The 7 Biggest Trends of CES 2013

Overall, CES may be losing its luster, but there are still exciting things happening in Vegas this week. Here’s what you need to know.

More than 3,000 exhibitors are expected to show off new products and services to an estimated 150,000 attendees this year at the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show, CES 2013, Jan 8-11.

xl_CES 2013

Pundits were decrying this year’s CES from the get-go, thanks to Microsoft pulling out of the show for the first time since the mid-1990s. But now that CES 2013 is in full swing, it turns out there’s much more going on than everyone expected.

There’s a general sense out there that devices really aren’t the story anymore. Hardware manufacturers don’t want to hear that, necessarily, but it’s true that it’s no longer about specs for the majority of consumers (including me). It’s more about what apps you can run and what services you can use—especially now that, as a rule, hardware has become powerful enough to do what people want. Hardware design will always be important, and in fact, it’s more important than ever. But the days of shopping for a PC based on how much RAM it comes with or how fast the processor is are pretty much gone, and that’s beginning to hold true for phones and tablets too.

Samsung at CES 2013
Samsung at CES 2013

So what is happening at CES 2013? Well, continue reading for the top 7 Trends of CES 2013.

Ultra High Definition (4K) Televisions

Everybody has known for some time that 4K television was going to be everywhere at CES, and that has largely proven to be the case. But still, 4K is still a story of the future as there’s basically zero 4K content available that you can watch on it. But cinemas have been showing movies in 4K for several years now.

Sharp unveiled an 85-inch 8K TV with a 7,680-by-4,320-pixel resolution. It’s not just about TV, either; Gigabyte unveiled a software driver for its PC motherboards that supports 4K display resolutions using multiple standard 1080p monitors, which should make for one hell of a gaming session.

Samsung 85 inch Ultra high Definition (4K) TV
Samsung 85 inch Ultra high Definition (4K) TV

Not only that, Sony is expanding its Bravia 4K UHD XBR LED TV lineup with 55-inch and 65-inch versions, both Wi-Fi enabled and able to link to mobile devices via NFC. Additionally, Samsung’s 85-inch 4K HDTV flat panel technology touts a resolution four times the pixels of 1080p HDTV.

Touch-Screen PCs

You can Love Windows 8 or hate it. PC manufacturers are responding to its touch-friendliness with verve. And to be fair, a lot of critisism directed against Windows 8 has to do with trying to use its finger-friendly interface on a PC without a touch screen.

An Asus Touch Screen PC/Tablet. The screen can detach from the system.
An Asus Touch Screen PC/Tablet. The screen can detach from the system.

Well, we’re seeing new all-in-one PCs with touch screens, ultrabook convertibles that can convert into tablets, and touch-enabled laptops from Dell and other hardware vendors. The next-generation spec for ultrabooks even includes touch as a mandatory feature. Samsung also showed off Youm, their flexible displays and the tech is nothing short of eye-popping. PC display manufacturers have also jumped into the fray, with new touch-screen 1080p monitors from HP, Samsung, and other vendors. Speaking of resolution, 1080p is the new norm on tablets and high-end laptops, while 4K is beginning to surface on all-in-one desktops.

In-Car Smartphone Integration

Automakers are finally getting the idea that people don’t want outdated and expensive $2,000 navigation systems just because they’re built in to the dashboard. Everybody has a smartphone in their pocket which is much more powerful.

Carmakers like Ford and GM are moving fast to standardize and open up their in-car platforms so programmers can develop dedicated third-party apps, which hook into your smartphone’s 4G LTE data connection that you’re already paying for, instead of having to sign up for another one just for the car. Oversized multitouch screens, projected heads-up displays, and even the beginnings of augmented reality are the order of the day.

Digital Health

These days everybody has a smartphone in their pocket, so why not put fitness in the equation? Fitbit announced the Flex, a wristband that syncs via Bluetooth 4.0 to Android and iOS devices and tracks your steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, and how much you’re sleeping.

Flex, a wristband that syncs via Bluetooth 4.0 to Android and iOS devices and tracks your steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, and how much you're sleeping.
Flex, a wristband that syncs via Bluetooth 4.0 to Android and iOS devices and tracks your steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, and how much you’re sleeping.

The Smart ‘Hapifork’ and ‘Hapispoon’ are actual, electronic utensils that monitors your eating habits, with the idea being to make sure you eat smaller meals more slowly.

The Withings Body Analyzer smart scale tracks your heart rate and ambient air quality, while the company’s new Activity Tracker is a Fitbit-like device that measures calories burned, sleep quality, and walking and running performance.


The Non-Traditional Gaming Consoles

Normally when we think of gaming, it conjures up images of an Xbox or PS3 hooked up to an HDTV, portable systems, custom-built PCs, and more recently, phones and tablets.

Manufactures are now moving forward into the new realms. Nvidia’s “Project Shield” is a clamshell, handheld, Android-based portable with a Tegra 4 chipset, a 5-inch 720p screen, a D-pad, analog sticks, and various buttons and bumpers.

The Razer Edge Pro. Looks Nice.
The Razer Edge Pro. Looks Nice.

The Razer Edge Pro, formerly known as Project Fiona, is a 10.1-inch tablet running Windows 8 with an Intel Core i7 chip and internal storage up to 256GB; it has separate tablet, keyboard dock, gamepad controller, and docking station modes depending on the accessories you use.

Xi3’s ‘Piston’appears to be the long-awaited “Steam Box” from Valve; it’s a striking, miniature PC dedicated to running Steam games in a living room setting using Big Picture mode.

Wireless Audio and Video

The days of the iPod speaker dock are gone, at least in its current form. Now, there’s much more demand now for wireless music playback, because people are streaming music straight from cloud-based apps like Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, and the still-in-transition iTunes 11. Plus, Android smartphones are everywhere, and none of them fit Apple’s dock connector. Even Apple went and switched the connector out for a new one, and by now everyone is tired of syncing iPods to their PCs with wires anyway.

Sony SRS-BTX500__4_

Sony released a new lineup of wireless audio speakers. Comprising of the SRS-BTX500 and SRS-BTX300, these wireless speakers are fitted with Apt-X and AAC Bluetooth codecs to ensure the highest quality sound while streaming wirelessly. Codecs like Apt-X which are real-time digital audio data reduction systems offer linear compression of audio samples by a factor of 4:1 to assist the process of streaming via Bluetooth. Both speakers are also NFC compatible.

As for video, the big news is actually a protocol, as D-Link, Amped Wireless, Buffalo, and other manufacturers release the first big wave of 802.11ac-compatible products for faster streaming performance. We’re also seeing new set-top boxes like the Netgear NeoTV Prime, all ready to take advantage of cloud-based services from Google, Netflix, and others.

Wireless Cameras

The Canon Powershot N
The Canon Powershot N

All of the new Samsungs, the Canon PowerShot N and one of the Canon Elph models, and a Polaroid Android-powered camera are among the new series of Wi-Fi-enabled shooters. Once a niche feature, wireless capability has now risen among cameras. It’s not just about syncing photos to your PC anymore, either; it’s being able to post photos to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other sharing sites without moving through a PC first, just like you can do with an (inferior) cell phone camera. And speaking of Instagram, many cameras are gaining the ability to give your photos a faded or vintage look right from the camera, without having to use what has now become a rather controversial photo sharing service.

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