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CES Without question, the highlight of this year's CES (Consumer Electronics Show) for us was watching the Black Crowes play at an AMD-sponsored event. Not to gloat, but we managed to make our way backstage after the concert and meet the band. At least we think it was the band. The thick smoke – yes, that kind – made it tough to see.

Witnessing the Black Crowes from five feet away happened to be one of our life goals. Next on the list is a whale watching trip, and we're more than happy to accept a journalist junket for that as well. We know that someone out there who deals in whale technology must read The Register.

Gloating over hanging with stoned hippies is one thing. Gadgets are another. And that's probably what you care more about, so here goes with a closing CES product wrap.

The wow factor just wasn't present for us at this year's show. Instead, we witnessed a maturation of already cool technology. You'll notice one element of this trend by looking at the broader partnerships formed between technology companies like Google and Yahoo! and media powerhouses like CBS or even the NBA. Another part of the trend includes home media servers that actually work well and portable gadgets that can play music, video and games and have decent battery life. And, of course, the PCs and laptops always get better.

We will Roku

Few of you will be surprised to learn that the Roku SoundBridge really is as cool as it seems.

A lot of the media servers out there work better these days but remain pretty clunky. Not the SoundBridge. Both the bigger SoundBridge Radio and basic SoundBridge impress with their sleek design and a user interface so simple that a drunk W. could master it.

If you've got an open Wi-Fi network, you just plug in the device and it connects to your PCs automatically. Protected networks will require some key entry, but that's easy enough as well.

The SoundBridge will tune in all of your MP3s and WMA-guarded tunes. Sadly, there's no love on the Apple AAC front just yet, which is a real disappointment if you've done a lot of iTunes shopping.

You can see the various Roku products here. They start at about $150.

Luth Lexar

It's pretty lame to get excited about storage devices, but we're always encouraged by the gear Lexar pumps out.

The thought of shelling out $300 for an iPod remains horrifying to some. Such people have to check out the LDP-200 MP3 player from Lexar. It ain't fancy by any stretch, and it doesn't store thousands of songs. It also doesn't start at much more than $25 without storage.

At that price, you don't have to worry as much about losing or breaking the product. In addition, it runs well on regular, old batteries. You can see the various storage pricing options for the device here.

The heart of Lexar's business is USB Flash Drive gear. It has sleek, silver drives, brightly colored drives, plain drives, sport drives, secure drives and just about any other kind of drive you can imagine. Have a gander at Lexar's full JumpDrive line here.

Another company making some fancy storage is RiData. Have a peek at their drives here.

Gamers don't perspire. They sweat

Another company making good on an old theme is Xavix.

Xavix makes a wide range of sport video games that require physical movement from the gamer. The sports packages include Golf, Bowling, Basketball, Tennis, Table Tennis and a workout program. The games are played via the Xavix Port hardware and make use of actual gear such as tennis racquets or baseball bats.

Most of the games still looked a bit rough to us. You can get used to the timing the game requires to hit a baseball, for example, but that timing is far from realistic. Still, Xavix has taken this type of technology to the next level and surpassed any rivals we saw by a significant margin.

Of course, the cute lass doing the workout program didn't hurt the company's reputation with CES attendees.

You can check out the Xavix pitch here.

Hardcore hardware

Like us, you may still be impressed and even most interested in a nice laptop or PC.

There is no cooler mini-PC than the Little Lluon. This media center PC takes up about as much space as a hardback book. It makes almost no noise and runs on a 64-bit AMD chip.

If you do one thing and one thing only today, go to this web site and click on the link down in the lower right corner that says "Welcome to Little Lluon." It is the single greatest product advertisement we have seen – rivaled only by Sourcenext's open source horse.

You can also see the computer here. Once we get done with the whales, our mission will be to buy one of these Korean bad boys.

VoodooPC also makes some sick, sick computers.

Our favorite has to be the Envy a:538 laptop that runs on a Turion chip from AMD. This puppy weighs in at 6 pounds with the battery included. You can have in it in orange, red, blue, yellow or just about any color you want. VoodooPC also lets you put custom decals on the systems.

The boxes don't come cheap, but they're worth every penny if you're in the market for something different. This is high quality gear. Check out the systems here.

Another fantastic hardware maker is MSI. They've got PCs, laptops and some excellent portable media players going on. We leave you with their site here.

Now back to the Black Crowes and that funny smoke. ®

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