January 8, 2013
The Consumer Electronics Show seems to exist as an event to show me what I can't buy but really want.
The annual event, taking place now in Las Vegas, is highlighted this year by a lot of televisions. Over the past decade, the big thing has been high-definition TV. It has probably been the biggest advance in television since color. You can't find a TV sold now that isn't at least 720p, and most bigger than 32 inches sport 1080p resolution.
All those extra pixels -- compared to standard definition's max of 480p -- are great for making everything clearer. But as with all technology, the device makers aren't going to stop at 1080p.
The resolution known as 4KTV debuted last year at CES. This year, it has a new marketing name: Ultra HD. You probably won't see any of these at your local Best Buy -- if you still have a local Best Buy -- because it's really overkill for most of us. First, the resolution is really more pixels than we can see on most popular TVs. I own a 46-inch LED-LCD TV that has a 1080p resolution. Fellow blogger Corinne Nicholson owns pretty much the same thing, and you know how much she loves movies and TV.
What you might not know is that without a Blu-ray Disc player, you might have never seen a 1080p picture. All channels on your TV service are sent out in either 720p or 1080i. Some pay-per-view movie channels might be available from your provider, but that's about it.
But 1080p content is available on every Blu-ray Disc sold, as well as digital offerings from places such as iTunes and YouTube.
However, if you're like me, you wonder why these Ultra HD TVs are being showcased at $15,000+ when there is almost zero content available. Sony is promising to deliver downloadable content in the Ultra HD format. But how much is that going to help?
As TVs keep getting bigger, I definitely see the promise for this new resolution. I know someone with a 120-inch projection screen, and that's definitely a situation that could benefit from Ultra HD. But until someone can start delivering a steady stream of content at that resolution, those sets are going to sit in warehouses and the rest of us will gladly buy the much-more-affordable 1080p sets.
Another item unveiled at CES is a new line of Intel processors aimed at the ultrabook model computers. If you don't know exactly what these are, look up the MacBook Air. Ultrabooks are designed to be extremely portable, light, thin and use battery power efficiently so you're not recharging every four hours.
The new Core processor displayed by Intel in a hybrid tablet-notebook model that is 17 mm thick running Windows 8 runs up to 13 hours in notebook mode, 10 hours in tablet mode. If you don't own a notebook computer, find someone who does and ask him or her about the thought of 13 hours of battery life. Yes, it's that good.
But as with so many other things unveiled at CES, it will likely be fall 2013 before any of us can buy products with this processor. You tease us, Intel.
The final product that really caught my attention is something called iSmart Alarm. It's basically a home security system that you build to fit your needs without the requirement of a monthly monitoring plan.
I want this.
It basically makes you the monitor of the system using an iPhone. You buy a kit with the CubeOne -- basically the brains of the system -- and any combination of video cameras, motion sensors, contact sensors and remote tags. With these, you can monitor your home, pets and kids from your iPhone.
Considering the fact that many people like me will carry an iPhone around just about everywhere, this makes as much sense as paying for monitoring. I really just want to know when a sensor has been tripped when I'm away from home. If I put a video camera in the system, then I can instantly see what's going on. If my dog has knocked over a table trying to acquire some food product he's not supposed to, then it's a false alarm. If some person wearing a hood is showing up and has survived the onslaught of my dog, then maybe I should contact the police.
With a kit starting at $79 and giving me the new option of tracking my dog in case he gets out, this makes a lot of financial sense. Even though I already bought a monitoring system through someone else, the $79 system would pay for itself in about five months because of no monthly fee.
I will likely wait to let other people test this out to see how well it works. But if it works as advertised, you can count on me signing up.
Michael Buckelew is a copy editor for the Gwinnett Daily Post.