Although I had been unsure whether a visit to CES this year was going to be worth it, I came back pretty happy. Not only did I get an in-person visit with Channel Master‘s new Stream+ over-the-air DVR and streaming TV receiver, I also got to check out the company’s new quick-connect coax cable and indoor SMARTenna+. All that was near the end of my day, so let me first tell you more about everything else.
Because of other commitments, I commuted from home to CES yesterday, taking the first flight in the morning and the last one to return that night. As I wrote a couple of years ago, this is not recommended for casual CES fans. There’s no way to see all of the show in less than two days, and it wouldn’t be hard to find interesting educational conference tracks for a longer stay. On the other hand, for someone like me focused on one topic and within a two-hour flight of Las Vegas, it is possible to put on blinders and cover just the relevant exhibitors in one long day.
After picking up my press badge at the Las Vegas Convention Center, I went over to the “C Space” area in the Aria. That’s where I saw an interview with Ben Sherwood, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, of which I will write more tomorrow.
Next, I took another shuttle over to the exhibit halls at the Sands, which includes Eureka Park. With its low ceilings and science-fair atmosphere, Eureka Park is a little claustrophobic, but it’s got the most new ideas per square foot anywhere. It’s the place to meet such companies as Solaborate, which makes a device to use a TV as a collaborative whiteboard, and CloviTek, which makes a wifi audio transmitter for TVs, but this year I just couldn’t find much there to excite me.
While I was at Eureka Park, my phone got a notification that there was a power outage at the LVCC. A half hour later, I was on the bus heading back there anyway. I started in the Central Plaza (what other shows might call the front parking lot) where I caught up with Google. All those attendees that had been evacuated from the blacked-out Central Hall had to go somewhere, which might have been a reason why the Google booth’s tours were already booked solid for the rest of the day. At least I got a few photos. Directly across the aisle was the Amazon Treasure Truck promoting an Alexa-empowered smoke detector (that could do much more, of course). By the time I finished my rounds and walked back over to the convention center, the lights were back on.
In the back of the South Hall there were a few companies, such as MyGica, pitching Android TV boxes, but the visit I was anticipating was in Channel Master’s suite at the Westgate Hotel next to the convention center. The Stream+ was exactly as described, using Google’s Live Channels app to display the OTA guide data. They haven’t started shipping units yet, and I hope to give one a more thorough test after I get it.
Channel Master was also proud of its SMARTenna, even though I think it has too many upper-case letters. It’s an indoor antenna that can scan different reception patterns to get the most channels from a given spot. What surprised me were the new push-on coax connectors. When I tried one, it was as simple and fast as any old cheap push-on connector, but this new one had a real grip on the threads that resisted accidental unplugging. The SMARTenna is expected to begin shipping within a few months, and again I look forward to trying one in my basement torture chamber. (I mean, it’s torture for the OTA TV antennas that I plug into my “ancient” 720p HDTV set, sitting across from a pile of old satellite TV receivers.)
My last visit of the day was with SiliconDust, makers of the superb HDHomeRun series of OTA tuners. Over the past few weeks, I’d started really trying out its DVR software, and that tale belongs with this visit. It’ll be another of the stories that I’ll be unspooling for the next few days.
While you wait for more, here’s one more photo of some Google workers getting ready for the start of another day at CES in front of their giant gumball machine.