Virtual CES 2021 — An All Digital Conference Of The Latest Tech

For CES, Las Vegas has been canceled in 2021. There will be no hotel reservations, vendor booths and demos in person. No meeting live robots, sampling high-tech food or attending engineer’s happy hour. All in-person meetings, seminars and talks will have to be canceled as well. It will be all digital due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. CES is more like a webinar and online catalog tour than an actual conference. The first ever virtual CES (January 11–14, 2021) wants to remain relevant with the times, and this year it became a showcase of tech that helps to address the pandemic.

I am going to focus more of what I gathered regarding the tech side of entertainment, multimedia and imaging. It is hard to give details of something you have not actually seen or experienced, other than watching from a livestream or reading from a website. Things are different this year. Normally when I go to a conference like CES, I get to actually see the products up close and personal. Interacting with the vendors and experts who can further explain what their products do. Here is an attempt to briefly explain the latest with what has been reported.

Laptops In The New Normal

I will start with laptops, as they are among the latest generation of computers in 2021 that is being developed for the new normal. That means features that help work-from-home (WFH), online education and of course gaming. As more people are working in their own home due to health concerns in 2020, computer vendors are making laptops lighter and more powerful using the best chips from AMD, Intel and Nvidia. They also have the usual integrated web camera and resolutions of at least 1080p on the display. Among the many new models introduced are the ASUS ROG Flow X13, Lenovo Legion Slim 7 and Razer Blade Pro 17.

AMD and Intel provide the processors (i.e. CPU) while the graphics chips or GPU are from either AMD or Nvidia. Housing this components will be slimmer and lighter weight bodies, unlike the bulky style of old. They will also come at a more affordable or lower price, but there are still high-performance premium models for the power users. They can also be multi-purpose that suitable for different tasks. Gamers, online workers and students are the target market.

For video editors and content creators, these laptops may also be ideal. There are better options though. I have not tested any of them, but based on reports the ASUS dual-screen ZenBook Duo is great for productivity. Among the goodies it comes with are a stylus and a main screen and secondary display. It’s been described by HungryGeeks as “a great laptop for light gaming professionals, content creators … ”. There is also Apple’s new M1 series on the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro 13" worth considering for its performance. The M1 Macbook Pro 13" would be the most ideal for content creators, but the M1 Macbook Air has reported impressive benchmark results as well.

Some Camera Stuff

CES has become a venue for digital cameras. Canon, Nikon and Sony exhibit their latest products. This year it is from online, so unfortunately it was not possible to get a hands-on review to check image quality and usability. I see the usual cameras for prosumers, aspirants and a new category of premium compacts that target content creators. I noticed home security cameras are being promoted, with features that include Siri integration (Logitech Circle 2). I do hope that consumers are also aware of the security of these IoT devices.

CES is not like Photokina or other camera and imaging conferences, as it is just an introduction to what is to come in 2021. Among the more notable ones, the Sony A7 II, Canon EOS RP, Nikon D7500, DJ Mavic Air drone with 4K camera and Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II/III. Smartphone cameras have got to the level of many digital cameras, except the most high-end premium models. The camera market continues to decline, as smartphone sales have increased. However, camera vendors are inviting consumers back to use premium compacts or entry level DSLR as their second or third camera. Eventually, the smartphone market is not going to peak forever as it begins to plateau as of the pandemic. This is the market for new digital cameras with different form factors with high quality imaging.

Razer’s High-Tech Mask

Razer, the gaming gadget company, is attracting attention for a product they don’t normally make. This year they unveil their very own smart mask. The product is under the codename Project Hazel and claims to “ensure the highest degree of safety with the best quality of life enhancements.” It is an N95 respirator with active ventilation and auto-sterilization functions. Perhaps this would be something eSports gamers could wear, since it seems geared toward the tech and gaming market.

It comes with a lot more than you might expect, coming from Razer. It even has a wireless charging case with a UV sterilizer. You just don’t get that with most retail masks. If this can encourage more people to wear a mask, then Razer got the job done. With all the features it comes with, I do expect it to also come at a higher price. While most people will wear regular masks, it is good to know that there are alternatives like this. We’ll have to see if this is going to be available in retail or by special order.

OLED And NextGen TV

While checking out the offerings from LG, their G1 Series OLED Evo shines bright among the pack. LG is touting this as one of the brightest OLED display for 2021. What makes it brighter is the improvement on light output. It is more on the high end in terms of price, but there are now more affordable 4K OLED TV available and for those looking for 8K OLED TV. These TV are great for gaming and streaming video, whether in Full HD or 4K.

An 8K OLED TV is probably the best display you can get, but not the best one to buy. The reason is that most all content is either HD or just moving to 4K UHD. There are no native 8K formats being served at the moment. Even at lower resolution 4K or Full HD, an 8K display shows stunning content. It is still a matter of choice for those who really want the experience, but it is best with 8K content. Another thing to note is the human eye cannot really see resolutions as high as 8K. It is best to use a really large screen when it comes to high resolution imaging. This is why some will say that 8K is overkill for most consumers who will not really notice the overall quality.

There was a bit of news on NextGen TV aka ATSC 3.0. LG, Samsung and Sony are going to release new TV that will support ATSC 3.0 tuners starting in 2021. This means they will be able to pick up free broadcast signals that support 4K quality video. The availability will be limited to certain cities in the US. It will be a gradual rollout since it is not mandatory or immediate.

Rollable Phones

Another reason LG is in the CES limelight is their rollable phone. It’s a smartphone that has a rollable display. It allows the screen to expand by rolling it outward, but unlike a scroll. Instead it is more like an expanding screen that you roll out rather than fold out. These are new form factors that challenge durability and design. When foldable phones first came out, they had issues with creases and damages caused using the folding display. The rollable display type may actually be more durable and less likely to damage. This was an experimental form factor not too long ago, and now it is ready for retail sometime in 2021. It just needs to prove its durability and value.

Galaxy S21 Takes The Spotlight

The new S21 preview shows a new look to the Galaxy smartphone body. I see a fatter body which supports better grip for users. We now tend to use smartphones as daily drivers and so it is important to get a comfortable hold on the device. The fatter body may also be due to accommodate a larger battery size and some of the internal electronics.

Samsung shows off a prominent camera square, with a triple camera system. The Ultra will have a quad camera system. It also has a bump, but its not as bad looking since Samsung tries to integrate it with the body design. The front facing camera is a notchless punch hole type, much like its predecessor.

Now, I can only assume the ff:

  • It can support 5G networks.
  • Dual tone look, seems nice on the S21.
  • Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100 SoC.
  • The video capability is up to 8K @ 30p and 4K @ 60p.
  • 120 Hz adaptive refresh rate.

I think the smartphone market is getting saturated and in times like this, not everyone is going to spend money on a premium phone. The good news is Samsung is offering it at a much more lower price for a flagship smartphone. For those who need an upgrade, this brings you up to date in 2021.

There were not as many smartphones being showcased in CES, which is not really the venue for it. The S21 showcase is probably more to do with its upcoming release at the end of January 2021 (advertisers are promoting pre-orders of the new smartphone).

More Storage

As we take more photos and video, our storage is continuously increasing. I would invest in a NAS for studio as well as portable drives when editing and working on the move. Western Digital has a 4 TB portable SSD. This is rather pricier than standard hard drives, but the performance is so much better. The SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD (4TB) is capable of 2,000 MB/s read/write speeds. That is about 2 GB of data processed in a second. This is best for rendering video that is not stored on a local drive, or processing large TIFF and graphics files. The WD_Black P50 Game Drive SSD (4TB) offers similar performance.

For gamers, this is also going to be amazing. If you install your games on an external drive, you may experience some jitter or lags from time to time. That is if you are using a standard electro-mechanical hard disk drive. SSD will have less to none of those issues. That is why the new generation consoles, PS5 and XBox Series X use fast SSD for storage. On the Xbox Series X data read/write speeds are like the SanDisk Extreme Pro, rated at 2 GB/s.

Wi-Fi 6E

An update to Wi-Fi 6 (i.e. IEEE 802.11ax) is 6E. It will have tri-band support for 2.4/5/6 GHz spectrum. It is like having more lanes to drive on the freeway, delivering much better bandwidth for multiple devices. It aims to minimize latency and improve Wi-Fi connectivity signal. New routers and smartphones have been announced that will provide users the features of Wi-Fi 6E.

Before a product can be officially marketed as 6E ready, it must have the certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance. Among the products that will support 6E includes Samsung Galaxy S21 series, TP-Link Routers and Netgear. Some of these routers will support mesh networks for a more balanced Wi-Fi network for home users that improves the signaling and data speed.

For The Audiophiles

The best rated earphones for CES 2021 (as reported by CNet) are the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and the Apple AirPods Pro. These are actually a pair of in-ear buds that deliver active noise canceling. The Sennheiser is noted for its audio quality, but the AirPods Pro has better noise canceling. Both will deliver the best sound for music via bluetooth whether it is from your computer or smartphone.

The V-Moda M-200 ANC takes top accolades for audiophiles. It is a less pricier headphone than your typical premium Sennheiser or Sony brand. It is known for solid sound quality, but perhaps not the type for gamers. That is something I did not see a lot of. I see the Razer Blackshark V2 as one of the best gaming headphones, but it was not under any of the best category for CES 2021.

Final Thoughts

The options for content creators, photographers and creatives is full of limitless possibilities. Due to a more urgent matter, the tech focus this year is finding solutions to improve health and battle the COVID-19 virus. However things are looking up for content creation and digital imaging, as new improvements to infrastructure are coming to boost signals (Wi-Fi 6E), edit on the go for mobility (5G networks and Adobe Creative Cloud), easy to use cameras (premium compact and mirrorless cameras) and faster and higher capacity storage (SSD Terabyte storage).




Multimedia, Imaging, Audio and Broadcast Technology

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Vincent Tabora

Vincent Tabora

Editor HD-PRO, DevOps Trusterras (Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Software Development, Engineering, Photography, Technology)

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