CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW: CNET editors cover the Next Big Thing
The lowdown on laptops and the dirt on desktops: CES 2005
By Justin Jaffe
(January 12, 2005)
Hunting down laptops and desktop PCs at CES this year, we split our time between the delirious labyrinth of the Las Vegas Convention Center, hotel suites on and off the strip, and the trailer-cum-flu-incubator that was CNET's headquarters. We saw some cool stuff at the show--products we were expecting, as well as a few surprises--but nothing quite revolutionary. Here's a quick recap of the highlights:
More media in 2005
We knew it was coming, and we weren't disappointed: Media Center PCs, both laptop and desktop, were in full effect this year. We saw a nice box from Alienware that offers a unique combination of high-end TV, gaming, music, and computing features, including software that lets you demo, buy, and download games--on demand--through the Windows Media Center interface.
Sony also brought out a pretty and pricey handful of new multimedia systems. Look for our complete CES coverage of Media Center systems from HP, Voodoo, MPC, and others.
Chips and fans
Powering many, if not most, of those new Media Center laptops will be the new chipsets that Intel brought out at the show. This next-generation Centrino platform, code-named Sonoma, will include a revised CPU, a new chipset (sub-code-named Alviso), and improved Wi-Fi capabilities. Slated to appear in many of the major players' laptop lineups this winter, Sonoma will bump frontside bus speeds to 533MHz and will add support for dual-channel DDR2 memory and graphics support for the PCI Express bus architecture. AMD also introduced its new Turion 64 mobile technology, which tweaks the Athlon 64 for superior performance, wireless capability, and battery life.
Processor manufacturer Transmeta, whose low-power CPUs are often featured in smaller form factor laptops and tablet PCs, announced plans to put its Efficeon into a batch of Media Center PCs in 2005. The low-heat Efficeon processor allows PC makers to go fanless--good for quieter living room systems--and use smaller form factors. ATI, Hauppauge Digital, InterVideo, Zedeon, and Zoran Corporation are all expected to bring out Transmeta-powered machines this year.
New jack city
One unexpected pleasure of CES was taking a look at laptops and desktops designed by newcomers to the PC game--new in the United States, at least. Best known for its computer displays, BenQ trotted out a full lineup of sleekly designed Joybook notebooks that will hit the market in the coming year. We got a brief look at some of Samsung's beautiful notebook designs, most notably the slick, ultraportable Sens Q30. X2, a new company in partnership with motherboard manufacturer MSI, announced an entire line of notebooks, and AOpen and Asus also showed new lineups for the new year. Expect to see even more competition in the already-crowded PC marketplace in 2005.
Hunting for bargains
We pledged to keep an eye out for bargain systems, and while we didn't notice a significant trend toward cheaper PCs, we did come across one worth mentioning. Sharp, who's brought us competitively priced ultraportables before, gave us a sneak peek at its new $1,000 thin-and-light. The white and glossy Actius MC24, an iBook-looking laptop if we've ever seen one, is a welcome addition to the new budget thin-and-light category, sure to be popular with PC users who want their laptops lighter and cheaper.
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