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Las Vegas Embraces Useful and Convenient Gadgets For Business Travel at Consumer Electronics Show

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CES adAnother silver lining to an economic meltdown: visiting the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas, the country’s largest trade show, was a lot easier than in previous years.

Aisles were less crowded and taxi lines were shorter.

Rooms at some of the top hotels were half the normal inflated CES rates and Southwest Airlines had partnered with CES to offer some flights to Las Vegas at half price.

Those products of interest to us travelers include a new GPS, a bunch of new netbooks, portable projectors, a slim new camera loaded with gadgetry, and a great new smartphone.

Garmin Nuvi 775tGarmin (www.garmin.com) showed off the Nüvi 775T that guides you to the correct lane for an approaching turn or exit, making unfamiliar intersections and exits easier to navigate. It displays road signs and junctions on your route along with arrows that indicate the proper lane for navigation.

It also provides traffic delay alerts and road construction and lets you detour around the problem areas. A cool new feature available on many models displays the cost of a trip you’re about to take based on your mileage and the price of gas. About $600.

Netbooks, those undersized computers that look like someone shrunk your notebook by almost half, are all the rage. While I’m skeptical that travelers that do more than email and browsing will be satisfied for the long term, there’s no lack of new offerings.

Sony Vaio P SeriesSony had the most interesting model, its new 1.4 pound Vaio P Series Lifestyle PC (www.sonystyle.com) netbook computer. What distinguishes it from the competition is its elongated shape with an ultra-wide/ultra-sharp 8-inch screen (1600×768). It can actually fit in a jacket pocket, but costs $1000, much more than other netbooks.

HP (www.hp.com) showed its Mini 2140 netbook that’s getting great reviews due to its near full-size keyboard, sharp-looking design, and long battery life. Some even have built-in high-speed data cards. The best mini available costs under $500.

Several companies including 3M showed their new pico-projectors—tiny projectors about the size of a pack of cigarettes. They have very low brightness, so the image needs to be less than a couple of feet across and used in a dim area. The best use I could come up with is to project your iPod video onto the back of the folded tray table in front of you. About $300.

Palm PrePalm’s new Palm Pre smartphone, its first really new product in years, received a lot of interest. It’s a touchscreen phone with a slide-out keyboard at the bottom.

It’s smaller than an iPhone with the keyboard collapsed and its touchscreen works much like the iPhone with the ability to pinch to zoom in and out, and slide a finger to scan photos. Its WebOS is so named because contacts and other information are collected from Outlook, Google, Facebook, and other Web software and integrated into its address book. Price was not announced, but expect it to be about $200, available initially from Sprint by June.

Lastly, Pentax announced its svelte Optio P70, a full-featured, ultra-thin pocket camera for $200. It has a 12 Megapixel CCD, 4X zoom (28-112mm), anti-shake and face recognition technology. Smile Capture automatically captures a smiling subject, and blink detection technology alerts you if the subject’s eyes are closed during exposure.

By Phil Baker for PeterGreenberg.com. Phil Baker has more than three decades of experience in consumer and computer technology product development and program management. Check out his blog at www.philipgbaker.com.

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