Last year the big buzz was 3D. So amidst the chaos of the show floor, crawling with bleeding edge tech and hundreds of tablets and drool-worthy devices - what are our big impressions at the Las Vegas gadget expo this year?
If you’ve bought a 3D TV, you might just be feeling a bit annoyed right now
Those clunky glasses took the high-tech shine off the arrival of 3D TV. But this year perhaps the most exciting development has been TVs that let you view 3D without glasses. Toshiba has one in the works, and we’ve sat in front of two whopping 46in and 56in “glasses-free” (our term, not theirs) 3D TVs from Sony. So how do they look? Well, the picture is surprisingly good, although these were the only TVs Sony forced us to watch in very dark rooms. This technology has its critics, though in our brief demo there weren’t any immediately apparent glaring picture problems. The 3D effect was perhaps not so pronounced compared to TVs that work with 3D glasses, but there are too many factors at play to say whether that’s a symptom of the no-glasses approach. We did notice a strobing effect if we moved around, but unless you’re running around the room while watching a movie, that line of criticism might be a little overplayed. Sony also had a cute portable 3D movie player that didn’t require glasses. Again, a prototype, but our first impressions of the picture were positive. While Sony is only talking prototypes right now, Toshiba will reportedly have a glasses-free 40in TV on sale overseas this year. Meanwhile, LG and Samsung have cottoned onto the idea of using the cheaper cinema-style 3D glasses (similar to RealD glasses) in specially equipped TVs. Expect to see these arrive this year.
“Super phones” that want to be PCs
Not content with offering you GPS, music and video playback, HD video recording and apps, smartphone makers are taking it up another notch. Latest trick is dual cores – Motorola’s Atrix 4G has a dual core CPU, and so does LG’s Optimus 2X. The Motorola is powered by a dual core CPU, three USB ports and 1GB RAM, something you might have been slightly smug about if it were your desktop PC years ago. Dual core is the pinnacle of phone technology at CES 2011, so much so that people are still trying to dream up breathtaking words to invent this new “super” class of phone. Motorola went as far as showing a full desktop Web browser running on its Atrix, including multiple browser tabs, which we shudder to think about even on the Atrix’s 4in screen. Having dual cores will also mean in theory that the phone will be better at playing Flash content. In case you really didn’t get the point, Motorola is bringing out a laptop-style dock as an accessory for the Atrix. There’s no storage or processing, but it’s essentially a way to turn your phone into what it’s now truly capable of becoming – a laptop. Wait, you already have one of those?
Tablets could be serious alternative to laptop
When the iPad arrived we said it was never a replacement for a laptop, more a handy second device for when you don’t need a laptop (on the train, around the house). But this week at CES we’ve seen more than a few tablets that clearly aim to replace the good old lap-warming laptop. Case in point: ASUS has a tablet running a Core i5 chip and Windows 7. And it’s 12.1in, which is big enough for spreadsheets and gaming. Then there’s hybrid tablet/laptops that let you have the best of both worlds – a detachable touchscreen and a qwerty keyboard. Or if that doesn’t appeal, there’s the slideout keyboard on tablets like Samsung’s 10.1in Sliding PC 7, which has Windows 7 – not something that will impress Android fans, but something we bet will be of interest to corporate IT departments who want tablets but have been put off by compatibility and support concerns for the iPad. Sure, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful tablets without keyboards too, that are meant for watching video, but this year vendors seem to think some tablets can be used for pounding out spreadsheets too.
Microsoft will not give up on getting Windows onto every one of your devices
With non-Intel chips like Qualcomm Snapdragon and Nvidia’s Tegra 2 the sexiest thing in smartphones in the last 12 months, suddenly we’ve got the possibility of seeing more and more truly exciting devices that don’t have an Intel chip and don’t run Windows. Microsoft isn’t going to take that lying down. Not only is Windows Phone 7 out, but the next version of Windows will work on ARM. One of the oddest demos we’ve seen here so far has been Microsoft showing off Excel running on a mini laptop with an ARM chip inside instead of Intel. Is this a good idea? Do we need Windows on our phones and portable devices. Or is its true home on the PC and laptop?
Everyone is trying to build an iTunes killer
You can’t help but feel the presence of Apple at CES, even though they’re not here. It’s most obvious in the TV area, where each year vendors build more and more elaborate menus into new TVs that let you download movies and Web video (and this year, games and apps). Intel is having a go too, building in copyright protection and something called Intel Insider, which lets you connect to movie downloads on your PC. LG TVs do have NetFlix, which means thousands of movies to choose from – unless you’re in
More gadgets from CES: We'll be digging into these, and other flat-out amazing gadgets and devices over the next few days on the site, so don't forget to check back for more.