Belkin: CES sovereign of gadget diversity

By Chad Sapieha, Special to CBCNews.ca

LAS VEGAS - My whirlwind tour of Belkin's booth at the Consumer Electronics Show forced my already gadget-addled noodle to switch gears more times than I could count.

It started off with a quick peek at the company's latest gaming gizmo, the Nostromo SpeedPad n52te, a backlit keyboard alternative for gamers that delivers better ergonomics and enhanced macro customization (thanks to a partnership with gaming peripheral guru Razor). I tried it briefly, and while it felt decidedly different than a standard keyboard, its comfortable palm rest seems a surefire bet to make extended gaming sessions a little easier on one's wrists.

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Then we moved on to look at the Conserve, an environmental surge protector that comes with a handsome eggshell white remote to allow users to switch off power to the bar at the flick of a button. Two of the unit's eight outlets are always on in case you have devices you'd rather not power down (like your DVD player, the clock of which would need to be reset each time you restored power).

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Moving on, I checked out a strange but pleasant looking little switcher called the SOHO KVM that gives consumers the ability to share one monitor, keyboard, and mouse with up to four computers of both the PC and Mac variety. The touch of a single button switches over the audio and video (or just one or the other) of one machine to your main PC. While not for everyone, it could be highly useful to a niche group of users who have multiple machines around their home or small office.

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The next, and perhaps most exciting, product I was shown was the Belkin FlyWire wireless video system. This highly desirable bit of gear allows people to park all of their home theatre components up to 100 feet away from their television. It wirelessly broadcasts uncompressed 1080p video using Ultra Wideband protocol to televisions via a small receiver that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of the set. The transmitter supports up to six sources: two HDMI, two component, one composite, and one S-video. This is just one of several such devices on display at CES this year — not sure yet how it stacks up to the competition, though.

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The tour also included a variety of iPod and media player accessories, the most interesting of which to me were the Podcast Studio and the Tune Studio. The former is a handy gadget for students, reporters and anyone else looking turn their iPod into a recording device. It sports a pair of adjustable stereo microphones, recording controls, and even a pair of ports for more powerful studio microphones. It's a bit bulky, but this $99 iPod peripheral, which becomes available in June, could be extremely useful to the right person (like me).

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The Tune Studio, on the other hand, is essentially a compact, portable, personal recording studio and digital mixer that uses an iPod for data storage and playback. With four channels, a three band equalizer, and independent controls for each source, it looks to be almost all any small group of musicians needs to go from garage rockers to independent recording artists.

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(Chad Sapieha is a Toronto-based freelance writer)