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The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is where the great and good of the technology world gather each year to check out the latest products. Libby Plummer took a trip to Sin City to see what’s coming in 2011.

Held annually in Las Vegas in the Nevada desert, CES is the world’s largest technology show, and this year it was back to its pre-recession glory days. Several new records were set including 30,000 international attendees, while there were more than 158,000 CES-related tweets on Twitter during the week of the show.

“The 2011 International CES was a phenomenal worldwide event that spanned global industries including technology, automotive and entertainment markets,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of show owner CEA. “This global technology gathering featured more innovation, more news, more social media buzz and more international attendance than any other show in CES history.”

3D is here to stay

One of the biggest buzzwords at this year’s show was 3D. It’s been around for years in one form or another and it was at last year’s show that 3D at home finally became a reality. After years of seeing prototype models, we were finally treated to the first 3D TVs available to consumers. This year’s show saw the 3D message being hammered home with all of the big home cinema manufacturers unveiling their second generation TV ranges.

Panasonic introduced three Viera Full HD 3D Plasma model lines – the VT30 series, GT30 and ST30 series – and expanded its 3D line-up with the addition of two LCD-LED HDTVs.

Sony’s 2011 Bravia LCD HDTV lineup includes 16 new 3D-capable models. Available in April, the XBR-HX929 series will be ready for watching 3D content, with the addition of Sony’s active shutter specs (sold separately), and will also sport LED backlighting along with Sony’s distinctive Monolithic design.

Samsung also introduced an extensive collection of 3D panels, including its D8000 LED TVs boasting a barely visible 5mm brushed metal bezel and its D8000 plasma sets sporting the brand’s distinctive crystal design.

Sharp also introduced an array of new 3D panels, along with a range of gigantic 70in TVs sporting its Quad pixel technology. Launched at last year’s CES, Quad pixel adds yellow to the traditional RGB (Red, Green, Blue) colour gamut in order to produce a greater range of colours including more realistic yellows and golds.

Along with a selection of new 3D LED panels, Toshiba introduced its glasses-free panel, showcased in 56 and 65in versions that will supposedly be available to buy before the year is out and which is already available in Japan but in much smaller screen sizes.

As well as offering active shutter technology on a selected range of its new TV lineup, LG is also the only manufacturer to offer consumers passive 3D TVs. The company’s new range of Cinema 3D TVs highlights the fact that this is the same technology that people are already used to seeing at the cinema. The new range of full LED panels makes up around 40% of LG’s total TV offering for 2011. The range comprises three models – LW450U, LW550T and LW650T – with screen sizes ranging from 32 to 55in.

LG’s marketing manager for home entertainment, George Mead, commented: “At LG, we’re very much committed to 3D technology and we’re the only brand in the UK offering both passive and active 3D systems. We’ve rebranded our passive system as Cinema 3D as we found that people want to recreate the experience of watching 3D films at the cinema in their own home. Our Cinema 3D TVs offer more comfort, more people and more fun. The glasses are very comfortable and they don’t need syncing like active shutter glasses do. What’s more, they’re very low cost so it’s possible to buy enough pairs for all your friends and family so that you can share the experience in a group. It’s the ultimate solution for the 3D experience at home”.

As well as TVs, there were plenty of other 3D treats in store. LG showcased a prototype for a glass-free 3D screen for a mobile device that is expected to hit the shops this year, while Sony had several 3D-related prototypes on show. Highlights included a portable 3D Blu-ray player and a set of futuristic-looking goggles that play videos and games right in front of the user’s eyes.

Smart TV

Along with 3D grabbing plenty of headlines at CES 2011, most of the big brands also expanded their internet-enabled TV options to improve usability and offer more content, rather than the ring-fenced selection of applications that have been the norm in the past. As LG’s head of marketing for home entertainment, Stephen Gater, explains: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that most people that have web capability on their TVs don’t actually use it. We hope to change this by making it much easier to use, so that consumers can simply point and click to access web-based features”.

LG’s new service is called Smart TV and offers access to thousands of movies, customisable apps and a full web browser. All of these features can be used via a simple interface and will offer access to services such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and BBC’s iPlayer, along with apps from LG’s App Store.

Panasonic has expanded on its Viera Cast web TV service and renamed it Viera Connect. This will offer access to the new Viera Connect Market where user will be able to choose from a wide selection of apps including Skype, Twitter, eBay and Napster.

Samsung launched a similar service called Smart Hub, while Sony’s new TV lineup includes 22 internet-connected models, boasting the brand’s Bravia Internet Video platform. Meanwhile, Sharp revealed that all models in its 2011 TV range will incorporate Wi-Fi connectivity.

Tablets

Aside from all the latest developments in TV technology, the biggest news at the show was tablet devices. There were more than 80 such products launched, although many of those were prototypes taking the number of actual models down to around 20 or so. These devices first took the stage at CES last year when Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer showed off a variety of Window 7-compatible products including a variety of Slate PCs. The slate moniker has since been ditched by most brands, and ‘tablet’ has become the term of choice, with the 2010 launch of Apple’s iPad setting the standard for competitors to follow.

At this year’s show, Asus led the charge with an impressive range of four tablets – the Eee Pad MeMo, Eee Slate EP121, Eee Pad Transformer and the Eee Pad Slider.

Possibly the most talked-about tablet at the show was the hotly anticipated Motorola Xoom, which is expected to arrive within the next few months. This 10.1in touchscreen device can playback 1080p video and also capture 720p footage through the 5-megapixel camera and the fact that it runs on a dual-core processor should mean speedy operation.

Panasonic also got in on the act, showcasing its Viera tablet. The new device is designed to work with a variety of cloud services in conjunction with Panasonic’s new Viera TV lineup and is currently only available in Japan in 10, 7 and 4in versions.

Sharp also showcased a Japan-only device in the form of the Galapagos E-Media Tablet. Available in 5.5 or 10.8in versions, the device is set to land in the US later on in the year.

Toshiba also debuted an as-yet-unnamed tablet that will launch in the US in the coming months and will replace the ill-fated Folio, which was pulled from the shelves just weeks after its UK release. Dell, MSI, Acer and Vizio were just some of the other brands to announce tablet devices at the show.

Other highlights

There were also plenty of other product highlights from the show, not least, some high-profile mobile handset launches including Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc, LG’s Opt
imus Black and the HTC Inspire 4G. CES also saw the introduction of the world’s first smartphones to be equipped with dual-core processors, in the form of the LG Optimus 2X and the Motorola Atrix.

There were also plenty of new camera models to impress the crowds including extensive new ranges from Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and Olympus as well as a glimpse at Fujifilm’s retro-styled FinePix X100 that was first showcased at last year’s Photokina show in Cologne.

Even popster Lady Gaga put in an appearance at the show, in her role as a creative director at Polaroid, to launch three new products – the Polaprinter GL10 instant printer, the Polaroid GL30 instant camera with a flip-up screen and the Polarez GL20 glasses which incorporate a camera long with two front-facing OLED screens so that users can show off the pictures they’ve taken.

Another highlight was Samsung’s HMX-Q10 camcorder that’s perfect for both right- and left-handed users thanks to its innovative Switch Grip (see Products to Watch, p19). Sony had its own exciting developments in the camcorder sector with the unveiling of its 3D Bloggie pocket camcorder.

Among the other product gems to be found at the show was the new T14 soundbar from innovative British tech brand Orbitsound. Following on from the company’s previous models, the T14 once again includes the brand’s ground-breaking spatial stereo sound technology which means that there’s no need to be in the ‘sweet spot’ to hear the full effect. The T14 includes a wireless subwoofer along with a separate iPod dock.

Although many of the products unveiled at CES are destined for the US market, it’s always a good indicator of what we can expect to see on these shores in the coming months. If this year’s show is anything to go by, then 2011 looks set to be an interesting year for consumer electronics.

Motorola Xoom

After making their debut at last year’s show, tablet devices were out in force at CES 2011, with Motorola’s Xoom topping the bill. Boasting a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, the high-end tablet boasts a 32GB built-in memory along with 720p video capture, meaning that it could have the potential to take on the all-powerful iPad.

Samsung HMX-Q10 camcorder

Sporting the innovative Switch Grip feature, this compact HD camcorder from the Korean brand is ideal for both right- and left-handed users. When users flip the camera upside down, the camcorders image sensor and the touchscreen display detect the change and adjust themselves accordingly.

LG Cinema 3D TV

Featuring screens sized between 32 and 55in, LG’s new Cinema 3D LED panels are set to be big in 2011. Boasting passive 3D technology, the TVs are viewed using light and inexpensive specs, in contrast to the bulkier and more expensive models required by active shutter systems.

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