CES 2013 Wrap-Up: Tablets, Computers and Everything in Between
Last year at CES, it was all about the Ultrabook. Ultrathin and ultraportable but yet still powerful enough to be used as a capable computer, the Ultrabook was everything people wanted in a notebook. Now it seems that CES 2013 was all about the mobile all-in-one computer. ASUS and Lenovo announced plays for all-in-one computers with built-in batteries and multi-touch screens, running Windows 8, for a unique computing experience. Lenovo focused on the concept of multiple users using one computer while ASUS was all about options, whether it be Android or Windows. Read on to find out what else came out of CES 2013.
Lenovo Takes Center Stage
Lenovo had a strong presence at CES this year. We’ll start off with the behemoth, the IdeaCentre Horizon 27” all-in-one computer. Noticed we didn’t say desktop? That’s because it’s not really a desktop computer. In fact, it’s kind of more like a giant tablet. It has a 27” touch screen with Full HD 1920 x 1080 native resolution, as well as a built-in battery, so you’ll able to stay mobile for up to 2 hours. It’ll have an Ivy Bridge Intel® Core™ processor and run Windows 8…but why? Shrugging off the bewildered head tilts, Lenovo believes that IdeaCentre Horizon is more than just a semi-portable all-in-one desktop/tablet hybrid, but a computer that can provide a unique multi-user experience.
Calling it a “table PC,” the IdeaCentre Horizon can lay flat on a desk, allowing several people to use the computer at once. This layout is designed for playing games on its multi-touch display. The Horizon will also have three exclusive gaming accessories that take advantage of its touch screen, which are: a joystick, a hockey paddle and even a six-sided die (for virtual board games). When in its table mode, Horizon launches Aura, which presents you with a software control wheel with all the various touch-supported applications at your fingertips.
It’s also no coincidence that Lenovo is calling the Horizon a “table PC” because it can fit inside an actual table. At CES, Lenovo showed a unique four-wheeled coffee table that has motorized sliders that open up to reveal the Horizon underneath. With the press of another button, the table stands the Horizon up and reveals a keyboard so you can use it as a traditional all-in-one computer. It is an interesting concept from Lenovo, but time will tell of its real practicality. The Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon is to be released in spring 2013. No word on the availability of the “coffee table.”
If a 27” tablet/computer hybrid isn’t your thing, Lenovo also introduced ThinkPad Helix. This tablet/computer hybrid is detachable from its keyboard so you can use the 11.6” 1080p multi-touch IPS display with your fingers or a stylus and carry it around like a tablet. It runs full Windows 8 (thanks to its Ivy Bridge Intel Core processor) so you’ll be able to access all your applications without feeling restricted. Lenovo also showed off three different modes in which you can use the Helix. The first is the traditional Laptop mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. You have the clamshell design with a keyboard. The second is the Stand mode. The Stand mode is a bit different in that you essentially take the screen out and reverse it so it’s facing the other direction (away from you). This will presumably help for presentations, watching videos and viewing photos. The last mode is the Tablet mode. Yes, the screen can be detached and used exclusive as a tablet without having to use the keyboard/touchpad (although, it’s a nice option). Lenovo expects that the Helix to be out in spring 2013.
Lenovo also introduced the IdeaPad Yoga 11S. The Yoga 11S features the same 360° foldable design as its predecessor, the IdeaPad Yoga 11, with one noticeable difference: it can run the full Windows 8 operating system. The IdeaPad Yoga 11 is stuck with Windows RT. The IdeaPad Yoga 11S features all the unique modes that the Yoga 11 provides, such as Laptop, Stand, Tent and Tablet. Its unique convertible design provides a lot of versatility for the user.
Is the 18.4" Transformer a Tablet or an All-in-One? ASUS says, "Why not Both?"
The Transformer is a popular ASUS model in the tablet world, using the keyboard dock to “transform” into a laptop and then detaching it to “transform” back into a tablet. ASUS applied this same concept to its all-in-one computer line. ASUS introduced the 18.4” Transformer AiO at CES because of its unique components and style. First, the Transformer AiO looks like just any ordinary all-in-one computer, with one exception: the display can be detached from the stand and used as a giant Android/Windows tablet. No, that’s not a mistake you’re seeing. We said Android and Windows. A unique combination never seen before in an all-in-one, the Transformer AiO contains two separate processors, an Ivy Bridge Intel Core processor to run Windows 8 and an NVIDIA Tegra 3 to run Android Jelly Bean.
There’s a button on the side that switches the Transformer AiO to its respective operating system. This gives you the freedom to use either Android or Windows. When plugged into the desktop stand, the Transformer AiO switches to Windows 8 so you can use it just like a regular all-in-one desktop computer. While 18.4” is too large for a tablet and a bit small for an all-in-one, it is the result of a compromise of trying to cater to both demographics. Fortunately, the 18.4” multi-touch display is said to have 1920 x 1080 native resolution so you won’t have to worry about low pixel count. As of right now, there’s no set release date for the Transformer AiO, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated on its availability.
NVIDIA Joins the Portable Gaming World
Widely known as a prominent graphics card manufacturer, NVIDIA has decided to join the portable gaming market by introducing their first ever complete hardware device, the Project Shield. This portable gaming device features a full-size game controller with an attached 5” multitouch retinal display with 1280 x 720 native resolution. Using the Android Jelly Bean operating system, the Project Shield provides access to all Android applications and games.
The one thing that sets the Project Shield apart from other portable gaming devices out there is that it can stream PC games from your computer using Wi-Fi. There are stipulations of course. Your PC will need to have an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 graphics card or later to use this function. Also, this may seem a bit obvious, but AMD users will not be able to stream PC games from any of their graphics cards (AMD is NVIDIA’s biggest competitor). The Project Shield also has integrated speakers and an HDMI port so you’ll be able to output video to a larger external display. So what’s the power behind the Project Shield? Well, its NVIDIA new Tegra 4 processor. The Project Shield is expected be available in the second quarter of 2013.
NVIDIA also revealed their plans for tablets integrating the new Tegra 4 processor. Tegra 4 will feature 72 custom NVIDIA GeForce GPU cores, which turn out to be roughly 6 times the horsepower of Tegra 3. The added graphical power will be needed since more and more tablets are coming out with higher-resolution displays. The Tegra 4 will also have a quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor as well as support of 4G LTE. Also, Tegra 4 is expected to consume 45 percent less power than its predecessor, which will enable up to 14 hours of HD video playback on smartphones. The lower power consumption, yet higher performance, is an impressive feat and we’ll have to wait and see how tablet manufacturers utilize the Tegra 4 processor.
Razer Pushes Tablets to the Edge
Tablets were used for games before, but they usually ran mobile games such as Angry Birds or Plants vs Zombies. Tablets lack the power or graphical performance to run full-fledged PC games, but Razer seems intent on making it possible. Razer introduced the Razer Edge gaming tablet. Powered by an Ivy Bridge Intel Core processor, NVIDIA GeForce graphics and a 10.1” high definition multi-touch display, the Razer Edge definitely has the components for running full PC games. To run PC games, Windows RT or Android won’t cut it, so Razer went with a full Windows 8 operating system in the Edge.
The Razer Edge can be used in a number of ways. The first one is pretty obvious from its name—the Tablet mode. Utilizing the 10.1” multi-touch IPS display with a 1366 x 768 native resolution, you’ll be able to swipe and tap your way to victory. While a touch screen is a nice option, hardcore gamers know you need a keyboard and a mouse in order to be competitive. Luckily, Razer is coming out with a keyboard dock that you can connect to the Razer Edge. The Razer Edge also has Bluetooth so you can connect a compatible mouse to increase your efficiency while playing a PC game.
There’s also a unique Mobile Console mode. Using the GamePad Controller, the Razer Edge turns into a large portable gaming device with tangible buttons and joysticks. This mode is unique in that you can play your favorite PC games with a controller setup and while on the go. The final mode is the Home Console mode, which is utilized by placing your Razer Edge into the Docking Station from Razer. From here, you can output video to an external display and use multiple gaming controllers to play PC games on your HDTV. With the Docking Station, you essentially replace your home entertainment console. The Razer Edge is a unique, versatile tablet that wants you to do all your gaming on it instead of switching between devices, a unique concept that Razer is hoping you’ll jump on in the first quarter of 2013.
Intel® Reveals 4th Generation “Haswell” Intel® Core™ Processors
While it may be some time before Intel starts getting its 4th generation Haswell Intel® Core™ processors into computers, Intel® provided the masses with information about the chip itself. First and foremost, the Haswell CPU will require computers to have touch capabilities. This means that every computer that wants to utilize the Haswell chip with have to have a touch screen. Also, every computer will have Intel Wireless Display, which many users don’t really know about, even if it’s in their current computers.
So what’s so special about Haswell? Well, it’s low voltage and dramatically improves battery life. At Intel’s press conference, they showed a prototype 11” laptop called the “Northcape” that looked much thinner than current Ultrabooks (which is an accomplishment in and of itself, since Ultrabooks tend to be less than an inch thin). Also, Intel® claimed the Northcape was capable of 13 hours of battery life, despite its ultrathin build.
It’ll be interesting to see how Intel's® Haswell processor will change the dynamic of computers in the future. More and more manufacturers are releasing updates to their current models with touch screens, so it may be a matter of time before all computers on the market have one. Some exceptions may be gaming computers and business workstations, but with the upcoming releases of gaming tablets like the Razer Edge mentioned above, nobody can say for sure.
Wi-Fi goes 802.11ac
Networking manufacturers have fully embraced 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is a new and faster standard for wireless networking. Cisco, D-Link and TP-Link (as well as other lesser-known companies) have all introduced at least one product that uses the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. Netgear introduced the first 802.11ac Wi-Fi router, the D6200 , which connects directly to the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard without having to use a separate router or modem. D-Link revealed a new gaming router, the DGL-500, which uses the 802.11ac chip from Qualcomm for improved performance. The DGL-500 also has StreamBoost technology, which D-Link claims to be the best Quality of Service (QoS) feature to date. Time will tell if they are right.
Also in Wi-Fi news, WiGig (also known as 802.11ad), has joined the existing Wi-Fi protocol after being a separate standard for years. Using a 60 GHz frequency band and allowing speeds of up to 7 Gb/s, WiGig provides fast performance while connected to a 802.11ad Wi-Fi network.
The Emergence of Solid State Hard Drive Hybrids
The world of hard drives has been faced with the same predicament for a while now. Do you get a traditional hard drive with large storage capacity, which is prone to breaking due to its mechanical parts, or do you go with a solid-state drive for the speed, but have to deal with the price and low storage capacity. Well, it seems as though manufacturers decided the best solution was to combine the two into one singular hard drive, the Solid State Hard Drive (SSHD). The SSHD shouldn’t be confused with Apple’s Fusion Drive, since the Fusion Drive uses an SSD and a separate HDD in tandem.
Western Digital introduced their first SSHD, which is the WD Black. Using a 2.5” form factor, the SSHD seems to be made for laptops and slim all-in-one computers. Western Digital also makes a 2.5” version that’s only 5mm thin, which will fit into ultrathin computers, most likely those that will be running the Intel® Haswell processors in the future. Seagate also announced its own SSHDs as well. Not currently named, Seagate has a 2.5” version that’s 5mm thin, a 2.5” version that’s 7mm thin and a unique 3.5” version that is presumably for desktop computers. Seagate also announced that they will stop making 2.5” 7200 rpm traditional hard drives in favor of the new 2.5” SSHD hybrids.
Seagate Introduces the Wireless Plus
Seagate announced the Wireless Plus, which is a portable wireless storage device that can also double as a streaming server for media. Bus-powered as well as having a built-in battery, the Wireless Plus can connect to up to eight Wi-Fi devices. One of the biggest features is that you’ll be able to stream media to all connected devices, making it ideal for tablets and smartphones, which usually lack the storage capacity to store multiple movies and other media files.
Another great feature is that the Seagate Wireless Plus can act as a hotspot for your portable devices. If you connect to a Wi-Fi network with the Wireless Plus, you don’t have to manually add the same network to the device you want to connect to the Wireless Plus. Instead, you just have to connect Wireless Plus and you’ll be able to automatically connect to the Internet through it. The Wireless Plus is also compatible with a variety of adapters so you can use USB 3.0 or other ports to quickly transfer large amounts of data from a computer to the Wireless Plus.
Looking for an easier way to access all your files in the Seagate Wireless Plus? Well, there’s an app. Using the Seagate Media app on your iOS or Android device, you’ll be able to manage the Seagate Wireless Plus and stream digital content from it. You can also upload content created by mobile devices to the Wireless Plus. For example, you can store your photos and videos on the Wireless Plus to free up valuable hard drive space on your smartphone. There’s also an app for Samsung Smart TV if you want to use the Wireless Plus with a Samsung HDTV. The Seagate Wireless Plus is available for purchase.
Aside from the upcoming products, there were a couple of interesting developments at CES that have the future looking bright. First is the Panasonic tablet with 4K resolution. While a plethora of 4K resolution HDTVs have appeared at CES 2013, Panasonic wants to go a step further and put it on a tablet—well, a 20” tablet that is. Panasonic showed off a prototype tablet running Windows 8 and using an IPS LED-backlit display that has a borderline excessive 3840 x 2560 native resolution at 230 pixels per inch. No word on when Panasonic will release this tablet but there may be some issues regarding performance, and especially battery life due to the high resolution, so some kinks may have to be worked out before it will be available.
A Silicon Valley startup called Elliptic Labs is working on a touchless gesture control for computers. While most computers are starting to house touch screens, they will undoubtedly get riddled with unnecessary fingerprints. Elliptic Labs hopes to solve this issue by using ultrasound transmitters to detect your hand movements for certain gestures, like swipe and scroll. The technology is fairly new and the company is currently operating on a software licensing model and is reaching out to computer manufacturers who may be interested.
The Tobii Rex Windows 8 eye controller is an adapter that you plug into your computer and connects to your display, which allows you to navigate your desktop by just using your eyes. By tracking your eyes, you’ll be able to move the cursor to exactly where you want it without having to touch your mouse. No word as to when it’ll be released.
3D Systems’ has redesigned their Cube 3D printer and it is now available in several new colors. It features a new glass build plate that doesn’t heat up like its predecessor, which used metal. The kid-friendly 3D printer allows you to print 3D models by using plastic. The 3D printer will be available by January 21.
The Luminae glass keyboard from TransluSense is a keyboard made entirely out of glass, using infrared LED lights and visible light signals as well as three cameras to detect where your finger breaks the LED patterns. When you “type” a key, you break the light pattern to register it. Another interesting aspect is that users can customize the keyboard layout any way they want by using overlays online. The keyboard can recognize all custom keys and shortcuts. There’s even a trackpad available as well.
CES 2013 seemed to be more about 4K-res HDTVs than anything else, we were still impressed with some of the computer technology announcements above. While Lenovo had a strong presence, many other major computer manufacturers were noticeably absent. Even Microsoft didn’t hold a press conference to talk more about Windows 8 or to discuss the absence of devices running Windows RT. Large tablet/all-in-one hybrids seem to be the big hitters at CES 2013, focusing on multi-touch and multi-use capabilities. Use the Comments section below to tell us your thoughts on the new computers that were announced at CES 2013.