The Consumer Electronics Show is the gadget world's answer to SEMA. This trade event-held at the same Las Vegas Convention Center two months after the automotive aftermarket orgy-is the only show that surpasses SEMA in size, scope and attendance. And it's where the 12-volt in-car entertainment (ICE) industry shows off the latest and greatest infotainment kit. Unlike the last couple of years, when iPod integration was the hot-button category, the iPod is now just one of a host of technologies (like Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones, satellite, and HD Radio tuners) that requires integration into the mobile lifestyle. If any category was white hot this year, it was GPS navigation. The last holiday season saw the category reach critical mass as entry-level units tickled the magic $100 mark, while more expensive units now have real-time traffic information, 3D graphics, and points of interest (POI) databases that rival far more expensive factory-installed systems. With thousands of new products on display, it's almost impossible to select five, but here are the top picks from CES.
'Mechless' in-dash control unit without a CD transport
Cool factor: A head unit that eschews a traditional mechanical transport and matches an AM/FM tuner with an interface delivering a full-speed interface to iPods, portable digital players, external satellites and HD Radio tuners.
Cutting-edge 2/3/4-channel amplifier
Cool factor: Eclipse's EA4200 is a compact 800-watt amplifier. The EA4200 is 45 percent smaller than the model it replaces and can be configured for two-, three-, and four-channel applications, and mated to a companion 1000-watt digital subwoofer amplifier.
Boston Acoustics Pro50SE and Pro60SE
Competition-grade component speaker separates
Cool factor: Boston Acoustics' Pro SE series features an all-new industrial design matching impressive handling capabilites with a one-inch alloy dome tweeter and Boston's 'VariMount' mounting system that simplifies installation in many applications.
Portable navigation system with integrated radar/laser detector
Cool factor: Combining a 4.3-inch screen, a six-million-POI database, a Bluetooth cell phone interface, live traffic alerts with automatic rerouting, and a 13-band radar/laser detector, the TRAX438 will alert drivers of nearby traffic police activity on its GPS screen.
JL Audio 13TW5
Slim-mount subwoofer for space-challenged installations
Cool factor: JL Audio's engineers have developed a 13.5-inch-wide, small-enclosure (0.75 cubic feet), long-excursion (0.37-inch) subwoofer for applications where space is at a premium.