The Coolest (and Craziest) Tech Gear and Trends From Computex 2009

As Asia's largest tech show comes to a close, we round up a Taiwanese buffet of impressive gadgets.

Ming Dynasty Vase with Intel Atom, Anyone?

This plastic vase decorated in traditional Chinese lacquer style houses a computer with an Atom processor--Intel’s CPU for small devices like netbooks. The vase PC also has a Blu-ray Disc drive that plays back video in full 1080p high-definition. The design from Elitegroup Computer Systems is supposed to be prettier to put in your living room, and it hides the PC cables by running them out the bottom of vase stand. ECS wouldn't say whether this PC will go to market. Read more details here. --Owen Fletcher

More news:

Computex: First-Day Highlights from Asia's Largest Tech Show

Computex: Asus Unveils Stylish Eee PC Laptops, Desktops, and Some Surprises

Next: Netbooks vs. Smartbooks

Netbooks vs. Smartbooks

Intel's Atom processor currently powers the vast majority of new netbooks as well as many handheld PCs (such as Yukyung's new Windows 7-loaded Viliv S5), but some challengers hope to change that. A handful of companies including Compal and Inventec unveiled "Mobile Internet Devices" based on nVidia's rival Tegra platform. With carrier subsidies, Tegra-based netbooks or handheld PCs may start as low as $99 when they debut later this year. Both Intel and nVidia will face further competition from similar "smartbooks" that incorporate Qualcomm's new Snapdragon platform, which, like Tegra, is ARM processor-based. Snapdragon was built into a number of portables at the Computex, including models from Asus, Compal, Foxconn, HTC, Inventec (pictured here running the Millos Linux OS), and Toshiba.

Tegra and Snapdragon tout improved battery life, potentially smaller size, and better integration with 3G networks. However, their use of ARM-processor cores prevents them from running Windows. Instead, they run Android, Windows Mobile, or other Linux-based alternatives. --Danny Allen

Speaking of Android…

Next: Android Devices Loom Closer

Android Devices Loom Closer

In just a few months, Acer could be the first to launch an Android netbook. The portable will probably also dual-boot Windows, as Acer has worked with a Taiwanese Linux outfit to port the open-source OS over to Intel's Atom CPU. (Other Android netbooks are based on Snapdragon, Tegra, or chips from Texas Instruments and Freescale Semiconductor; all of them use ARM processing cores.)

Overall, anything related to Android drew strong interest at Computex. Intel showed Android running on the open-source Moblin 2.0 operating system, which means that Moblin devices will be able to download and use applications from Android Market. Crowds also gathered at displays of Android netbooks from companies such asAcer, Elitegroup Computer Systems (pictured), and Asus. In addition, Acer, BenQ, and the Garmin-Asus joint venture all said that they would release Android smartphones this year or next year. --Dan Nystedt and Owen Fletcher

Next: 720p Pocket Camcorder Doubles as Pico-Projector

720p Pocket Camcorder Doubles as Pico-Projector

Okay, so a 720p pocket camcorder isn't new (witness the excellent Pure Digital Flip MinoHD), but what if you built a 720p pico-projector into the same unit? We did a double-take when we spied DigiLife's DDV-JF1. It has a 5-megapixel sensor, a built-in 2.5-inch LCD, and an SDHC card reader; and it's rated for 8 lux brightness. Unfortunately, we couldn't obtain any information on pricing and availability. --Danny Allen

Next: Asus EeeKeyboard PC: Coming Soon

Asus EeeKeyboard PC: Coming Soon

After it took CES by storm, the most radical addition to Asus's Eee family--the EeeKeyboard PC--got plenty of attention at Computex as well. The 2.1-pound device has an internal 1.5-hour battery (ugh) and an integrated 5-inch touchscreen that can present either the Windows XP desktop or an icon-based EeeFun interface for launching apps. It can wirelessly connect to your monitor or TV via an ultrawideband (UWB) dongle and receiver.

The receiver has a DVI connection, to which you can attach an HDMI adapter. Asus says that the EeeKeyboard PC will be available in the United States within the next month or two. Pricing will be below $1000 (U.S. dollars), but the company still isn't sure whether the UWB gear will be bundled, nor whether the current configuration (Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of memory, and 32B solid-state drive) is final. --Danny Allen

Next: Android-Windows Netbook With Detachable Screen

Android-Windows Netbook With Detachable Screen

This netbook runs Android, using an ARM chip inside its detachable screen; but it can also switch over to Windows XP to run x86 programs, using a Via processor beneath its keyboard. When detached, the screen can run Android by itself for up to 10 hours on a single battery charge, and it can run x86 programs by connecting remotely to its base via Wi-Fi or 3G.

The Taiwanese government-supported institute that designed this netbook is now looking for a company to manufacture and sell it. Read more details here. --Owen Fletcher

Next: Dancing Barack Obama iPod Dock

Dancing Barack Obama iPod Dock

We first glimpsed the Obama iMini speaker/radio/alarm dock back at CES--and sure enough, we spotted him dancing his way through Computex as well. The new news: Ozaki, which manufactures the dock, says that you should be able to pick him up for $99 by the end of the year. --Danny Allen

Next: Touch, Touch, Everywhere

Touch, Touch, Everywhere

Touch-enabled gizmos were everywhere at the show. Cell phones, all-in-one PCs, laptops, photo frames, flat panels (resistive, capacitive, optical, or infrared)--you name the device and method, touch was part of the equation. In part, Windows 7 is responsible, but the phenomenon is also further evidence of Apple's far-reaching influence on tech design (new laptops from Asus, Acer, and others even have Macbook-like gesture-enabled touchpads).

The impact on all-in-one PCs has been particularly impressive. Acer's 23-inch Z5600 (pictured) and MSI's 22-inch AE2201 systems support Windows 7 and addictive multitouch control. They could give HP's TouchSmart PC a run for its money when they launch later this year. --Danny Allen

Next: Swarovski Crystal-Encrusted Home Theater PC

Swarovski Crystal-Encrusted Home Theater PC

Luxa2, a division of Thermaltake (best known for its PC cases and cooling components) won a Computex Design and Innovation award for its LM200 Touch home theater PC.

But as if the regular model's aluminum chassis and 7-inch touchscreen weren't bling enough, the company showcased a model encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Combined price of the glittering LM200 and the matching iPhone holder and notebook cooler on display with it: $38,000. Just one question: Why? --Danny Allen

Next: Windows XP Handheld PCs Double as Cell Phones

Windows XP Handheld PCs Double as Cell Phones

Two companies at the show unveiled handheld Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) that run Windows XP and can double as cell phones. The MIDPhone-50 (pictured) has a 4.8-inch LCD touchscreen and can wake Windows out of standby to receive calls and text messages. The company declined to provide details about the CPU, which it called the "AMD Super Mobile." It will be sold in China within three months and abroad later. Pricing wasn’t available.

Meanwhile, DigiCube's similar xpPhone from In Technology has a 4.5-inch display, 1GB of memory, and an Atom Z-series CPU. No word on pricing or availability. --Owen Fletcher

Next: The Next Wave of Intel-Based MIDs

The Next Wave of Intel-Based MIDs

Some people call them MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices); others call them UMPCs (Ultramobile Personal Computers). But given the devices' lackluster sales thus far, plenty of people don't call them at all. Nevertheless, Intel is pushing ahead with the category, and it used Computex to announce five new MIDs that will pair its upcoming Moorestown platform (which includes a more power-efficient version of the Atom CPU) with the open-source Moblin 2.0 operating system.

Aava Mobile, Compal, EB, Inventec, and Quanta all had MIDs on display. A prototype (pictured) from Taiwan-based Quanta Computer supports Wi-Fi and WiMax. The device has a 4.3-inch screen, a slider keyboard, and a 16GB solid-state drive; and the vendor says that it is designed for entertainment, car navigation, and Web surfing. --Owen Fletcher and Danny Allen

Next: Intel and AMD Low-Voltage Laptops Draw Interest

Intel and AMD Low-Voltage Laptops Draw Interest

Intel displayed laptops powered by the consumer ultra-low-voltage (CULV) chips from half a dozen PC makers on the same day that it announced the Pentium SU2700, a new addition to the chip line. Intel designed these CPUs for a new class of ultrathin laptops that are as light as a netbook but pack bigger screens and greater computing power.

New CULV-powered examples include Acer's Aspire Timeline series, Lenovo's U350, Asus's UX50V, MSI's X340, and Gigabyte's Booktop M1305 (pictured). Such machines could fill the gap that currently exists between standard laptops (which usually cost over $1000) and netbooks (which sell for as little as $250 but don't run complex applications well).

Meanwhile, AMD has started shipping its answer to Intel's CULV: dual-core Athlon Neo processors. The updated Neo chip also works as part of AMD's upcoming Congo platform for ultrathin laptops, which will include integrated graphics based on the Radeon 3200 graphics core. HP already ships its Pavilion dv2 laptop with a single-core Neo, and the company plans to refresh that laptop with the new chip in place. The laptop will become available on Monday, June 8; other Neo-based laptops will reach the market in September. --Owen Fletcher and Agam Shah

Next: nVidia Ion Showcased

nVidia Ion Showcased

nVidia launched a full-scale assault on Intel's generally lackluster integrated graphics offerings. Around 20 nVidia Ion-based netbooks, all-in-one PCs, nettops (stripped-down desktop systems), and motherboards were on display at Computex. You'll find full details and images here. --Danny Allen

Next: Five-Bay SATA-to-USB Hard-Disk Docking Station

Five-Bay SATA-to-USB Hard-Disk Docking Station

External RAID rigs and hard-drive docks were all over the show floor, but Icy Dock's upcoming MB986 docking station eats the others for breakfast in terms of unique design. With toast and eggs sunny-side up, apparently. --Danny Allen

More news:

Computex: First-Day Highlights from Asia's Largest Tech Show

Computex: Asus Unveils Stylish Eee PC Laptops, Desktops, and Some Surprises

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