Tech Talk — Best of CES Awards

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The International Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, is a gadget lovers paradise that takes place annually in Las Vegas.

This years edition of the show, hosted in early January, didnt disappoint, with over 2,500 exhibitors showcasing the latest and greatest products of the year to over 150,000 spectators.

Ive rounded up my favorite products and rated them based on originality and design to present you with Tech Talks Best of CES Awards for 2006.

Each products rating is based on a scale of one to five.

The Think Big Award

Bigger is better. That has been a recurring theme at CES since its founding in 1967. Thats why the Think Big Award was established – to honor the obscenely huge product with hardly any real-world applications.

Panasonics 103-inch television, the worlds largest full high-definition plasma display, was a landslide winner, providing true high-definition imaging in a flat panel case.

It boasts a resolution of 1920×1080 (for reference, your computer monitor probably boasts a resolution of 800×600).

The 3000:1 contrast ratio means that you wont be able to see any more than you see on a 23-inch TV, but youll be able to see it much further away.

For thinking big, Tech Talk is proud to present Panasonics behemoth television with the 2006 Think Big Award.

Its sleek flat panel design and, of course, its size earns it a three out of five.

The Small Packages Award

Good things really do come in small packages. This award honors the best of the pocket-sized devices showcased at CES.

Garmin won this award easily when I saw its Nuvi project.

No larger than a deck of cards, this device can do it all.

It is, first and foremost, a GPS receiver with a full US map programmed into its memory.

The touch-screen and automatically dimming backlights preserve battery power and add a nice touch.

The Nuvi can also do turn-by-turn voice directions.

But thats not all. The Nuvi includes an a photo viewer, a MP3 player, a currency converter, and even a language translator that allows you to select a common phrase from 10 different languages and use the voice synthesized translations to help you communicate with others.

It even has one of the coolest features Ive ever seen from a GPS unit the ability to connect to an optional radio signal service that will reroute your driving directions based on traffic congestion.

All these things earn the Garmin Nuvi the Small Packages Award for 2006. Its monumental price tag of nearly $1000 keeps it from getting the perfect score, but it earned a respectable three and a half out of five.

The Dont Buy This Award

Sure, its a great product. But will it be obsolete soon?

This question prompted the creation of the Dont Buy This Award. It may be a great product, but trust me, you dont want to buy it yet.

Have you wondered what will be the next video distribution format after the DVD?

Itll either be called HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, and these two dueling formats share the 2006 Dont Buy This Award.

It will be a few months before Sonys Blu-Ray player hits the market, but youll see Toshibas HD-DVD players really soon. Blu-Ray is the better technology because it holds more space than a HD-DVD does, but we will have to wait for at least another year or two before the market shakes out and we find out which one becomes the next VHS and which one becomes the next Betamax.

No one really wants a new DVD format right now anyway, since DVDs are fairly new technology themselves.

This fact earns Sonys Blu-Ray Player and Toshibas HD-DVD player the Dont Buy This Award for 2006 and a total score of two out of five.

Best in Show

The Best in Show award goes to the product that I think has the most potential to go places.

I give this award to the gadget that will be a must-have someday.

Pioneers Inno handheld satellite radio receiver wins the Best in Show Award for 2006. The Inno receives all of XMs premium satellite radio channels, and you can record up to 50 hours of your favorite sat-radio programs or songs on the device for listening to later.

It has a built-in FM transmitter so that you can easily listen to XM channels and music stored on your device in your car or anywhere an FM radio is available.

You can even put all your favorite MP3 and WMA files onto this iPod-like device.

One of the most unique features is the ability to flag a song that you hear on a live XM radio feed for downloading later.

When you sync with your computer, the flag will trigger a pop-up message that will allow you to buy the song from an iTunes-like service.

Congratulations to the Pioneer Inno its innovative combination of sat-radio and MP3 player give it the Best in Show award for 2006 with a final score of four out of five.

Tech Talk is a weekly column helping you make the most out of technology.

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