The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up Friday in Las Vegas, giving consumers a glimpse of what’s to come from the consumer electronics sector over the next year.
For as much as some like to lament how CES isn’t as relevant as it once was, or even how it’s “dead”, it still is the biggest electronics trade show in the world’s largest economy. That by itself makes it important. It’s not just where the public, via the press, gets to see new products, it’s where industry alliances are formed and where merchants decide what will be on store shelves next year.
CES is also where the world is given a glimpse of what to come in the long-term, not just in the near future. This matters because ecosystems need to be built around this technology, the process of which starts during closed-door meetings during the show.
Without further ado, here are three things that mattered the most from this year’s CES.
Broadwell on the market
At this year’s CES we got our first glimpse at the next-generation of ultrathin notebooks powered by Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) Broadwell processor.
Broadwell promises a substantially reduced power draw, allowing for thinner, lighter and fanless designs.
To of the most exciting Broadwell-powered notebooks that made an appearance on the show floor were the LaVie Z from Lenovo (HKG: 0992) and the refreshed XPS 13 from Dell.
Exact specs of the LaVie Z have yet to be finalized, but it’s said to have a 13-inch screen with a 2,560×1,440 resolution, a 128GB SSD and either a 44Whr or a 29.9 Whr battery depending on the model. Exact pricing and a release date have yet to be determined.
Dell’s refreshed XPS 13 features a variety of display sizes, an incredibly low battery life and an aggressive starting price of $799. For display options, Dell is offering a non-touch 1080p display (which comes with a longer battery life) as well as a touch-enabled QHD+ (3200×1800) model. These come with a Broadwell 15W Core i3, i5, and i7 processor options and the option of either 4GB or 8GB of memory.
Unfortunately, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Broadwell was absent from Intel’s keynote at CES. The chip itself is quite the achievement for the company, and it was rather remiss to leave this product out of the big spotlight.
Quantum dots: The road to 8K starts today
One could call this year’s CES the year that 4K reached maturity. Prototypes of 4K displays have been on the showfloor of CES since 2012, and now they are relatively mainstream. But while 4K is just starting to get off the show floor and into the homes of consumers, a far more impressive technology made an appearance at this year’s CES: 8K.
As its name implies, 8K provides a substantial jump in resolution when compared to 4K or 1080p. On a large screen, the amount of detail one can pick out is beyond remarkable. Of course, 8K is suffering from a content problem — there isn’t much of it available — but what was demonstrated on the show floor proves the potential of the resolution.
For a resolution that large, standard LCD technology won’t cut it. Cinephiles and imaging professionals have long complained that standard LED backlit LCD sets don’t provide the rich blacks and colors of OLED or plasma based screens. This is a tradeoff of LED’s; image quality is sacrificed for power efficiency and thinness.
Quantum dots are the solution to this problem. Quantum dots are an extremely thin layer of nanometer sized crystals applied to an LCD. Depending on their size — between 2 to 10 nanometers — they emit light at a different wavelength thus glowing green, red, or blue depending on their size. On an LCD, they augment the display’s capability to reproduce the full color gamut: on paper they will allow an LCD to display proper blacks, whites and remove the blueish tint that plagues some displays. All this is done at nearly a third of the cost of producing an OLED.
Quantum dots were in many of the 4K LCD-based displays on the CES show floor. In order for LCDs to mature and jump into the 8K era, quantum dots are a must. Without the color accuracy that they provide, the benefits of the enhanced resolution of 8K would be lost.
Automotive is the next big thing
In the technology world, sometimes rivalries fade. One year two companies might slug it out at the show, and other years there could be nothing.Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) have found themselves more and more becoming rivals as Nvidia shifts focus from its traditional markets to mobile with Tegra.
CES 2015 was an example of this new rivalry between the two companies. The keynotes from both Nvidia and Qualcomm focused heavily on automotive. On stage Nvidia CEO Jen Hsun Huang promised that the self-driving cars of the future would be powered by his company’s Tegra X1 SoC, showcasing its ability to power collision detection and other sensing systems.
Nvidia has struggled to build enthusiasm amongst mobile vendors for its Tegra platform, and it’s now up to its sales team to see if it can score some hardware wins in automotive. The biggest complaint amongst vendors was that previous iterations of Tegra draw too much power, but this complaint is a moot point in automotive.
However, Nvidia has to act fast to make inroads in this market. While Nvidia has yet to announce any hardware wins for automotive Tegra, at its keynote Qualcomm was able to announce two.
Automotive will prove to be a interesting and competitive market for these chipmakers, and future CES expos — especially CES Asia in Shanghai — will no doubt have more from this field.