CES 2006: Picks and Pans

Where can you find Justin Timberlake mixing with Bill Gates, and Snoop Dogg crossing paths with Donny Osmond? Why, it must be the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Consumer gadgets may still be the focus of this behemoth show, but technology companies of all makes and models--including Intel, Google, and Microsoft--are joining in the fun. They weren't the only ones: a team of PC World editors flocked to the show. Here's their take on the highlights and lowlights of CES 2006.

Let the Music Play: Saitek's new A-250 is a $129 wireless 2.1 speaker system that is intended to play music stored on the hard drive of your desktop PC or laptop. Although it might look a lot like a fancy boom box, it actually uses Class One Bluetooth technology that can wirelessly pick up a stream of music from up to 100 feet away and through walls. --Ramon G. McLeod

Radio Days: I have and love an XM Radio. But I'm still amazed at the degree to which satellite radio, from both XM and Sirius, was one of the driving technologies at the show. There were a slew of new products built around these services (including sleek portables that made my XM MyFi, which I bought just a year ago, look like an oversized antique). --Harry McCracken

See Your DVDs in HD: Well before the first Blu-ray Disc players come out, Toshiba's hot Qosmio notebook will debut with a built-in player using the rival HD-DVD format. This is the first laptop that will play HD-DVD discs and, even better, lets you use that box to play hi-def discs on your TV. Jack this baby via HDMI into a receiver and it'll support 1080p resolution. In effect, you can use this notebook as a high-end HD-DVD player. It will be available in March 2006, months before the first Blu-Ray boxes are due out. --Ramon G. McLeod

A Remote That Offers Real Control: Logitech's Harmony 890 Universal Remote is the company's first to use RF technology that allows owners to control consumer electronics located in other rooms and floors. It's a beauty of a device and intended for folks with home theater equipment and distributed sound systems who may not have direct line of sight to their gear. The product is about to ship priced at $399. --Ramon G. McLeod

Best Reason to Go Portable: I'm not a huge fan of portable video devices, but Samsung's new YM-P1 handheld DVR is a genuinely intriguing product. I love the fact that you can record TV directly to the unit's 20GB hard drive for later viewing on the unit's 4-inch screen or play back your shows to the TV. It'll come out in February and cost about $400. --Ramon G. McLeod

A Flashier Flash Player: SanDisk's 6GB flash player impressed not just because of its roomy capacity (for a flash drive)--it also boasts head-turning aesthetics and features, including video support. --Melissa J. Perenson

For Big Kids Everywhere: I was a huge fan of Legos as a kid and the company's next-generation Lego Mindstorms NXT robotics invention system will give me an excuse to prove my Lego chops all over again. Because the system's light, touch, and sound sensors have been improved and an ultrasonic sensor introduced to detect movement, you can now build your own walking robot. Step-by-step instructions for 18 robots will be provided when the kit launches for $250 in August. --Danny Allen

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