CES 2007: Dear Diary…Seagate's Hard Drives, iPod Accessories Galore And Exhaustion

, but with more walking. This entry catalogs the companies I met with the first “half” of January 8, my first full day of the show.

After waiting in a cab line for half an hour and then coughing up $20 to get from our hotel to the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) I hit the show floor for my first meeting at 9:30 with Seagate . Last time I spoke with the company reps back at DigitalLife in New York, they promised me big announcements for CES. And while the new products aren’t life altering, they’re definitely cool. Well, as cool as a hard drive can get.

Seagate announced/launched a new series of external hard drives called FreeAgent aimed at consumers. And by “consumers” I mean people who don’t care about how they’ve backed up their data, just that it’s backed up. Oh and that the drive is aesthetically pleasing while doing so. Seagate pretty much nailed the goal across the board from packaging to design to included software. The FreeAgent Pro (320GB, 500GB, 750GB sizes) pictured above are priced from $199.99 (320GB) to $419.99 (750GB) and features one of the smartest design touches I’ve seen on an external hard drive. The base of the drive comes standard with USB and eSATA ports, but can quickly be removed and replaced with a FireWire base or whatever other port should come in the future. It’s just a simple bit of future proofing, but cool nonetheless.

As you can see, the packaging is consumer friendly, steering away from typical tech-spec language found on most backup drives. Plus, the drives use Memeo’s software for backing up and syncing your files.

There was also the FreeAgent Go (80GB, 120GB, 160GB) priced from $129.99 to $189.99 and FreeAgent Go Small (12GB, $139.99 ) that use USB to give you mobile access to “your computing environment.” This includes software for managing your Web favorites, passwords and settings, IM, e-mail, contacts and digital files.

Next, I hit the Hitachi booth for a quick tour of its new displays. I’ll keep this one short. They have some new plasmas that are worth checking out if you’re in the market, including the 50-inch P50H401 out in February at an MSRP $2499.95. (50-inch is the new 42-inch.) Thumbs up. The company’s LCD Rear Projection Full HD1080 Series on the other hand, was disappointing. The picture quality was okay, but there was something strange about the actual texture of the screen that hurt the overall beauty of the display. Thumbs down. Also, the new DVD HDD camcorder that lets you record to either DVD or hard drive is pretty kick ass. Especially if you’ve got people in your household that just want to pop a DVD in and record and those that like to dump it on a computer and edit.

After Hitachi was a big press tour for Audiovox’s booth. The best products announced centered around their XM satellite radio module. The module, about the size of a matchbox, basically allows you to carry your account from receiver to receiver so you’re service is no longer tied to a single device. Here’s a few short videos of the different products that use it.

Next stop was speaker-company Altec Lansing. Fortunately they didn’t have too much going on, but there were a handful of items worth mentioning. Altec is making a big push into headphones, selling “upgrades” for those looking to replace the buds included with their digital audio player. Headset-manufacturer Plantronics is the parent company for Altec, so this makes good sense. They’ve also taken over retail distribution of a couple sets of Ultimate Ears headphones that sell for $129.95 and $89.95.

Hey, it’s my first iPod dock of the day! The inMotion iMV712 ($349.95) has an 8.5-inch widescreen LCD that’s quite nice for viewing content off your 5G iPod.

The back of the unit holds a 4-inch side-firing subwoofer to go with the 3-inch neodymium speakers. Truthfully it was so loud on the LVCC floor, I couldn’t tell how they sounded, but I’m sure they’ll show up in a CompUSA or Best Buy for you to check out. Mostly, it was just a nice design.

Altec also showed off two home-theater speaker systems: the $999 PT8051 and $599 PT7031. The big difference? The PT7031 is a single-speaker setup while the PT8051 adds a wireless rear surround.

Again, it was too loud at the show to really tell how the sound was, but I’m hoping to get my hands on a set to test them out. At least they look decent.

It’s now going on 1 p.m. and I’m headed back to the bowels of the South Hall to check out stuff from dreamGEAR/i.Sound and ION Audio.

If you’re not familiar with dreamGEAR or i.Sound pick up a copy of Sharper Image’s next catalog and you’ll see their stuff. They make a very broad variety of iPod accessories, but mostly speakers. Nothing too crazy, well, other than the plasma globe thing above. Unfortunately, everything has a certain cheap appearance to it that I can’t get past. Though, they did show me a version of their InConcert speakers (looks a bit like Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi) with a built-in DVD player. It’s perfect for someone looking to boost the sound of a bedroom TV and adding an iPod dock and DVD player in the process.

It’s now 1:45 p.m. and I meet up with my last meeting at the LVCC, ION Audio. Owned by Numark, ION is the more consumery end of the business and makes among other things USB turntables that let you dump your vinyl onto your computer without having to hassle with pre-amps and all manner of other nonsense. Just put a record on, plug in to your PC and play.

There’s also a whole host of upcoming iPod accessories such as the iProjector for turning your 5G iPod into a movie projector. Combined with their new iPA03 portable PA system (with iPod dock, of course) and a giant wall/garage door/bed sheet and you’ve got yourself a mobile movie theater. If you’re interested in listening to or creating digital music at all, keep an eye on ION in 2007.

Finally, it’s nearly 3 p.m. and I’m getting off the LVCC floor for a suite meeting with iRiver.