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CES 2009 Highlights and Photo-Report
Date: Jan 13, 2009
Author: Marco Chiappetta and Dave Altavilla
Intro, Intel and BFG

On our yearly jaunts to the Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, we meet with numerous companies and see a myriad of products--some we can, and some we can't talk about--in what is always an absolute whirlwind of a trip. This year was no exception. Although the show itself wasn't quite as big as it has been in previous years in terms of attendance, it was nevertheless loaded with cool products and technology that filled not only the Las Vegas Convention center, but multiple surrounding venues, hotels, and suites all along the strip.

We're certain many of you would love to attend CES for yourself, but can't for various reasons. So, we've decided to bring a part of the show to you, and highlight some of the cool stuff we saw while there.

Intel's Francios Piednoel Demos Deep Viewer on Core i7 at 4.6GHz

First up is a short video taken in Intel's second-floor media room. Of course, Intel's booth was filled with numerous demos for WiMax, Centrino 2 notebooks and Atom based netbooks, MIDs, Core i7 gaming, and a handful of other products. One of the coolest items on display in Intel's booth was a convertible Classmate PC, powered by an Atom processor. The screen could rotate to convert the mini-notebook into a tablet PC. And because it's built around the energy efficient Atom, battery life is much better than the original Classmate PC.

While Intel didn't launch any major new products at this CES this year, they did show off an interesting application called Deep Viewer to members of the press. In the video above, Intel's Francios Piednoel explains what Deep Viewer is and demos it on an overclocked, water-cooler Core i7 rig humming along at a cool 4.6GHz.


BFG's Phobos Gaming System

In addition to showing off their Ion SFF platform, GeForce graphics cards, 3D glasses, and numerous other products, NVIDIA had a number of partners in their booth with various items on display. One of the most interesting was the upcoming BFG Phobos system pictured here. We have posted some information on Phobos in the past, but to see it live is to truly appreciate what BFG is trying to do.

The Phobos is BFG's very first full system offering. The company plans to market the Phobos as a true boutique system with a slick custom enclosure, that features a front-mounted touch screen, slot-load optical drives (including a Blu-Ray option), and the highest-performing hardware available. Aside from offering the high-performance PCs, BFG also plans to offer unprecedented levels of service, with in-home, white glove installation and maintenance as an option. The systems are powered by Intel processors and NVIDIA graphics cards, and the touch-screen on the front can be used for numerous functions, including hardware monitoring, media playback, or even powering the system on and off. The current plans are to offer Phobos systems at $3000, $5000, and $8000 price points, depending on the configuration options and level of service chosen.

MSI and Seagate

MSI used CES 2009 to unveils a slew of new products ranging from an all-in-one type desktop PC to a sleek netbook that takes some styling cues from the Macbook Air. 




MSI's Wind NetOn all-in-one systems feature widescreen, 16:9 aspect LCD screens and are built around Intel's dual-core Atom 330 processor, coupled to the 945 chipset, DDR2 memory, and 250GB SATA hard drives. The systems also feature built-in webcams, slim-line optical drives, and a dock to store the keyboard when not in use, to free desk space and minimize clutter.

Also on display were MSI's colorful MS-9A08 Wind Box PCs, which feature tiny enclosures that can be mounted to the back of any LCD that has standard VESA mounting hardware. The units pictured here used the Intel G45 chipset and could support 45nm Core 2 and Celeron processors. MSI's GT series gaming notebooks were on display too, running the upcoming games Mirror's Edge, as were various Wind U-series and the new X-Slim series netbooks. Lots of cool stuff to see in MSI's booth. 


We also made a stop in Seagate's booth to see what they had in store. In addition to a slew of desktop and mobile hard drives, Seagate was showing off their new FreeAgent Theater device. The FreeAgent Theater connects directly to a TV and works in conjunction with Seagate's FreeAgent portable hard drives, to playback various digital media directly on the set. It connects to the TV via S-Video, Component or Composite cables (no HDMI unfortunately) and the FreeAgent drives simply slide into a slot on the front. Whatever digital media is stored on the drive, can be viewed on the TV. The unit is capable of zooming into and out of pictures and videos, and can also automatically produce slide-shows using any directory of images with any audio files also saved in the folder.

Seagate was also showing of a new, user serviceable, dual-drive RAID capable NAS device bearing the Maxtor brand, and a host of set-top boxes and vehicle-based devices that use Seagate drives.

HP, EVGA, and Creative

There was a lot to see in HP's booth at CES. In addition to a multitude of current HP and Voodoo branded systems being on display, HP was showing off a number of new and conceptual products and designs. 





The large laptop pictured at the top is the HP Firefly concept. Aside from its obviously large size, the Firefly has a few other interesting features including a secondary monitor, situated just below its main 17" screen. The smaller 4.3" screen has a resolution of 800 x 480 and can be configured at a secondary display, just like having two screens connected to a desktop PC. This particular Firefly laptop was powered by an Intel Core 2 Extreme quad-core processor, Mobility Radeon HD 3870 CrossFire graphics, Creative X-Fi audio, 4GB of memory, and a 250GB, 7200rpm HD.

The Firefly is equipped with four speakers in addition to a subwoofer that resides under the wrist rest. To the right of the keyboard, is a multitouch-capable trackpad with a customizable backlight. At this point in time, HP has no plans to release the Firefly, but you never know. We did see Rahul Sood using one on his desk during a Skype conversation we had with him in the booth.

HP was also demoing their latest Touchsmart PC and talking about how the product has penetrated into new markets, like McDonalds for example, where customers can use a Touchsmart PC to customize their coffee order. A new HP Tablet PC was on display as well, as was the recently released Firebird--the follow up to the excellent Blackbird 002. The Firebird sports a miniaturized version of the Blackbird enclosure, but the system is based on NVIDIA's Hybrid-SLI technology to balance performance and power consumption. As you can see, the system is relatively small, and it's liquid cooled by a customized version of Asetec's LCLC cooling system. Notice that the Firebird's power supply is external, which helps keep noise down. HP had a number of Mini-Notes on display too, as well as a couple of their DreamColor monitors, that are capable of much more realistic color reproduction, which is vital for graphics professionals.


EVGA and Creative Labs

EVGA had their display set up in a gorgeous suite at the posh Wynn resort. In addition to showing off their new GeForce GTX 295 and GTX 285 cards, EVGA also had a new X58-based motherboards on display that had some interesting features. As you can see, the board's slot configurations gives users the ability to run three-way SLI, and still have room for an additional two expansion cards--in this case a fourth graphics card and an X-Fi. The board also has a unique cooling solution with a pulsating "E". Also notice it has a pair of 8-pin power connectors. EVGA also had some power supplies on display, but the specs weren't finalized and EVGA didn't specify a launch date. Reps did say EVGA plans to enter the enthusiast PSU segment, with competitively priced, high-performance offerings, however. We're just not sure exactly when that'll be.

Creative Labs made some noise at the show by announcing their new Zii ZMS-05 Stemcell Computing processor. The Zii is essentially a system on a chip. The processor will be used in everything from portable media players to render farms according to Creative. What you see pictured above is a 64 Zii processor array designed for 3D rendering (although the demo was running a video due to an unforeseen technical glitch) and the Zii development platform that used to test various software, interfaces, etc.

OCZ and Conclusion

OCZ has a wide range of new and existing products on display at CES. Although, the company wasn't on the show floor, they did put on a good show of their own in a suite at the Bellagio. 





OCZ was showing off their full line of memory products, including the new Blade series which will have a 6GB triple-channel kit capable of running at 2GHz, with 7-8-7-20 timings at 1.65v. The new Flex EX series was on display as well, which features slimmer water-blocks, that allow the memory sticks to be used in adjacent memory slots, unlike the original Flex modules, which were much wider and simply couldn't fit next to each other in adjacent memory slots.

OCZ also had their lighted Illuminati keyboard and few mice on display, including the aptly named Behemoth laser mouse which is designed for gamers with large hands. While we're talking about peripherals, we should also point out the upcoming Sabre OLED gaming keyboard. The Sabre features 9 programmable OLED buttons, in addition to a standard 109-key configuration, and lighted blue accents on both sides. Expect the Sabre to hit the market in the not too distant future for about $200--much cheaper than other OLED-equipped keyboards.

In OCZ's suite, we also saw a Hypersonic ATC system, packed with a Vertex II SSD RAID 0 array capable of 520MB/s read and 480MB/s write speeds. Those transfer speeds essentially saturated the PCI Express interface connecting the RAID controller to the rest of the system. With the Vertex II series SSDs OCZ will be creating what is basically a RAID 0 array in a single-drive form factor, to increase performance and capacity. OCZ also had a new UPS on display along with a new full-tower case design that should be officially unveiled soon.

We also got a chance to check out some new power supplies coming from OCZ, and their subsidiary PC Power & Cooling. As its name implies, the OCZ Eco 650 pictured here is a 650W PSU that's highly-efficient (think 85%+). And the upcoming PCP&P Silencer 910 is a 910W PSU, that pushes the company's quiet Silencer line of PSUs in the same high-power territory normally reserved for the flagship Turbocool series.

OCZ was also showing off an early prototype of a wireless Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA). The unit was essentially identical to the current, wired version of the NIA, but it used wireless USB technology to connect to the PC.

As is typically the case at CES, the PC and its related peripherals aren't center stage at CES, but if you knew where to look there was definitely some great technology to see.

We hope you liked our photo report from CES 2009 as much as we liked putting it together for you. If you're interested in getting more information regarding some of the hot products we've shown you here, stay tuned to HotHardware in the weeks ahead. We'll be evaluating many of them as soon as they're ready for primetime.

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