CAN WE BE frank? Numerous media organizations taking the pulse of the giant CES consumer electronics show put out "Best of CES" lists. But with 3,300 exhibitors unveiling something like 20,000 new products, who can claim to have judged them all?
And this year, it became painfully clear the choices can be manipulated. Popular tech website CNET was forced to disqualify the innovative, second-generation DISH Hopper satellite receiver/DVR from its "best of" awards. CBS, a sister operation of CNET parent company Viacom, is suing DISH over Hopper's automatic commercial skip feature.
Still, people keep asking this Gizmo Guy, "What jumped out for you?" at the Las Vegas show. Here's what's knocked me over, besides the kangaroo-mascoted Hopper. But be warned: This diligent show walker saw, at best, 5 percent of the offerings.
NFC COMES ON STRONG: The Near Field Communications chip in new Android phones (like the Sony Xperia Z) has been touted as a terrific tool to shortcut purchases (replacing the credit card swipe) or to transfer photos and playlists to another phone.
We found several fresh ways you'll soon be able to "tap to connect" between a smartphone and other NFC chip-enabled devices such as refrigerators, stoves and laundry appliances from Samsung, plus a mess of audio devices (Bluetooth wireless headphones and speakers, home theater systems) from Sony, also a major maker of NFC chips.
The loser here is Apple, which has held back on putting NFC in its iPhones.
TV TECH: I didn't see all that much improvement in Ultra High Definition Televisions and superbright OLED (organic light emitting diode) panels over top 2013 plasma and LED TVs in a screen size I could afford. U-HD video projectors that pump out a digital, cinema-grade, 150-inch 4K image may prove another story.
Still, I covet some of the gee-whiz extras in these uber-premium-priced U-HDTV models. Samsung is warming up a 55-inch 4K set that can simultaneously show two different full-screen, 2-D or 3-D programs.
Also quite cool were Vizio and LG Display demos of glasses-free 3-D on an Ultra-HD TV fitted with a special screen layer.
OFFICE MINIMIZED: Been thinking about buying a new Windows-based laptop? Wait a few months.
Intel announced a next generation of microprocessor chips, the first specifically designed for Ultrabooks, that will make the fall run of Windows 8-based portables thinner, lighter and more energy-efficient, going up to 13 hours between a charge. Opening prices will be $799-$899, perhaps even for innovative laptop models with screens that separate to function as stand-alone tablets.
Also looking like a smart business deal is Ooma Office, the new Internet-phone-for-small-business service, packing professional features at very low cost into the much-lauded, free-calls Ooma phone gear and service.
THE SLEEPER HIT OF CES: I used to wonder what guitar-making giant Gibson was doing at CES. Now all has come clear. Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz - a renaissance man musician, engineer and savior of troubled companies - has transformed Gibson into a musical hydra that doesn't just make great instruments but also the equipment you play it back on - rock-solid Onkyo receivers and home theater systems, Cerwin-Vega and KRK speakers and Stanton DJ turntables/cartridges.
The coolest innovation Juszkiewicz showed me was an automatic string tuning system called Min-E Tune, $150 as a factory-installed option for Gibson guitars. "Min-E Tune isn't for the heavyweight arena rockers who switch between guitars five or six times in a single song," he said. "But it's great for everyone who can't carry an arsenal of instruments to a show or just want to experiment."
Customization also is key to the first Onkyo-branded ES-FC300 and ES-HF300 headphones. These comfy sound makers come with an app for touch-screen tablets and smart phones so you can adjust the sound to personal taste with the swipe of a finger.