Las Vegas natives call it “The Big Show.” NotebookReview.com staff members call it “Hell Week.” Everyone else knows it best as the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). CES 2010 officially opens its doors on Thursday, but the newest laptops and related gizmos are already starting to show up. The Las Vegas Convention Center will play host to much of the consumer technology industry as manufacturers showcase their latest and greatest – and possibly even a few not-so-great products. Here are a few of the big items and issues to keep in mind during CES 2010. We will also be updating this article with links to the rest of our coverage so be sure to check back this week for more news from the show floor.
The economy still stinks
Sure, reports from a number of analysts suggest that holiday shoppers bought more consumer electronics in 2009 than they did in 2008, but take that information with a grain of salt. Consumers might have purchased more, but most of those purchases were entry-level laptops and low-priced netbooks as consumers and businesses continued to feel economic pain. Even with the first hints of an upturn in the economy, we don’t expect this year’s show to be the knockout glitz-a-thon that CES’s past may have been. Instead of spending money on flashy exhibits at The Convention Center, many of the big electronic companies will host private parties and press events trying to prove to journalists and retailers that the latest products are going to sell well with consumers and businesses in 2010. Still, you can expect the show floor to be plenty crowded with exhibitors and attendees alike.
Regardless of the economy, modern electronics have a short shelf life so you can expect to see the typical product line refreshes that we see every year … with a few surprises.
AMD is back … and they mean business
Intel has maintained something of a stranglehold on the mobile computing market in recent years since the introduction of the Core 2 Duo processors. Intel offered extreme performance and excellent battery life while AMD processors failed to deliver high-end performance even with uncomfortable heat output and horrible power consumption. This has slowly been changing in 2009 and AMD promises to take the mobile computing world by storm in 2010. AMD’s second-generation Athlon Neo and Turion Neo processors have enough muscle for mainstream computing and provide enough battery life to make them the perfect fit for budget-priced ultraportable notebooks.
Combine the latest AMD CPUs with the latest integrated and discrete graphics from ATI and AMD-based notebooks will exceed the performance potential of Intel’s CULV-based notebooks and entry-level Core 2 Duo processors. Since most consumers and businesses have been buying budget PCs, AMD is in a fantastic position to overtake Intel in the “value ultraportable” and “maintream” marketplace. That said, Intel’s latest generation of multi-core processors will continue to dominate the top of the PC food chain … if you can afford it.
Ultra low votage CPUs, more netbooks and the introduction of “smartbooks”
In 2009, we saw more netbooks than ever before. The ASUS Eee PC and the Acer Aspire One became household names thanks to their low cost, great battery life, and acceptable performance level for many consumers. The push for faster, cheaper PC’s that can run all day on a single battery is why Intel’s Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage (CULV) processors made a big splash during the second half of 2009. As previously mentioned, AMD’s current and next-generation low voltage CPUs will find their way into many ultraportable laptops in 2010, but so will Intel’s CULV. In fact, the idea of all-day battery life is so appealing that you can expect more and more full-size laptops to offer low voltage processors as options.
Many consumers and technology journalists are wondering if Atom-based netbooks will die in 2010 and be replaced by “value ultraportables” with higher performance low-voltage CPUs. In our opinion, netbooks are going to continue to be around for a while. Intel is pushing the next generation of Atom processors (code named Pineview) and you can expect to see plenty Pineview-based netbooks during the first half of 2010.
That said, netbooks are facing competition not only from other ultraportables with ultra-low voltage processors, but from the world of ARM-based “smartbooks” as well. A smartbook is essentially a hybrid device that combines a smartphone and a netbook. Most, if not all, of the smartbooks we see in 2010 will be based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform and the ARM II CPU. The key to the success or failure of the smartbook category will be pricing … both for the device and the data plans. We doubt that average consumers are willing to pay $500 for a smartbook and then pay an additional $50-$80 per month for a 3G data plan. If carriers can offest the cost of these smartbooks so that the device is no more than $100 plus monthly data plan or pay-as-you-go 3G then the “smartbook revolution” might just happen.
More coverage from the road
NotebookReview.com and the entire TechnologyGuide.com team will be out in force covering CES 2010. We’ll bring you more information about products as they’re announced, commentary, photos and video from the show floor, and all the information that we’re allowed to share with you.