Getting a handle on all of the cool gadgets and gizmos introduced at the recent Consumer Electronics Show is a herculean task -- up close in person or from afar via the Web. But here are five things that grabbed our attention from the thousands of products previewed at CES, which ended Thursday in Las Vegas. They were gleaned from online coverage and first-person accounts provided to the Star Tribune by CNET senior editor Dan Ackerman, consumer-electronics columnist Don Lindich and Iowa electronics retailer Michael Fischer.
All Blu-ray: The high-def disc format is more than a year old, but it suddenly became the belle of the CES ball when home-video giant Warner Bros. unexpectedly announced that it would solely support Blu-ray (www.blu-raydisc.com) and ditch rival HD DVD. Every time show attendees saw the HD DVD logo -- which was emblazoned on hundreds of press bags, on signs atop taxis and on banners hanging from ceilings -- they were reminded that Blu-ray won the high-def format war.
Thin line: HDTV displays are getting a serious trim-down thanks to new technology that allows for much thinner screens (www.startribune.com/a3852). Sony showed off small prototypes that use organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) and are mere millimeters thick -- but still in development. Also shown, but still not close to market, were larger-sized Samsung LCD displays just over an inch thick and Pioneer plasma displays about seven-eights of an inch thick.
On-the-go computing: You'll never have to leave your car with Azentek's (www.azentek.com) in-dash computer, which is designed to fit where a stereo usually goes. The Windows PC -- with a 6.5 - to 7-inch screen -- does everything one would expect from a computer, but it also offers GPS navigation, FM radio and Bluetooth cell-phone integration. It's expensive at $2,700 (available in April), but this is the future.
Geek toy: Bug Labs (www.buglabs.net) has introduced a wild, fully configurable product that starts with a base mini-computer and allows users to add modules with GPS, a touch-sensitive screen and more to create all kinds of unique gadgets. The modules go for $49 to $299 each. Through the open-source platform, creators can make controlling software available to other users. One blogger called it "the Lego of gadgets."
Wireless Wii: The Nintendo Wii's main controller is wireless, but its secondary Nunchuk controller -- required to play many games -- must be connected to its larger sibling by a cord. Nyko (www.nyko.com) addresses the problem with its new wireless Nunchuk. It might seem like a small thing, but with a relatively low $30 price and the Wii's popularity, this could be a big seller when it comes out in a few weeks.
RANDY A. SALAS