CES 2013 Coverage
Reviewed by: Bosco
Reviewed on: January 9, 2013
This year we have a much smaller crew at CES:
But it's not the size of the crew, it's how you use it.
ASUS had some interesting things to show off this year, with a heavy weight on the ROG (Republic of Gamers) series for high end enthusiast gamers and overclockers. The biggest find was the eventual release of the RAIDR EXPRESS PCIe storage card that we will hopefully at least see press releases by the beginning of Q2. There is no word on what we all want to know at this point as far as capacity, speed, controller design, etc. However, it has been promised to be better than "competitors". ASUS did mention that it was spending a lot of time making sure that the RAIDR would work in all boards and be painless in terms of configuration.
Next on the table was the VG248QE 3D monitor directed at gamers who really prefer the refresh rates of the 3D monitors with a more affordable look (though no dollar signs were put on the table). With a refresh rate of 144Hz and some pretty decent viewing angles, this 1920 x 1080 monitor might be something worth looking at for your next monitor. It even has an overlay menu designated to gamers for consistent crosshairs and built-in timers. ASUS is clearly aiming at the gaming market with products such as this.
The ARES II (ARES2-6GD5) is something that ASUS has kept under the radar – at least until now. It is the next 7970X2 on the market with an improved cooling design. Not only is the card two slots (rather than three), it's also watercooled with a mountable 120mm radiator. It does have CrossFire fingers, so if you have the methods to mount a second radiator, it can be done. Below you can see the minimal size fan and even with its "small" size, it was not too loud at all. Below the ARES II you can take another quick look at the RAIDR, but unfortunately ASUS is still hiding its details with a nice cardboard cutout to hide the circuit board. Either which way, the two together look pretty nice mounted for display (and actually running to show off the many monitors).
There were quite a few monitors showing off either 3D features or touch screen features for the new Windows 8 OS. The PA249Q was a middle ground monitor bringing back the 1920 x 1200 resolution for those of you have missed it with the replacement 1080. It gives you a bit more space for work and play.
The E2KM1l-Deluxe is another upgrade on the ASUS ITX board that even runs remarkably well on passive cooing alone. The active cooling can be cranked up for those of you who want to get the last bit of performance out of the little beast while gaming or streaming video to your DLNA-enabled devices. Full USB 3.0 support allows for fast external storage access and the newer Trinity graphics should allow for light gaming.
A little test bench was set up showing off the upgraded 990FX Sabertooth – the GEN3 R2.0 military grade board. It supports AMD's AM3+ for Zambezi and is technically the world's first AMD GEN3 PCI Express motherboard. It follows a lot of the appeal of the ever popular ASUS Sabertooth boards and will look quite nice in any new build.
The most entertaining item of show was the ASUS ROG TYTAN CG8890. Unfortunately due to ASUS's connections with companies in the US and respects for such connections, this beast is only going to be available to you Canadians. It has a one-click overclock button on a six-core Intel i7-3960X without even rebooting. You can press the button again and again back and forth between overclock and non-overclock – but to top it all off, the case actually has actuated panels that open up to allow for improved air movement. Closed, it's a simple glowing blue ASUS logo; press the button and the flaps open up showing off the inner orange and the massive number of cooling fans. It's pretty neat, but unless it comes to the States, it's Canadians only. (Sad Face)
The last bit to show off was the ASUS networking table. There was an arrangement of six items (only five were actually available to play with) including repeaters, USB Wi-Fi connections and just interesting network connections. They were fun to look at, but nothing really jumped out – other than the strange plug jack that acts as a night light and can play media via Wi-Fi, though I'm not sure I'd be too excited to have one.
Zalman had a couple of new CPU coolers, both of which received honors for Design & Engineering. In the photos below, you can see why. First up was an update to its CNPS LQ Series of self-contained water cooling units, the Reserator 3 or C.I Water Cooler. As you can see in the test rig below, like its siblings, it features a soft blue LED light on the water block to let you know the pump is functioning as it should. Though pricing has not been set just yet, its expected to come in around the price of the LQ-320, which is retails for $110. The other CPU cooler is a passive unit simply dubbed the FX100-Cube, though you can pop out the top panel and fit a 92mm fan if you so desire. Put simply, this thing is a beast. The test rigs both feature the new Zalman MS800 Plus mid-tower gaming case, with the "Plus" designation indicating that it features a windowed side panel and 92mm front fan, in addition to the three 3.5" drive bays supporting hot-swapping.
The last thing that caught our eye at the Zalman booth was the ZM1250 Platinum power supply unit. As the name implies, this unit is 80PLUS Platinum, for when 80PLUS Gold just isn't good enough for you. It features dual +12V rails, 4-way GPU support, and a modular design.
The first thing to catch our eye at the IN WIN booth was this absolute beauty of a case: the D-Frame. This all aluminum and glass monster is shipped completely disassembled to you to both save on shipping costs and to allow you to literally build your case from the ground up. Each piece of framework is aluminum and either anodized black (the motherboard tray and internal components) or powder-coated in extremely durable paint (the external tubular frame). Both orange and red frames were on display and the IN WIN staff were quick to point out that changing the color would be easy since the frame comes completely apart. Spray paint anyone? Both side panels are solid tempered glass and looked amazing. Pricing is projected to be in the $300 range when released.
Targeted at $65, the GT1 is aimed at the more budget-minded enthusiast that still desires great cooling performance and an aggressive appearance. The fully painted interior, along with the large side panel window, provide a stage to show off all your carefully constructed gaming parts.
Another high end case on display at the IN WIN booth was the H-Frame. $400 buys you a limited edition case built out of thick aluminum blades that literally has no walls to hold in any heat. The vertically stacked panels of aluminum are bolted together to provide structure and protection for whatever you fill the chassis with. Designed without reliance on case fans (because of thermal convection), the H-Frame should prove to be an exceedingly quiet case if you choose your components carefully. The case in the booth had a plexiglass panel on the left side, but the full retail case has yet another slab of aluminum that matches the right side panel.
IN WIN was also showcasing the G7 and GR One cases. The G7 is marketed toward the gamer who wants a simple, classy case without an aggressive appearance while the GR One looks to be styled similarly to the venerable HAF series from Cooler Master.
Also on display were a pair of mini-ITX cases intended for workstations, home theater PCs, and simply for those who wish to have a small and feature-packed computer. The K1 and K2 both have optional integrated monitor stands (with options for both single and dual monitors with VESA mounts), which allow for a very clean workspace.
Another set of eye-catching products at the IN WIN display was a solid, anodized aluminum mouse pad, aluminum iPhone stands, and aluminum iPad stands (though most tablets should fit just fine too). The Rocker Mat mouse pad feels almost like a weapon when held as it is extremely strong. The iBite (the iPhone stand) and the iSeat (the iPad stand) were also built from aluminum and felt extremely sturdy. Pricing was not mentioned for the Apple accessories, but the Rocker Mat is targeted at the $40 range, which is right in line with other full metal gaming pads.
The last thing we took a gander at in the IN WIN booth was its fine selection of power supplies. IN WIN builds its power supplies in its own factory, so these aren’t just units being rebranded with stickers and paint. The first line of interest is the GreenMe series of power supplies. Capacities range from 550 watts up to 750 watts and all of them are 80 Plus certified. The second set of power supplies were odd form factors that most of us will never really touch, so we didn’t really ask too many questions about them (sorry guys). The ASP is a secondary power supply designed to bolt up to a 5.25" bay and supplies 450 watts of clean power to your GPUs, as well as providing four amps of five volt USB power to charge your high-current USB devices. The last in the lineup is the Commander III (Desert Fox) series of partially modular power supplies designed to cater to the hardcore gamer in all of us. Power output ranges from 600 watts all the way up to 800 watts.
Lian Li always has some nice looking chassis with nice aluminum builds. There is quite the variety in the smaller case market than most companies have. There are lots of options for home theater, NAS boxes or whatever you desire. We started with some of the smaller chassis: the PC-Q27 is an upgrade from last year's model, the PC-Q25. It supports ITX motherboards and still has enough room for an optical drive. There are two USB 3.0 ports on the front for quick access and an overall clean look. Inside the case, Lian Li has a minimalist approach to motherboard mounting, which is a feature that is actually across the board for all the new cases. A simple two strips support the motherboard, allowing for extra airflow behind the motherboard tray and easy access to the CPU backplate for mounting low-profile CPU coolers. With both side panels off, there is quite a bit of room to work (even in such a small place).
The PC-Q28 is another upgraded model from last year, supporting ITX builds. It is slightly fatter than the PC-Q27, but still about the same height. It allows for an external drive bay on the front, as well as two audio ports and two USB 3.0 ports. Pulling off the side panel reveals room for six drives in two removable three-drive caddies. Everything is held together with thumbscrews for quick and easy building.
The PC-AO2 steps up to the more mid-tower sized chassis, which suits more of you out there for gaming and overclocking. We missed a shot of the front of the case, but you can at least take a good look inside. It has pre-mounted fans in the top and front of the case to provide cooling and a neat cutout with filter at the bottom of the case for PSU exhaust. You can again see the simple mounting rails or the motherboard allowing extra air flow across the back to the board. Opened up all the way, you can see the easy mount for the single external drive up top and the quick bay at the bottom to hold three HDDs. There's quite a bit of room in here for the actual size of the case.
The PC-X3 was an interesting case on the new product line for Lian Li. It starts to have a more enthusiast feel to it with the looks and design. It has more angles and raised parts, giving it a very subdued HAF appearance. It really caught our eyes as it looks a bit more like the cases we generally tend to follow. This case has support for full ATX motherboards and can support up to eight PCI-e slots in the rear. The inside appears massive after looking at all the smaller cases and has a lot to offer. It is all aluminum still, but actually is anodized black rather than sporting the typical raw aluminum look (however, the raw look may be an available option once released). There is room for three external drive bays and has the two three-bay drive caddies (only one here is removable). With dual fans on the front and a rear fan in place, as well as support for 120mm radiators up top, this case is definitely a step in the right direction.
The PC-A18 was next to be introduced on the ATX support side. It appeared to combine the enthusiast market with the simple Lian Li look using ribbed ventilation on the front. The innards follow much of the last case with the removable drive caddies and three external drive support. It also brings back the typical raw aluminum look many of you love from Lian Li.
The PC-V850 is the last of the new lineup from Lian Li in the larger case range. It supports E-ATX motherboards, allowing you to get an image of size in mind already. It's the largest case we saw from Lian Li today with two wheels in the rear to help move it about; just lift the front edge and it moves about like a car on a dolly. The side panels clip in with easy handles leaving the outside completely clean of thumbscrews. The front supports three 5.25 inch drive bays and has two USB 3.0 ports along with two USB 2.0 ports and HD audio. It's a pretty nice looking case from the outside.
The inside is where the PC-V850 really becomes impressive. Pull off the side panel and you are immediately greeted with a wall of fans (quite literally). Two door-like panels suspend fans across the front side of the case. Two are included over the HDD cages and two more blow across the motherboard and video card while leaving spots for yet two more fans. It's pretty neat how the fans swing out on the panels and give you easy access to the insides. There are nine 3.5 inch HDD bays ready for use and, though they aren't removable, don't take up space from the rest of the motherboard area. It looks like this case could be a lot of fun – perhaps an attempt at hanging radiators from the panel door.
That might have been the end of the big cases, but it wasn’t the end of Lian Li's new line up this year. Lian Li has stepped out of its norm to develop what it calls a more affordable case for the market. Rather than being made of all aluminum parts, as most of you know Lian Li for, it has been made with a mix of aluminum and steel parts. It makes the case a little heavier, but still provides the external Lian Li look. It wasn't the prettiest thing there and having the classic unpainted innards wasn't super awesome, but it is nice to see efforts to make a well loved brand affordable to all levels of group.
Just when we thought we were done with Lian Li, the rep brought out one more toy for us to play with; the PC-N1. Those of you who have seen some small box computers, this is a beauty of a case made of aluminum to better enhance that passive cooling. It is ready to hold the Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) when the spec is completely finalized. Looks like lots of potential for a nice unit you can stick anywhere . Overall it was a good run through the Lian Li booth and we're looking forward to some in-depth reviews of some of these awesome new cases.
Today Corsair is announcing a series of new products, as well as a few that have come to fruition through acquisitions in the past year. The biggest news out of the Corsair camp is the introduction of the Corsair Voyager Air, "the first all-in-one mobile wireless drive, home network attached storage, USB drive, and wireless hub." As a multifunction device, it is a truly mobile solution that enables users to access content when and where they need it. One of the biggest features is the ability to stream HD content to just about any device on the market, be it Apple, Android, Windows, or Linux-based. An app is available from both the Google Play site and App store for iOS products that allows the content to be accessed by up to five devices at a time, wirelessly. With a large lithium ion battery, it carries up to seven hours worth of up time for use when travelling. Available in 500GB and 1TB capacities, priced from $179 to $219, it provides a unique solution to a unique problem. For added protection, Corsair is offering colored silicon sleeves for that little bit of added individuality.
Corsair's Vengeance gaming peripherals see an update with the all new Vengeance K95 keyboard with full mechanical switches, individual white lighting, 18 macro keys, and the ability to set up lighting profiles. Vengeance M95 and M65 mice offer a higher precision 8200 DPI sensor and improved switches. The M95 is available in black and white with an MSRP of $79.99. The M65 comes in black, white, or green with an MSRP of $69.99 with availability by the end of January. The Vengeance 2000 wireless head phones brings Dolby 7.1 functionality by way of a software update coming in February. In 2012, Corsair acquired gaming peripheral company Raptor, which brings a new name to the US market that allows Corsair to deliver quality gaming peripherals at a lower price point.
Corsair's Flash Voyager GT Turbo will now be the "world’s fastest native USB 3.0 flash drive" with read speeds of up to 260MB/s. It comes with a brushed metal housing and improves the price point of large fast drives by eliminating the costs of a USB to SATA bridge. Suggested pricing starts at $179.99 for 128GB, $89.99 for 64GB, $49.99 for 32GB.
Corsair's recently released Dominator Platinum memory modules see an update with light bars that fire both upwards and downwards to illuminate the chassis. Priced at $29.99, the upgrade includes blue and white inserts and the installation tools needed to install them.
Plantronics had a new headset to show off at its booth this year. The premium Gamecom Commander is a tournament-ready headset with a noise canceling mic and noise isolating ear cups. The design is based off a product that Plantronics manufactures for military use and has quite a nice fit. You have the option of dual 3.5 mm plugs or USB for connection so they can be used on both your computer and devices on the go. An amazing carry case, and Velcro customizable tags (shown on the next headset) are included for all the abuse you can provide. All that comes at a hefty cost of $299.99.
The included case does look rather rugged with a nice locking carabineer to hook it on your bag or wherever you like. The headset itself looks comfortable before even putting it on. The cups have nice padding that also manage to block out a lot of sound on their own. The mic is easy to move up and down to position perfectly to ensure your friends and enemies can hear you well.
The cable on the headset is built well and is designed to withstand being run over with your desk chair again and again. There is also a coiled region of the cable that helps you from getting tangled up to begin with. An inline volume control is found at the bottom of this coil. The USB adapter for the 3.5 mm plugs is a built-in sound card so you don't have to worry about what hardware you are dealing with on the go when using friends' computers. The Gamecom Commander is definitely something to look for on the market soon!
The Gamecom 780 was also on display, but has actually already been released to the market. At a cost of only $79.99 they aren't quite as comfortable as the Commander (as expected), but are still quite nice. They feature Dolby 7.1 digital sound with a noise canceling mic. They also have the typical Plantronics boxy look and a neat orange USB cable.
The swiveling cups allowed us to lay them out on the table to show off both the storage capabilities as well as the Velcro labels mentioned previously. The little strips come with the Gamecom Commander and can also be purchased separately for use on any set. The 780 sported the DOTA 2 logo, but options of Counter Strike, MANN CO., Aperture Laboratories, and GAME COM were all available options.
Two of your favorite OCC staff members tried them on for good measure. ClayMeow (left) is wearing the Gamecom 780 headset while dorky Waco (right) is showing off the comfort of the Gamecom Commander headset. They both agreed the Commander was quite superior (which is quite expected with the cost difference). These two headsets are definitely something worth finding to test for yourself.
The PDP booth had an interesting product from Afterglow that really glowed with interest. The Afterglow Prismatic wireless headset is geared toward gamers, specifically the console gamers with support for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and Wii U, but of course PC gaming as well. The headset itself is white with black padding on the head and ear cup portions. The mic tucks away neatly and you really wouldn't know it was a headset unless someone told you. The mode switch allows you to select between three different audio options based on a color indicator on the mic. Blue provides you with the Pure Audio, which is how it would sound normally played through your speakers; red gives a bass boost on the music; green provides 3D expanded sounds. It's there to play with and really gives you quick control over how your audio sounds. The retail packaging shows off the headset a bit more and gives you a better idea of what the mic looks like tucked away there in the front.
The headset itself actually glows on the outside of the cups in a range of "prismatic" colors. You can choose the color to display or allow it to cycle through. It cycles through the rainbow of colors fading one to the next and has many options. Starting with a shot of pink the headset cycled through a few different colors available: orange, yellow-orange, and green. There are plenty more options and in general was quite fun to play with. Although you wouldn't likely see what color you were wearing on your head, it definitely adds that bit of customization we all look for and love.
Waco here sports the headset to give you an idea of how you'll look wearing them. Of course you won't have the pull-cord pulling on the headset like he did here, but he said they sounded good and really blocked out all the external noise. We all had a lot of fun playing with them – hopefully we'll have another chance to play with these some more. With ten hours on the rechargeable battery, impressive comfort, and quite nice sound, the Prismatic headset from Afterglow was quite the find at the PDP booth.
As is an OCC CES tradition, we got to sit down with President Robert "Razerguy" Krakoff for a private meeting at the Razer booth. Whereas last year Project Fiona was relegated to a glass cube, this year we actually got to use it, and along with that was the unveiling of its new name, the Razer Edge.
The Razer Edge is purported to be the world's first tablet designed for PC gamers, by PC gamers. Using the power of the Internet, Razer posted polls on Facebook, allowing fans to vote on the components they wanted to see in the device. For the most part, the majority vote getter for each component type was selected. Put simply, the Razer Edge is an impressive product, albeit a bit pricey. The Edge comes in two flavors: the base model and the Razer Edge Pro. The base model features an Intel Core i5 processor, NVIDIA GT640M LE GPU, 4GB DDR3, and a 64GB SSD. It's priced at $999.99. The Pro model is equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GT640M LE GPU, 8GB DDR3, and either a 128GB or 256GB SSD. It's listed at $1299.99, but with no distinction between the different SSD sizes. Both models feature a USB 3.0 port, an audio jack that supports both stereo out and mic in, a front-facing 2MP HD webcam, and 802.11b/g/n + BT4 Intel WLAN. The screens are 10.1" IPS panels sporting a 1366x768 resolution. Most importantly, the Edge runs a full Windows 8 operating system, which means all of today's popular PC games will run natively.
The Razer Edge features four different playable modes. Tablet mode is the standard mode, requiring no extra accessories. The caveat is that games would obviously need to support touch controls. The game Razer was showing off for this mode was Civilization V, which worked remarkably well - so well that you can see Waco's "oh my god, this is amazing!" expression in one of the images below. If you'd like a truer PC gaming experience, you can buy the optional keyboard dock for $199.99 and pair it with a mouse. For this mode, Razer was showing off RIFT. The next mode is what Razer calls "Mobile Console Mode" and is the one most of you are probably familiar with from all the Project Fiona photos in the past. The Razer Edge Gamepad Controller ($249.99) adds dual analog sticks, backlit D-Pad and A/B/X/Y buttons, and three trigger buttons for each hand. For this mode, Razer was showing off Dishonored, which looked outstanding. The last mode is referred to as "Home Console Mode" and features a docking station ($99.99) that adds three USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, a stereo out port, and a mic in port. This allows you to connect the Razer Edge to your HDTV, hook up two gamepads, and use Steam's Big Picture mode to play your favorite games. For this mode, Razer was showing off DiRT Showdown.
We were all very impressed, but the Razer Edge is clearly not a piece of hardware for everyone, as it would set you back a minimum of $999.99. Start adding in a few of the accessories and you're easily approaching the price of a decent laptop. Still, when you consider that a 64GB iPad costs $699, the price starts to make a lot more sense with all the additional features and support. You're never going to play Civilization V, RIFT, Dishonored, and DiRT Showdown on an iPad. There is a downside to all that heavy gaming though - battery life suffers. Though the Razer site doesn't list battery life at all, Robert stated it was roughly two hours with heavy gaming and 5-6 hours of general use, though you can buy an extended battery for $49.99 that supposedly doubles that.
Though the Razer Edge was clearly the star of the Razer booth, the company was also showing off two other new products. First up was the highly impressive Razer Sabertooth gamepad for use with PC and Xbox 360. Why were we impressed with a gamepad? While it looks like a standard Xbox 360 controller, from the top, it adds a bunch of extras that make it well worth the $79.99 price tag. First off, it adds two shoulder multi-function buttons and two removable two-way rockers underneath, providing four additional multi-function buttons. These six multi-function buttons can be programmed with any macro you desire, but in order to stick with Microsoft regulations, no rapid fire capabilities are supported. Though it may not seem like it, the rockers on the bottom of the controller are actually perfectly situated and are very easy to use for those with large or small hands alike. The Sabertooth sports an OLED screen on the bottom front, which allows you to program the multi-function buttons, adjust the sensitivity of the analog sticks, and save profiles. All the buttons are mechanical and to make transport easy, a carrying case is included and the 10-foot braided cable is detachable.
The last piece of hardware we took a look at was the Razer Orbweaver, a mechanical gaming keypad accessory. It features 20 fully programmable keys and an 8-way directional thumb pad. The keys are Cherry MX Blues with 50g actuation force. The hand, thumb, and palm-rest modules are adjustable to fit just about any hand size. The Orbweaver was certainly comfortable, but at $129.99, you really have to be a hardcore gamer to make it worthwhile, especially when you consider you can get good full-size keyboards for around the same price or even cheaper.
An interesting booth that caught the eye of the OCC crew was intellect motion. Focused on making gaming "healthier", the company brought along its newest technology that requires real work from the user to play a game. The company CEO claims that a 15 minute play session can burn the same number of calories as a McDonald's hamburger. The GameCube system works by strapping the user into a harness that restricts movement, but also requires the player to work against the restraints to control their in-game character. Also worn by the player is the SMotion sensor that allows for faster recognition of player movements. The IM Gun is also available for shooter-type games and integrates into the whole system for precise aiming control. OCC's very own ClayMeow took the system for a test run with the open-source game Xonotic, which features full GameCube, SMotion, and IM Gun support and after almost 15 minutes of fragging he was done with his workout session. This is certainly not something for personal use, as the cost is quite prohibitive at around $10,000. One of the reps mentioned that they're marketing it to hospitals, rehab centers, gyms, etc.
As promised, here are two videos that shows ClayMeow using the system and racking up a few kills in Xonotic:
Ice Dragon Cooling
Ice Dragon Cooling hit the scene at CES a few years back and really created a stir with its "better than water" water cooling fluid. This cooling fluid is filled with zinc oxide nanoparticles and Ice Dragon Cooling claims that it can evacuate heat 20% faster than straight distilled water, which allows for cooler components with the same size radiators and fans (or smaller radiators and fans for comparable temperatures to water). Ever since it was introduced, people have been clamoring for a black version of the fluid since the first iteration looks almost like milk. So this year at CES, the company brought a brand new nanofluid that is literally pitch black. The awesome color also comes with a great perk as it is actually even more thermally conductive than the older white nanofluid. That extra performance does come with a pretty hefty price though: it is incredibly electrically conductive. The Ice Dragon Cooling reps wouldn't say what the new nanoparticle was, but the OCC crew suspects it may be graphite. Ice Dragon Cooling did mention that in the case of any spill, it would need to be cleaned off of any parts it came in contact with.
Origin PC has teamed up with Ice Dragon Cooling for its new liquid cooled systems. To increase the performance of its self-contained water cooling systems, Origin had Ice Dragon Cooling design a new coldplate for the Corsair H100 system that features twisted pins (instead of microchannels) and center-die coolant injection (instead of cross-die flow) to maximize thermal effiency.
The original white nanofluid was on display pumping through a miniature water cooling loop to show that it will flow properly through even the most restrictive water blocks without issue.
The famed (and very useful) Kill A Watt meter has finally gotten an upgrade! P3 International showed up with the new Kill A Watt Edge power meter that no longer requires you to climb under your desk to see your current power consumption or energy savings. The new model is targeted at the $50 range and features a 4.6 foot extension for the display that allows you to place it on your desk to monitor power usage easily. Another long awaited feature is the ability to keep track of your peak power consumption so you will no longer have to stare at the display to find the highest value.
Brookstone unveiled a nifty little device that it claims can run your mobile devices for two weeks without plugging in. Named the Nectar, this portable power unit sports a USB port that can supply 500 milliamps of current to keep your devices topped off when away from conventional power sources. Brookstone does have a higher-current version in the works, but it currently has no information on availability or cost. The heart of the Nectar charger is a small fuel cell roughly the size of a C-cell battery. These cells are charged with butane (like a lighter) and produce power by filtering that butane through a small silicon power converter. There's nothing burning inside to produce heat or flame so it can be safely used anywhere. The FAA has even signed off on the Nectar for carry-on luggage! The small fuel cells are priced at a reasonably comfortable $10 each and should provide 10-14 full charges for typical mobile phones. The actual unit itself (which does come with a single fuel cell to start) will set you back a bit more at $300.
CyberPowerPC has been building custom built-to-order computers for some time now and has built up a reputation for building both at the high and budget range. Featuring brand name components you know throughout, the performance is going to be predictable. Having had the opportunity to visit with the guys from CyberPowerPC on more than one occasion, the work put into each build is nothing short of spectacular with cable management and liquid cooling loops that are the envy of many. With pricing to fit just about any budget, you can mix and match the parts you want to fit your specific budget targets.
This year they have updated the "Fang" Series Black Mamba by removing the top mounted micro ITX form factor server and storage, replacing them with a series of radiators from the XSPC-based Hydro II liquid cooling lineup. All with the goal of keeping the Intel Core i7 3970X, as well as the pair of NVIDIA GTX 680, cool with a factory overclock of up to 30%. As you can see, this setup uses a dual loop configuration to maximize cooling. The wire management and loop configuration are excellent. Red LED strips are used as accents to fill the case with a brilliant red, not pink as is so often seen when using red light. For the best cooling option, CyberPowerPC has teamed up with XSPC to deliver its Hydro II liquid cooling solutions, including bay reservoirs built for use with Laing D5 pump variants in both a single and dual pump configuration.
Spread throughout the room were rigs that show off the capabilities of the builders at CyberPowerPC, which represent the different gaming series builds the company offers.
High end gaming PCs are not all that CyberPowerPC is building at this point, with the move to small form factor and all-in-one PCs. It's developing an all-in-one PC that features a touch panel for use with Windows 8 and is packed full of enough computing and graphics firepower to run the latest games. Its Zeus SFF gaming system is about the size of current consoles and is packed with the latest name brand hardware for use as a gaming or multimedia PC.
As the market moves to portables, CyberPowerPC has the end user covered with both the Fang Book that features third generation Intel Core series processors and an NVIDIA GTX 600 mobile GPU that played Battlefield 3 with Ultra settings at between 55 and 67 FPS, which is impressive performance for a notebook. If a full-on gaming laptop is not your cup of tea, you can look to the Zeus-M Ultrabook also equipped with the latest Intel Core series processors and Intel HD 4000 graphics, up to 16GB of memory, and up to 600GB of solid state storage.
Our visit to ECS showed that the move to smaller form factor computing is well on the way. The company was showing off a series of barebones all-in-ones ranging from the 18.5 inch G18 to the 23.6 inch touch panel-equipped G24. What is interesting is that these units are built to use motherboards based on the Thin Mini-ITX form factor. A series of SFF form factor enclosures were displayed in a variety of sizes.
ECS was the only manufacturer we visited to show off a series of Thin Mini-ITX motherboards. These were all Intel-based solutions with a variety of chipsets that include H61, B75, Q77, and a board based on Intel's NM70 chipset. This board, the NM70-TI, is Windows 8 WHCK certified and features an integrated Celeron processor. A series of OEM tablet designs were on display too, with sizes ranging from seven to ten inches. As an OEM these will be shipped out to distributers to be branded.
This year without a lot of new chipset-equipped boards to show off, MSI has a small selection to look at with boards including the M-Power Z77 motherboard. Going forward the color scheming on boards will be consistent across the consumer lineup with Enthusiast boards seeing a more distinctive color scheme in blacks and greys instead of the standard black and blue seen over the past year. One new board shown off was the currently named (soon to change) X79A-GD45 Gaming that features eight DIMM sockets instead of four seen on some of the X79 product stack and is going to be IVB-E ready.
The Lightning model of MSI's video card lineup signifies this is the Halo design in the product stack. It's complete with a custom PCB, three part VRM circuit using military grade components, and its exclusive Twin Frozer cooling solution. On display was the N680GTX that features an 1100MHz base clock with a boost clock of 1176MHz on the GPU core and 2GB of onboard GDDR5 memory running at 15002MHz.
OCZ has a new focus and is better aligning a fractured product stack back into order to simplify the brand's offerings. On display were the latest enterprise and consumer products. The big show is the Vector series hard drives that feature OCZ's in-house INDILINX Barefoot 3 controllers. These come in both the standard 2.5 inch form factor as well as in a PCIe version sporting a pair of Barefoot 3 controllers on board. This PCIe version will come in sizes from 240 to 960GB and feature up to 1000MB/s read/write performance and up to 140,000 IOPs. Pricing will be in the range of $1.40 to $1.70 per GB.
NVIDIA's CES booths are always well worth a visit, and this year was no different. With no new graphics cards (officially) on the horizon, NVIDIA's booth this year focused mostly on the mobile side of things with Tegra 4, which brought Project SHIELD along with it. If you remember Tegra 3 from last year, Tegra 4 is basically a faster, yet more power efficient upgrade. Tegra 4 is still a quad-core CPU featuring an additional fifth "battery-saver" core to handle certain tasks, but this time they're ARM Cortex-A15 cores rather than the A9 cores in Tegra 3. In addition, the GeForce GPU has a whopping 72 cores. All this extra power, yet NVIDIA claims the Tegra 4 is up to 45% more power efficient than the Tegra 3, thanks to the second-generation battery-saver core.
Although the Tegra 4 will be available for use by third-party vendors, NVIDIA plans on showing just how powerful the chipset is with its Project SHIELD portable gaming system. Imagine taking an Android phone rotated in landscape and then slapping a gamepad underneath it, and you have a vague idea of what Project SHIELD is. It features the aforementioned Tegra 4, running the latest Android Jelly Bean operating system. The gamepad features dual analog sticks, your typical D-Pad and four action buttons, two shoulder buttons, and two trigger buttons. For games that don't support gamepad controls, the 5" 720p display is multi-touch, as you'd expect. On the back, you get a MicroSD slot, HDMI-out port, USB port, and headphone jack. And of course, no portable gaming system is complete without Wi-Fi. You can also use the 802.11n 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi to stream games wirelessly to Project SHIELD, including your Steam titles. The caveat is that you can only stream PC games if your desktop features an NVIDIA GPU. In fact, as of now, the listed requirements are a rather recent GTX650 or better for desktops and GTX660M or better for notebooks. You'll also have to run at least an Intel Core i5 or equivalent, 4GB of system memory, and Windows 7 or higher.
Project SHIELD is certainly a sweet little portable gaming device, but whether it's worth it is totally up to you. A lot of that will depend on the pricing, which NVIDIA has remained silent on. The Razor Edge is $999.99 for entry level, but it also does a lot more, running a full Windows 8 install. If Project SHIELD isn't priced around $300 or lower, NVIDIA may have a hard time selling these, no matter how impressive they may be.
The last thing we checked out at the NVIDIA booth was a playable 3D demo for Metro: Last Light, the highly anticipated sequel to post-apocalyptic shooter Metro 2033. It was a tri-monitor 3D Vision Surround setup running off dual GTX 690s. You can check out staff member ClayMeow playing it below, using a keyboard/mouse like a PC gaming vet - not any of that gamepad crap. Not surprisingly, the game looked absolutely gorgeous. If you'd like a brief rundown of what actually occurred in the playable demo, you can check ClayMeow's forum post.
When we visited Patriot this year, there was not much to see with the product lines pretty much stagnant, with no major revisions to its DRAM and Flash memory lines. The whole line-up was shown off in cases from the company's SDHC Flash cards to the latest Viper series DRAM modules. New introductions included the release of its Autobahn line of micro-sized USB 2.0 flash drives that come in sizes from 8GB up to 32GB for use with car stereo systems that support USB storage. The small form factor allows the device to sit flush against the front of the stereo to prevent it from being caught or snagged by an errant sleeve or cord.
Patriot's Gauntlet portable storage solutions, the Gauntlet 320 and Gauntlet Node, were shown off and proved to be a viable solution for portable wireless storage. The main difference between the two is that the Gauntlet 320 is factory-equipped with a 320GB 2.5 inch hard drive pre-installed, while the Node allows the user to install a 2.5 inch form factor drive of up to 2TB in size. Each features the ability to connect up to eight devices to it and stream HD content (720p) with up to five separate streams at the same time wirelessly. Equipped with a lithium-ion battery, the device has up to 5.5 hours of usability depending on the usage scenario. Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n is supported at up to 150Mbit transfer rate. USB 3.0 connectivity is used to transfer large data packages to the device. Patriot has a free to download application called Gauntlet Connect that is used to access the device from a tablet or smart phone running iOS, Android or Kindle Fire operating system, and is available at the applicable app store.
Mushkin had a few new items to display this year that look to add to the company's product stack. The first item we saw was a 1TB solid state drive that promises to see no slowdowns with incompressible data due to the use of dual SandForceSF-2281 SSD processors that come with an unthrottled-IOPS firmware. Additional specs include the use of a SATA 6Gb/s interface, MLC NAND, RAID support, Trim support, and a three-year warranty.
The latest DRAM modules feature Mushkin's new Stiletto low profile heat shield for the new Stealth Series of gaming specific memory. These modules will come in speed bins from 1866MHz in 2x8GB and 4x8GB kits, up to 2666MHz for 2x8GB kits, one of the highest speed bins currently produced. Look for a review soon!
We got to look at an almost-final version of the companies upcoming Ventura Ultra series high capacity thumb drives. This drive will come in 60GB, 120GB and 240GB capacities. Using an SF-2281 8-channel NAND controller, MLC NAND, and a fast SATA to USB 3.0 bridge, this drive will deliver up to 380MB/s Read and 325MB/s Write when run in UASP mode.
Last in line was Mushkin's Atlas series mSata drives. While an mSATA drive may not seem all that impressive, and for the most part have been limited to 256GB in capacity, Mushkin put together a way to break that barrier and pack up to 480GB into the form factor. By using a dual-PCB approach, the NAND is essentially contained on two boards that feature three interconnects for the data and power to pass through. An innovative solution to the capacity problem in the mSATA form factor to be sure. I have seen this in use with PCIe SSDs in the past, but not when used in this form factor. This small drive uses an unthrottled Sandforce SF-2281, controlling high speed MLC NAND to deliver performance up to 540MB/s Read, 425MB/s Write, and 78,000 IOPS (4K ran read), with an Access Time <0.1ms. All from a drive smaller than a Zippo lighter.
Currently, Mushkin has teamed up with Meteor Entertainment™ to provide a $25 game code for the new free-to-play game HAWKEN when you purchase select Mushkin products.
As usual, Thermaltake had a pretty large selection of new and existing products to show off. To open up, we got a look at the new Chaser series of cases that range in price from $79 to $139 with a range of sizes from mid to full towers. Each case includes full USB 3.0 support and improved airflow designs. Each of these chassis are ready and able to use Thermaltake's Liquid Cooling solutions from the Water 2.0 to the Big Water series.
Next up is another new case series that is more elegant and understated than you traditionally see from Thermaltake called the Urban series. Again these cases come in a variety of sizes to fit the widest group of users. With each model, you get unique features including sound dampening, LCS compatibility, improved cable routing with grommet openings, and over an inch of space behind the motherboard tray. The front panel, while looking solid, actually opens up and has a series of standoffs that allow a tremendous amount of airflow through the front panel.
Thermaltake has upped its cooling game with the latest air and water coolers on display. Its NIC, or Non Interference Cooling, designs are built using a Direct Contact heat pipe design that takes into account one of the biggest challenges we find when installing large air cooling solutions on the latest crop of motherboards - interference with our high performance memory modules. Using a more efficient design that can be made thinner, these cooling solutions come in single-fan and dual-fan packages with thermal ratings from 160 to 230 watts of dissipation. Thermaltake's Water 3.0 systems are based on Asetek's Gen 4 pump and cooling plate and come in 120mm and 240mm packages, with performance tuning to suit several different levels of cooling. Not to be outdone, Thermaltake still has its in-house designed Bigwater 760 all-in-one system with an improved pump assembly and water block.
The power supply lineup includes the EVO 2.0 series of 80+ Gold certified units with ratings from 750 to 850 watts. While rated conservatively, TT states that these units can comfortably run 100 watts over rated capacity all day long by using the OC feature. This increases the fan speed and changes the color from a cool blue to red so you have a visual indicator of the state you are running. All with the push of a button. The Toughpower Grand series is 80+ Platinum rated and comes with a stylized housing. Along with the power supplies were a series of rechargeable battery packs that can be used to extend the on time of your portable devices, be it just enough to make a call or to fully recharge your smartphone or tablet.
As you might expect, gaming peripherals were out in full force with a wide selection of headsets, mice and keyboards to represent the Tt eSports branding. The 3500dpi Sapphira and the 5600dpi Theron were shown off in a multitude of colors. Not to be left out, the Level 10M aluminum-bodied gaming mouse got into the color game as well.
The Meka G-series of mechanical keyboards were well represented with new designs that feature illuminated keys, new colors, and some with Cherry Black switches. Each keyboard features 1000Hz polling rate and up to 60 macro keys on the Meka G Unit. The Tt Shock series headsets are not new, but have an expanded color lineup to allow you to match your entire system. The BAHAMUT is an external sound solution featuring DTS Surround Sensation technology run through the USB bus of your system. ISURUS Dub in-ear gaming headphones feature a small inline mic and soft ear sleeves to go with the flat cabling that prevents kinks. Another new item this year was the Console One headset for use across the gaming spectrum with the PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. It features 40mm drivers, a noise canceling mic, and comes with the adapters needed for your system of choice.
As always, Cooler Master had a wide array of products on display that covered all its product stack from cases to cooling to peripherals. The first items we looked at were the CM Storm Quickfire series of keyboards that have evolved along the way with different looks and switch configurations. One new design features blank tops on the keys for that stealth look. If you forget how the keys are laid out you can always look to the side of the keys facing the user. A new robust Aluminum series of products was highlighted that is put together for the gamer. These items, which include a mouse, keyboard and headset, are put together so that you can customize them for your clan or team.
The cooling solutions on display included a new version of the Hyper 212 with improved fans and a new take on the V8 called the V8 GTS. The main difference here is the use of a large Vapor Chamber as the base of the heat sink to better manage the thermal load. Another new entry into the product stack is the Eisberg line of liquid cooling solutions. Cooler Master acquired the line just this past year and have made this line available as a viable entry into the all-in-one LCS market. Available with a 120mm or 240mm design, this solution also has the ability to expand out to a full-on LCS by changing the tubing fittings and radiator. The pump head uses standard G1/4 threads, has a window to monitor coolant level, and a fill port that could be equipped with some of the latest LED-equipped G1/4 thread plugs.
Not one to disappoint, Cooler Master had a slew of custom creations stashed throughout the room based on the company's latest case designs. Each one a work of art, they have to be seen in person to be truly admired.
Booth Babes with Staff
CES Final Thoughts
This might only be my second trip to Vegas and my second trip to CES, but I won't be shy – It just wasn't all that impressive this year. I was overwhelmed with the sight of the floor as it only appeared to be a swarm of low-end, ebay-esk cell phone cover booths. Getting past all the blinky lights and gawdy sequined iPhone cases there was a bit of "ruby" in the rough (not quite diamond material).
Razer had the "edge" with the Razer Edge on display and one for us to play with as well – it's a bit heavier than I expected but I can no doubt see one joining my collection in the next few paychecks. It was great to see Razerguy (Robert Krakoff – Razer's President) again this year and have a nice sit down to communicate from user to creator. Project Shield from NVIDIA looks a bit interesting as well, though lacks the same abilities as the tablet form the Edge has; however, the cost may speak to that. Unfortunately not being able to hold one – I can only share what the developers say "it's comfortable to hold" (though it doesn't look that way). There's a lot of neat stuff coming out soon and in the later quarters of the year as well (many which I cannot speak of ATM) so start saving up the moneys!
As always being with the OCC crew is half the fun. Hanging out with Clay was much like last year, minus the forks, but nonetheless just as gritty as dealing with him around here (so you can imagine). It was nice having Waco around this year (as it wasn't much fun just teasing him about not being there last year). Seeing the boss, Bosco, not sick in his room was great – but I think prize winner was the infamous Frank, snoring every night; you never remember how bad it is until you re-live it (sorry Frank – you know I love you!).
Anywho – this year wasn't a complete bust, but it was rather disappointing seeing the floor as it was. I understand the costs associated with the booth versus the suite, but it's much worse trying to hit all the suites than trying to hit all the booths. It's hard seeing big names off the floor listing; so I have to give props to some of my favorites who remained on the floor this year: NVIDIA, Razer, Lian Li, and Plantronics and even you guys at PDP (who have a former OCC lurker). However, I still extend my love to: OCZ, ASUS, CM, ECS, MSI, Thermaltake and Mushkin for at least being there to show off their newest and greatest items (some you all should be looking for coming up this year). All in all it was a lot of fun – it's always sad to go home, you only get to pick on the boss in person once a year…eh? But I'm all moved in to my new home, ready to review some more great stuff to share with all of you. Until then…BLUEPANDA! (insert dancing panda)/p>
It's amazing to think that this is my fifth straight CES. Even though it may not be as great from a computer hardware perspective as it used to be, it's still a very worthwhile experience, if for nothing more than I get to hang out with a few of my fellow OCC staff members. This year, I spent roughly 98% of the time with Amanda and Dave (Waco), perusing the show floor, hitting up parties, and eating an unhealthy amount of McDonald's.
When it came to the show floor itself, there may not have been many companies I was interested in, but there was still quite a lot of interesting products to see - if only I had the money to throw around. The Razer Edge is a mighty impressive device, but sets you back at least $1,000. NVIDIA's Project SHIELD is promising, but will probably also be more money than its worth. The H-Frame and D-Frame cases from IN WIN are two of the sexiest (and oddest) cases I've seen, but come with quite a hefty premium. All that being said, there were two products that were both impressive and reasonably priced for typical gamers: the Razer Sabertooth gamepad and the PDP Afterglow Prismatic wireless headset.
Before I wrap up, I'd like to extend my personal thanks to NVIDIA, Razer, and Cooler Master. Those three companies always treat OCC well at CES and this year was no different. Those companies aside, it's always remarkable how recognized OCC is by several companies and CES attendees and it always makes me feel good to know that there are people out there that follow us and trust us. When we visited PDP, a company we have no prior relationship with, the rep told us he was actually an OCC forum member that has lurked around for years. That was pretty cool.
So anywho, I hope you've all enjoyed the CES 2013 Coverage. A big thanks to Dave for allowing me to attend yet another CES and hopefully it's not my last.
What to say here? This was my first ever trip to both Las Vegas and to CES itself – I'm sure I looked like a wide-eyed tourist the entire time I was walking the show floor, attending meetings, and writing up articles. To be perfectly honest I was a bit disappointed with the number of products on the show floor as it seemed like almost every booth was showing off cell phone cases, cell phone chargers, or some other almost meaningless gadget that would be forgotten 30 seconds after being bought. Many of the large companies I expected to see on the show floor had private suites in the various hotels (because booth space costs have apparently been rising for years) so I missed out on some of the companies I really wanted to chat with.
That said – holy cow was it a lot of fun! The companies I did get to meet with (and there were so many I lost count) had a lot of exciting products and it was great to put some names and faces to the people who really drive the industry forward. The Razer Edge? Oh yeah, I want one now after playing with one even for a few minutes. The D-Frame by IN WIN probably went back to the company headquarters with a healthy dose of my drool all over it. There really were so many cool toys, gadgets, and technologies that I can't possibly sum them all up here without putting everyone to sleep. The most idiotic thing I saw though? An iPad stand attached to a training potty for kids – because we all know the first thing people want on their shiny new iPad is a bunch of toddler poo, right?
Overall I had an absolute blast and it was pretty awesome to finally meet at least a small portion of the crew that keeps OCC ticking. Here's to a larger crew for next year, eh?
Each and every year I go to CES it's a unique experience, this year was no different even with a smaller, but yet much more focused group. While this year we only saw a few marquee products such as NVIDIA's Shield the theme was mostly that we are in between major product cycles with not a lot to show. However we did see some interesting things from Corsair and Patriot with the introduction of the Voyager Air and the Gauntlet Node, a pair of self-contained portable storage solutions that can stream HD content wirelessly to 5 or more devices. CyberPower PC showed off more of their wares that truly inspire the imagination when it comes to custom builds, including a move into the portable space with gaming laptops and a new series of Ultrabooks. ASUS showed us some products that most likely will hit the market early Q2 that look to further define the ROG brand. Thermaltake and Cooler Master stepped up with new case designs and cooling solutions that were put together with plenty of user feedback. On top of that they both enhanced the already popular CM Storm and Tt eSports brands. Mushkin has a renewed focus and is putting together a solid product suite for the corporate and home user including a new thumb drive that pushes the speed limits of the form factor, a massive 480GB mSATA drive, 1TB SSD, and new Stiletto heat shield equipped high capacity DRAM modules.
It's not just the new products that you see each year but the ability to meet up face to face with those you interact with on a daily basis through phone calls and emails and spend the time even if it is just a short 20 to 30 minutes. Many thanks to the manufacturers who sat down with us and showed us what they have in store for 2013. I also have to thank the rest of the team for the long hours they put in to make CES happen; without them the days and nights blur into one long day. Until next year...
Overall I thought this year went great with the size of the crew that attended this year. Sadly this year just seemed to lack excitement. There just didn't seem to be a lot of new released product this year that caused a lot of chatter.
Nonetheless, the big story of CES that seemed to get the most buzz was NVIDIA's Project Shield, everywhere I went that's all anyone was talking about. The only other few things worth mentioning I can't talk about due to NDAs, but there are a few things I am looking forward to in 2013. So all in all it wasn't a huge loss just a lot less then we are used to seeing.
Overall the team did great and we made every meeting we were scheduled for, so my hat goes off to them for their hard work and dedication.
It is sad when it's time to go home since I don't get to see my crew very often, but after this past week, we all deserved to go home and get some much needed rest.
Until next year see you guys in the forums.
Dave aka Bosco