CES 2015

CES 2015
One of my standard photo ops inside the Central Hall at LVCC

Posting my CES entry over a month after I attended the show. Much later than I wanted to. Trust me.

This year’s visit to Sin City for the annual CES trade show was cut short, due to that fact that I didn’t have much time. I drove down on a Sunday and had that night and most of the day Monday to relax, have some drinks and enjoy a pre-CES event before the show started on Tuesday. I normally like to go down for the entire 4 days of the show, which allows me to take my time to see as much as I can. Packing it all into less than 2 full show days is not the more preferable way to take in CES.

ces 2015 marty badge
My badge for this year’s CES show

The company I started back in late 2007 – Penguin Bytes Productions – hasn’t made a profit yet. It’s a side project that I hope to someday call my main gig. For now, I spend what little time I do with it in hopes that I will look back and wonder why I didn’t embrace it sooner.

New Walkman

sony walkman
The new Sony Walkman

One of the biggest product announcements to come out of CES 2015 was the return of the Sony Walkman. No cassette compatibility this time around. This is all digital and running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

sony walkman
Big screen, fits in the hand well

They Sony booth was buzzing over this new model – the NW-ZX2 – having a good 30 demo units available for listening, touching and feeling. Each unit contained only 3 songs by Daft Punk, Janet Jackson and Beyonce, which are all Sony artists. Audio format support is good: MP3, AIFF, FLAC, WAV and all in high end bit rates. 128gb are built-in, with a microSD card slot to add more space for music. Battery life is 60 hrs, takes 4 hours to charge. Wifi, but no camera. Support for Google Play store.

sony walkman
The textured back of the new Walkman

Sound quality was very good. All demo units were paired with a nice set of Sony over-the-ear headphones. This unit is pretty thick. Sony specs are here. The textured back added a nice grip to the unit, even though it made it thicker than expected.

sony walkman
Left side controls fit fingers just right

For a thick music player, this actually felt good in the hand. Side controls were easy to use and navigate without looking. For more details, head to The Verge for their hands on report.

sony walkman
headphone jack (included) and trade show theft device (not included)

So pretty cool, but here’s the kicker. This is going to retail for $1119.95 when it ships this spring. Ouch. That has the Pono high end player looking very cheap compared to this new Walkman. Who will buy this? High end audiophiles that want a music-focused digital player. While I loved my Walkmans and Discmans I owned and played over the years, nostalgia is keeping me from spending $1200 on this modern Walkman.

Curved TVs

samsung curved tv
One of the curved TV models from Samsung

I have to admit that seeing a curved TV in person was kind of cool. I never bought into the whole 3D TV era a few years back. But having some time to sit in front of one of these units [granted, with people walking in front of me on a constant basis] I was impressed with the picture quality.

samsung curved tv
A view of the right side

I don’t picture myself buying one of these anytime soon, most likely waiting for the price to come way down – I think the expected retail price for the 65″ unit I saw was around $4000. But once I get tired of my current 55″ Sony Brava LED television, I think a curved TV will make it way into my home after it plunges below the $900 mark.

samsung curved tv
A view of the back of the curved TV

The construction of this design was pretty cool. I mean, I do like some of these super thin LED TVs out now, but the curved front and back and sides of this TV was pretty impressive. An engineering feat, none the less.

Cameras

canon 7d
The Canon 7D Mark II DSLR

I always visit the Canon booth at CES to see the latest camera models they have. This year was the 7D Mark II, which is in the mid-range of DSLR models. Costing much less than the 5D Mark III [$3k for the body], the $1800 cost certainly makes this model more obtainable for professionals seeking an “entry level” feature-filled camera. And this camera has them, from the 20.2 megapixel censor, to the continuous auto focus when shooting 1080p video, this is a nice camera.

canon 7d
the back of the Canon 7D Mark II

One feature missing on that the 70D and Rebel T5i models have is a flip around LCD screen. It’s touchscreen like the afore mentioned models, but the lack of being able to sit this on a tripod and gain some shots while viewing the LCD screen at multiple angles seems a bit lacking. If you don’t need that, then this body, coupled with the Canon STM lenses you already own will make a nice addition to a professional arsenal of digital media captures.

canon xa20
The Canon XA20 – entry level pro video camera

My biggest item on my wishlist for video production is a professional video camera. I’ve used one before – the XA10 model – and liked it for it’s size and quality. The XA20 steps it up several notches by improving the auto focus as well as offering a bevy of ports, settings and dual card slots. Also nice is the addition of Wifi, which allows transfer of media without having to remove memory cards. For $2499, this is a nice starter if you are looking for a model that smaller in size.

canon xf205
The Canon XF205 – the mid-range tier of professional video camera

And of course, I have to keep dreaming bigger. The XF205 is in the mid-range of professional video cameras. It retails for $4400, which is almost $2k more than the above XA20 model. As it should be. It adds time code support for editing and an ethernet port for much faster transfer of media and browsing of media while in the middle of shooting. It’s not much bigger than the XA20, which is nice for when you are ready to upgrade or if you need a much more capable camera when out shooting footage. Add to that a 20x optical zoom and full 1080 HD support at 60fps, this is a camera that I would love to own someday.

Self Driving Car
audi a7
Audi A7 – a self driving car – on the high end

Google’s self driving cars were covered in the news the last few months. That isn’t stopping other car companies from jumping in the foray. High end Audi showed off their A7 model at the show. Before the show, it made headlines as it proved it was capable of being a self-driven automobile by actually making the trek from San Francisco to Las Vegas, along with it’s team and a number of journalists who actually got to spend 100 miles of road travel behind the wheel.

audi a7
The rear end of the Audi A7

Audi used the term “auto-pilot” over self driving. There are multiple censors on this car to detect speed, obstacles, nearby cars, road glitches and all sorts of other items you encounter while driving. No price on this car was mentioned, but given how much Audi charges for its current line up of cars, I can imagine this will run into the six-figure range at launch, which should be sometime in 2016. I would like to try one out someday, just to see how freaked out I get after 35 years of driving a “regular” car.

Passing On Smart Appliances

There are no photos here of any of the smart appliances as I had zero interest in seeing any of them. The Internet Of Things [styled as IoT] is a good part of this, defined as objects that connect in the background to provide some type of service, like a stove that tells you via your smartphone that something is burning. Or a fridge that provides an inventory of its contents and automatically reorders what’s it out of. I don’t subscribe to this hands-off method. I love technology, but I think this is misguided on many levels. I like interactive online where I can be more productive and can be part of the process of communication. So, I gave a pass to seeing any of this, even though it was this year’s buzz word.

Electric Car
vw e-golf
Volkswagen’s e-Golf

Getting back to auto coverage, electric cars were well represented here at the show. One of which is now available in selected showrooms across the US – the VW e-Golf.

I like that there are now challengers to the BMW, Mitsubishi and the leading electric car in sales – the Nissan Leaf, which is already in it’s 4th year of production and available in all 50 states.

The e-Golf has a range of 75 miles, less than the Leaf, which averages closer to 100 mile range per charge. The solid look and feel of the e-Golf is nice, but all of these cars need ranges much closer to 200 miles, which even high-end Tesla models are in the 240 mile range. Something for VW and Nissan to shoot for in future models. Still cool to see VW getting into the electric car market.

Samsung Galaxy Edge

note edge
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

note edge
That side screen is different, that’s for sure

I’m an iPhone guy, but I do fancy some of the cool features various Android phones have. I really liked the first Samsung Galaxy Note when it came out three years ago. So this new Galaxy Note Edge has an odd but clever feature: the screen curves sideways. How did I like this? Well, if you can keep from grabbing the right side of the phone each time you pick it up when it’s on, it’s an ok feature. I rate it more gimmicky than anything after using it for 10 minutes. Maybe it will grow on you for common alerts and other functions. I did like the size of the screen and the quality of it.

Summary

I saw a lot in less than two days on the show floor. As with each year, I look forward to getting a professional video camera someday. Curious to see how curved TVs will take off once the price reaches the range where average consumers can afford it. And the technology behind the self driving cars is pretty cool.

I have a feeling that next year will be my last year at CES as my focus on film making and camera focus intensifies this year and leads my focus to NAB trade show, held in Vegas in April. And with the show going back to the Wed – Sat schedule [as opposed to this year of Tue – Fri], it will be one less weekday to enjoy the show, allowing a Sunday as a recovery day before going back to the daily grind.

Maybe next year, I will also be focused and on top of things that I can post each day of coverage much sooner than waiting over a month.

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