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CES 2012: The Coolest Products at the Consumer Electronics Show

We take a look back over CES 2012 and round-up the biggest products of the show

CES is a pretty big deal. The electronics show sees more than 150,000 journalists, bloggers and other tech-industry people swarm to a huge Convention Centre in Las Vegas to see the coolest new gadgets, innovations and downright strange ideas.

This year was no different, and now that the week of madness is over, we’re taking a short look back over the highlights of the show, focusing on some of the coolest gadgets and accessories that will be available for your Mac and iOS device in the next few months and years.

Before we start, we also think it’s worth mentioning that while Apple didn’t have a stand of any kind at the show, and officially weren’t present, it was revealed during the week that they actually had around 250 employees circulating the show floor, scouting out everything on show. One keen-eyed journalist managed to spot Greg Joswiak, Head of iOS Product Marketing at Apple, and chat with him briefly about why he was there.

Apple are, of course, very interested in keeping an eye on developments in the tech industry, but Joswiak was specifically observing how companies were representing themselves, from things like booth layout to which products were highlighted. The reporter noted that he didn’t seem all that impressed by Sony’s stand, but didn’t get much more from the Apple man.

Anyway, onto the products that we’ll hopefully be reviewing in the next few months…

LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt RAID array

LaCie Thunderbolt RAID array
fter jumping into the Thunderbolt market late last year with its high-end Little Big Disk (which features SSD storage alongside the super-fast transfer technology), LaCie are back with more Thunderbolt-powered brilliance. This time they coming in with a RAID array, most likely in an attempt to combat Promise‘s line of Thunderbolt enabled drives that are currently on sale on the Apple Online Store.
Because it’s a RAID system, speeds won’t be quite as high as the norm for Thunderbolt (which is around 700 MB/s), but LaCie have said we can expect around 311 MB/s, which is still three times faster than we are used to with FireWire 800. It will come in flavours up to 8TB, and allow for daisychaining, so you can add more storage if necessary. LaCie also announced a Thunderbolt Hub that includes support for eSATA drives, which will surely please users who have a range of drives that they’d love to connect up to their Mac. We saw a lot of Thunderbolt accessories on display at CES, but LaCie’s are some of the most exciting, closely followed by this…

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock
Belkin Thunderbolt DockUntil now, pretty much the only way to use the full potential of your Thunderbolt port was to buy an Apple Thunderbolt display for nigh on £900/$1000. Thankfully, that is set to no longer be the case when Belkin release their Thunderbolt Dock in September of this year. The small dock houses one FireWire 800, one HDMI, one Gigabit Ethernet, one 3.5mm audio, one Thunderbolt and three USB ports. This is set to really change the way people work with Thunderbolt, and when the dock, which will reportedly cost around $299 (around £200), is released in a few months we will finally see people using the full power of their new Macs.

Mobee Magic Feet and Power Bar
Mobee Magic Feet ChargerWe’ve been big fans of Mobee‘s products for a while now, after they released solutions for one of the most consistent annoyances with our Macs – the wireless Magic Mouse and Keyboard using hundreds of batteries. Their solution involved inductive charging technology that allows you to simply place your accessory onto a powered charging station and watch as they filled with extra juice. Not only did this save money in the long-run, it was also an incredibly slick procedure. Now the company have a new way to power up your Magic Trackpad (called the Power Bar), plus an all-in-one solution for your Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse – the Magic Feet. The latter does look a little on the large side, but the Power Bar looks both incredibly slick and exceedingly simple to use, without losing the wireless nature of the accessory. We’re really looking forward to trying these out when they’re released in late March; you may find a huge pile of dead batteries outside iCreate Towers if you happen to be passing on the day, too.

Oregon Scientific Charger Clock
Image courtesy of

Oregon Scientific Time and Wireless Charging Station+
Another one to jump on the brilliant bandwagon that is inductive charging, Oregon Scientific announced the first charging mat that actually functions as something useful when your iPhone isn’t sitting on it. The iPhone case included with the charging-clock also doesn’t look bad at all, meaning it’s something you might, potentially, consider having on your phone at all times. The mat/clock itself is a little on the large side, so you might have to reorganise your bedside table a little to get it on, but it looks great in action and will be available with cases for the 4 (and 4S), the 3G (and 3GS), as well as a few Android and Blackberry handsets, if you fancy mixing things up. This isn’t their first charging mat and clock combo, so we have high hopes for the new design.

Padintosh iPad case

This stunningly simple iPad case from thumbsUp! is not only guaranteed to evoke true feelings of nostalgia in all Apple’s fans, it will also function perfectly with the iPad 2’s Smart Cover. The case will be available in Q2 and clips on to the back of the iPad to perfectly mimic the very first Macintosh computer that debuted in 1984. It looks great, and we can’t wait to see it on the back of our iPad 2s at iCreate Towers in the next few months – we’re suckers for nostalgia.

Blue Spark Digital

Blue have long been known for producing fantastic microphones for all kinds of recordings, and now they are back with the Spark Digital, a microphone that will not only play nice with your iOS device, but will sound great at the same time. The new microphone uses the same technology inside as the (much more analogue) Stark did when it launched last year. The difference here is a MicroUSB port on the bottom that allows you to connect up to an iPad or iPhone using the Camera Connection Kit, or a Mac via a USB cable. As with all Blue’s mics, the Spark Digital has an amazing build-quality, and a few features that make it really stand out, including a condenser capsule that physically contracts to catch a more specific area of sound. It should be available in the Spring for around £130 from what we’re hearing, and we’ll try to record a podcast with it when we get one to review so you guys can also compare the sound quality (we currently use Blue’s brilliant Yeti mics).

iCade Mobile
iCade Mobile Game ControllerThe iCADE Arcade Cabinet garnered a fair bit of attention last year when it launched for the iPad and added an old-skool arcade stick and buttons to go along with an app that let you play loads of retro games. Now, iCade is back, and this time it’s going portable. The iCade Mobile add-on allows you to slot in an iPhone 4/4S, or an iPod Touch, connecting via Bluetooth to your device. The pad adds buttons, a directional pad, and shoulder triggers to your iOS device, and allows you to rotate your screen into both portrait and landscape modes. It doesn’t look like it’s going to win any design awards, but it’s worth noting that it’s still in the development stage and may look quite different by the time it launches in May for $79.99. It will also only work with around 100 games at launch, which is a bit of a shame, but if you’re one of the many people who don’t like gaming on the iPhone or iPod simply because of the way the touch screen works you may enjoy using this little peripheral.

Parrot AR Drone 2.0

Parrot AR Drone 2.0
Probably the most exciting announement of CES for the big kids in us all came from Parrot, who announced the second generation of their unbelievably awesome Parrot AR Drone. The inventively named AR Drone 2.0 boasts a new 720p HD camera that sends a live feed back to your device, as well as a pressure sensor for better altitude control and an autopilot mode that lets you set a distance and altitude and watch as the Drone goes there and snaps a photo. We expect fantastic things from this, as the original Drone was so much fun it should probably have had a warning on the box.

Now, onto AirPlay, which really dominated the Apple-based announcements this year…

Band & Olufsen Play: BeoLit12 Speaker

If you miss the old-style speakers of yore, you may also be very excited about the newly announced BeoLit12 speaker, the first product in the B&O Play range. This new product line aims to bring high-quality audio into your home without the need to take out a second mortgage and with a distinctly retro design. The little box of joy boasts a 120-watt amp, an aluminium shell, two 5cm tweeters and a 10cm woofer, which come together to produce one heck of a sound. The BeoLit12 also comes with AirPlay functionality, allowing to play your music through your Wi-Fi connection, as well as USB and 3.5mm stereo-out jacks. And if this is starting to sound just a little unlike the old wireless you used to have in your front room, you’ll be pleased to hear that the battery should provide around four hours of playback while streaming, or eight hours if you connect directly. It will be on sale at the end of January, but beware that this thing still won’t come cheap – it’s expected start at around £520.

Griffin Twenty

If you own a pair of high-quality speakers, but they aren’t enabled with AirPlay, you might feel like you’re missing out on the very best wireless music experience. If so, Griffin’s new Twenty might be just what you’ve been looking for. The small box allows you to clip in an AirPort Express and connect up to your speaker set-up with a single cable, giving you access to all your tunes wirelessly. The box itself looks great in a sleek white that fits perfectly with the AirPort Express, although this design could change before release. The most exciting thing is the giant silver dial on the top, however, as it not only looks and feels great, it simplifies the controls to just one interface, and is ultimately all you really need. No release date or pricing information on this one, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Klipsch Stadium Speaker
We’re big fans of Klipsch‘s products, after we tired a few of their headphones in a recent issue of iCreate, so we are naturally very excited about the prospect of their new AirPlay speaker – especially because it looks like it might be seriously powerful. With two 1-inch tweeters, two 3-inch mid-range woofers and two 5.25-inch subwoofers this isn’t going to be one for the faint hearted. Plus, as they’re all uncovered, you’re likely to feel these at the same time as you hear them. The AirPlay functionality means there is no ugly dock sticking out anywhere, but there is a USB port for when you’re not in range of your computer, offering a tethered connection that will also charge iPhones and iPods (but probably not the power-hungry iPads). It should be out around September, and there are no announcements on pricing just yet so expect something around £300 (our estimate, based on no facts at all).

ZIK Parrot Headphones by Starck

We recently tried out Parrot’s ZIKMU AirPlay speakers and while they might look a bit like trombones, they also provide some absolutely astounding performance when it comes to sound quality. So naturally we are rather excited about this pair of AirPlay headphones from the same company. We are sure that they are going to be incredibly expensive, and there are still no announcements about their release date, but these Bluetooth-enabled speakers feature four(!) microphones for some serious noise-cancelling action, as well as Parrot’s ‘Digital Music Hall’ effect, which is supposed to give the impression that you’re listening to your music in a much larger room. You’ll be able to connect them to your iPhone etc using a quarter inch cable if you prefer an analogue sound to the digital one they provide wirelessly, and most importantly they look really rather sexy.

Keep an eye out for future issues of iCreate Magazine, as we’re already excited about getting out hands on all these products for review.