My ulterior motive at CES

At a show filled with more than a million square feet of exhibit space packed with brand-new gizmos, I’m lugging around what’s got to be the oldest relic actively being used in the press room: An IBM R50 ThinkPad. That’s IBM, the company that hasn’t actually made laptops since 2005.


I’ve been hauling this thing around for years. It’s indestructible. That’s the problem: It will not die. I’ve frequently contemplated having a coffee “accident” around the machine so I’ll have an excuse to upgrade. I once slipped and dropped it down an entire flight of stairs, after which my cat went racing down after it and landed on top of the laptop. The ThinkPad was fine. I glance wrong at my iPhone and the screen shatters; with this thing, I could probably drive a tank over it without even a ding.

But in November,  Dave wrote an article about the ultrabook wave, and ever since then I’ve coveted one. The idea of a three-pound laptop is mind blowing after all these years of dragging around my eight-pound anvil. Want, want, want. I usually resist spending money on laptops — I use my desktop whenever I’m at home — but I’m finally prepared to cough up cash for something light and sleek.  (The ThinkPad was a $100 eBay find.)

So now comes the big challenge: Which one? I’m pretty lazy about gadget shopping. I’ll bang on a device for a few minutes, decide “yep, seems fine,” and get it. I’ve been popping into stores like Best Buy for the last month hoping to test-drive some ultrabooks, but the selection in retail shops tends to be limited to just one or two models.

And no, I don’t want a MacBook Air. After a decade-plus of doing all my writing on Windows machines, I’m irrevocably brainwired into the Windows UI. I’ve got plenty of Apple gizmos in my daily gadget lineup — iPod, iPhone, iPad — but it doesn’t tempt for my main laptop or desktop. Trust me, my husband has tried — he’s a devoted Apple user who lavishes love on his Air. It’s like having a mixed-religion marriage.

Anyway, back to CES, where every Windows-powered ultrabook in existence is on display. So far I’ve tested out the Toshiba Portege Z835 ($800 at Best Buy) and it seems fine for what I’m after. The price point is also alluring: I’d like to keep this under $800 if at all possible.

But I hear Samsung’s Series 5 notebooks and HP’s Folio 13 are worth a look. I’m planning to stalk all the ultrabooks I can at the show … because I’m determined to pick my upgrade by the end of the week. Tweet me your recommendations! -Stacy

CES Bingo

The Consumer Electronics Show is next week. The show is massively large, and just about every major (and minor) tech company and reporter will be descending on Las Vegas in the coming days. People come from all around the world to see what the next year will bring in electronics, gadgets, accessories, and anything else.

In other words, it’s a really great opportunity for a real-world Bingo game. I’ve created one board for you, but feel free to make your own over at


This was based on the past month or so in tech news and the PR pitches I’ve received; they give a general sense of what the show will be about this year. Pro tip: I’d follow the execs with tape measures clipped to their belts if you really need that square about the Microsoft booth. -Matt

Samsung pulled out all the stops at CES. And an ewok

Samsung held a keynote at CES that people are still talking about a week later.

Talking about their philosophy of “human digitalism,” Samsung president B.K. Yoon was joined on stage at various points in time by both the Comcast and Time Warner Cable CEOs, 3 girls dancing with umbrellas, Dreamworks honcho Jeff Katzenberg, Britney’s backup dancers, and an ewok/Where the Wild Things Are/Burning Man child named Zoll who did all sorts of twirling at the end.

Thankfully, Engadget has cut a highlight reel so you don’t have to watch the whole thing. - Matt

LAS VEGAS — Walking around the CES showroom floor, there is one specific cultural group that stood out to me. (No, it was not the booth models.) A surprising number of Hassidic Jews seemed to be exhibiting at and walking around the show. When I wondered about that out loud on Twitter, a variety of New Yorkers told your humble West Coast lifer, “Duh, that’s because of B&H.” Apparently, B&H Electronics was founded and continues to be run by Hassidim.