Engadget's gear of CES 2010

CES is Engadget's biggest event of the year, but for the most part we don't have any requirements on what editors should bring other than "a laptop" and "a camera." That means there's usually quite an array of devices and tools on hand -- and every year we try some new things that make an immediate impression. We threw out some basic gear statistics in our annual CES wrap-up post, but we also wanted to highlight some super-useful new tools we brought to Vegas with us this year. Some of it is state-of-the-art expensive, some of it is brain-dead simple, but all of it helped us rock out our biggest CES ever. Read on!

HyperMac batteries

There's nothing complicated about HyperMac batteries in the slightest -- they're really big batteries that serve as an external power source for your laptop and have a USB port for charging other devices -- but we're totally addicted to them now. We used a variety of sizes from the baby 60Wh to the monster 222Wh (which was seriously huge) and they all did exactly what they promised, allowing us to race from live event to live event without have to worry about power or slowing down our workflow to swap batteries -- we had a big box full of extra MacBook Pro batteries that we never touched thanks to our HyperMacs. Sure, they're big and heavy and make airport screeners look at you sideways, but we're never doing a tradeshow without external battery packs again, simple as that.

Some posts powered by HyperMacs:
Live from All Things D at CES 2010
Live from Paul Otellini's Intel CES keynote
Live from Palm's CES press event
Live from Steve Ballmer's CES 2010 keynote
Live from Sony's CES press event

Elgato Turbo.264 HD cards

Doing video in the field is always tough, especially when you have to encode on battery power and upload using convention-choked 3G networks. That's where the Turbo.264 HD came in -- it's a little USB H.264 encoder that enabled us to compress our video to much more manageable file sizes at lightning-quick speeds, while still preserving video quality. Our only complaint is that Elgato is needlessly stingy with the software -- a full version isn't available for download on their site, and once you do get it, you need to enter a lengthy serial number. That made it hard to share the hardware amongst the team, and it struck us as an utterly pointless hassle, since the software doesn't function without the USB stick plugged in. Kind of hard to pirate that!

Some videos encoded by Turbo.264 HD cards:
RED Scarlet and Bomb EVF surprise hands-on!
Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus first hands-on (video)!
Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid hands-on and impressions
Vuzix Wrap 920AR face-on: reality just got weird

Canon EOS 7D

Speaking of video, our producer Chad Mumm and our editor Michael Slavens were on the scene with two fully kitted-out Canon 7D rigs to shoot segments throughout CES. We won't get into all the details here -- you can read Chad's thoughts on using the 7D for video in his impressions from November -- but it's safe to say that the 7D was a big part of our video efforts this year.

Some videos shot on the Canon EOS 7D:
The Engadget Interview: Erick Tseng, Senior Product Manager of Android
Qualcomm Mirasol display video hands-on in glorious 1080p
Parrot AR.Drone hands-on: a quadricopter for the rest of us
Zyxio's 'sensawaft' tech lets you control a cursor with your breath, you lazy jerk
MSI dualscreen e-reader hands-on (update: video!)
Plastic Logic QUE proReader in-depth video hands-on
Blio e-reader software hands-on (Update: video!)

Nikon D3S

We had digital cameras of all shapes and sizes with us at CES -- most of our editors carried a DSLR and a secondary camera to shoot video. We'd say the Nikon D90 is far and away the most popular DSLR on staff, but there's a fair number of Canons as well. We also had a new toy on hand: our shiny new Nikon D3S review unit, along with the new 24-70 f/2.8 wide angle zoom for walking around and our usual 70-200 f/2.8 VR zoom for liveblogs. Shooting products on a tradeshow floor with lighting conditions that range from bad to worse is basically a camera torture test, and the D3S came through like a champ -- we set the auto-ISO control to max out at about 10,000 (yes, 10,000) and simply went about our business. In English? We were able to take beautiful pictures in the dark. Just look at how bright this shot of the Boxee Box is, and then look at where it's sitting and how much light there is in the video -- yet all we did was turn it around and snap our shot. Oh, and those pics of the Turbo.264 HD and the HyperMac up there? That's ISO 12,800, with no visible noise. Insane, right? That's not to say the D3S isn't a bear of a camera -- it certainly takes some time to understand it, and getting it to shoot video in manual mode requires some unintuitive menu settings -- but once you get comfortable, there's very little you can't do. We have tons more to say, but we'll save it for the full review, which will be coming soon.

Oh, and we had to take this Nikon family photo while we had the chance, obviously. D5000, D90, D700, D3S -- don't they look happy together?

Some photos taken with the Nikon D3S:
Dell Mini 3 lightning hands-on
Dell slate (secret) hands-on
Lenovo Skylight hands-on and impressions
Sprint Overdrive 4G mobile hotspot unboxing and hands-on
RED Scarlet and Bomb EVF surprise hands-on!
ASUS announces U series Bamboo Collection laptops, gives little detail
Live from Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo's CES 2010 keynote
Live from Palm's CES 2010 press event

Clear WiMAX / Sprint Overdrive / EV-DO

We've been using Sprint and Verizon EV-DO forever, but this year we dove into the 4G game and rented Clear WiMAX sticks for the entire team -- and about halfway through the show we were given a Sprint Overdrive 3G / 4G mobile hotspot for review that immediately went into heavy use. WiMAX was pretty reliable when we had a signal, but that's the rub: although Vegas is covered, we had problems finding a signal deep indoors and on the upper floors of our hotel. When we did connect we were able to pull down about 4Mbps peak and upload about 2Mbps peak -- not anything like the theoretical max for the tech or even close to the theoretical max for HSDPA, but a nice real-world jump over EV-DO. That said, no one felt comfortable relying on WiMAX alone -- we all carried backup Sprint EV-DO sticks, a few of us had MiFis, and Josh is still looking for his Verizon card. As for the Overdrive, it's really quite nice, but we wish it would jump up to 4G seamlessly when possible -- we're still playing with it, though, and we'll have a full review of it soon.

Some posts submitted over WiMAX:
Live from Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo's CES 2010 keynote (Chris and Nilay both connected to an Overdrive)
Live from Paul Otellini's Intel CES keynote
Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus first hands-on!
Dell Mini 3 lightning hands-on
Dell slate (secret) hands-on

Spare phones that aren't on AT&T / Nexus One

Another city packed with iPhone-laden convention-goers, another fail for AT&T. Seriously, what else do we have to say? We couldn't even send a text message on the busiest days of CES, let alone make a call or use data, and the only solution for getting anything done using an iPhone was to switch off 3G and take your chances with EDGE. Pretty sad, especially considering Clear had set up its own tower on the show floor just to offer better service and Verizon straight-up told The Washington Post that adding capacity was a "simple concept." We have no idea how AT&T boned this yet again, but we do know that editors with Droids, Pres, and BlackBerrys not on Ma Bell were the only ones who could be reliably reached -- and Ross Miller spent the entire week doing his data tasks on a Nexus One connected to T-Mobile and loving life. Oh, and when the NFL playoffs came around, we watched the Packers blow that huge comeback on iPhone SlingPlayer... connected via WiFi to Sprint 3G using the Overdrive. That was deeply sad for a variety of reasons. Get it together, AT&T.

Obviously we had a lot more gear than that on-hand, but that's the new stuff we're really into -- and we're always trying to improve our workflows and get the news to you faster, so let us know if you have any suggestions, won't you?