As CES kicks off this year, we're seeing a number of new products from companies that focus on two critical markets: ultramobile computer hardware and high-end enthusiast equipment. Acer is one of the first companies to announce its CES lineup, and it's revealing new hardware in multiple segments.
New 15.6-inch, Core M Laptops
Acer is leading with announcements regarding its new, 15-inch Chromebook hardware with an integrated 1920x1080 display. The company already offers several 13.3-inch options with a high-end 1080p panel, but all of these are powered by NVIDIA's Tegra K1 rather than an Intel processor.
The upcoming Chromebook 15 will be available in Core i3, Core M, and "next-generation Celeron" flavors. Acer claims that the new systems will weigh "just" 4.85 lbs, and doesn't give any pricing information. It'll be interesting to see if this higher-end Chromebook catches on -- it's significantly heavier than Acer's other Chromebooks, which typically tip the scales between 2.43 and 3.2lbs.
Chromebooks initially debuted as small (10 to 12-inch), lightweight (3.5 lbs or less) systems with relatively low-resolution displays and low-end hardware. Acer is clearly aiming for something different with this new product lineup – we’ll have to see if a new "luxury" Chromebook model emerges, or if the device's fundamental limitations make it a non-starter for most users.
G-Sync and Non-G-Sync Gaming Monitors
Acer is pushing out new displays as well -- the Acer XB270HU is equipped with G-Sync, a 1440p resolution, and offers an IPS panel, shown below:
Meanwhile, the Acer XG270HU is a standard monitor with thinner side bezels and the same IPS panel.
Acer calls the above a "frameless" panel, which it isn't -- you wouldn't want a bezel-less panel in any case, since the backlight lives in that space to start with. Other features of the XG270HU include a blue light filter (meant to reduce the insomnia caused by exposure to blue-wavelengths), Acer's "ComfyView" technology that reduces light reflection, and full support for emerging features like HDMI 2.0.
Gamers looking to have their cake and eat it too, unfortunately, won't be able to do so with the G-Sync-enabled XB270HU. The HDMI 2.0 support, ComfyView, and blue wavelength filter systems are apparently reserved for the non-G-Sync display. G-Sync, of course, is the next-generation display technology that NVIDIA has been talking up as opposed to AMD's preferred method and now-standardized method, FreeSync.
FreeSync vs. G-Sync should be an interesting display war for 2015, with both standards debuting in wider availability (G-Sync has a lead in this regard). Some companies are opting more for one technology or the other, but it's too early to tell which will end up as the dominant standard.
New 3D Camera
Finally, there's an upgrade for Acer's Aspire V Nitro. The 17-inch Nitro is already a midrange gaming laptop with a GTX 860M and a Core i7-4710HQ chip, but it's getting a further boost with the addition of a 3D RealSense camera. This camera will allow for 3D scans of objects facing it, and can be used with certain 3D printers as well.
This is the kind of edge-case that may appeal to certain users but isn't likely to prove hugely popular. Regardless of the long-term potential for 3D printing, the technology is still in its infancy, and features like biometric sensors and facial recognition as a password are still relatively unpopular compared to password authentication (not to mention security-compromised in certain instances).
Acer's biggest bets this year are on Chromebooks and new monitor technology, but this split focus between the budget market and the high-end enthusiast mirrors where most of the market is headed in general. Gaming laptop sales have boomed even as the market as a whole has taken a walloping from tablets and other mobile devices, implying that its the middle customers who find that a tablet or phablet can meet most of their computer needs and are potentially transitioning away from regular system purchases.