CES 2012 was about televisions, computers, tablets and phones, the technology within and between, but many of the awesome things we saw actually plug into those devices, or connect to them wirelessly. Here are the headphones, speakers, docks, mice, drives, routers, chargers and controllers that caught our eye this year.A special thanks to Borrow Lenses, who provided us with cameras and lenses for the week!
Jan 16, 2012
Etymotic GunSport Pro electronic earplugs (hands-on)
The Etymotic GunSport Pro GSP-1s are earplugs designed to let quiet sounds like human speech pass through, while suppressing loud sounds — specifically gunshots. They also have a switch that turns on "enhanced hearing," where the quietest sounds are given a slight boost. Although we called them active noise-cancelling earplugs in the video, that isn't entirely accurate; it might be more suitable to call them active-passthrough earplugs because the noise suppression is passive. They've been around for a while now, but we were finally able to try them out during CES in Las Vegas, a city that (naturally) has an indoor machine gun shooting range minutes from the convention center. Valiantly, we answered the call of duty.Read Article >
The GunSports power on and off by closing and opening the battery bay door, but the tiny power pellet tends to fall out when the door is open, so turning them off is more of a long term storage solution than a way to conserve energy while in use. Inserting these Ety's with the default triple flange tips was fairly painless — if you have trouble, a variety of tips are included to help you find a comfortable fit. When the plugs are well-sealed, loud noises are noticeably attenuated while all other sounds pass through exactly as they would without earplugs, if not slightly amplified. Enhanced hearing was easily the coolest feature; it allowed us to eavesdrop on conversations at the other side of a room, but quickly became irritating in noisy environments.
Jan 15, 2012
I'm Circle concept is your personal processing unit
The I'm Circle concept is a totally new way of thinking about personal electronics, centralizing the processing power of the phones, tablets, and media players around you into a tiny pendant-sized box named the I'm Core. In turn, these devices will become no more than variously sized interfaces to access the Core. The idea comes from the same team as the Android-powered I'm Watch that we saw a few days ago, and is designed to be the ultimate continuous client, giving you the ability to answer calls, respond to texts and emails, or watch media on whichever device you choose — be it your phone, tablet, or TV. It's based on Android 4.0, with the interface shared across all of your devices.Read Article >
As great as this concept sounds, we're a little sceptical of the practicalities of fitting all of the hardware necessary to power these devices into something only a couple of inches square. To provide all of the functionality of these devices, the Core would have to contain a processor (I'm suggests quad-core), RAM, storage, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a cell radio, and a SIM card, along with a battery powerful enough to drive everything. The idea seems like fantasy, but despite these challenges I'm is targeting a release by the end of 2012.
Outdoor Tech Turtle Shell wireless speaker and OT Rocks headphones (hands-on)
We just hiked over to Outdoor Tech's camper on the CES show floor to check out its Turtle Shell wireless speaker system and OT Rocks headphones. The Turtle Shell is a rugged, water resistant, portable Bluetooth speaker that lasts up to 10 hours on a single charge. It certainly feels solid in the hands, and we wouldn't be very concerned about dropping it. Unfortunately we didn't get to hear it, but we hope to have a listen when it debuts in May for $125.Read Article >
We also got to see Outdoor Tech's OT Rocks — rugged, water resistant, wireless Bluetooth headphones with a touch interface. We didn't get to hear these either, but the company says the headphones will pump out music for up to 6 hours on a single charge. OT Rocks are also due in May for $99.
Jan 14, 2012
iLaunch Thunder iPhone missile launcher (hands-on video)
We found Dream Cheeky's iLaunch Thunder missile launcher on the CES show floor today and got to play with the office toy for a bit. Unlike the USB-tethered launchers of old, the iLaunch connects to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch over Bluetooth. The iLaunch Controller app lets you aim by dragging on the screen or by using your device's accelerometer. The app is pretty simple, though we were told that the company is going to release a new version that includes a motion sensing mode (e.g. to have it fire a missile when someone walks in the room) in the first half of this year. The one thing we found most surprising about the launcher: its 25-foot range. Take a look at the video below to see the $99.99 iLaunch Thunder in action.Read Article >
GPD's Glass Multitouch Keyboard hands-onRead Article >
While this sort of technology isn't entirely new, its application into a computer peripheral is novel. The project raised nearly $150,000 on Kickstarter and attracted the attention of Swiss software company SST, who invested in the concept and has committed to help make it work. After the first batch goes out to $250 Kickstarter backers in "early May," units will start shipping to Europe for medical use. To be honest, we'll have to hold off judgment until we can try a working model for ourselves, but if it actually ends up working as advertised it could be one of the most interesting keyboards out there.
LightPad pico projector for your phone doubles as a laptop (hands-on)
It's not difficult to find a projector to use with your phone, and Motorola's Lapdock can turn some into laptops. But a new product called the LightPad, made by QP Optoelectronics, is the first thing we've seen that does both. The short-range pico projector itself isn't anything unusual, but attached to it is a full-size keyboard and a translucent screen. When flipped up, the screen catches the light from the projector, turning it into a decent facsimile of a laptop. A tiny trackpad lets you use a mouse on the phone but, oddly, not the LightPad screen itself.Read Article >
The design is extremely simple, with no ports or even trackpad buttons (it's purely tap-to-click), although you can pair a Bluetooth mouse with the phone. The screen isn't particularly bright by laptop standards, but was visible even in the bright lights of the booth. Judging its performance as a projector was more difficult, but the company claims it can get up to 60 inches in ideal conditions, and that the battery lasts for five hours. It's supposed to be out in the US by Q3, and will initially cost around $250. The design needs some work before launch, but it's certainly an interesting take on the laptop phone dock.
ioSafe puts Thunderbolt drive to lightning test (hands-on and video)
External storage company ioSafe likes to put on a show at CES. Last year, it demonstrated its ultratough Rugged Portable hard drives by unleashing journalists with shotguns and assault rifles on them. This year, it decided to test its Thunderbolt-compatible prototype's shockproofing instead — by bringing in Tesla coil enthusiast Austin Richards, also known as Dr. MegaVolt.Read Article >
After shocking the drive multiple times with Richards' million-volt coil, ioSafe plugged it in. A snap-on metal cover is supposed to protect the drive's inputs, but the Tesla coil has apparently still overloaded it in about a third of the demos; unfortunately, this was one of those times. The controller board had been fried, so we got a view of the dual RAID 1 solid-state drives inside while the CEO performed some recovery. Once a new board had been plugged in, the drive mounted and we found the text file we'd made beforehand unharmed. Of course, ioSafe isn't suggesting you take your hard drive into a thunderstorm, but for sheer showmanship, the demo's difficult to beat.
ZTE EuFi890 4G LTE mobile hotspot for Verizon hands-onRead Article >
We already showed you Novatel's new 4620L Jetpack mobile hotspot for Verizon, but the company also has the new ZTE Jetpack EuFi890 on display, which is a far less sexy offering. This Jetpack has a much larger footprint than the Novatel version, and I was surprised at how large the 3.49-inch square piece of hardware actually was in person. It resembles the Sprint Overdrive of yesteryear, though it's rounded and has signature Verizon red accents. It supports up to 10 simultaneous devices and runs on LTE, though it also has global capabilities for use abroad. I wasn't impressed with its painfully-dim OLED display for managing settings or its capacitive touch keys — both of which seem unnecessary on a device like a mobile hotspot. There's still no price or release date, but it is "coming soon."
Jan 13, 2012
Shogun Bros. Ballista MK-1 gaming mouse adjusts DPI like an abacus (hands-on)
Last year, Shogun Bros introduced a crazy mouse with a gamepad on the bottom. What could be crazier? How about a partnership with Ubisoft for an Assassin's Creed version with leather buttons? When we got to Shogun Bros' booth at CES 2012, though, it wasn't the new Chameleon that impressed: you're looking at the Ballista MK-1, a 5700dpi wired laser mouse that can independently adjust sensitivity on both the X and Y axes, on the fly, as well as dial down the 1000Hz polling rate to save power.Read Article >
You hold down the config button for five seconds to edit settings, then spin the mouse wheel to adjust the sensitivity in 100dpi increments, while a tiny abacus of red and green LEDs keeps track of your chosen resolution. You can save four different sensitivity modes (and five different profiles, for 20 presets in total) and rapidly swap between them with an up-down rocker under your thumb, while another set of blue LEDs keeps track of your current mode. Oh, and there are six buttons (including two dedicated macro keys) and a tilt-button scroll wheel.
Jan 13, 2012
iHome's 2012 lineup of iPhone and iPad speaker docks (hands-on)Read Article >
Next up is the iD55 portable iPhone, iPad, and iPod speaker. This one's pretty small and light, and has a faux leather cover the protects the dock connector (which folds down when you close the device). The models on the show floor were rather beat up, but we were told these were prototypes and that the final version won't have these problems. It'll be in stores for $79.99 in August.
Jan 13, 2012
IK Multimedia iRig Mix turns your iOS device into a DJ setup (hands-on video)
There are plenty of iOS apps for amateur DJs, but if you really need to look the part, there's the IK Multimedia iRig Mix. It's a white slab that connects to one or two iOS devices (iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad are all supported) and adds a bunch of easy-to-access DJ controls to your music. You can use almost any music player app, reps said, and control equalizer functions with the knobs and sliders on the iRig. Mostly, we bet you'll use crossfade — if you're the DJ at your friends' party, sliding seamlessly from one song to the next makes you look pretty awesome. There's a free companion app for iOS called DJ iRig, which makes the crossfade even easier by taking the audio out from one iPod, syncing its tempo with the other, and seamlessly integrating the two. The $99 iRig Mix will be available in February, so get yourself some super-rad headphones and you'll be looking like a pro in no time.Read Article >
TC Sottek contributed to this story.
Jan 12, 2012
iHome iW4 AirPlay alarm clock revealed, iW3 and iW2 reintroduced (hands-on video)Read Article >
Other than the iW4, we also got some more info on iHome's iW2 and iW3 Airplay speakers. Both were demoed in a variety of colors including red, blue, gray, white, and black. We originally saw these speakers last year at CES, but we still can't get a solid release date. The iW3 is a vertical battery-powered AirPlay speaker that sits in a small dock that lets you easily grab the speaker and go. If you're out and about, you can use the USB port or 3.5mm auxiliary jack to play your music on the device. We've been told it'll be available in the second quarter for $179 to $199.
Sony's RDH-GTK33iP iPod dock turns your bedroom into a disco dance partyRead Article >
Sony is showing off a new iPhone and iPod dock here at CES that's turning quite a few heads. The RDH-GTK33iP is a 420-watt boombox with a heavy-duty design that is more reminiscent of a stage monitor than a traditional dock — and it also puts on a light show to accompany your favorite tunes. You plug in your iPhone or iPod via the included 30-pin dock connector, or hook up a memory stick or other source via the USB port, and the dock's twin speaker lights pulse through a variety of colors in rhythm with the song being played. We tried it out with a track from Depeche Mode's Violator, and sure enough, it performed as promised — and delivered a nicely detailed sound as well. No official specs were given, but to our eyes the dock packs a pair of tweeters, six-inch woofers, and a ported design that should flatten the overall frequency response. Sony hasn't made any announcements on pricing or availability just yet, but we expect the new dock to be released sometime this year.
AKG K3003 $1,299 canalphones: they're fancy
We spent a little time with the K3003s on the floor at CES, and the whole experience was marked by attention to detail. The Box — it deserves capitalization because it's no ordinary box — is made of heavy rigid material tightly wrapped in linen with magnets in the lid to keep it shut. Inside, you'll find the buds carefully wrapped around a leather carrying case, various silicone tips, a set of adapters with rose gold-plated tips, and three sets of interchangeable diaphragms to tune the sound for bass, reference, or treble response. The earphones themselves are machined from stainless steel that houses 2-way balanced armature and dynamic bass drivers driving a frequency response of 10Hz to 30kHz. The tangle-free cables are all wrapped in fabric.Read Article >
As far as performance is concerned, the AKGs sound great. That's all we're going to say because the CES floor is no place to properly test high-end headphones, and a cellphone playing MP3s isn't the kind of source that can make performance monitors stand out from mid-range earbuds. However, we did notice two problems: noise-isolation is not great, and the size of the buds can make them uncomfortable when seated in medium to small ears. In the end, the K3003s are clearly designed for mobile listening, but in most casual scenarios the difference won't be distinguishable from a decent pair of $100 earphones. That was certainly the case when we compared them to a set of Etymotic MC5s. Then again, AKG obviously isn't going for casual listener with the K3003s.
Jan 12, 2012
Western Digital previews My Book Thunderbolt Duo external drivesRead Article >
In case you were wondering just how fast these Thunderbolt-enabled drives are, project manager Julie Wiesen provided us with some figures — though emphasized the numbers as being conservative. An individual My Book Thunderbolt Duo reached speeds between 250 and 280MBps at WD's offices. Where things really pick is when several devices are daisy-chained together. During the press event, the company had four My Book Thunderbolt Duos linked, totaling approximately 24 terabytes of disk space. WD had Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test monitoring throughput in real time, and we saw average write speeds of 450MBps while read results topped out around 760MBps (though Mrs. Wiesen said that her team saw that figure go as high as 900MBps when testing on a newer Mac than what was used for the demonstration).
Jan 12, 2012
Samsung's Optical SmartHub streams media through AllShare PlayRead Article >
To go along with Samsung's new AllShare Play technology, the company is launching a streaming media device know as the Optical SmartHub. There's a wireless router built-in, so you can set this box up as your primary access point and use it to serve media up from an external hard drive (there's no internal storage). If you use Samsung's AllShare Play, you can access your content anywhere you can get online, not just across a local network, so this makes for an ideal media streamer if you don't want to leave your computer running constantly. There's also a "smart backup" feature for Android phones — if you have the corresponding SmartHub app, you can back your phone's content up onto the Optical SmartHub. You can also manually back up files to an external drive hooked up to the SmartHub from your Mac or PC as well. There's also an 8X DVD burner (but no Blu-ray support), so you can drop a disc in and access it from anywhere on your Wi-Fi network through devices like laptops, tablets, or smartphones. Samsung's Optical SmartHub device will be available in Q1 and will retail for $129.99 — a little pricy considering there's no built-in storage or Blu-ray compatibility.
Jan 12, 2012
SuperTooth Disco 2 bluetooth speaker hands-onRead Article >
Bluetooth accessory manufacturer SuperTooth introduced its new DIsco 2 Bluetooth speaker here at CES 2012. We just stopped by the company's booth and got a chance to see a non-functioning prototype of the speaker. Unlike the original, rectangular-shaped 28-watt Disco, the Disco 2 pushes just 16 watts of audio and is shaped like an oblong flower vase. It's got four speakers and a passive subwoofer under the mesh cover, but what's notable here is the ability to pair two of these speakers to your device at once, giving you double the wattage, sound, etc. We're told it's capable of 10 hours of music playback with its rechargeable NiMH (nickel metal hydride) battery, and has your standard button controls up top: power, volume and playback. On the rear is the charger port and an auxiliary input. The Disco 2 will be available at the end of March for $69 or $79, but you detailed shots of the speaker below.
Jan 12, 2012
Warpia PC-to-TV wireless HDMI streaming hands-on (video)
WarpiaTV seems like a pretty simple solution to a pretty simple problem, and we were impressed by the company's implementation of the tech. It essentially functions as a wireless HDMI cable for your computer and TV — a USB dongle communicates with a receiver that connects directly to the TV's HDMI port. There's a wireless, motion controlled remote for navigating the icon-based browser interface and grabbing content from sources like YouTube, or you can just use the TV as a second display with the remote functioning as your mouse cursor. Both were pretty smooth in operation, without any noticeable lag, and we appreciated the simplicity of the two approaches. While it's easy to see why flashier smart TV solutions have been getting more press at CES this year, WarpiaTV should appeal to people looking for a simple way to get their digital content onto the big screen. The full package with remote, receiver, dongle, and HDMI cable goes for $199.99, and went on sale yesterday.Read Article >
Adi Robertson contributed to this report.
Velocity Micro's Shine puts a movie theater in your pocket (hands-on)
Velocity Micro recently announced a number of new tablets and peripherals for CES, but we just spent some time with a rather unexpected product from the company: the Shine projector. Priced at $429 and small enough to fit into your pocket, the 300-lumen, DLP unit projects 1280 x 768 resolution video onto your screen or nearby wall. It features a mini-HDMI input, a USB port for playing videos from a stick or USB drive, and an IR receiver for use with the included remote. There's an internal speaker as well — but you'll definitely want to listen to your audio on an external system using the included audio output.Read Article >
We took a look at the projector's performance in a darkened room and were quite impressed. While watching the trailer for Up as well as a Crysis video gameplay demo, colors were vivid and crisp with rich blacks, and looked great even when projected onto a white wall. Shine seemed to work best about three to six feet from the projection surface — and performance did quickly fall off when bright sunlight was let into the room — but the image still held up decently even when being thrown fifteen feet away. We missed true 1080p output, but not so much that we won't be eyeing Shine when it hits the market in the second quarter of this year. Even better, Velocity Micro indicated they have plans to expand the Shine line in the future with even more full-featured units.
VMUltra combines a hard drive, DVD-ROM, and cardreader for ultrabooks (hands-on)Read Article >
Velocity Micro announced the VMUltra Drive last week for CES — it's a combination 500GB hard drive, DVD-ROM, memory card reader, and 3-port USB 2.0 hub. Today, we went to get our hands on the accessory and came away fairly impressed. The build quality seems pretty solid, and the soft-touch finish feels fantastic. Although it has a DC power input, VM people told us that it'll run straight off USB power as long as you don't use the DVD-ROM. A door on the bottom lets you pop out the hard drive and swap it with any 2.5-inch SATA you want; no tools required. Velocity Micro plans to release the combo peripheral in February for about $180.
Jan 11, 2012
Tely Labs telyHD Android-powered Skype webcam hands-on picturesRead Article >
The telyHD sits on top of a TV, and doesn't require a special connection or Skype-ready television to work — it boots into Android and straight into a Skype application. Tely Labs, who partnered with Skype, says it's open to Android developers taking a look at the device, and is actively working with the developer community to identify apps that take advantage of its hardware. The telyHD is designed as an affordable alternative to Skype-ready TVs, but at $249 it's still a tad pricey. If Android developers manage to port apps across then this little webcam has great potential.
Jan 11, 2012
OCZ Lightfoot Thunderbolt external SSD (hands-on)Read Article >
The Lightfoot itself is light and has a rather attractive aluminum shell. The whole package is very light and it seems like the drive will stand up to the rigors of being tossed around in your backpack. Unfortunately, there's no pricing or availability info yet, though we have heard that there will be 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities. We'll let you know when we hear more.
Jan 11, 2012
Behringer's iNuke Boom is the essence of Vegas
There are ducks, and there are decorated sheds.Read Article >
Most booths at CES are decorated sheds, boxes adorned with color and light, structures with signs to entice you to look at the gadgets within. They call to you with thumping music, colored kliegs, and shouting carnival workers hawking their wares with boy-band boom mics floating an inch from their mouths like buzzing flies at the end of thin electronic wires. Sweeping yet taut reams of fabric are buttressed by steel and mesh create faux tents and false ceilings to reorient the gadgets held within. Hordes of shuffling convention goers conventionally turn their glazed gaze towards an endless kaleidoscope of logos and stock photos of smiling models without seeing any of it. Decorated sheds: forms whose function is to direct you within to the consumer electronics collected inside.