CES - Unique gadgets dispensed

Home entertainment devices grabbed the spotlight at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, but don't forget the cool products that screamed for attention.

Philips introduced two slim cordless handsets, the sleek DECT ID9371B, which resembles a cell phone, and the VoIP841, which makes both landline and Internet calls. Trying to revive the boom box legacy of the 80s, Lifepop flashed Atom Amp, a series of fashionable bags and cases with built-in speakers. Herman Miller lit up the floor with its eco-friendly and energy-saving Leaf LED Personal tabletop light. But one gadget topped them all: a toilet paper-dispensing iPod dock from Atech Flash Technology.

iPod dock and toilet paper dispenser

One of the more oddball items present at CES was the Stereo Dock for iPod with Bath Tissue Holder from Atech. The "Bath Tissue Holder" is actually a toilet paper holder, and the wall-mounted speaker dispenses toilet paper while playing iPod music. The speaker has four water-resistant speakers that the company says "deliver(s) exceptional clarity and high quality sound." It perhaps dispenses toilet paper exceptionally well too. The unit's dock also recharges the iPod. Froogle.com listed it as being available between US$79.99 and US$103 from retailers across the U.S.

Philips' cool new cordless handsets

Many imitators will duplicate the beauty and innovative features of Philips' DECT ID9371B, announced at CES. Designed like a cell phone, this slim factor cordless handset has a 65,000 color screen and stores 250 names and numbers in its phone book. Hidden inside is an answering machine that can hold 15 minutes of messages. Users can export a phone book from a cell phone's SIM card to the cordless handset. The phone will become available for US$179.99 in the second quarter.

Also carrying a slim design is Philips' new VoIP841 cordless handset, which can make landline calls and Internet calls using Skype's VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service without a PC. Plug the Ethernet cable into the base station of a phone, and voila, the wireless handset is ready to make Skype calls. The handset does not support Wi-Fi; it communicates with the base station using DECT wireless (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology, commonly found on cordless phones. It stores 500 Skype contacts, and users can make free Skype to Skype calls. Adding pizzazz is its ability to add different ringtones for landline or Skype callers. Like the DECT ID9371B, it has a 65,000-color display. It will soon become available for US$199.

Mod boom box

What's better than a boom box? A purse or bag with built-in speakers, like Lifepop LLC's Atom Amp portable mini speaker bags and cases being shown at CES. Targeted at customers with portable audio devices and MP3 mobile phones, the bags have tiny external speakers that deliver 1400 milliwatts of sound. Plug the MP3 or mobile phone into a headphone jack, play a song, and speakers from the bag sound off the music.

The smallest Atom Amp case is the $24.99 Mini Boom Boom -- which resembles a boom box -- for cell phones and portable music players. "It's a great portable thing, it's fun, it's cool," said Jason Entner, chief executive officer and founder of Lifepop. It also comes as a clutch-style purse (US$49), a messenger bag (US$50 to US$75), a backpack ($40), among other forms.

Finding use of the hardcover

G-Tech at CES announced Secure Sound Laptop Sleeve, a water-resistant laptop bag with embedded speakers that are virtually invisible. Embedded in the ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam cover are two 35-watt NXT PLC speakers. The foam protects a laptop from falls as solidly as a hard-shell cover, said Mark Treger, vice president of sales and marketing of G-Tech.

Three AAA batteries provide the built-in NXT speakers an 8 hour run-time. With a USB port built into the battery pack, the speakers can bypass the battery system and draw power from a laptop, Treger said. Power from a laptop's USB port also recharges batteries.

The speakers make the case valuable for presentations, Treger noted. Plug the laptop into the case, and the speaker generates better sound. Users can also attach a portable audio device to enjoy music on the go. The cases come in two designs, to accommodate 15-inch and 17-inch laptops, though smaller laptops can be fitted with partitions. It also has pockets for iPods, cards and other accessories.

Priced between US$39 and US$49, it is slated to ship soon in the U.S, Australia and Europe, Treger said.

Herman Miller's Leaf

Herman Miller's Leaf Personal LED (light-emitting diode) tabletop light drew kudos at CES for its environmentally friendly and energy-saving design. The lamp contains 20 LEDs transmitting ambient light in colors between light blue and light yellow. It can be used as a reading or task light when using a computer, among its many other uses, said Kelli Gierz, product manager at Herman Miller. It is not meant to light up an entire room, Gierz added.

The light dims or increases by simply touching the base of the lamp, said Susan Koole, corporate communications associate at Herman Miller. It has a lengthy lifespan of between 60,000 and 100,000 hours, Koole said. It uses between eight and nine watts and uses 40 percent less energy compared to a 13-watt compact fluorescent light, Koole said. The use of LED technology could save money for users on electricity bills, Gierz said.

Leaf is also cool for other reasons, Gierz said. It uses recycled material and uses minimal material to generate light, Gierz said. "You can use a small battery to create a large amount of light," Gierz said. That in turn saves resources in the long term. Made of 37 percent recyclable material, steel, aluminum and plastic, the lamp itself is 95 percent recyclable, Koole said.

Though it may save users money in the long run, be prepared to shell out $499 to $540 for this baby, depending on the design. It is already shipping in the U.S. and will become available worldwide soon, Koole said. More information about the product is available at Herman Miller's Web site.

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