CES 2011 highlights: What you need to know
6th Jan 2011 | 14:28
We pick through the announcements and releases so you don't have to
The Consumer Electronics Show is like a giant ice cream sundae – it's big, wildly colourful, takes some real effort to get through and is a delicious mix of different ingredients. All covered in a glitzy Las Vegas sauce.
So what's hot at this year's show?
The technology trends at CES 2010 included: 3DTV, ultra-skinny HDTVs, motion-controlled gaming (Kinect and Sony's PlayStation Move had yet to launch), not to mention early tablet prototypes, digital cameras, camcorders and iPhone-controlled Wi-Fi helicopters.
Many of the same key themes apply to CES 2011 and what you'll see here tends to dominate the technology year ahead. So here are our hand-picked highlights of this year's electronic expo...
CES 2011 isn't traditionally a venue for big mobile announcements, but several tech titans have chosen to unveil new kit and new technologies. Before the show started, LG had revealed its Optimus 2X handset, featuring a dual-core Tegra 2 processor. The forthcoming Motorola Atrix 4G phone also boasts a 1GHz dual-core CPU.
Speed is just one mobile battleground for 2011; screen technology is another. The iPhone 4's 3.5-inch Retina display has set an impressive benchmark and Apple's rivals have been surprisingly slow to catch up.
That should change in 2011. The new Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc features a stunning 4.2-inch 'Reality Display'; while the LG Optimus Black incorporates a four-inch 'NOVA' screen that promises unparalleled energy efficiency and brightness.
And just when we'd got used to the idea of Super AMOLED, Samsung has rolled out a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen for its new Infuse 4G phone. Nice.
The LG Optimus Black features new Wi-Fi Direct technology
Beyond dual-core processors and improved screen technology, there are several other new features we can expect in new phones. The Google Nexus S has already reignited interest in Near Field Communications (NFC), while LG has been demoing the Bluetooth-rivalling Wi-Fi Direct. 4G connectivity will also become more of a standard feature, using either HSPA+ or new LTE networks.
Tablets & Slates
Last year, the tablet PC market was embryonic – we still had our fingers crossed that the Courier prototype was real. It wasn't. In fact, the tablet market didn't really kick off until Apple launched the iPad in April.
Since then we've seen Dell, Archos and Toshiba dip their toes in the waters, while Samsung has turned tech heads with its 7-inch, Android-powered Galaxy Tab.
This is only the start. If tablet PC announcements at CES 2011 are anything to go by, 2011 will be the year of the tablet/slate/pad. Motorola, for example, has unveiled its smart-looking Motorola Xoom, a 10.1-incher running an early build of Android 3.0 (aka Honeycomb). Not to be outdone, LG is offering sneaky peeks at its G-Slate, which also runs the new Android OS.
Other manufacturers keen to jump into the tablet market include Asus, which has launched four Eee Pad and Eee Slate tablets at CES, and RIM, which is readying its iPad-esque PlayBook. Lenovo, meanwhile, has a 10-inch 'LePad' device.
Asus has announced four Eee Pad and Eee Slate tablets
Acer is again showing off its Iconia tablet, but it's not the dual-screener that we saw last year. Instead, the A500 model features a single 10.1-inch display, Android 2.2 and Nvidia's dual-core Tegra 2 engine inside.
While Android mobile phones wait for the latest OS upgrade to version 2.3 (Gingerbread), Google has been showing off its tablet-friendly Gingerbread OS (Android 3.0). If you buy an Android tablet in 2011, make sure it runs this...
The 3D love-in at CES shows no sign of cooling. Like it or not, want it or not, 3D technology continues to be shoehorned into new TVs. Panasonic has predicted that 3D is an 'unstoppable force' and that a third of all new TV purchases will be of 3D models by 2014. Its new 3D plasma TVs look stunning.
But what sort of 3D will we be watching? Sony is betting big on Active technology and its HX929 telly certainly offers impressive pictures thanks to the built-in X Reality engine and edge-lit LED.
The HX929 (above) is just one of 27 Bravia sets launching this year. Sony also has a new BDP-S780 3D Blu-ray player and is readying a 3D consumer camcorder for a spring release.
In contrast, LG is taking a different tack and has its corporate eye on 'passive' 3D. Its latest Infinia range of 3D televisions are using the technology, which uses polarised glasses rather than the more expensive Active Shutter system.
Then there's Toshiba, which is showing a range of glasses-free, autostereoscopic 3D TVs at CES. Don't scoff. The technology is getting better. Sophisticated view point overlay technology means you'll even be able to move your head while watching the 3D content.
Of course, 3D isn't just restricted to HDTVs. Both Sony and LG have unveiled 3D-capable laptops, while LG is demoing a 4.3-inch mobile touchscreen with a 480 x 800 pixel resolution that can be used for watching 3D videos or playing 3D games sans specs, much like Nintendo's 3DS.
Finally, how about 3D surround sound? LG's HX996TS home cinema set-up delivers an audio experience worthy of your local multiplex.
Every year we ask the same question: "what's happened to OLED?" The answer? It's still coming. To whet our appetites, Mitsubishi has been showing off a 155-inch OLED display at CES, while LG has vowed to expand its own small line of organic LED sets beyond the current 15- and 31-inch models.
If you were expecting big things from Steve Ballmer this year, like us you'll have been disappointed. Microsoft's keynote speech at CES was notable for what the company didn't announce rather than what it did. The existence of Avatar Kinect, for example, was leaked before Ballmer took to the stage.
ADDED FUNCTION: Cut and paste functionality is coming (finally) to Windows Phone 7
Instead, with one eye on the rapidly expanding tablet market, Ballmer revealed that the upcoming version of Windows would be fully compatible with mobile ARM processors such as the Tegra 2 and Snapdragon range. But seriously: how hard would it have been to do a tablet running the Windows Phone 7 OS right now?
And speaking about Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has sold over 1.5 million handsets since launch and plans to add copy/paste functionality into the next update. It's a good start, although these numbers won't have Apple or Google quaking in their boots.
Beyond Microsoft, Intel announced its new Sandy Bridge processor architecture in the shape of Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2600K desktop CPUs. AMD, meanwhile, tore the wraps off its new Fusion chips, which combine CPU and GPU processing on a single die.
What did you think was the most exciting announcement at CES 2011? Let us know by telling us what you think below...