CNET First Look
The laptops of CES 2011Join Dan Ackerman and Molly Wood for the first-ever CES laptop talk show, where we preview the coolest new laptops and portable PC prototypes.
-Hey, everybody, welcome back to the CNET stage here at CES 2011. I am Molly Wood, I'm here with Dan Ackerman, senior editor at CNET. -I got my paper notes right here, too, very high tech/low tech. -I know, right? So here we are with a bunch of paper to do what might be, I think, a Guinness World Book of Records qualifying-- -At least qualifying. -Series of first look videos at pretty much all of the hottest laptops from the show. -It's almost the world's first laptop talk show. -It is kind of a laptop talk show. I wish we had a cup of coffee except I'd be afraid to spill on one of these amazing machines. We're gonna run down basically some of the new announcements, some of the concepts-- -Some of the coolest laptops that we've seen here at CES this year. -Yeah. -And we got them all brought to the stage at the same time so you can all check them out without waiting around or wandering through all the different halls. We got them all right here for you. -We're so good. Now, it seems like it's actually been a pretty good laptop show for a show that is raining tablets. -It is surprisingly good for laptops this year. Going into it, I was a little unsure but now that I see all this stuff together in one place, I'm like, "Hey, this is actually kinda cool." -Yeah. Alright, well let's get to it since we do in fact-- -Let's go right in because we have a lot of stuff. -All in one place and we're gonna get started with Lenovo. -I'm gonna start off with a laptop from last year that was one of our favorites, one of our best-of ones that sadly never actually ended up coming out last year-- -Like most disappointing vaporware ever. -It has-- It has, however, been reborn as a new product. Last year, it was the Lenovo U1 Hybrid and now there's a combination of two products. It is the Lenovo LePad which is their Android tablet and it is the IdeaPad U1 which is this base right here so when I have it all plugged in together, it's a Windows laptop. If I hit the little unlock switch right here and then it turns into an Android tablet and I can pop it out and that is actually, it's the LePad that you'll be able to buy separately and if you get both of these together, I think it's gonna be about $1300 when this finally comes out. I think the LePad is tablet-priced at about $500. -It's a lot to spend for kind of a novelty party trick but, man, is that a good party trick. -That is a good party trick and, you know what, if you want Android and Windows in one set of devices, the base turns it into a regular, you know, Intel-based laptop. I think it's got a lot of promise. Hopefully, we'll actually see it in stores this year. -Yeah, that's what they say, that's it's gonna come out. $1300, though... -As well, that's to get the whole thing together and, of course, that's what they said last year, too, but I'm more hopeful this year 'cause this seems a lot more stable and a lot more final than the version we saw last year which we loved a lot. That was a quick peek from last year. Lenovo also had some cool just regular plain-old laptops. I like the ThinkPad Edge line. This is the E220. It's about $900. It's, you know, pretty premium looking laptop. It's a ThinkPad but it's got kind of that IdeaPad look with the cool keyboard and the edge-to-edge glass over the display and kind of the, you know, chromy highlights on it so if you have a ThinkPad at work and you go, oh, these are kind of boring business machines, maybe you can get your IT guys to get you one of these instead, the ThinkPad Edge line. -It's nice-- -That's definitely one of my favorites-- -It's nice to see the ThinkPads getting a little more attractive. -Yeah, definitely. They're kind of taking this IdeaPad ideas and bringing them into the ThinkPad line which I think is cool. And then finally, I got a cool little concept car kind of piece from Lenovo showing you how you could take a tablet and kind of make it a little more laptop-like and that's, you just slide out this little mini-super thin keyboard right here and they have a bunch of different concept designs like this. This is one I thought was pretty cool and it's a slider concept tablet. It's not a working device but maybe they'll work this technology into something in the near future. -And will it stand up then when it's folded out like that? -This particular prototype does not but I could totally see a little kickstand going like this and that sounds like an easy way to work a keyboard in without making your tablet a lot thicker. -Does that make you question the tablet idea in general that we've now seen so many tablets that have some way of incorporating a keyboard? Is it like the world's saying, "Tablet is really neat. In case you wanna do some work..." -I think that first rush of tablet excitement may be over and people are now saying, "Okay, how can I get practical with this." -Right. -Which is why even you have all these goofy iPad cases with the Bluetooth keyboards built in. -Yeah, exactly. -Now, speaking of crazy wild things that really knock you out, this is one of the most wild looking laptops here. It's so tiny. It is the Razer Switchblade. I'm gonna turn around here so you can see it. This is also a concept piece-- -Get the glare off there. -It is a tiny Intel Atom-powered laptop from Razer designed for playing PC games so you can plug a mouse into it. It has a keyboard and I'm gonna tilt it up a little bit so you can see the keyboard. Each keyboard key is actually a little tiny display. There's actually a display under here that gives you a custom keyboard based on what you're doing. Now, I'm going to attempt to very quickly launch a game right here and let's see if the keyboard changes. As we go into this Warcraft game. And this is-- this is a concept piece. It's not gonna hit the stores anytime soon. Who knows how much it'll cost. Who knows what the components will be, but showing that you can actually get a kind of gaming PC into a little clamshell design and add cool stuff to it that actually makes it usable like customizable keyboards, I think that's worth looking at and everyone has been very excited to check this out in person. -It's a remarkable idea. It's also unusual because you usually think of a gaming laptop as being a 17-pound-- -Oh, yeah. -Alienware or Dell XPS. This, I mean-- -Or people just playing very casual games on their simple PCs. -Exactly, or having portable gaming. -Now I've got the Warcraft-style keys on here. If you look at the keyboard, it's actually changed to Warcraft-style font on the keys-- -Nice-- -So there we go. That's the Razer Switchblade and I think that's a super cool concept. Who knows if we'll actually ever see it but I think-- -This is a Best of CES finalist, yeah-- -This prototype comes off looking really nice. I believe it is. -Yeah. Just announced. -Our buddies at Samsung, that's a company that sold laptops around the world for years but not in the US until a couple years ago. We were dubious at first but we've really liked a lot of the stuff they've done. I think one of your favorites is here. -I'm literally like, yes, yes. Can we talk about the 9 series now? -Let's talk about the 9 series. That's like, you even-- when you came backstage, you said, "Oh, my God, you have the 9 series-- -I'll hold it, I'll hold it, that's okay, I'll hold it. -So, you know, it's sort of MacBook Air-ish. It's kind of an aluminum composite body. It's very thin. It's got the big giant touchpad that's very sort of MacBook-like. The chiclet-style keyboard and it's a premium-priced laptop. It's not gonna be-- it's not gonna be an inexpensive 13-inch but, if you're looking for something that's kind of a MacBook Air alternative in roughly that same, you know, price range but you need Windows-- -I like this curve-- -This is one of the cooler looking super-thin systems of this size that we've seen-- -Yeah, this is gorgeous-- -And you're a huge fan of it. -I-- You know, this design, I think, is just stunning. It's so noticeable and it's, you know, this curve here kind of, at the hinge, is just really...unusual-- -And they have that across a lot of the current Samsung line in different ways. They kind of take a design idea and they work it into a lot of their different models-- -You know-- -Which I think is really clever. -You're right, it's reminiscent of the Blu-ray players and a lot of their design, yeah. It's just a good looking laptop, $1599, though, right-- -I'm not sure how much it's gonna be but it's definitely gonna be premium priced. -Yeah. -And we've also got the Sliding PC 7 from them which is-- It's a Windows slate and, again, kind of like that Lenovo concept, it's got the keyboard that slides out and this one actually does tilt up to make it a lot more laptop-like and that's another great way to save on space. You know, in the end, who knows how practical these things are going to be but I like that people are experimenting with the form and laptops are becoming much less commodity products which they've really been for the last couple years. You're basically just buying based on price 'cause they all have the same components and features. Once you start working unique stuff like this in-- -Yeah. -I feel that's-- I feel that's a really positive thing and that's the Samsung Sliding PC 7, even though it's got a 10-inch screen. -Right. -So normally you would name it the 7. -I do think it's interesting that they're naming it a PC, that they're calling it a sliding PC and not a slider tablet, like they're really trying to differentiate this-- -Right, and that's the Windows on this and-- -And it's a Windows machine-- -That's really the question. -Yeah. -If you're gonna make a tablet, do you go Windows or do you go Android or even something else. I think a lot of people, especially if they're gonna use these for business, need the Windows for, you know, whatever back-end regions that they need and if you can add some of that cool form and functionality we've gotten with Android tablets and the iPad, but still make it work with Windows, that's great. The key is to have a custom UI because Windows, as a touch thing, is terrible. Samsung actually has one right here. -Right. -And, I think-- -Yeah, they have sort of a very-- We did take a first look at this yesterday-- -Yes. -But you can see, it has apps. I mean, it really looks like almost like an iPad home screen because it is really-- it's this app-based overlay and that seems like a good way 'cause Windows 7, not particularly tablet friendly or touch friendly right now. -And then when you take these to lower end machines that have low power processors and you add that touch functionality on top of it, it kind of adds some computing overhead and then you get a very sluggish device. It's not as snappy and satisfying as the Android tablets or the iPad. -PlayBook maybe, yeah, too. -Our friends at Asus always have some really cool stuff. We've got two kinds of laptops/tablet hybrid-y things, too, to show off here. One is-- -Make it go. -I thought this was cool. Now, listen. I'm a PC guy and/or a Mac guy. I'm a real laptop computer guy. I'm not really an Android tablet guy but this is the Eee PC Transformer. It's actually an Android tablet that snaps into a keyboard dock so if I undock it, it comes out and this is your basic Eee PC Android tablet and then you get this, you know, keyboard dock that has a nice little locking slot in it, and you pop it on there, apparently this demo unit had an unfortunate accident this morning, but it still plugs in fine so we can see-- -Oh, okay. -You know, from a form and function standpoint, even though-- -Because it's turned back into-- -Even though it's wearing right there, but, you know what, little keyboard. That's certainly no worse than anything you've seen on a netbook so if you want sort of an Android netbook which is a concept we haven't seen that much of. I guess we'll see Google Chrome netbooks but those, in a way, are almost even more limited 'cause it's just running that Chrome browser. -Yeah. I have to say, this is very appealing to me. It's also the cleanest docking mechanism I've seen. The sliders and the folders and the pullout, those make me nervous. This just literally, the fact that it unlatches. -Uh huh. -In a good old-fashioned kind of clasp way feels more durable. It feels a little bit more, I don't know, less like I'm gonna-- -You're not gonna accidentally break-- -Do it wrong-- -While you're trying to-- -Exactly-- -Hook it in or unhook it. You need to be able to do it without going back to the instruction manual to figure it out. -And this is one of the four that Asus kind of launched to kick off the show. -They've got a whole bunch of them. Most of them are Android. They do have one Windows version that I'm actually gonna show you next. -Is there shipping information on this? -I'm not exactly sure when that is coming out but I believe it's gonna be, if you get the whole thing together, about $699. -Okay. -So that's actually, you know, reasonably priced for a-- in the same range as tablets when you add the fact that you're getting a keyboard dock along with it. -Great. Not too bad. Now, this one is-- -Now this is-- -Stretching the idea of a tablet. -Eee PC Slate. You know, it's kind of a traditional looking Windows slate and we certainly have these for years and they've actually paired it with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard so if you set it up like this and you have a little stand which I don't have with me right now, then it forms kind of a laptop like, you know, combo or even an all-in-one desktop kind of like thing, and then when you're done with it, you can just take this with you and it's got a little stylus up here. -Oh, a stylus, how quaint. -I know, really. But, you know, some people do very exacting things on this-- -No, I don't. They're very useful-- -Things. There are people, you know what, if you love your stylus, then you love it and no one's gonna pry it out of your cold dead fingers-- -That's true. -Kind of like those little, you know, trackpoint nubs. -Yes. -You know, if you love them, then that's just your thing and you're gonna-- you're very upset if they're not there and you're always glad to see it. -At least this is a very good-- I want you to know, this is a serious stylus holder. You're not gonna-- 'cause that's the thing, right? Is these things get lost. This is-- -Has it stuck in there. You're like jam them on and trying to get them out sometimes-- -It's not sticking out, it's super unobtrusive-- -And then it pops up when you-- -If you're gonna do a stylus, at least it's in there, you know what, let's actually-- let's tilt it-- -There you go. -To kinda show how, as you can see, the stylus actually just disappears once it's in here and then it kinda docks in there and out it comes. You're not gonna lose that. -And that is the Eee PC Slate and this is gonna have a couple [unk] right around a thousand dollars depending on, you know, how big like a solid state hard drive they get inside and stuff. -Right. Alright. That's a-- that's a big tablet. Okay. -Now, I do have, after-- amidst all this stuff, I do have a regular plain-old cool laptop for you-- -This is epic. We're a mugging waiting to happen sitting up here. Alright. -This is, going back, we talked-- looked at some fancy stuff, expensive stuff. This is a great basic use computer. This is the HP Pavilion dm1. It's one of the first laptops using that new AMD Fusion kind of platform which they call an APU instead of a CPU, an advanced processing unit instead of a central one, because they combine, you know, better than traditional onboard graphics with a regular CPU. -Right. -And that makes a low-cost laptop. It's only a little bit more expensive than a netbook but still can do things like play World of Warcraft or play 1080p, you know, high-definition video which a lot of low-powered computers really struggle with and as we move into a world where people are gonna be downloading, streaming, or watching a lot of HD video and even playing, you know, World of Warcraft or slightly more ambitious games. -Yeah. -You can get away with it for $450 which is what the Pavilion dm1 is going to start at. You know, that seems like a pretty good deal and like a lot of other recent HP systems, it's got like kind of this big touchpad here. It's got the chiclet-style keyboard. This is an 11-inch laptop which is kind of my new favorite size. You know, it's big enough compared to the 10-inch netbooks that it's actually practical to use, if not all day, a big chunk of the day. I've been running around here with one of these. But they're still pretty inexpensive. Not as expensive. Remember, we used to have things called ultraportables that were like 12-inch laptops that were like $2000? -Yeah. -Right, so now you can get pretty much the same thing for, again, $450 and that is the HP Pavilion dm1 and that's just one of my favorite just all-around useful laptops. -That's not only useful but attractive at that price. -It certainly is and you're going to see that AMD platform in a lot of 11-inch reasonably-priced laptops coming out of CES. -So this is a good price and a good size, which it is. It's not too heavy. Is this between kind of the, you know, the convertible tablet, the tablet this type size. Is this it for the netbook? Are we done with that? -It's funny. I was always a big netbook fan because I really thought that people have spent years buying too much computer, which was really true. -Yes. -And the fact that they can get something for $300 that would fulfill their basic needs has been great. Everyone who wants a netbook probably has one by now and the companies that sell them really didn't make any money on them so they have been trying to push people up. If you can go from $300 to $450 and get that instead, I feel that's at least a reasonable tradeoff. We have not seen too many pure netbooks here this year. -Yeah. -It's either an off year for them or they're just not coming back. -Alright. Last but not least. -Oh, next to last. -Next to last? -Yeah. We saved the two coolest ones for last. -Oh, yeah, okay. -This is something we first saw at a sneak-peek back in December but they're really showing it off here in CES so-- -This is amazing. -We're calling it the CES laptop. This is the Acer Iconia which is a dual touchscreen 14-inch laptop. There was a dual touchscreen Toshiba that was kind of cool. It was the Libretto but that was-- those are two tiny, I think 9-inch screens-- -Yeah. -Or 7-inch-- -It was small. -Now, I'm gonna put this down right here-- -I know, it's looking kind of-- -And demonstrate what you do with it. I'm gonna angle it, let's see if this works. -I'll hold it up and you try to demo. You think you can do that? -Oh, boy. Okay. So, this is gonna detect when I take my 10 fingers and put them on the screen and it's gonna pop up a keyboard. It knows when I put all 10 fingers down, I want the keyboard. Otherwise, it will let me just use the bottom screen as a touchscreen and you can have a web browser window, have it on the top, have it on the bottom, either way, but it knows that if you put 10 fingers down, that means you wanna type and if I take 5 fingers and I put them down like this, it's gonna call up kind of a media jog wheel so it has a bunch of control interfaces programmed in that are gonna react based on, you know, what kind of finger configuration you put down and once you learn those, you know, 10 fingers seem pretty easy number, 5 fingers. If they get more complicated than that, then it may not get as useful but those two basic ones-- -It's a little more complicated than starting to type. -Yes, exactly. -[unk] -But almost if you put your fingers down like you're about to start to type, then the keyboard pops up. -Right. -And, you know what, when I checked it out at greater length back in December when they first showed it off in New York in a very brief sneak peek, I thought it actually worked fairly smoothly. Whether it works long term in terms of being practical to type on remains to be seen but I have become a very adept iPad typist. -Uh huh. -So I am now convinced that there is a way to do onscreen typing well. -The question is, I guess, do you need to? So this is a concept, right? This is sort of-- -No, this is actually-- -This is actually a shipping product? -It will be coming out very soon. I think it's going to be about a thousand bucks as premium laptops of this size are. You know, it is kind of a concept car piece, though. It's not your everyday practical laptop but there's always these things for people who want the showoff piece. We call them like CEO laptops, in a way. -Right. -Or a coffee shop showoff laptop, 'cause you know, there's always a guy with the Lamborghini or Ferrari-branded laptop in the coffee shop. -So what is the benefit? I mean, what is their value proposition in terms of, you know, having just a touchscreen here instead of-- -What I like about the other smaller dual touchscreen laptops that I looked at earlier in 2010 that may very well be true of this also is the ability to take a whole bunch of things and shuffle them around on the two screens however you want. -Right. -If you don't need the keyboard, let's say you're watching a video chat and you're also organizing photos or you're editing video clips, you maybe have all your clips down here and you're throwing them into your timeline up at the top and then when you need the keyboard, you just call it back up but it can go away. It's almost as if we take a regular laptop and when we're not actually using the keyboard, it can just disappear and be something else useful. -Okay. -Now, whether it will ever be a mainstream thing, who knows, but I think it's a clever concept-- -That sounds like, you know, having two monitors with your desktop, for example-- -Right. -But except that you have-- -It just flips open, it's a keyboard at the other side. -I mean, it is-- it might be one of those things where when you start using it, I can imagine getting completely hooked 'cause we are a multitasking world these days. -That's exactly it and that is the Acer Iconia. Now, last but certainly not least, this is another concept piece I'm going to show you and it's one of the coolest things that I've seen. Now, listen, last year was all about 3D on TVs, right? -Right. -And even 3Ds on laptops that have the 3D glasses you have to wear and, you know what, I bought a 3D TV. I'm signed in. -You're that guy. -But, no eyeglass 3D is really were it's obviously going. We saw the Nintendo 3DS. Sony had a bunch of little like bloggy camera things that have the 3D no-eyeglass screens on the back, but getting it in a bigger screen is really tough. Toshiba has a prototype right here, doesn't even have a name. It's just the Toshiba 3D Eyeglass-Free prototype. -Okay. -And it's a big screen. It has no eyeglass 3D. It's meant to work for one person so it has a little demo here. I'm gonna try to crane my neck and maybe we can capture this. The webcam is gonna see my face and then it's gonna lock in on my eye, like it's doing right now on this little screen right here and that's gonna kick the 3D mode in and then, as I move my head, I'm actually gonna play the video so I can enjoy the stereoscopic 3D here, and then, as I move my head, it's going to adjust the 3D stereoscopic image slightly in order that it stays in focus for me and gives me the correct 3D view and then if I move out of the frame, it's gonna switch back to 2D because it sees there's no eyeballs there. -Right. -Now, in the final product, it's not gonna have this popup window within a window here, the picture-in-picture-- -Can you turn it-- So turn it out toward our camera, we won't be able to see the demo but you can kinda see that there's-- -That there's a-- -The smaller display up there in that kind of right hand corner. -Yeah, it is up here. -Where-- -So this is just for demo purposes. -Wave your hand-- -You'll see your head in here and it'll lock into your eyes and then the stereoscopic image will adjust on the fly so, you know, will this actually ever be a product? Who knows, but the fact that you can do 3D on a bigger screen like this and the 3 or 4 times I've actually seen this, it's always kind of worked even though it's a prototype, in the kind of rough situations that we put it in like right now shows me that that can actually kinda be done. -And so that would end up as a gaming laptop. I mean, of course, branded, at least right now, even though it's a prototype, you think? -Maybe gaming, maybe more 3D Blu-ray watching and 3D video watching. -Oh, okay-- -But I think a lot of people who are making 3D laptops now are really pitching them less at gaming, although it is certainly good for gaming, more as, you know, home entertainment systems where you can watch that 3D Blu-ray content that's starting to come out now. -Right. So 3D in laptops in general, is that-- Glasses-free 3D does seem to be especially for laptops, right? Just a must. -At least until we can work it into those gigantic 50-inch screens, yeah. -Well, yeah. We're all waiting to get there. So, do you-- I mean, what are you seeing broadly as the trend? We talked-- we've kinda danced around this a little bit. Is it, you know, laptops are really becoming, I don't know, half tablet, like is touchscreen laptop is the future? -I think that in the smaller sizes, you're gonna see more of that kind of thing, that hybrid style, because people really found that touch is a very natural way to interface with things. I've said that we've been secretly training people to be touch controllers for 15, 20 years-- -Yeah. -Because every laptop has a touchpad on it so if you take that concept from the pad and move it right on to the screen, it's very natural. We've been sort of training a whole generation or two in order to feel that that's the right thing to do and you can't have a phone now that's not a touchscreen phone, even-- I mean, it's ridiculous if you don't. -Right, yeah. No, it's literally, my son will play with the iPad for a little while and then come up to me and with the laptop and start touching the screen and not understand what's going on. -Exactly. Exactly. Especially when you see an all-in-one now and it's not a touchscreen, you go, "What's going on here?" -Right, absolutely. Dan Ackerman, thank you so much. Laptop-apalooza has come to an end.