Best of CES 2013

Jan 29, 2013 No Comments by

The following is a selection of quite interesting bits and bobs from CES in Las Vegas this January. We can’t call it the Consumer Electronics Show because the Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts the gadget jamboree, has forbidden it.  So it’s CES or International CES, even though it’s very US-centric and many exhibitors don’t give a flying shag about press from overseas.  Just thought we should clear that up before we get going.


So, in no particular order and with the caveat that we haven’t properly used or tested any of these gizmos, here are the Tech Fogey ‘best in show’.

Aedle VK-1 Classic Edition headphones

Les Casques Parisien

Retro, sleek, expensive, French.  The first run of 400 units has already sold out at 300 euros a pop but you could email and ask him to keep you a pair when he gets around to fashioning a new batch.  Apart from the obvious sound quality requirements of headphones, the next most important consideration is wearability; ears are sensitive protruberances and get sore if squashed too firmly for too long.  Tech Fogey has no clue as to how these would fare on a long flight but they certainly are very comely cans.  There’s also a ‘carbon’ black version but they look like all other headphones out there whereas the Classic do not.  The full spec can be pondered here.  Both models are wired, as opposed to wireless.



The camera in an iPhone is already a fairly miraculous bit of kit but adding an Ōlloclip clip-on lens will extend its powers to include fish-eye, wide-angle and macro lenses, the latter for unnerving close-ups.  All are contained in a bag that doubles as a cleaning cloth.  You also get some cards to give to the curious that explains everything about the lenses so you don’t have to.  Bose does this with its headphones and while it’s obviously handy it also marks you down as an insufferable tosser.

Around £50

More info here

Buy for iPhone 4 and 4s here and for iPhone 5 here


Olympus OM-D E-5M

It’s like the 80s, 90s, and 00s never happened

There’s seems to be no let up in high-spec, compact system cameras (CSC) being encased in retro 35mm-style bodies.  Olympus started it with their PEN EP-1 that aped its cherished range of 35mm film cameras of the same name from the early 60s. Then Fuji got in on the act with their XF-1 compact, the XF-10, XF-20 and latterly the X-Pro1 and Pentax has the black/silver variant of its Q10.  Notwithstanding their inept use of commas, the CES website summarised the E-5M thus: “The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a groundbreaking, new digital interchangeable lens camera packed with a built-in electronic viewfinder, superior image technology, blazing fast speed and total creative control in a classic, rugged, and a dust-and-splash proof body.”  It may be all those things but it ain’t new; the E-5M has already been on sale for nearly 12 months. But then if you miss the CES boat for 2012 by even a month, you have to wait for 2013 to roll around. TF doesn’t pretend to understand all the noodly nuances of today’s digital camera construction, but elsewhere on our site there’s this article by Ian Farrell, who does.  It might help clear up the differences between compact system cameras, micro-four thirds and superzooms.  Or not.  Anyway, although the E-5M is available somewhere in black and silver, on Amazon it’s only in black.  And it costs nearly £1,200, so it’d better be good.

More info here

Buy here



It’s the devil’s work

Continuing the personal, physical monitoring theme that seems prevalent just now is the Fitbit wireless sleep and activity tracker.  TF enjoys a good kip but having succumbed to the ‘drink 2.5 litres of water per day’ dietary hectoring we’re now so well-hydrated we have to get up every night at 4am to pee.  And this is where more knowledge is not necessarily good for the soul.  We’re not sure we need to be reminded by an app and a sliver of hardware that we didn’t get a decent night’s sleep.  Waking up feeling like shit is usually a good indicator.  Do we need to be told that chugging the best part of a bottle of wine before bed might interfere with the quality of our slumber?

But we’re not being fair because there are three Fitbit products and the One (TM!!!!! we’re sorry but how one earth can you trademark ‘one’?) wireless activity and sleep tracker is joined by the Zip (also TM!!!!!!!) fitness tracker – which means it’s the similar to the One (TM!!!!!) but without the sleep ‘bit’ – and some wireless scales that probably blurt out what a fat bastard you are every time you step on them and then Tweet that inconvenient truth to all your so-called friends via a dedicated app.

If you sense the slightest whiff of cynicism here, your nose is twitching in the right direction.  We had a brief encounter with the Fitbit apostles at a pre-CES shindig in London.  There was something about their mustard-keen earnestness that brings out the worst in us Fogies, so we did what we normally do with the terminally deranged and ignored them.  But then we went to CES and there they were again and to make matters even more perplexing, being given an award, which is achingly ironic as you will subsequently read.  Anyhoo, here’s a snippet of blurb from their website that sort-of explains what their products do:

“Fitbit is dedicated to helping people lead healthier, more active lives. We take a common sense approach to fitness, and believe that the key is to make it easier for consumers to be more active, eat smarter, and get enough sleep — in short, that small changes to your daily routine can add up to big results. To that end, we aim to create innovative, inspiring products and online services that harness the power of new technologies to make people more aware of their everyday activities and motivate them to do more.”

The ‘make it easier for consumers to be more active’ bit is not strictly true; the product won’t make it easier, but it will have you consumed with guilt as you see how many steps other people have taken today while you’ve been becalmed on the sofa watching Cash in the Attic while posting chocolate digestives into your cake-hole.  If that kind of peer pressure creates ease in your life, good for you.  And should we never again read ‘innovative’ and ‘inspiring’ in a mission statement (let alone side by side in the same sentence) we’ll die fat and happy.

And bless those Fitbitters – they dole out accomplishment badges!  No, really.  If you think getting three stars on an entire level of Angry Birds is an achievement, wait until you’ve climbed enough stairs or taken enough steps to be awarded a Fitbit online merit badge.  You get a badge for heaving your carcass up even 100 steps but when we looked at there were at least two nut-jobs who’d climbed 40,000 steps in one day, which is insane and must be all they did.  So well done to them and to the lard-bucket from Greensboro, North Carolina who’d just passed the 50 miles lifetime achievement mark. We’re hoping that’s 50 miles since they bought a Fitbit, not 50 miles since they started toddling. TF doesn’t expect an achievement award for walking the dog but it seems that some people will risk arthritis and a severely knackered and confused pet (sorry ‘companion animal’) just to get a mention and a badge.

The Fitbit product family are the brainchild of some bloke from San Francisco.  We could go on being mean about the whole ethos and if you plan on never eating a muffin ever again – actually scratch that – never ever deriving any enjoyment from food, drink or relaxing ever again, then Fitbit might be your thing.  Just don’t tell Kevin Maher*

More info here (and do watch the videos if you’re in need of a good barf)

For God’s sake don’t buy it here

*Since Kevin eviscerated the Hapi Fork (it has a light in the handle which flashes to alert you and all your fellow diners that you’re eating too fast and are therefore one chromosome away from farm animals) in his weekly column in The Times we think he might erupt with sufficient force to obliterate Wapping and most of South-East London if he hears about Fitbit – so don’t anyone tell him.


Spare One

Ideal for ETs from any galaxy

The basic gist: an emergency mobile phone that runs on one AA battery.  When not in use the battery will last 15 years and it’s good for 10 hours talk-time.  You could buy several and squirrel them away in car, ski-jacket, boat, rucksack.  Then hope you never need any of them.  It can function as a very basic phone, for which you’d need a pay-as-you-go SIM-card inserted, but if you only plan on using it for emergencies, no SIM is required; you just press the fat red button with white cross and are connected to the local emergency services.  There are two principal areas of GSM (Global System for Mobile) coverage; most of the Americas and everywhere else except Japan, which is a law unto itself.  In the US the Spare One website sells a two-phone traveller pack, one for each GSM area, but in the UK you can only buy them singly and can’t specify which GSM area you want.  Spare One does ship from the US to anywhere but then you get into FedEx delivery rates and customs and other import duties.

Around £50

More info here

Buy here but beware: the 850/1900 MHz model will only work in the US & Canada and parts of South America.  For Europe and the rest of the world you’ll need the 900/1800 MHz version.


Obviously there are more than five items in this list but we’re posting it now and adding as we go, rather than waiting until it’s complete, which might be never.