The real news at CES happens the day before the show actually starts, thanks to a marathon of back-to-back press conferences.
Asus tablets: More than meets the eye
It's no longer "press day"--think "press days." Asus kicked off the CES press conference docket on Tuesday, January 4, debuting four new tablets, including the Transformer (shown here), which includes a removable keyboard.
LG kicked off the CES 2011 press day with a bevy of announcements. The highlight of the mobile news was the Optimus Black. It promises a superbright 4-inch "NOVA display" in a very thin 9.2mm design. In fact, LG claims that it tapers down to 6.0mm to make it the world's thinnest smartphone.
Netgear debuted a host of new networking products, including its first 500Mbps four-port power-line kit, the Internet Adapter for Home Theater XAVB5004, a Wi-Fi alternative which offers HD video-friendly bandwidth over your home power lines.
Intel's Sandy Bridge technology was a long time in coming, but the chip behemoth finally unveiled the full details of its updated CPUs at CES 2010. Officially known as "2nd Generation Intel Core," the new chips aim to boost performance by grafting the graphics processor onto the CPU. It means hardware makers, especially of budget PCs, won't have to implant a separate graphics processor from rivals Advanced Micro Devices or Nvidia.
Nvidia touts Tegra 2 mobile chip, "Project Denver"
While Intel was focusing on its PC chips, Nvidia was all about mobile solutions. Its Tegra 2 processor will be showing up in more mobile phones and tablets, including the LG Optimus 2X. Meanwhile, its Project Denver will build ARM processors for desktops, servers, and supercomputers in collaboration with Microsoft, which is moving its next version of Windows to ARM.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft had two events on press day. Early in the day, it held a press conference to detail the technical plans for future versions of Windows. The big news: the next version of Windows will support system-on-a-chip (SoC) architectures, including ARM-based systems from partners Nvidia (the aforementioned "Project Denver"), Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments. The goal: more flexibility for Windows to be integrated into more portable post-laptop devices.
Just a few hours later, Microsoft was center stage again. This time, it was CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote address. Ballmer (who appeared briefly as an Xbox avatar) highlighted the Kinect's impressive sales during 2010. There was a smattering of Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft Surface news as well. But the presentation lacked any major new product announcements.
Read more: Microsoft's 2011 CES keynote (live blog)
Sharp's Galapagos tablet/reader has made some waves in Japan, and now the product is bound for the U.S. However, the American version may differ considerably from its Japanese predecessor; Sharp wouldn't yet confirm the CPU, screen size, or even the operating system of the U.S. models. Price was also not mentioned. Look for Galapagos in the second half of 2011.
Two new Casio products caught our eye. The Tryx camera sports one of the more intriguing designs we've seen in a point-and-shoot camera. The high-resolution 3-inch touch-screen LCD can pivot through its frame a full 360 degrees while the screen itself can rotate 270 degrees. And with its built-in orientation sensor you can hold the Tryx in your left or right hand and the picture will right itself.
Meanwhile, the company's Bluetooth watch isn't a phone--but it will talk to your phone, and display some relevant messages. Whether it's enough to satisfy Dick Tracy remains to be seen.
Samsung crammed enough products into its press conference to stock a trade show of its own. Among the highlights: the company's newest TVs boast superthin bezels, effectively appearing as all screen. And the Galaxy Tab--the only real iPad contender to date--is coming in a Wi-Fi-only model, for those who don't want to get tied to a cellular data plan.
Panasonic's press conference had a little bit of everything--in three dimensions. In addition to second-generation 3D TVs, many of the company's cameras, camcorders, and home theater products had a 3D angle as well. On the online entertainment front, the company's TV-based app store is getting a name change, from Viera Cast to Viera Connect--and it'll even have some downloadable games, to boot.
Not to be outdone by its arch-rival Panasonic, Sony reaffirmed its commitment to 3D with a bevy of new TVs, Blu-ray players, cameras, camcorders, laptops, and video games. To drive the point home, CEO Howard Stringer and the audience spent much of the press conference with their 3D glasses on.