Events HTPC

CES Preview

The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show opened to the press last night with analyst presentations and vendor product previews. With some exceptions, the products showcased focused on themes of energy management, family care, and iOS device accessories, but the product categories were diverse. Exhibitors were showing eldercare monitors, device chargers, cooktops, apps, baby scales, plus lots and lots of hardware prototypes. There were more iPhone cases than you’d think any reporter or blogger would care about.

Most of the exhibitors present were smaller names, but some big guys, like LG and OnStar were there, too. Lenovo had a very large presence, showing off their new ultrabook lineup.

Here are some of the products that caught our attention. Some good, some bad…some relevant to home and mobile media technology and some not.

CES Preview
Paired with a Mac Mini, Newer Technologies miniStack MAX could power an awesome HTPC

Other Word Computing—often most known for Mac and PC mod components and accessories—was showing off the miniStack MAX, a storage and connections interface with a footprint designed to match the new Mac Mini. Coming later this quarter, it includes a slot optical drive, SD card reader, and storage enclosure that, combined with the Mac Mini, makes for a great home theater PC. Unfortunately, they’re not talking about Blu-ray yet.

RCA was showing a wifi-enabled sound bar that adds connected video services like Netflix to any television. The device will reportedly retail for under $200, and it will be available later this year.

CES Preview
Marvell's reference design for an ARM-based Google TV set top box

Marvell was showing a reference design for an ARM-based Google TV set top box, but they were unable to discuss news about specific partners who might be bringing products to market.

Nest Labs was showing the Nest thermostat. It’s as slick and beautiful as we imagined. We learned after including the Nest thermostat in our holiday gift guide that they were sold out of product! But they assured us that they’re filling back orders as quickly as possible, and they expect to have more available in the next few months. In the meantime, if you live near one of the new Best Buy prototype stores, you could be lucky enough to find one on the store shelf!

Lenovowas proudly showing the sleek angles and colors of its new IdeaPad and ThinkPad ultrabook lines. Think you know what a ThinkPad looks like? Think again. This is not your father’s ThinkPad. Lenovo also showed the Atom-based IdeaCenter Q180 HTPC (now available with Blu-ray add-on) and a 14″ USB-powered external LCD display.

CES Preview
The Powerbag battery is small and light

If you carry a bunch of devices around, and you worry about keeping them charged throughout the day or trip, you’ll love the new line of chargers from Powerbag and myCharge. The new battery pack for the Powerbag line carries 3000mAh, is small enough to get through security without any problems, and charges up to four devices simultaneously. We could use one of these!

Belkin was showing a hardware prototype for its previously-announced Thunderbolt dock, which allows thunderbolt-enabled laptops to connect all desktop peripherals with just one cable. Due out later this year, Belkin expects to price this product at $299—which is probably about $130 too expensive.

GreenWave Reality demonstrated a home energy management and automation system that included power strips, plug-in modules, smart bulbs [think Android but not Android], and control software for web and mobile devices. The system is still in testing for the United States.

CES Preview
Griffin's Twenty literally puts your Airport Express on a pedestal

Griffin Technology exhibited a hardware prototype for the Twenty audio amplifier that mounts an Airport Express wall wart next to a big volume knob to turn any pair of old speakers into an AirPlay audio zone. Great idea—weird, ugly execution.

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About the author

Richard Gunther

Richard Gunther

Richard is a product experience consultant with a life-long interest in consumer electronics. He has been immersed in smart home tech for decades now and hosts The DMZ's home automation podcast, Home: On and co-hosts Entertainment 2.0 with Josh Pollard. Richard looks at products through an experience lens, always seeking the right mix of utility and delight.