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Wrapping up CES 2013: Wi-Fi going strong, SSHD emerges

CNET editor Dong Ngo sums up CES 2013 from the perspective of networking and storage.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
4 min read

Bye-bye, Las Vegas! See you next year!
Bye-bye, Las Vegas! See you next year! Dong Ngo/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Finally, CES 2013 has come to an end.

It's pretty much impossible for one person to experience the entire show, but from the perspective of my beat, which is networking and storage, here are the highlights.

802.11ac Wi-Fi made a strong appearance
802.11ac has been on the market for just about a year, starting with CES 2012. At this year's show, virtually all networking vendors, including but not limited to Cisco, Netgear, D-Link, Trendnet, and TP-Link, presented at least one networking product that supports this new and faster standard.

Furthermore, Netgear introduced at this year's show the first 802.11ac router, the D6200, that also has a built-in ADSL modem. For the first time, DSL users can get straight to 802.11ac without having to get a separate router or modem. On the other hand, D-Link unveiled the first router, the DGL-5500 Gaming Router, to be powered by the new 802.11ac chip from Qualcomm. The DGL-5500 comes with StreamBoost technology, which promises to be, by far, the best Quality of Service (QoS) feature to date. All other 802.11ac routers currently on the market run on the first 802.11ac chip that Broadcom unveiled last year.

The first Qualcomm-based 802.11ac router, the Gaming Router DGL-5500 from D-Link.
The first Qualcomm-based 802.11ac router, the Gaming Router DGL-5500 from D-Link. D-Link

WiGig is now the new Wi-Fi
WiGig, or 802.11ad, is a wireless standard that operates on the 60GHz frequency band and offers up to 7Gbps of wireless networking speed. For years, it was a separate standard from the existing Wi-Fi protocol. But starting with CES 2013, it's now part of the Wi-Fi ecosystem.

Prior to the show, the WiGig Alliance announced that it has merged with the Wi-Fi Alliance. And at the show, Wilocity, the biggest developer of 802.11ac, demoed the first product, the Dell Latitude 6430u Ultrabook, that comes with a built-in Qualcomm-based Tri-band Wi-Fi adapter. With this adapter, the laptop is able to support 802.11ac/n/g/a/b on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, as well as 802.11ad on the 60GHz band; in fact, all existing Wi-Fi standards.

The laptop can now connect wirelessly to an 802.11ad-enabled device at multigigabit speed, such as the docking station used in the demo.

The tiny Powerline AV 500 adapter from Actiontec. Dong Ngo/CNET

Powerline AV 500 adapters get significantly smaller
Power line adapters turn a home's electrical wiring into network cable, effectively increasing the distance of a CAT5e connection without cable needing to be run all over the place. The power line adapters shown at CES 2013 are much smaller than those released in the past.

Trendnet, for example, offers the first adapter, the TPL-407E, that can fit right in your palm yet provide a pass-through power socket so that you can add another device to the same wall socket that the adapter occupies. Actiontec, on the other hand, showed us the tiniest Powerline adapter kit by far.

The pricing of power line adapters has also gone down significantly. The Actiontec kit, for example, costs just about $50 for two units.

Hybrid drives are now SSHDs
In the storage department, the biggest trend is the solid-state hard drive (SSHD). This is the new name, used across the industry, for a hybrid drive that combines both solid-state and regular platter-based storage into one standard design.

The first SSHD from WD, the WD Black.
The first SSHD from WD, the WD Black. Dong Ngo/CNET

Prior to the show, the only mass-production hybrid drive on the market was the Seagate Momentus XT. Apple's new Fusion Drive is not a single-drive design but one that uses an SSD and a separate hard drive in tandem.

At CES 2013, however, WD showed its first SSHD, the WD Black. Seagate as well showcased the first SSHD in its line, including the first that comes in a 3.5-inch design and offers up to 4TB of storage space. Seagate also revealed that it no longer makes 7,200rpm 2.5-inch hard drives, choosing instead to focus on the SSHD as its new high-end drive for laptops.

More Thunderbolt storage devices
Similar to 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Thunderbolt storage has now matured with more vendors introducing devices of their own. The biggest Thunderbolt storage device of the show is the 5big Thunderbolt, which offers up to 20TB of storage space.

The new 5big Thunderbolt storage device from LaCie.
The new 5big Thunderbolt storage device from LaCie. LaCie

Seagate Wireless Plus won the Best of CES for Networking and Storage
Another highlight of the show is the Seagate Wireless Plus, which won the Best of CES award for Networking and Storage. This is a mobile wireless storage device that comes with 10 hours of battery life and can support 10 Wi-Fi devices. Users now can not only stream and view content that the device stores, but also upload digital content back to it, all via a very easy-to-use mobile app.

The Wireless Plus mobile storage device from Seagate.
The Wireless Plus mobile storage device from Seagate. Dong Ngo/CNET

While the Wireless Plus is not the first of its type -- Seagate's Satellite was offering similar features prior to this-- it's the first that combines large storage space (1TB), long battery life, a long list of features, and ease of use in one compact design that costs just $200.

Correction, 3 p.m. PT: Updated to give the correct maximum amount of storage offered by the LaCie 5big Thunderbolt Series, which is 20TB.