CES 2006: Picks and Pans

HD Everywhere: From Blu-Ray and HD-DVD-related hardware to a bevy of HDTVs from manufacturers large and small to HD radio, there was plenty of evidence that 2006 may be the year a significant percentage of the world's entertainment goes high-definition. --Harry McCracken

Wider is Better: A gaggle of manufacturers showed off an array of new notebooks at the show--and it was hard to find a single model that didn't feature a wide screen. --Harry McCracken

Sneak Peek: Toshiba's gigantic booth had an intriguing section with demos of new technologies that may not reach the market for years, including notebooks running off of fuel-cell technology and a Tablet PC with a detachable, wireless screen. The latter product--vaguely reminiscent of Microsoft's failed Smart Displays, but more elegant--lets you leave the computer in place while you wander around your office or home with the pen-enabled screen. --Harry McCracken

Bragging Rights: Welcome to the ongoing battle of the big screens. Samsung's booth showed the world's first 102-inch plasma TV. LG Electronics called its 102-inch plasma screen, also on display at CES, the world's largest. A few more booths over, Panasonic claimed the same title with its 103-incher. The flat-panels are all gorgeous, and they all drew the crowds. But when you think of all the money and research that goes into these one-off products, you can't help wondering: Wouldn't these vendors get even bigger crowds if they'd put their resources into something we could really use, like price reductions on the plasmas that are for sale? --Laura Blackwell

Faster, Faster, Faster--Yeah, Right: Seems like the latest games of specs up-manship in the display industry aren't about size or contrast ratio, but LCD response time. Sharp and Viewsonic were touting screens with 4-millisecond response times, and BenQ was even promoting its 2-ms LCDs. Give it a rest, guys--we all know there are many ways to measure response time to make your products look faster on paper. Read my colleague Laura Blackwell's report on this numbers game and let's get real about this spec. --Yardena Arar

Whither the Recorders?: After the dust settled from the swirl of Blu-ray announcements, a disturbing trend emerged: All of the products announced so far for the living room are players, not recorders--as the Blu-ray Disc Association originally posited. --Melissa J. Perenson

But What Kind of Gas Mileage Does It Get?: I just hate, and I mean hate, the pimped-out cars you find in the Convention Center's North Hall. Bleh. But, the waterfall car truly takes the cake for bizarre obnoxiousness. Not only was the Toyota Celica loaded with the usual trunk-mounted subs and speakers, but it also had a waterfall cascading from the open trunk lid to a catch basin in the bumper. Give me a break, please! --Ramon G. McLeod

Goofiest Product I Don't Want to Try: If you're exercising and watching TV, don't even think of slacking off. You do and the $100 EnterTrainer lowers your TV's volume and even shuts it off after a minute. But when a single annoyed nudge of the foot can point it away from the TV and completely shut this trainer up, will it be real incentive for inveterate couch potatoes?The video says it all... --Steve Bass and Erik Larkin

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