9 Products and Technologies We're Looking Forward To Seeing at CES

Alan Fackler

Yes, the timing of the Consumer Electronics Show could be worse. It’s hard enough prying yourself off of the couch after the holidays and going back into the office without having to worry about hopping on a plane to Las Vegas and spending four days surrounded by high-decibel bass tones, throngs of sweaty geeks, and 30-minute delays everywhere you go.

But you know, despite our initial apprehension, we’re excited for CES. We always are. If you can’t get amped about seeing and playing with thousands of brand new and not-yet-released tech products, you have no business being in this business.

The Maximum PC team leaves for Vegas on Wednesday, and we’re jumping right into the fray with Samsung , Corsair , and Microsoft press events lined up from Wednesday morning all the way through to the evening hours.

As always, the new year brings some big questions that will be answered at CES. Will Microsoft announce Windows 7 (or 8?) for ARM devices? Whose tablets will generate the most buzz? And what about 3D?

Our thoughts, questions, and predictions are below. We’re also incorporating comments and questions that we received from you guys into our story as well. The short version of your reponses: No More 3D!

1. Tablets, Tablets, Tablets

Okay, it’s clear that the tablet category is here to stay. It’s also clear that, given that the presence of one gajillion tablet manufacturers, not everyone is going to have a seat at the tablet party this time next year. It’s just not possible for this many developers to succeed. So one of the key questions we’re hoping to answer is: Who has the best non-iOS tablet.

At last count, we’re expecting to see well over 50 different tablets in a variety of shapes and sizes. We’re excited to check them all out, but the devices we’re most intrigued by are:

Acer’s Iconia : When we first saw this Windows 7-based dual-screen tablet two months ago, we pooh-poohed it. But then we got to play around with the Iconia and found it most desirable. The virtual keyboard was surprisingly effective, and the presence of Windows 7 made it fully functional as a computer vs. a tablet. Key questions remain around battery life and long-term viability. We’ll know more in a few days.

Lenovo U1 IdeaPad: On the surface, Lenovo’s U1 Hero seems like the perfect hybrid. When fully assembled, it looks and functions as a Windows 7 laptop. The twist is that the screen is fully detachable; when you slide it out from the laptop chassis, it functions as a standalone tablet *and* immediately begins running the Android OS. That’s pretty snappy. More details to come.

RIM’s Playbook: Blackberry is beginning to feel like a fading star these days, so we’re curious to see if the company’s new tablet will inject some life into the company’s offerings. The wildcard is RIM’s proprietary tablet OS. Will it be able to measure up to Android? Time will tell.

2. Microsoft’s Big Announcement

Based on everything we’re hearing, it appears that Microsoft is going to be announcing a version of Windows 7 that’s being built specifically for ARM-based devices. The alternate version of this rumor are that Microsoft is going to announce Windows 8, also for ARM-based devices.

Either way, this is an intriguing announcement. Windows 7 would make for a more functional and robust tablet OS in comparison to the iPad or Android, for sure. Between this, Windows built-in networking and media-stream hooks, and the presence of Office and Outlook, we’re excited at the prospects. (And also glad that we haven’t run out to purchase a Galaxy Tab yet.)

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft tends to lump its announcements together, so we’ll probably also hear about a few other things. Our bet is that Windows Phone 7 gets some Ballmer airtime, as will the Xbox 360.

3. Sandy Bridge Laptops

The big news this week, of course, was Intel’s second-gen Core i7 aka Sandy Bridge. (If you missed our coverage, click here to read all about it.) With notebooks’ increasing popularity, expect dozens and dozens of notebooks using Intel’s new chip on display such as Acer’s 8950 line. The top-end Aspire 8950G-9839 will feature the quad-core Core i7-2630Q Sandy Bridge chip, 8GB of RAM, and an ATI Mobility Radeon 6850 GPU. With its 18.1-inch screen, the top-end Aspire will start at $1,600.

Acer will keep irons in both fires this year by also releasing the Aspire 5750 which will use an switchable graphics and Nvidia GeForce GT 540M. Similar but different, Acer’s Aspire 7750G will instead using an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 6650. The Nvidia-based notebook will start at $900 while the ATI-based notebook will start at $1,030.

4. Fusion Unleashed!

It won’t all be about Sandy Bridge at CES, however. Vendors using AMD’s Fusion APU should have wares on display including HP’s new DM1. Priced at $500, the DM1 will offer far more graphics power than its Intel counterparts. The DM1 will feature the 1.6GHz E-350 Fusion part and offer about 9.5 hours of run time on the battery. Acer will also offer a $450 Fusion-based notebook dubbed the Aspire 5253. Sony’s Y-series will also feature a Fusion chip but cost slightly more at $550. AMD said Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung and Toshiba are also expected to release petite notebooks using the Fusion APU at CES. For a deeper dive into Fusion read our preview here .

5. Projector Technology

Despite the onset of the age of LARGE-SCREEN TVs, we remain bull-ish on the prospects for the good old-fashioned projector. Cheap, portable, and versatile, we hope they’ll continue to be a mainstay of the home theater circuit, so we’re going to keep our eyes open for new models, shrinking form-factors, and new usages.

Mitsubishi’s new Diamond 3D Projector is intriguing; it’s a 3D projector with two HDMI inputs that seems like a perfect fit for a theater/gaming room. But again, we’re equally intrigued to see pico projectors integrated into other personal electronics devices such as docks, mobile phones, and more. Cinemin’s Slice, which is an iPod/iPad/iPhone dock and a projector, is an example of what we’re talking about. We expect to see many more.

6. Transparent AMOLED displays

While we’re expecting to see a lot of LED displays at the show, we’re really looking forward to seeing Samsung’s transparent 19-inch AMOLED screen, which is a type of thin-film display that uses organic compounds to form the electroluminescent materials. It’s promising because you could theoretically stick a transparent AMOLED display on a window and still be able to see through the window. That’s cool, and could be useful in many different capacities.

We’re also hoping to play around with the smaller, 4.5-inch WVGA flexible transparent display that should be on the show floor.

We hope that you note the absence of 3D display curiosity. Sure, it remains a source of intrigue and controversy—how could it not, given the big bucks the TV makers are spending on marketing these sets? But unless we see something truly amazing, don’t expect much coverage in this category.

7. Wireless charging platforms

Based on all the advance press releases we’re seeing, it’s clear that there are going to be around 50 different mats, pads, and other devices that will allow us to charge our wireless devices sans cables. The big question: Will Witricity , purveyor of truly wireless energy transmission via magnetic field induction, have a more impressive display of its technology than it did last year.

8. Next-Gen Clock Radios

Internet devices like the Chumby and Internet-connected tabletop radios are going to be en vogue in 2011. It makes sense—even though all smartphones have alarms on them, most of us still rely on the alarm clock in our bedrooms. Grace Audio’s Mondo bears a deeper look, but we expect to see a bunch of these devices all over the show floor.

9. Xi3 Corp.'s Modular Computers

Xi3 is an American company located in Salt Lake City with an interesting goal.  The company wants to redesign the traditional PC to be more modular, efficient, and scalable across any endeavor or usage mode.  The over arching premise of the company's modular computer is that you'll be able to attach a series of small, cube-shaped microcomputers together to accomplish simple and complex tasks in both manufacturing, home and enterprise setttings. It sounds kind of like a pipe dream, doesn't it? Nevertheless, we're intrigued.


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