CES 2021: Just How Different Will It Be?


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CES 2021 starts today and this year there is no need for an overpriced hotel room in Vegas, no long lines to get a taxi or board a bus, and no crowded exhibit halls (one good thing this year).

On the other hand, you must decide ahead of time what you want to see and make a reservation or appointment if you wish to have time and access assured. There is no good way to just wander the various exhibit halls looking for things that grab your interest, or in my case, things that will be interesting to write about and for you to read about. For the most part, wandering the halls this year means reading through lists of presentations or reading numerous press releases. If you want to dig down into the capabilities, uses and the difference between the previous generation of products and this 2021 iteration, you are best served by arranging for a virtual demonstration and a meeting with a representative.

Many highly anticipated tech devices were expected to be showcased early in 2021 with most of them introduced at CES. This year, however, when it became evident that there would be no in-person CES, no hundreds of thousands of in-person attendees, no demos and samples, some of the products were announced early. In a few cases, I think some were perhaps announced too early.

Still, at the virtual CES there will be many anticipated devices shown for the first time. Here are some highlights:

Samsung

One includes the highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone. CES_S21-smartphone-teaser_700.jpgA detailed introduction to the S21 is not a sure thing but we can probably expect to see something. Samsung also has stated it will introduce a 110-inch micro LED very soon, possible during the virtual show. Over the last few years, the advances in display technology have been amazing; this year better-than-real-life amazing picture quality displays from tiny for smart watches to theater-sized will be exhibited, with most at much lower prices than just a few years ago.

LG
Other companies are following as well. It was just announced that LG Electronics’ virtual CES 2021 panel will introduce the company’s first-ever QNED Mini LED TVs. Utilizing quantum dot and NanoCell technologies with mini LEDs as the light source, the company states that the brightness and contrast of the new TVs are “far superior to that of conventional LCD televisions.” The company said that the 2021 lineup includes 10 new 4K and 8K models, with screen sizes reaching 86 inches. LG will also show a line of transparent TVs. Transparent? Stay tuned for more on this. Foldable and rollable OLED screen technology has come a long way in the two years, and it seems like some good commercially available phones and other devices using this technology will be available this year. Expect some announcements and initial devices to be shown.

Display Technology
Display technology advancements go well beyond home entertainment, especially when comparing the latest computer monitors to those introduced just about a year ago, you will note an amazing improvement in display quality. It is hard for me to see how this will be accurately in evidence at a virtual show. After all, I will be looking at those displays through my 18-month-old (and now somewhat dated) 4K main monitor.

Conference Sessions
As usual there will be many conferences and press events as well as conference sessions, for example, an iHeartMedia conference session on how technology has enabled some of today’s hottest artists to continue to create and introduce new music and immersive experiences for their fans during the pandemic. This will be moderated by nationally syndicated on-air host, TV personality, and producer Ryan Seacrest.

Computers
Updated computers will be shown taking advantage of the significant advances by companies such as AMD, which has made considerable gains in the laptop arena. AMD powered laptops in the past have always been exclusive to budget offerings. But in 2020, the Ryzen processors—and especially Ryzen 4000 laptop processors—showed up in powerful gaming laptops and Ultrabooks. Intel still maintains a strong lead in numbers of laptops, but AMD is finally becoming a powerful competitor in this space, just as it did with desktop computers. In the past few years, AMD has taken advantage of its ability to produce chips with a 7-nanometer geometry while Intel still tries to make the best use of its older 14-nanometer designs. Will we see something new from Intel soon or will AMD continue to build its reputation and market share? share.

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At CES 2021, AMD is rumored to announce its advanced Ryzen 5000 mobile processors during its keynote address. Building on the monumental success of its Ryzen desktop chips using their Zen 3 core, I expect that these mobile chips will be as game-changing in 2021 as their desktop counterparts were in 2019 and 2020. I have been building all of our powerful desktop computers for over 20 years, but the latest build was the first one based on an AMD CPU because I am very pleased with the result. We can also expect additional GPU (computer graphics devices) announcements. The cards announced a few months ago have been strangely unavailable, perhaps an answer as to what might be forthcoming during CES?

Brands such as Lenovo, Dell, HP, Asus, and Acer and possibly even Microsoft are expected to announce new laptops at the show. From very powerful (especially for a laptop) gaming machines to student and business focused, you can expect many new laptop computers to be announced.

Everything is Smart
Other introductions expected include new and improved devices for the smart home, and wearables with a focus on smart watches. In fact, there have been some very advanced and amazingly good-looking smart watches announced in the last few months. These watches actually look like high end quality watches but do so much more. Many of these have been introduced in the last few months, and were more in tune with the holiday shopping season than with CES this year. 

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For me one of the most interesting areas of CES is the odd and unexpected tech that pops up in the pre-show press day events, on the show floor and at the after-hours mini (but focused) shows such as CES Unveiled, Show Stoppers, PepCon, and more. In the past decade we have seen 3D printers, drones, robotic prosthesis, actual robots, and so much more. How will these devices show up at a virtual CES? In “normal” years, CES is an event built on unexpected spectacle robots, butlers, cars that do everything but levitate, paper-thin televisions that one can roll up and carry with them, virtual reality that is amazingly lifelike, and just about any other type of “you have to see it to believe it and even then you may not” technical wonders. Let’s see how these will be shown this year. In fact, let’s see if there will actually be very many of them in 2021.

About five years ago, we were told that 2021 would be the beginning of the autonomous car age. Of course, there will be automotive advancements announced but the autonomous car as envisioned then is still years away. However, we can expect to see new designs taking advantage of the ever-improving technology of this third decade of the 21st century. 

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There will be surprises and disappointments, to be sure. Virtual CES will be difficult to cover this year and I expect that some things will be overlooked or some missed but we will do our best to provide coverage of the best of the good and interesting stuff. Stay tuned.

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