The Best of CES 2011

Great looking tablets, superfast phones and the return of the boom box. Here's what we loved at this year's show.

What We Liked

We came, we endured the crowds, and we left with a lot to be impressed by this year at the Consumer Electronics Show. PCWorld's crack staff fanned out across the Las Vegas Convention Center floor and left no booth unscathed and no press release ignored. What follows is our collection of just the best gadgets and gear, oddball spottings, and technology themes that warmed our geeky hearts.

To see more, read CES 2011 Picks and Pans. And while you're at it, peruse our companion slideshow: Pans: Biggest CES 2011 Fails.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2011.

Motorola Xoom Tablet

Android tablets are coming fast and furious in 2011, but the leader is likely to be Motorola's Honeycomb-powered 10.1-inch slate, the Xoom. With Verizon LTE 4G wireless, 32GB of on-board storage, an SD Card slot, and a standard micro USB port, this tablet looks like the open-standard alternative to the iPad that I've been waiting all year for. --Robert Strohmeyer

HTC Thunderbolt Smartphone

So the HTC Thunderbolt isn't a dual-core phone, but we've been waiting anxiously for this Verizon LTE mobile--which is basically the Verizon version of the Sprint Evo 4G--since we first saw the leaked photos of it. Want. --Ginny Mies

Clever USB Thumbdrives From Casio and Olympus

One of the best things this year was the near-complete lack of CD-based digital press kits. Instead, most companies used USB thumbdrives--and some used imagination as well. Olympus's USB drive looked like a miniature DSLR, while Casio's was a tiny re-creation of its just-announced Tryx camera. --Tim Moynihan

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Smartphone

After the hopelessly outdated Xperia X10 appeared, who knew that Sony Ericsson would bring an awesome smartphone to CES? The Xperia Arc is ultrathin with a brilliant screen and HDMI output that works throughout the OS. And it runs the latest version of Android. Wireless carriers, subsidize this one pronto. --Jared Newman

Eton's Shoulder Bag Boom Box

They look shoulder bags, but the trapezoidal objects on the straps are actually solar-powered boom boxes with iPod docks--and surprisingly robust-sounding ones at that. The new Eton Soulra XL model (due out "soon") runs for 4 hours on a wall charge, but on a sunny day with the flip-up solar panel activated, they can go for twice that long. Who says green tech can't rock? --Yardena Arar

Human Touch Massage Chair

If there ever was a time and a place to justify the Human Touch massage chair's $4799 price tag, CES 2011 was it. A companion iPad and iPhone app transmits preprogrammed routines from wellness counselors, sending weary journalists here into a state of bliss. --Jared Newman

TP-Link's Wireless Pan/Tilt Surveillance Camera TL-SC4171G

Many inexpensive network cameras let you remotely monitor your home, office, kid, pets, and whatever else you choose, via a Web browser. But for people who are especially serious about security, TP-Link's Wireless Pan/Til Surveillance Camera provides remote-control features that you usually see only in movies. It lets you pan, zoom, and tilt the lens, and even program preset viewing angles and tours of the premises. At $299, it's pricey, but you gotta love the tech. --Yardena Arar

Live Streaming From CES, Up Close and Personal

Taking up-to-the-minute coverage to another level was Takuma Iwasa's custom-built headgear, which let him live-stream his entire CES experience to the world. --Edward N. Albro

PCWorld's Alex Wawro Moments After Being Touched by a Taser

Consumer electronics and weaponry collided at the CES Taser section. As PCWorld's own Alex Wawro can attest, those little devices are very effective. --Edward N. Albro

MSI Butterfly Concept Tablet

MSI's Butterfly concept tablet wants to beat the dreaded "gorilla arms" fatigue effect that comes from using a touch-enabled all-in-one. The Butterfly's screen slides down toward you, so you can tap away on the ten-finger multitouch display, iPad-style. There's also a keyboard tucked into a secret compartment at the rear of the stand. It's still just a concept, but bear in mind that MSI's last concept all-in-one became the MSI AE2420 3D. --Nate Ralph

Android Phone Gaming

Dual-core-processor Android phones, like the LG Optimus 2X, have amazing gaming potential. I loved playing Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja on the Optimus 2X's gorgeous display. I just hope more gaming developers jump on board! --Ginny Mies

RIM PlayBook Tablet

I finally got an up-close look at RIM's much ballyhooed PlayBook tablet--and the logic and look and feel of the QNX operating system's user interface impressed me. The PlayBook I saw up close was Sprint's 4G version, with a WiMax radio inside; and the PlayBook's streaming video playback looked beautiful. Sprint plans to begin selling a WiMax-connected PlayBook this summer. --Mark Sullivan

The Plex Media Management Program Will Come Preloaded on Some LG-Connected TVs

Plex is an elegant media management program that not only oversees the stored movies on your Mac desktop or laptop, but also pulls in, transcodes, and organizes the videos you select from sites around the Web. Impressively, Plex transcodes practically any movie format you might find on the Web into the MP4 file type that Apple devices can play. There's also a $5 iPhone app that acts as a remote control. Plex will come preloaded on a few new connected TVs from LG starting in February, the company says. --Mark Sullivan

A Vote for Passive 3D Viewing

Fans of active-shutter glasses for watching 3D TV complain that polarized 3D glasses make each eye see a less-than-HD image. Everyone else responds that active-shutter glasses give them headaches. Regardless of which one produces the superior image, I'm going with the one that I can watch comfortably for longer than 5 minutes. Plus, passive 3D glasses look better. --Patrick Miller

Image Credit: Creative Commons Flickr user "bark"

Lenovo ArcadeDock

I'm a huge Street Fighter 2 nerd, so when I saw case modder Dean "Envador" Liou's ArcadeDock I instantly fell in love. Just snap your Lenovo laptop in, and you get a fully functional arcade cabinet, complete with a high-quality arcade stick and gaming-friendly button layout. Quarters optional. --Patrick Miller

Game Announcer Sean "Day[9]" Plott and CES Starcraft II Tournaments

Starcraft II fans walking through the North Hall got an unexpected treat: Super Micro brought along everyone's favorite game announcer, Sean "Day[9]" Plott, and had him announce daily Starcraft II tournaments from the booth. No word on when Super Micro's line of Day[9]s will be hitting the market, but I plan to buy two. --Patrick Miller

Buffalo CloudStor Storage

Buffalo CloudStor boasts a healthy 2TB of storage and the ability to stream video directly to mobile devices over the Web, with no monthly fees. The 2TB model's $270 asking price is only slightly more than two years of Dropbox subscription fees, and it provides a heck of a lot more storage. --Robert Strohmeyer

IoSafe's Rugged Storage After Torture Tests

IoSafe talks a tough game about its new line of Rugged Portable HDD and SSD storage devices, but I got a first-hand demo of a titanium drive that still functioned after being shot, smashed, and submerged in water for nearly a minute. Even after five shotgun blasts, our aluminum HDD demo unit continued to deliver data at USB 3.0 speeds. The Rugged Portable line isn't completely fireproof (yet), but the drives are guaranteed to last longer in a fire than you will. --Alex Wawro

iBuyPower's Liquid-Cooled Erebus PC

iBuyPower's liquid-cooled Erebus chassis is designed to maximize your overclocking potential with a whopping ten 120mm fans, and liquid cooling--lots of it. It's large, it's quiet, and iBuyPower designed and built it in-house, a labor of love years in the making. --Nate Ralph

Nvidia's Keg Computer Casemod PC, Complete With Cold Beer

[Inside the editor's mind:] "This PC couples slick engineering with an impress- no, wait. This interesting chassis is equip- okay, that's not right. The truth? Nvidia's Keg Computer Casemod is a beefy gaming PC. And it dispenses beer. Do I really need to elaborate?" --Nate Ralph

Iomega SuperHero Backup and Charging Doc

Iomega SuperHero, a backup and charging dock for iPhone helps fill a void for Windows users. I don't like syncing by address book with Outlook or Google--and yet if I don't, I've had no way to back up my contacts--until now. The SuperHero dock backs up pictures (no video, regrettably) and contacts to an SD Card, and lets you move 'em between devices, too. --Melissa J. Perenson

Netgear's Push2TV WiDi Adapter

Intel's WiDi 2 upgrade lets you stream 1080p video wirelessly from a laptop with a newer Intel chip to an HDTV that either has WiDi support built in or has a WiDi adapter (such as Netgear's next-generation Push2TV or D-Link's MainStage) connected to an input. I don't know that I'd buy a new notebook just to get WiDi, but it certainly might make the Intel price premium a bit more palatable. --Yardena Arar

Intel's WiDi Does Audio

Logitech announced a WiDi speaker adapter that uses technology from Ozmo Devices to let you play laptop audio over external speakers. You'll need a laptop with a current Intel chip to support WiDi (Intel Wireless Display technology), but the adapter--which you can connect either to speakers or to a receiver via either RCA or 3.5mm jack cables--will cost only $30. That's a lot cheaper than a Sonos system, assuming it works. --Yardena Arar

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