watch TV.” I, for one, welcome our new digital overlords and their ironic euphemistic lexicon.)
Speaking of on-the-go video, the device that took the Tablets prize may be another game-changer. It’s the 7-inch Asus Memo 370T. The straight-up specs — it’s quad-core Tegra 3-based, ships with the Android 4.0 platform (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich), 1GB of system RAM, at least 16GB of storage, an 8 megapixel camera, HDMI output, and a 1280x800 resolution IPS screen — serve up a level of detail that can give me Stop Error of the Brain. What grabs me here is the combination of a Tegra 3-based tablet for an asking price of only $250, making this Android 4.0 tablet one of the best tablets on the market for its price point. It’s due to hit the streets in the second quarter, and it’s on my Wish List of new travel toys vital necessities.
NOT FOR THE DOGS
With this year’s Westminster Dog Show also now done and its “Best in Show” winner (a Pekingese named Malachy) on his way to pooch glory, how about this for Christopher Guest’s next mock-doc comedy movie: Best in Show 2: Viva Electronics! Eugene Levy plays the socially awkward genius who exhibits his fully immersive 3D virtual-reality glasses — black horn-rims, of course, loaded only with apps from I Can Has Cheezburger.