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CES 2009: Over and Out

A very surprising highlight was Toshiba's press conference, considering how sombre last year's was after the beginning of the end of HD DVD. Also, considering that Toshiba's IFA announcements were far from exciting, I wasn't holding my breath for anything good to appear at CES, but as with Palm, my preconceptions were proved wrong.

Toshiba announced a new range of Regza TVs that were simply bursting with new features, like the long awaited (by myself at least) Dolby Volume. I would hope that all TVs will eventually adopt Dolby's superb sound levelling system, but top marks to Toshiba for pushing the technology out early. Couple that with a light sprinkling of LED backlighting, USB ports that can stream DivX and Xvid content directly from a storage device to the TV and instant switching between HDMI ports, and Tosh appears to have a compelling TV line-up for 2009.

Toshiba's Cell TV prototype looked impressive, but there's no news on retail units

And of course there was the first showing of Toshiba's Cell TV - a next generation TV system utilising the power of the Cell chip, which also drives the PlayStation 3. There's no doubt that Cell TV looks very interesting, but it remains to be seen when it will become a retail product, and what kind of price we'll be expected to pay. One thing's for sure though, with the constant drive towards ever better picture processing and scaling, having a high powered CPU driving your TV can't be a bad thing.

Impressive for altogether different reasons was the launch of SanDisk's new solid state disks. It's a generally accepted principle that SSDs offer a number of benefits over mechanical hard disks, but those benefits are offset by a very high price premium. This has meant that SSDs have remained out of reach for many users, with only high end, expensive, ultra-portable notebooks equipped with them. SanDisk potentially changed that with the launch of its third generation drives, quoting an MSRP of only $149 for a 60GB SSD, thus making it a viable upgrade option for existing notebook owners and throwing the cat among the pigeons when it comes to new machines.

SanDisk announced truly affordable solid state disks

As always there were certain buzz words that pretty much every manufacturer felt they had to talk about. It's clear that 240Hz is the new 120Hz - in the UK that means that 200Hz is the new 100Hz - with every LCD TV manufacturer claiming silky smooth motion. Of course this meant that almost every stand had a demonstration showing how great 240Hz TVs are and how poor 120Hz TVs are, despite the fact that last year they were all telling us how great 120Hz was!

Also on the buzz list was Widgets, with the Yahoo Internet Widgets system popping up on just about every new TV at the show, which is pretty fast work when you consider that Yahoo and Intel only announced the Widgets at IDF last August. And of course there was LED backlighting with local dimming - much talked about last year, but visible in products all over the show this year.

All in all I'd rate CES 2009 as one of the better shows in recent years, and though we may be in an economic downturn, that doesn't seem to have dampened the development divisions of the major consumer electronics companies. Even with three of us out in Vegas covering the show, we still found it hard to write up everything that we saw, and the level of exhaustion that we all felt at the end of the week was testament to just how many meetings, booths and hotel suites we'd been rushing around.

So what for next year? Well if the rumours about Apple choosing to exhibit at CES in 2010 prove true, next year could be a landmark show. Whether this will actually happen remains to be seen, but it seems like a logical move for both Apple and the organisers of CES, the CEA. If this does turn out to be the case, I'm pretty sure I know what the buzz word at the show will be next year.

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