Green shoots at Consumer Electronics Show

Netbooks, cloning software, speech recognition get nods during Day One at CES

LAS VEGAS — Strolling through the Consumer Electronics Show, one gets a sense that there is a thaw in the air, despite the chill back East or the Labor Department's announcement today of continued 10 percent unemployment.

If green shoots of recovery are starting to peek through the barren soil, CES is one place to find them. Here are a few of the products that jumped out at us as noteworthy from our first day at the show.

CES mainstay Hewlett-Packard offered more than a dozen brand-new products this week, including a convertible tablet PC and a workstation that sells for less than $800.

The HP TouchSmart tm2 is a convertible tablet with a swivel hinge and a 12.1-inch screen. The TouchSmart software lets users make multitouch gestures to zoom, scroll and rotate. The tm2 is designed for quick access to multimedia and social-networking apps such as Hulu and Twitter. Pricing starts at $899.

HP also debuted two netbooks, the HP Mini 210 and the HP Mini 2101, weighing in at about 2.69 pounds and selling for $299. The 210 comes in brighter colors — red and blue — in addition to silver and black. The company also launched its first touch-enabled netbook, the HP Mini 5102. At 0.91 inches thick and 2.64 pounds, it fits easily into a backpack.

The HP Z200 workstation is geared toward engineers, designers and power users who need high performance. Yet the Z200, which goes on sale next month, starts at $769, the price of a desktop PC. It will use Intel Core dual-core processors and quad-core options based on the Intel Xeon 3400 series.

Iolo Technologies' System Mechanic 8.5 was named a Best Product of 2009 by the GCN Lab, and the company has streamlined the already excellent product in Version 9.5. When a computer boots up almost any program, the software leaves behind hidden data that's unnecessary and slows down your computer over time. System Mechanic can flush out the dross that programs leave behind, giving you a faster, healthier PC. Version 9.5 adds Microsoft Windows 7 capabilities and a feature that keeps you from sapping memory when your computer goes to sleep.

Of the many thousands of iPhone apps available, one that intrigued us was Dragon NaturallySpeaking from Nuance Communications. You just speak into your iPhone, and Dragon pretty much instantaneously types what you say in easy-to-read text. For a short time, the software will be a free download from the Apple App Store, but that will change soon.

Iomega, famous for its storage drives, has launched v.Clone software, which lets you take your PC anywhere. It can clone whatever is on your PC and store it on a small, portable drive that is a little bigger than a deck of cards. You can then run it on your grandmother's XP machine, even though your PC runs Windows 7. It will run in a separate window and leave nothing behind. You can then sync everything when you get back home. V.Clone comes free with any Iomega drive.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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