CES 2011 – What’s Good for Travelers

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is always a great source for new cutting edge travel products. This year the 2011 show did not disappoint.

Wireless technology is only getting better. Much more communication is coming between computers and smartphones/cameras/tablets. Added this year is wireless connectivity between appliances and cellphones but really, do you want to know that your refrigerator door is open when you are a thousand miles away from home?

Very big news is the exciting 4G technology for cellphones. Verizon had an impressive demonstration of just how blazing fast it can be. Well, in optimal circumstances, of course. But even in general usage, 4G promises significantly improved reliability. Hands-on at the show, 4G will give us flawless access to websites. The demos for live TV were flicker-free and fresh.

However, it will take some time to build out the network. Verizon says they will have half the population covered by mid-2011 with another couple years to completion. While reliability will be somewhat spotty for at least another year, they are adding specific coverage to 60 of the largest airports in the country. This is welcome news for travelers.

Perhaps the most impressive new phone will be Motorola’s Atrix, a 4G powerhouse with a dual-core processor and laptop “dock.” The Android-based phone promises the power of a small netbook computer. It will be available from AT&T sometime in the first quarter. No pricing was announced.

Also finally available will be USB 3.0 ports on computers. Most manufacturers were showing them and the difference between it and 2.0 is dramatic. A couple vendors showed a comparison difference in download times and trust me, the improvement here will be more than just noticeable.

CES showed off 80 or more tablet-style computers. Dell’s product – featured at the Intel booth – was very slick with a rotating screen. Samsung offered up their version which looks like a large smartphone. The screen slides up, revealing a keyboard.

Elocity, among others, introduced smaller 7” tablets. With most tablets around 10” or so, this Android-based product can actually slide into your back pocket and is available now. The portable size is ideal for those travelers who want a screen size smaller than a laptop but larger than a phone.

One of my favorites from the show was Samsung’s line of ultra-lightweight laptops. Using solid state hard drives and a lightweight chassis, weights vary from 2-3 lbs depending on screen size which is roughly 11-13”. The CPU power comes from Intel’s i5/i7 chips. Battery life varies but all were rated at a minimum 9 hours, possibly enough to work all day without a charge.

This new Samsung line is simply the ideal balance of size, weight, and power for travelers who use laptops, much appreciated even if long overdue. Unfortunately they are not yet in production and no release dates have been set. They wouldn’t even allow photos to be taken.

All in all, another great CES show for the 140,000 attendees with promise of exciting products coming our way in 2011.

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