CES 2006: Best Of Show

(Dan Dubno)
Palm's Treo 700 W Smartphone for Verizon

A Palm device using Windows? What's the world coming to? The Treo 700 W is designed for those who like the Treo but want the familiarity of a Windows platform. This Smartphone uses a Windows Mobile 5.0 platform that is somewhat customized by Palm. On paper, this device is a hit: first, it works on Verizon's high-speed broadband EVDO network, allowing for very robust wireless internet access including streaming video and other high-data rate services.

It's a phone with thumb-keyboard plus an MP3 player, camera, and more. The 1.3 megapixel camera lens isn't bad (but no flash, for example) and you can add photos to dial your contacts. The Treo W Smartphone has a 312Mhz processor and comes with BlueTooth. The Windows Media Player Mobile supports music, audio, and video files including the following formats: WMA, WMV, MP3, 3G2. The stereo headphones are great or you can, instead, listen to audio from the fairly large speaker on the rear of this "everything" device. The Treo 700W comes with a removable (therefore easily replaced) lithium battery. Runs a variety of Windows Mobile applications natively like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, etc.

One thing that annoyed me is you can open so many different applications simultaneously that in a few moments the system suddenly groans to a halt. That happens when the memory struggles to keep the web browser, the phone, Word, and other programs open. It isn't intuitive, but you quickly learn you have to shut programs down. Verizon's EVDO network does let you web browse at a remarkable 400- 600 kilobits per second. Estimated street price is $399 from Verizon Wireless; syncs through USB cable (another plus.)

(Dan Dubno)
Gibson's Les Paul Digital Guitar

I can't afford this and, most likely, neither can you. But I love playing guitar and enjoy that Gibson has again revolutionized the electric guitar with their hefty Les Paul Digital Guitar. What's new? They devised a brilliant system of individual pickups for each string, allowing a talented musician to have a palette of musical tools once reserved for electronic keyboards.

The $3500 guitar connects via an Ethernet cable to audio mixing equipment, transforming the guitar into a midi-controller or sending outputs from individual strings to different amplifiers. This radical musical technology will afford guitarists unprecedented control over what the audience hears.

At CES, there was a near infinite number of companies that offered MP3 and other music players (everyone boasted having "iPod nano-killers" etc.) So, here are just two that I really liked:

Samsung YPZ5

First, Samsung's YPZ5 Flash music player (in both 2-Gig and 4-Gig versions) features a formidable 24-hour battery-life (or more!) and a very Nano-like form factor. But, instead of downloading from iTunes, music lovers can use Napster, Music-To-Go, and other services with this iPod wannabe. The bright 1.8-inch LCD screen supports JPEGs as well. Lists for $199.

MobiBLU Cube MP3 Player

A perfect one-inch-square ultra-light MP3 player has 1-Gig of storage. I just couldn't stop smiling about this tiny little cube, because that was just the beginning: They packed in a built-in microphone, voice recorder, and FM radio receiver too! It has a great OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen so you can even see what's going on… all on a device slightly larger than a dice-cube. Uses super-fast USB2 to transfer music and charge the device, ingeniously built into the headphone jack cable. Plays MP3, WMA, and WMA DRM music files. Available at Walmart for about $139.