CES 2014 Interesting Products, Trends and Takeaways

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Linksys WRT1900AC
Linksys WRT1900AC

We decided to take a bit of a different recap to CES 2014. The general buzz was around 4K TVs (again). Those are going to be great when the content arrives for them. Most importantly, when content and bandwidth arrives to feed 4K Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus and etc. The curved trends were interesting, however, a curved TV mounted on a flat wall may not be the most aesthetically pleasing. Wearables were hot, as was 3D printing (again.) After using Google Glass for the last few weeks, wearables are going to be big once applications arrive and battery life improves.

Headphones

In terms of headphones CES had them coming out of every corner of displays. It certainly is a testament to how high margin products like Beats are since there were a ton of knock-off  Beats-esque looking headphones. My pick: Yurbuds Inspire wireless Bluetooth headphones. A simple reason here. I use the wired ones regularly and they are great. They sit in the ear on runs without falling out. My current pair has one major drawback: phone controls on the cable. I have lost calls and seen my phone go flying out of my pocket when doing cleans for example. A search on Amazon.com did not turn these up so hopefully they hit the channel soon.

Yurbuds Inspire Bluetooth
Yurbuds Inspire Bluetooth

Telepresence Bots

No fewer than three companies were displaying some sort of telepresence bots. The basic idea is simple. Stick a camera and a display at about eye level atop a motorized pedestal. Then let the user control the bot and have virtual “face-to-face” communication. These are addressing the fact that you cannot “walk the halls” virtually from telepresence. Probably the best looking one was beam from a company called Suitable Technologies. The company had a group of their beam units controlled remotely by folks at a remote location. They worked the floor walking along side folks and striking up conversation. A great demo of their technology.

Beam Telepresence Robot
Beam Telepresence Robot

It sure is not the most mature market, but CES 2014 is at least showing an expansion in offerings and interest.

Steam Machines

Steam machines were everywhere. Valve really had a great idea. Take PC hardware, remove the Microsoft Windows licensing costs and let folks game on PC hardware using the Linux based SteamOS. We covered the concept last year but it was great to see the offerings. Perhaps the most interesting at CES 2014 was one from Gigabyte which was in their small BRIX form factor. This thing was HEAVY!

Gigabyte IRIS PRO BRIX SteamBox
Gigabyte IRIS PRO BRIX SteamBox

It makes sense though. Mobile gaming is exploding and now able to drive HDTV gaming. Making a more powerful PC with 10x (or more) of the thermal envelope should not be hard. Using IRIS Pro graphics and the small form factor made this Gigabyte unit stand out. Slightly bigger than the Xi3 Piston that we covered last year.

The Belkin Linksys WRT1900AC

For those not keeping track, Cisco’s acquisition of Linksys more or less failed and in March 2013 the unit was sold to Belkin. Free from the Cisco influence, Belkin-Linksys made a major push for the WRT1900AC an 802.11ac decendent of the massively popular WRT54G. The WRT54G was so popular that we now have alternative OSes for the device such as ddWRT and Tomato in the segment. Obviously Belkin-Linksys is trying to recapture this market and they made a huge push sof rthe WRT1900AC including a car size model. Luckily we were able to spot a more functional looking unit and got a peek at connectivity.

Linksys WRT1900AC
Linksys WRT1900AC

Between the USB 3.0 port, a physical power on/off button and a standard 5x RJ-45 compliment this has the potential to become a very popular product if the 802.11AC radios work well. One can see the four replaceable antennae for those wanting to customize their arrays.

A Server Laptop

Walking by Ace’s booth there was an absolutely gargantuan laptop. Key features, up to four hard drives or solid state drives, dual GPUs and LGA2011 Intel Xeon Processors. After stating the obvious that the laptop was not very “portable” I received an interesting answer along the lines of: “It is portable for a server, especially if you need to deploy one in a battlefield.” Perspective!

Ace Raptor 7 Server Laptop
Ace Raptor 7 Server Laptop

For the record, I did inquire into battery life and was told it was not so good. It would be good enough if a generator needed to be started though to keep the system online. It reminds me of an old Counter Strike server we used to run off of a Pentium III laptop at UCSB almost a decade and a half ago.

OWC PCIe SSDs

We covered this topic in our Super Talent at CES piece last week, but OWC showed off their Accelsior PCIe SSDs as well. First we have the low profile design and once can see the LSI-SandForce driven drive uses replaceable SSD PCBs.

OWC Mercury Accelsior LP
OWC Mercury Accelsior LP

Going a bit larger, there was a full height version with four drives onboard:

OWC Mercury Accelsior Full Height
OWC Mercury Accelsior Full Height

Sitting in the middle is a large LSI controller so we do know that the card is going to be compatible with many operating systems including ESXi and Solaris derivatives. It is certainly not a Fusion-io card but then again pricing is set accordingly.

Supermicro at CES

I did stop by the Supermicro booth at CES and saw the converted SC732 into a gaming chassis. One product was shown off that I did not know Supermicro made: a Bay Trail mITX motherboard the X10SBA. The board has an embedded Celeron J1900 Silvermont based processor with 4 cores and 4 threads. Dual Intel i210 AT gigabit controllers, Intel graphics and HDMI and eDP out. Certainly an interesting proposition for a digital signage appliance or similar and is perhaps one of the few Bay Trail platforms with both Intel HD graphics and Intel i210 gigabit NICs.

Conclusion

We will have another article soon focused on some of the home and office automation products shown off at CES 2014. We did want to give some coverage to the more down-to-earth products that people could buy now or in the near future that got relatively little press.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Ugh, the steam machines, nice idea, crap execution:

    “Take PC hardware, remove the Microsoft Windows licensing costs…”

    And keep all the savings to themselves, that much is obvious from pretty much every steam machine based on specs and pricing released so far.

    Some of the boxes are particularly bad on component selection to the point you go “huh?”

    Others with easily recognizable OEM cases are no different than me going to amazon/newegg/etc and doing nothing more than screwing it together myself for hundred(s) of dollars cheaper and likely longer per-part warranties.

    (I’m even ignoring the usual absurdities like the falcon northwest and their ilk, only referring to the “reasonable” models that joe blow computer gamer might look at)

    If I was valve, I would not let my new branding be tainted by overpriced/brain-dead boutique vendors. Set a couple price tiers and minimum performance for each to give them reasonable wiggle room, otherwise no logo. Raise performance and/or lower price bar over time. Nothing extreme, but avoid some of the absurd cpu+gpu pairs or weak-igp-only-yet-expensive crap.

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