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The Hottest Products of CES 2011
Date: Jan 10, 2011
Author: Dave Altavilla, Marco Chiappetta, Jen Johnson, Mat Miranda
The Tablets of CES 2011
This year's Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Nevada offered some of the most exciting product announcements we've seen in any previous CES show thus far.  The past three years' CES shows have been rather snoozy, to be honest, with the economy taking its toll on product design investment and innovation.  However, this year's CES showed great promise of not only emerging technologies and product innovations but with the sheer number of announcements and the notable increase in attendance (as well as city traffic, which was a nightmare), it was all a very encouraging sign of the health of our nation's economy and that we're finally on the up-tick. 

Regardless, we took time here to wrap-up our show favorites from the major players, in this Hottest Products of CES 2011 showcase.  These were the stand-outs in our opinion, in a sea of technology deep and wide enough to make any self-respecting geek grin from ear to ear.

Asus Slider and Transformer Tablets:
Is it a tablet? Or a notebook? The Eee Pad Slider is a little of both and features a 10.1” IPS touch-screen, but also a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Powered by a dual core NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC, it also sports built-in digital cameras on the front (1.2MP) and rear (5MP) for video chat and digital photography. Mobile users will appreciate the Android 3.0 operating system, though the demo we saw was based on FroYo 2.2, since Honeycomb isn't quite ready for prime time obviously.  There were a number of slate manufacturers at CES in fact, tapping their feet impatiently in anticipation of Google's upcoming tablet OS. If you want something with a bit more spacious keyboard an convertible netbook feel , Asus is also working on the Eee Pad Transformer. With a slim lightweight design and 10.1” capacitive touch-screen, it is for people who want to enjoy multimedia on the move, but still want to have a full computing experience and access to the web, email and other productivity applications.

Asus Slider Android Tablet - Click for high res.

An optional docking station turns the Transformer into a full-fledged notebook with a QWERTY keyboard for desktop use.  Battery life is projected to offer as much up to 16 hours, since both the screen and keyboard have their own discrete batteries. As with the Slider, front and rear digital cameras make for easy video chat and picture taking.  The entire HH team that attended was definitely jonesing for a Transformer.

Asus Demos Slider Android-Based Tablet PC

With a slim lightweight design and 10.1” capacitive touch-screen, it is for people who want to enjoy multimedia on the move, but still wish to have easy access to the web, email and other productivity applications. An optional docking station turns the Transformer into a full-fledged notebook with a QWERTY keyboard for desktop use, while extending battery life up to 16 hours. As with the Slider, front and rear digital cameras make for easy video chat and picture taking.

Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid Tablet Netbook:
Lenovo’s new IdeaPad U1 Hybrid is a 2-in-1 device that combines a slate with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and Android with a keyboard base and full Windows 7 functionality driven by an Intel Atom processor under its hood. The slate portion of the U1 Hybrid has a 10.1-inch panel and feels smooth and solid in your hand. The base unit turns the slate into a netbook with 92% full-sized keyboard.  It's sort of the best of both world for the ultra-portable crowd, considering a thin-and-light notebook but augmenting with a tablet solution as well.  When detached the switch to Android is seamless and though our demo was running 2.2, we're told Honeycomb will be available upon Google's release.

Although we won’t see the IdeaPad U1 for a little while here in the States, we’re definitely anxious for this baby to hit the market. China pricing for the U1 Hybrid is right around $1300, and it sounds like it will be about the same when it hits our shores.  We're hopeful Lenovo will see clear to sharpening the pencil on that pricing though.

Lenovo's ThinkPad U1 Hybrid - Netbook/Tablet Extrordinaire

Lenovo Demos The U1 Hybrid for us behind closed doors...
EVGA GeForce X2, Corsair SP 2500, G1-Killer
GIGABYTE G1-Killer Motherboards:
GIGABYTE showed off an array of high-end motherboards targeted squarely at hardcore gamers at CES. GIGABYTE’s G1-Killer line of motherboards as they are known sport a number of features and aesthetic touches that not only set them apart from more generic boards, but address specific wants of many gamers.

The G1 Killer line of boards will initially consist of three X58-Express based products for Socket 1366 Intel Core i7 processors. The boards sport a black and green color scheme meant to conjure images of military equipment, with heatsinks that are designed to look like the clip and barrel of an assault rifle. In addition to the unique aesthetics, integrated Creative Labs X-Fi 20k2 audio processors (except for the G1.Guerilla) provide high-end integrated audio. And integrated Killer 2100 network controllers provide better ping times and throughput than other el-cheapo integrated NICs.


The GIGABYTE G1.Assassin, G1.Sniper, and G1.Guerrilla. And Mat With A Gaggle of Hotties.

Other accoutrements include a ton of USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, amplified front panel audio outputs, and easy 1-touch overclocking controls, among numerous other features. All of the G1.Killer boards also sport GIGABYTE's Ultra Durable 3 technology, which means they're outfitted with Japanese Solid Capacitors, 2x Copper PCBs, and Ferrite core chokes with higher energy efficiency compared to more common iron core chokes and Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs for reduced power consumption and heat output. We should also note that the audio channels use Nichicon MUSE ES series and MW series Bi-Polarized audio capacitors on each channel--Nichicon MUSE caps are typically reserved for high-end audio components.

Corsair Gaming Audio Series SP2500 High-power 2.1 PC Speaker System:
Corsair had an excellent set of PC speakers on display at their booth that is sure to be a hit with enthusiasts that don’t have the room for a true multi-channel speaker setup. The Corsair Gaming Audio Series SP2500 High-power 2.1 PC Speaker System offers exceptional sound quality and sports a number of features that help set them apart from basic, amplified PC speakers.

Let’s start with the satellites. Each satellite speaker features a 3” midrange driver and a custom-designed 1” ferrofluid-cooled, silk dome tweeter. And each driver in the satellites is paired to its own Class-D amplifier. In addition, the system uses dynamic digital crossovers, so the midrange driver and tweeter are fed only the frequencies they are designed to reproduce, at power levels they are designed to handle. The combination of dedicated amplifiers with digital crossovers results in excellent reproduction and virtually any volume level.

Corsair Gaming Audio Series SP2500 High-power 2.1 PC Speaker System

Click To Enlarge

Moving on to the subwoofer, the relatively large sub enclosure uses a fourth-order closed bandpass design with a tuned port and an 8” driver. The design limits frequency response somewhat, but helps minimize distortion. In the less-than-optimal environment of the show, the bass coming from the Corsair Gaming Audio Series SP2500 system was impressive.

The Corsair Gaming Audio Series SP2500 speakers also include a control pod with a small color LCD. In addition to altering the volume (obviously), the control pod can dynamically adjust the DSP programs and EQ curves for late night listening, environment simulation, and optimal enjoyment of games and movies, etc.

Total output of the system is rated at 232 watts, measured via the FTC “RMS” method. Corsair states the wattages are the result of sine wave continuous average power output measurements and not “peak” or maximum power output, which can sometimes be misleading.

EVGA's Unnamed Dual-GeForce GPU Powered Graphics Card:
EVGA had a very interesting video card tucked away in a remote corner of their suite at the Wynn Hotel; a dual-GeForce GPU powered behemoth that’s mostly likely being prepped to do battle with AMD’s upcoming “Antilles” product, otherwise known as the Radeon HD 6990.

Details were scarce regarding this dual-GPU powerhouse, and a couple of reps from NVIDIA wouldn’t even acknowledge its existence, but there are some details we can glean just by checking out the pics.

Click To Enlarge

The card you see pictured here will most likely be a new member of the GeForce GTX 500 series, but exactly which GPUs are used on the card was not disclosed. Considering the fact that there are only two 8-pin power connectors on the card and that only four memory chips per GPU are visible on the PCB, it suggests a 256-bit memory interface and power requirements far lower than pair of GeForce GTX 570s. There are also far fewer surface mounted components behind each GPU than a typical GF110-based card, so we’re going to guess that this card features an as-yet-unreleased GPU in the GeForce 500 series that will likely replace the GF104 currently used by the GeForce GTX 460. If you remember, the GF104 used on the GTX460 doesn’t have its full complement of shaders enabled, so it’s likely NVIDIA is prepping a revision of the chip that can reach its full potential—as the company did with the GF110, which was basically a revamped GF100.

The card features a custom designed 3-fan cooler and its output configuration can accommodate up to four displays. And since this is essentially SLI on a single-card, NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround implementations should be possible. So when can we expect to see it hit the streets? The EVGA contact told us it would be available before March. We’re hoping to have more details on this puppy in the coming weeks.
QuickSync + Discrete, OCZ Z-Drive R3, MSI Big Bang Marshal
OCZ Z-Drive R3 PCI Express SSD:
Another hot product at this year's CES was the OCZ Z-Drive R3. This next-gen Z-Drive sports RAIDed SandForce controllers and a significantly revamped design with a smaller footprint, newly designed heatsink, and an integrate Super-Cap, which can supply power to the card in short bursts to give it enough time to complete a write operation in the event of a power failure.

Other noteworthy features of the OCZ Z-Drive R3 include a PCI Express Gen2 x8 interface and MLC or SLC NAND flash memory options, depending on the intended application. Capacities will be avaialble ranging from 150GB to a whopping (for solid state storage) 1.2TB.

WIth up to four SandForce SF-1565 controllers and thier associated NAND running in a RAID 0 configurations, the OCZ Z-Drive R3 is expected to offer read speeds up to 1GB/s with 950MB/s writes and 135K IOPS (4K Random Writes). A full size form factor is also planned that will reportedly offer up to 250K IOPS. But don’t take our word for it—listen to what OCZ had to say about the Z-Drive R3 during our demo…

Intel Sandy Bridge Graphics and QuicSync Working With Discrete GPU:
Within a conference room behind Intel's booth, we got a first hand look at Intel's latest refinements with their recently launched Sandy Bridge processor with integrated graphics. One question that some of you have been concerned about is if Sandy Bridge will allow users to access the chip's Quick Sync video encoding engine if there is a discrete GPU in the system and only a single monitor is used. This is a common configuration in both the desktop and notebook space obviously, with solutions from various OEMs that include the likes of NVIDIA Optimus, etc.

Surprsingly, Intel has been spending resources with third party developers like Lucid Logix who has been developing middleware that will allow access to both discrete GPU resources as well as Intel's Quick Sync video conversion engine simultaneously, when a single monitor is attached to the system (Quick Sync can currently be used with a discrete GPU when the Intel HD Graphics are the primary display and both have monitors attached). Dave from Intel took us through a demo of a system with Lucid's middleware setup with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 and Sandy Bridge chewing on their own workloads simultaneously. Have a look above.

MSI P67 Big Bang Marshal Motherboard:
If you’re looking for something big, then we’ve found something that just might pique your interest. With an XL-ATX form factor, the MSI announced the Big Bang Marshal at CES 2011. It joins only two other motherboards to hit this particular weight class: the EVGA Classified 4-Way SLI and Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD9. And with all this extra real estate, manufacturers are able to load up the PCB with even more options for extreme enthusiasts who utilize multiple graphics cards.  

While the previous XL-ATX boards feature Intel’s X58 chipset, the Big Bang Marshal is MSI's flagship P67 model. With 8 PCI-E slots, 12 USB 3.0 ports, 4 SATA 6Gbps connectors, and 3 BIOS chips, this is easily one of  the most feature rich P67 motherboards we’ve laid our eyes on. Look for this monster to be out in the middle of Q1, accompanied by an XL price tag. 
Motorola's ATRIX and Samsung's 4G LTE Smartphones

Motorola ATRIX Smartphone:

Motorola’s ATRIX smartphone claims to be the world’s most powerful smartphone. With its dual core NVIDIA Tegra CPU as well as 1GB of RAM, this phone definitely has some power. Other key specs include a 4-inch QHD display with 24-bit color graphics and a resolution of 965x540. The ATRIX also has 16GB of internal storage as well as the ability to add 32GB via the microSD expansion slot.

The phone runs on Android 2.2 along with MOTOBLUR. As you can see in the video below, the ATRIX uses its GeForce class GPU to deliver a better gaming experience:

Motorola is making sure this power is put to good use, too, by offering a few accessories such as the Laptop Dock that essentially makes this phone act as a laptop-like device. The dock itself is quite thin and lightweight, weighing just 2.4 pounds. When browsing the web from that ATRIX and Laptop Dock, you’ll also get the functionality and convenience of a full Mozilla Firefox 3.6 browser. The phone will charge while it’s docked and Motorola claims you’ll get up to eight hours of battery life from the dock.

Motorola’s HD Multimedia Dock also extends the functionality of the ATRIX with its three USB ports as well as an HDMI port. With these ports, you can easily connect a keyboard, mouse, speakers, and an HDMI-compatible monitor or TV.


Samsung 4G LTE Smartphone:

Samsung’s new 4G LTE Smartphone is looking hot as well. This phone doesn’t have an official name as of yet, but it has all of the right specs including Android 2.2 and a brilliant 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus touch screen display. Other key specs include a 1GHz processor as well as a rear-facing 8 megapixel camera and a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera.

As its name implies, this smartphone will support Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE mobile broadband network, which will help you make good use of the HTML 5 web browser. With LTE connection speeds, you’ll also be able to enjoy Samsung’s Media Hub to watch movies and TV episodes.

Click to enlarge

Samsung and Verizon Wireless haven’t announced an official name or availability for this smartphone, but it’s definitely one we’ll be keeping our eye on after having some hands-on time with it at CES.

Good Times and the Wrap-Up
Perhaps the best part of CES every year for us, is catching up with good friends that we don't get to see often enough.  Here we are with team OCZ.  Unfortunately, HH Team member Jen Johnson isn't in this team photo with OCZ Technology that we took at their swank party at the Aria's Deuce lounge in Vegas.  We'll add more pics to this page if we can, as we get them pulled together from various spy cams.

Mat, Marco and Dave, flanked with Team OCZ members. Thanks Jess, Ryan, Alex and Lisa!

Dave and Jen in the press room... Day 1, sans baggy eyes and pasty complexion...

Dave, Mat, and Marco at dinner with friends from Asus, Intel, and Western Digital

Good times, as always, in Las Vegas, but it always seems to fly by so fast.  Until next year, Viva LV!  And to our manufacturing friends keep the Hot Tech goodness flowing!

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