CES 2013 isn't just a celebration of the world's newest, biggest, smallest, fastest and curviest gadgetry. In among the smart TVs and booming home theatre systems, past legions of skinny laptops and squads of digital cameras, you can spot the technology that will shape the year ahead.
At CES 2012, the show was dominated by Windows 8 Ultrabooks, 3D OLED TVs, Android tablets, 4G LTE and quad-core processors. A year on, things have changed. Here's our pick of the best gadgets and tech of CES 2013.
1. Nvidia's Project Shield
CES occasionally surprises you and Nvidia's planned entry into mobile gaming with Project Shield has certainly raised a few (thousand) eyebrows. At first glance, it looks suspiciously like a PC gamepad glued to a 5-inch smartphone. But that's exactly what makes it so exciting.
This device runs the Android OS and so it can access any game on the Google Play store. Better still, it can stream games from any PC equipped with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 650 or from a laptop packing a GTX 660M GPU. The multi-touch display boasts an HD resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, while inside beats the 72-core heart of a new Tegra 4 SoC, which is six times speedier than the excellent Tegra 3.
2. Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
And while we're talking mobile processors, Nvidia's Tegra 4 isn't the only new chip on the block. Samsung pointed us at its forthcoming 8-core Exynos 5 Octa, featuring the ARM A-15; while Intel introduced Bay Trail, its next-generation, 22nm quad-core Atom tablet platform. Not to be outdone, Qualcomm unveiled its 4K-capable Snapdragon 800 chips, which feature a quartet of Krait 400 cores and an improved Adreno 330 GPU. Thinking about buying a new phone or a tablet? We'd wait a while if we were you.
3. Sony Xperia Z
While most mobile manufacturers save their big smartphone launches for Mobile World Congress in February, Alcatel outed the 6.45mm-thick One Touch Idol Ultra, ZTE unveiled the Grand S and Huawei debuted its first Windows handset, the Ascend W1. All good phones. But not a patch on the waterproof Sony Xperia Z, which features a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm APQ8064 processor, a 5-inch 1080 x 1920 pixel Reality Display and a 13MP camera.
4. Samsung Youm
When Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, its icon-based OS and 3.5-inch touchscreen revolutionised the smartphone. Five years on, we're still waiting for the next big leap forward in mobile design. Perhaps the Samsung Youm will enable the phones of 2014-2015 to make another leap. This OLED display uses thin plastic instead of glass, making the screen pliable, bendable and almost unbreakable.
5. Panasonic 56-inch 4K OLED TV
If last year's CES was all about 3D OLED, then CES 2013 is a showcase for a new televisual fad - 4K, aka Ultra HD. Both Sony and Panasonic plugged in beautiful 56-inch prototypes, each laying claim to the title of "world's largest 4K OLED TV". If we had to choose a winner, we'd opt for Panasonic's stunning 3840 x 2160 pixel set. It's barely a half-inch thick, created with a special 3D printing technology that might finally enable the mass production of OLED TVs for sale, not just demo purposes.
6. Valve Steam Box
Just as Nvidia hopes to disrupt portable gaming with Project Shield, Valve has ambitious plans to grab a fat slice of the console pie with a Steam Box. The Piston concept from Xi3 shows just what Valve has in mind - a small, quiet, Linux-based system that plugs into your high-def telly and plays PC titles via the Steam network. It's important to point out that this dinky Piston box isn't Valve's official hardware. That's still in the works.
7. FitBit Flex
Wearable fitness technology isn't a new concept - you can already buy activity trackers such as the Jawbone Up and the Nike FuelBand. The FitBit Flex is the latest addition, a colourful wristband that monitors how many steps you've taken, the distance you've travelled, calories burned and your quality of sleep. Expect to see a surge in health and fitness gadgets this year, including smart watches and sensor/phone app systems.
8. Pebble Smartwatch
Vapourware? Far from it. Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky used CES to announce that the Pebble Smartwatch will be shipping to Kickstarter backers on January 23.
9. Oculus Rift
Remember virtual reality? Strap the chunky Oculus Rift to your face and you can get up close and personal with two 640 x 800 LCDs, which combine into a high-def 1280 x 800 pixel display. It looks a lot like Nintendo's ill-fated Virtual Boy and brings back hazy memories of the 1990s, when VR gaming was an oddity, ultimately abandoned because of poor graphics, expensive hardware and joy-destroying lag. The Oculus Rift spearheads the rebirth of an old and enticing technology. And it seems to work...
10. Panasonic 4K tablet
Bucking the trend for compact 7-inch tablets like the Nexus 7 and iPad mini, Panasonic's prototype Windows 8 tablet boasts a 20-inch, 4K Ultra HD display with 10-point multi-touch. The good news? Thanks to a specification that includes a 1.8GHz Intel i5 3427U vPro processor, 4GB of RAM and Nvidia GeForce graphics, performance is zippier than many Windows tablets. The bad news? It weighs 2.5Kg, has a two-hour battery life and probably won't be aimed at consumers like us. Still, we can dream.
So what can we take away from this year's show?
- 4K is the new 3D
- Better phones will be launched at Mobile World Congress
- New mobile processors will lead to super-smartphones
- You'll soon be wearing (or using) a digital health gadget
- Virtual reality is back, baby
- Portable gaming is poised for a revolution
- Valve's Steam Box will challenge next-gen consoles
- Microsoft's Steve Ballmer remains one crazy dude
- We might need to watch Qualcomm's keynote again...
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