CES 2017 – New Year, New Gadgets
January is typically a time that gadget geeks get excited for the grand Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, USA. Unlike years gone by, this event isn’t quite so significant for Microsoft any more. Rather than having a grand booth showing off all their wares, the company now only has a modest presence, concentrating instead on a private booth area where they meet with other manufacturers to discuss Windows licensing and integration.
Of course, Windows runs on a whole range of hardware, most of it not manufactured by Microsoft at all. Just like 2016, 2017 had a huge range of Windows hardware on show, in tablet, laptop and desktop form factors. Here are our picks of the best machines on show this year, in each form factor.
Tablets that can easily convert into laptops by quickly clipping on a keyboard continue to be popular with manufacturers and consumers. Lenovo continues to give the Microsoft Surface a run for its money with its excellent Lenovo Miix 720. The machine features a pressure sensitive stylus driven screen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. It’s no slouch with computing power either, sporting a seventh-generation Intel processor. You can read more about this tablet on CNET here.
At the budget end of the market, RCA announced the Windows 2-in-1 12.2-inch, a convertible for those of us without such deep pockets. While it lacks the high specs of Microsoft’s Surface or the Lenovo machine, it’s relatively capable and reports from the show floor said it felt robust. Read more about the machine on Tablet PC Review here.
Typically for CES, the laptops on show ranged from practical and affordable to extravagant, expensive and barely believable. In the former category, we were particularly impressed with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. The laptop is packed with useful features like a 360-degree hinge, built-in, 802.11ad/Wi-Fi and wired Gigabit Ethernet. Check out the hands-on over at TrustedReviews.com to learn more.
Longstanding PC manufacturer Hewlett Packard had some impressive looking hardware on display too. It’s stylish looking Spectre line of laptops were on show in both full HD and 4K varieties. WindowsCentral.com has a great little look at the range, so click here to learn more.
What’s the worst thing about working on your laptop? If you said “the fact I can’t take my two extra monitors with me”, then I salute you. Finally, it looks like there’s a solution for multi-monitor junkies that need the portability of a laptop. Extravagant PC manufacturer Razer showed off a prototype laptop that featured two additional screens which folded out to the left and right of the centre screen. It’s currently unknown if this prototype will make it into a final, finished consumer product. TheVerge.com has more information, if you’re curious.
We’ve long maintained that the traditional desktop PC is far from dead and CES 2017 proves that point once again. Desktop PCs were on show in all form factors, from traditional towers to tiny PCs that fit in the palm of your hand. Some PCs that turned our heads were
HP Sprout – HP announced a new version of it’s innovative machine. Sprout has been around for a couple of years now and it’s a really interesting product and one that shows just how versatile Windows is. Aimed squarely at creators and artists, the Sprout eschews the traditional keyboard for a huge, pressure sensitive touchpad, that also doubles as a second screen. What’s more, the computer has a 3D scanner built in, allowing users to hold and scan objects into the computer with ease. HP have more information on this innovative PC on their website here.
HP Envy – Also from Hewlett Packard was this super stylish looking all in one PC with a 34 inch curved screen. The machine comes in a variety of configurations, sporting Seventh-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 CPU options and fancy-pants Bang and Olufsen speakers.
Intel NUC and Compute Card – PC processor manufacturer Intel also released several new machines in its NUC (Next Unit of Computing). These mini-PCs are designed to be used, well, anywhere you might want a mini PC. They can be a small but powerful little desktop system for an office or bedroom, or they can be re-purposed to act as network firewalls, storage controllers or much more. The new versions come with a new chassis and faster Intel CPUs. ZDNet has the low down here.
If you thought the NUC was small, you will be amazed at the new Intel Compute Card. This tiny PC is barely bigger than a credit card, but manages to cram in a full PC with an Intel CPU. Aimed primarily at the “Internet of Things” and smart device markets, the Compute Card launches later in the year. Intel have more information here.
Elsewhere on the show floor
CES wouldn’t be CES without some weird and wonderful gadgets and 2017 was no exception. Robots were big at this years show, with robotic assistants, dogs, lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners all present. Our favourite device in this category was the “Laundroid”, a robot that automatically folds your laundry, you can see it in action here.
Tech savvy PC gamers were rejoicing at the announcement of the new HDMI 2.1 spec. Apart from support for insanely high 10K resolutions, the standard adds (long overdue in our opinion) support for gaming specific features. Game Mode VRR, to give it its official name, offers a “variable refresh rate”. When playing a game, the scene you see on your screen is being created by your PC in real time. Often this means that the PC or games console needs to draw an image that isn’t quite in sync with the TV, resulting in a tearing type effect. Technology has existed for a while that will counter this effect, but this is the first time it’s been standardised to work on consumer televisions rather than just expensive PC gaming monitors.
Speaking of gaming, there was a slew of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets on display too, with headsets from Lenovo, Intel and Dell, amongst others. Microsoft have promised extensive VR support in their next Windows 10 update, so it seems inevitable that many PC manufacturers will have a crack at this market. Whether the tech finds an audience outside of the hardcore PC gaming communities remains to be seen however.
Overall, CES 2017 found Windows and PCs in general to be in fine health. In these days of smartphones, smart watches and other portable tech, it’s clear that for many people the traditional PC isn’t the all in one social and internet hub it may have been a few years ago, but nevertheless, Window’s PCs certainly aren’t going away any time soon.