The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) started yesterday in Los Angeles, California, and iLounge’s editors were in attendance to check out what was new and exciting in the world of interactive entertainment. While the vast majority of the show’s content focused on electronic games rather than digital music, a number of companies brought new iPod accessories to show. First, we’ll look at the best iPod items on display, then we’ll briefly note the best of the rest that we saw.
Logic3 brought two major, finished accessories to the show: the very first wired display remote for the iPod ($50-60, store dependent), which uses a blue LCD screen to let you see iPod track and artist info and control playback while your iPod’s in your pocket. The company was also showing i-Station 8 ($180), a system with eight individual mid-range drivers and a dedicated subwoofer driver in the center, plus an iPod dock and nice little remote control. Like the display remote, i-Station 8 can display iPod track info on its large top LCD screen so that you can easily see from a distance what’s playing. Additionally, i-Station 7 and i-Station 3 were announced, both re-workings of earlier i-Station audio systems. i-Station 7 adds a remote to the first i-Station (now aka i-Station 6), while i-Station 3 is a ~$70 reworking of the i-Station shuffle to include full iPod docking compatibility. The company also announced Universal Dock – a name it picked before Apple, apparently – a universal iPod dock and IR remote combination with an included power supply, S-Video, composite, and line audio outputs, and a computer synchronization/Dock Connector port, all for a price of $70-80.
Atlantic was showing the E Go Waterproof Speaker System ($200), a clear enclosure that can hold any iPod safely underwater – and perform its music – up to four-foot depths. Even if you don’t want to fully submerge it with four AA batteries, you can still safely bring it poolside without fear of losing your iPod or the speakers after a wave or dunk.
Griffin showed up with an eye-catching showpiece – a red Ferrari decked out with Griffin accessories inside. Though the company focused significantly on PSP add-ons, it did bring a new version of the TuneFlex mount for iPod nano, now complete with a cassette tape adapter in the box. It also was showing TuneCenter ($100), its dock with on-TV menu navigation and Internet Radio, off the show floor.
DreamGear and i.Sound’s booth was packed with iPod speaker systems. iTrav is a boxy clock radio with iPod dock; i.Sound4XGlow is a nano-ready speaker with a neon outline; i.Sound Plasma joins an iPod dock and plasma ball; i.Sound Wall is a wall-mountable speaker system with remote control; i.Sound Max is a portable low-profile system with a remote control, and i.Sound Harmony is a component system with an iPod dock, and an included additional set of travel speakers much like Pacific Rim Technologies’ Cube. The company also showed a variety of interesting armbands and cases.
Nyko announced but did not show a wireless dock and remote system called Remote with Display for iPod, iPod video, iPod nano, and iPod mini. The iPod Dock encases your iPod in a trophy-like clear and white box, while the remote features a five-line LCD display to permit you to access your iPod’s library easily from a distance. Nyko also announced the FM TransKit for iPod nano, which includes a car charger, FM transmitter, and vent mount clips.
Off the show floor, the speaker and amplifier maker showed off T24, its black and silver competitor to Bose’s SoundDock, as well as a number of other impressive new speaker products planned for later this year.
Non-iPod: Nintendo Wii
We will confess to having been entirely skeptical about Nintendo’s Wii (formerly Revolution) game console over the past year or so, but after seeing the hardware and software in person, we’re now almost entirely won over to the company’s vision for next-generation gaming. Not only is the hardware physically smaller than the photographs suggest – it’s tiny! – but it’s also nearly as Apple-like as anything we’ve seen from a game console maker. Sleek and easy to use, the console’s design is great, and the initial slate of titles – particularly the undefinably brilliant Super Mario Galaxy, and also the Wii version of Legend of Zelda – proved within seconds that they were must-buys, a strong thing for us to say after having not enjoyed the company’s prior Super Mario Sunshine or Zelda: The Wind Waker for GameCube. We were less blown away by other titles such as Madden NFL 2007, Sonic Wild Fire, and WarioWare: Smooth Moves, but still thought they were cool enough to try upon the system’s release later this year. As game console hardware goes, Nintendo has a total winner here, and deserves tremendous credit for executing fully on what initially seemed like a disjointed vision.
Non-iPod: Sony PlayStation 3
Whatever buzz the PS3 had coming into E3 appeared to have been sucked entirely out of the convention halls after Sony announced $500 and $600 price points for the console’s two versions, which simultaneously lost some high-end features previously promised. No actual PS3 hardware appeared to be playable on the show floor – glass display cases housed mock-ups – but server rack-like development hardware permitted players to interact with a wide swath of PS3 titles using Dual Shock controllers. It was unclear whether games such as Virtua Tennis 3 were running on Intel-based arcade boards or PS3 development kits, but they looked impressive nonetheless. In all honesty, however, the games didn’t look much better (if at all) than Xbox 360 ($300-400) titles, and similarly not different enough from Nintendo Wii (exp. $250) software to justify a $250-$350 price premium. Sony will have to rely on exclusive titles, such as Sega’s amazingly beautiful arcade game Virtua Fighter 5 (below), to convince people to shell out the big bucks for PS3 consoles.
Non-iPod: Microsoft Xbox 360
There wasn’t a lot to get excited about at Microsoft’s Xbox 360 booth this year – like last year, the software on display was interesting, but not groundbreaking enough to blow us away. There were exceptions – Capcom’s action game Lost Planet – coming in 2007 – featured a stunningly realized 3-D world with great characters and action. But Halo 3, the title people expected would be ready to counter the PlayStation 3, was shown only in a brief trailer, and won’t be out until 2007. If Microsoft’s really going to sell 10 million consoles before Sony gets the PS3 out in November, we’re still waiting to see what will make people buy them. A chrome-faced console, unlikely to be sold, was one of many on display at the company’s booth, as was a HD-DVD attachment drive, which will apparently be released late this year at a reasonable price, rumored to be around $100.