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Pre-CES Surprise Gadget News Round-Up

Samsung digital photo frame

So with the Consumer Electronics Show starting in just under two days, you might expect that companies are keeping their products under lock and key, to maximize PR effect. Nope. Lots of stuff's leaked already, some of it surprising.

Samsung's Crazy 7-Inch OLED Photo Frame

So we know OLED is the coming thing for almost any technology that needs a display—it's much brighter and more contrasty than LEDs can be, and has potential power-saving skills too, goo for battery life in mobile devices. It's just currently very expensive, as the makers haven't got their production lines running up to commercial speed yet, and the tech itself is still developing.

Chalk me up as surprised then that Samsung, after buying out Kodak's OLED production facility, is planning on unveiling the 700Z 7-inch digital photo frame (pictured above) powered by OLEDs at CES. That's a digital photo frame, remember—basically the lowest common denominator of screen tech, and currently only a trend as is it's amazingly cheap and easy to churn out small LCD screens from bigger production lines. LCD picture frames are a phenomenon of the twilight of LCD tech's life...and yet here's a nascent OLED tech being used for the same thing. Amazing. The million-to-one contrast ratio sure will make your pics look good, though. Assuming you can afford the thing in the first place.

Eye-Fi's Uprated Wireless SD Camera Card

eyefiEye-Fi's products have always been innovative: In lieu of buying an expensive digital cam with wireless powers (or a peripheral for DSLRs that's amusingly expensive) you can simply slip an Eye-Fi Wi-fi-equipped SD card into a normal one and do the same job.

Eye-Fi's just revealed its new Pro X2 SDHC series, and though it's not an amazing paradigm shift, it is nonetheless an improvement. The new card is an 8GB Class 6 SDC unit, that for the first time offers the speed boost of an 802.11N wireless connection. There's also a new "endless memory" mode, that will basically let you upload shots and video clips continuously (it uploads older files to the cloud when your card is as full as you choose, then wipes them from the card) as long as you're shooting in range of a wireless network. That's going to appeal to many photographers who snap on a tight budget.


Netgear's Wireless HD Streaming Router

NETGEAR and QuantennaIt looks like Quantenna's accidentally revealed Netgear's plans to dominate the youthful wireless HD video streaming game—the systems that are trying to obviate the need for your (ugly?) AV gear to cluster near your sleek HDTV thanks to short HDMI cables.

Quantenna's system, in partnership with Netgear, lets you stream HD content from, say, your Blu-ray player to a HDTV that's up to 100 feet away "regardless of signal interferences and dead zones." That's a lot further than many existing wireless HD units can do, and it's thanks to the system's four antennas and 802.11N MIMO technology.

Lenovo's Confusing Smartbook

And then there's Lenovo's odd little portable computer, the Skylight. It's being dubbed a smartbook, since it hasn't got an Intel Atom inside (there's a Qualcomm ARM number instead) but to all intents and purposes it's a very low-end netbook with a flip-lid and keyboard, intended for light Net-surfing duties. That places it right in the line of fire of all the sweet and sexy keyboard-less tablet PCs we're expecting to see at CES, and its $500 price shouldn't help much with that.

More interesting is that a huge player like Lenovo is dabbling in this sort of device at all. Clearly the business analysts at the company think this market's got some life in it yet. And though their odd "smartbook" isn't by any means as novel as a multitouch tablet PC, it'll no doubt appeal to some.

lenovo smartbook