CES 2011 Highlights: Staff Picks

LAS VEGAS (TheStreet) -- The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, which officially started Thursday and runs into the weekend, has produced some pretty heady tech so far.

Though the event will go down in history as a big meetup of tablets -- with Motorola Mobility's ( MMI) Xoom and Research In Motion's ( RIMM) PlayBook leading the slew of announcements -- there were plenty of other gadgets, from Ford's ( F) all-electric car to LG's smart refrigerators, whose touchscreen displays allow cooks to tweet and download recipes while contemplating the contents of their freezers.

Here are a few of the event's highlights.

Motorola's Atrix 4G

Motorola has certainly reiterated its commitment to compete against bigger Android rivals Samsung and HTC. The company announced three new smartphones, one each for T-Mobile, Verizon ( VZ) and AT&T ( T).

AT&T's Atrix 4G (pictured above), due out sometime this quarter, is a dual-processor phone and is aimed, said Motorola, at pleasing enterprise IT managers. The phone features the ability to be docked into an 11.6-inch laptop -- a laptop shell, rather, with a screen and keyboard that's powered by the Atrix -- potentially eliminating the need to support multiple mobile devices at work.

Specs include a 4-inch screen, Android 2.2, a 5-megapixel camera on the back and a front-facing VGA camera for video chat. Click below for the demo:

Motorola Xoom

Motorola's biggest highlight was undoubtedly its Xoom, the first device revealed to run Google's ( GOOG) tablet-specific OS, Honeycomb. The Xoom features a 10-inch screen, 5 megapixel camera, and a 1-gigaherz Tegra 2 processor from Nvidia ( NVDA). Hitting shelves sometime before the end of the quarter, the Xoom will launch with 3G but will be upgradable to 4G later in the year.

Ford's Electric Focus

Ahead of the Detroit Auto Show, which kicks off Monday ( TheStreet will be there, too), the future of cars was a big event at CES.

Ford will reveal its new, all-electric Focus on Friday. "We're making tremendous improvements to the internal combustion engine, but we have also been keeping our eye on further electrification of our fleet," Ford CEO Alan Mulally told TheStreet.

The automaker, which plans to deliver five new electric vehicles by 2012, will also show how its Sync and MyFord in-car technologies will work with its electric offerings. " This is about all the applications that fit with Sync and MyFord that allow you to know everything about your vehicle and where to charge it," explained Mulally.

Drivers in Fords outfitted with Sync will soon be able to use controls on the steering wheel to listen to Internet radio and news via Pandora and Stitcher, monitor traffic and even have the car read one's Twitter stream aloud, thanks to voice-activated controls.

RIM's PlayBook

Research In Motion ( RIMM) gave us another look at its much-anticipated, business-minded BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. The tablet, under 10 millimeters thick, features a seven-inch display, WiFi multi-tasking, two cameras and weighs less than a pound.

The device can also be tethered to one's BlackBerry, giving users 3G access to the Internet on the go as well as the ability to access anything -- e-mail, BlackBerry Messenger, contacts -- on the phone itself.

The device, viewed by some analysts as a strong competitor to Apple's ( AAPL) iPad, goes on sale during the first quarter. A 4G version will also launch with Sprint ( S) this summer.

The PlayBook's price has not yet been disclosed, although the company said it will cost less than $500, where the iPad starts.

Intel's Sandy Bridge Processor

Chipmaker Intel's ( INTC) press event at CES on Wednesday marked the debut of its new Sandy Bridge processor. The successor to the company's Nehalem chip, the 32-nanometer Sandy Bridge is being touted as the next big thing for video and gaming. "The graphics engine that is shipping on Sandy Bridge is, in fact, the world's first 32-nanometer-based graphics and media engine in the industry," said Intel CEO Paul Otellini at the event. "We are launching 20 new microprocessors and there are over 500 design wins shipping including laptops, desktop models and everything in between."

Dell Streak 7

Dell launched a handful of gadgets of CES, another Venue Pro smartphone as well as the latest iteration of its Streak tablet, this one with a 7-inch screen. To us, the device closely resembles Samsung's Galaxy Tab.

To be sold in "the coming weeks" at T-Mobile, the Streak 7 runs on Android 2.2 -- not the designed-for-tablet Honeycomb -- contains a Tegra 2 processor and has front- and rear-facing cameras (1.3 megapixels on the front, 5 megapixels on the back). While the 7 is squarely aimed at consumers, Dell also teased the Streak 10, a bigger device for business users that will hit the market later in the year.

GM's Powermat

General Motors ( GM) made a series of announcements about its new, interactive OnStar service; a good one was its partnership with Israeli startup Powermat that will produce a gizmo to drivers to charge personal electronics in their cars.

Drivers will be able to place their smartphones, iPods and other electronics on a mat within their car to juice them up, and the device will be available within Chevy Volt cars beginning in 2012 before the feature is rolled out to other models including Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles.

GM has invested $5 million in Powermat through its GM Ventures arm.

TheStreet first covered Powermat at last year's CES, when the firm unveiled its first line of device-charging mats.

--Written by James Rogers, Olivia Oran and Maggie Overfelt in New York.

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