The Best Of CES 2014
With two million square feet of show floor, CES is the equivalent size of nearly 35 football fields (that's American football, for our international readers) and it attracts thousands of vendors every year.
Given the sheer scale of the show, you're guaranteed to see a lot of old and boring stuff. However, for every one-hundred products that fail to excite, there is one that really gets us going. With the week behind us, our team of PC enthusiasts picked a handful of the most exciting products from CES 2014. Some are revolutionary. Others are simply good ideas we're happy to see in production. And all of them have us excited about the technology we'll be testing in 2014.
Graphics Card: Sapphire Tri-X OC 290
Sapphire announced its custom Radeon R9 290 Tri-X just before CES, right at the end of December, and was showing the card off in Vegas. It snagged our award for a couple of reasons. First, we already saw its closely-related 290X-based stablemate excel in Does Radeon R9 290X Behave Any Differently In A Closed Case? and were really impressed by how well-made the card is. Operating at up to 1 GHz, the Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X is faster than AMD's 947 MHz reference clock rate. It features the same 4 GB of memory, but features a higher data rate of 5.2 GT/s. The big news, of course, is Sapphire’s custom cooling solution, the Tri-X, which has three fans with dust-repelling bearings and aerosol section blades that blow air through a pair of aluminum fin stacks.
Mobile Platform: Nvidia Tegra K1
Nvidia's big announcement at CES was its Tegra K1 SoC. The company didn't want to call this part Tegra 5, believing that the shift to a desktop-class graphics architecture is important enough to warrant a departure from previous series naming. Naturally, the K in its name represents Kepler, the same design at the heart of most modern GeForce-based boards.
Although the K1's single SMX is still a far cry from anything you'd find on the desktop, you still get OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenGL 4.4, and DirectX 11 support (along with OpenCL and CUDA for compute). Regardless of whether we're looking at the 32-bit Cortex-A15 or pin-compatible 64-bit Denver version, we have to be impressed by this 5 W SoC's potential in the tablet space.
Case: Zalman AHV Computer Case Z15
The AHV (Automatic Heat Ventilation) system was unique among end-user cases at CES 2014, giving enthusiasts a choice between manual and temperature-based motorized vent actuation. Smooth black anodized panels switch to a radical fin orientation based upon those selections, where the closed configuration also helps contain noise at lower thermal loads.
For many gamers, GPU heat will most likely actuate the thermal controls, turning Zalman's sedan into a spoiler-deployed sports car. Ideally, you'll already be blasting away with your headset on, unable to discern any additional noise as the panels open up.
Storage Device: LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2
We got a chance to go hands-on with LaCie's Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 at CES 2014. The company is known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to Thunderbolt-enabled peripherals. With the introduction of Thunderbolt 2, LaCie is once again leading the charge.
This thing is tiny and beautiful. It keeps cool through an aluminum enclosure and small fan. Under the hood, you’ll find a pair of Samsung XP941 PCIe-based M.2 SSDs connected through a PCIe switch and configured in a RAID 0 array through software (there is no hardware RAID functionality). Thunderbolt 2 allows for a single 20 Gb/s channel, as opposed to two 10 Gb/s links, allowing read and write performance to hit 1300 and 1000 MB/s, respectively.
Gaming Peripheral: Corsair Cherry MX RGB
Corsair sent us word of its Cherry MX RGB mechanical keyboard ahead of CES, and we made a beeline for it when the show opened. It’s the world’s first gaming keyboard with Cherry MX RGB key switches, facilitating backlighting in 16.8 million colors. It should go on sale later this year with Cherry MX Red, Cherry MX Brown, or Cherry MX Blue switches.
Notebook: Lenovo Carbon X1
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon was one of the many products that Lenovo announced at CES 2014. The machine is a second-generation offering (the first debuted during the summer of 2012). It has the same soft touch carbon fiber chassis, but it’s slightly smaller and lighter than the original. Lenovo added a touch-sensitive strip over the keyboard displaying shortcut keys that change depending on the application you have open. This is a clear improvement over the single-function hardware keys on the previous version. There’s also native Ethernet and OneLink Docking, touch or non-touch displays, Windows 8.1 Pro, Intel’s Haswell-based CPUs, and longer battery life. It’s arriving later this month and starts at $1300.
Automotive: 2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan With Blue Link
With mobile devices and wireless connectivity more pervasive than ever, car companies have a lot to live up to. Hyundai is embracing technology integration with its 2015 Genesis Sedan. Blue Link has new features that seem genuinely useful. The Genesis Assistant app is quick and responsive; there’s no long delay after the car receives commands, as before. There's even a Google Glass app that can remotely start, unlock, and find your car. The Genesis looks great and launches later this year.
Monitor/Display: Asus ROG Swift PG278Q
There's a new game-changing technology in town, and it's Nvidia's G-Sync. Asus backed this technology with real hardware right at launch, and at CES the company rolled out a follow-up in its ROG Swift PG278Q. This is a 27-inch display with a 2560x1440 native resolution at 120 Hz. Yes, we're still talking about a TN panel. However, display quality in Asus' suite was markedly better than the engineering sample that Angelini tested for his launch coverage. The ROG Swift PG278Q is big, fast, and perfect for the gamer with a compatible GPU, all for $800.
Read more about the ROG Swift PG278Q here.
Platform: Gigabyte Brix Pro
We're no strangers to Gigabyte's Brix Pro. But for CES, the company unveiled an official Steam Machine version. Under the hood, you're looking at an Intel Core i7-4770R and Iris Pro graphics 5200 (actually, you'll have a choice between the Core i7-4770R or Core i5-4570R), and the Brix Pro will ship with a mini-PCIe Wi-Fi module installed.
Mobile Device: Huawei Ascend Mate 2 With LTE
Huawei's Ascend Mate 2 is the follow-up to last year's massive Ascend Mate. Though the phone's general specs don't change much, its stand-out feature is its USB charger functionality. That's right, the Ascend Mate 2 can actually charge your other devices. The built-in battery is 4050 mAh, which is supposedly good for 60 hours of "normal" use or 12 hours of Web browsing. That's impressive when you consider that most smartphone batteries don't last one day of anything beyond moderate use.