On Location - CES 2015

CES 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada, kicked off the year with a bang. This year's show really pulled out all the stops with manufacturers demonstrating notebook technology unlike anything seen before. In fact, this was my very first CES in attendance where I had exclusive access to not only invitation-only VIP events, but some never-before-seen hardware that will be hitting consumers' hands very soon.

So for those of you who didn't get enough New Year's Eve partying, or couldn't find that awesome tech gadget under your xmas tree, a trip out to Sin City last week would have surely filled both your needs, and in my case, just made me get a little too much of it.


Every year, right after I'm done with the Christmas and New Year's Eve festivities, comes CES. And every year I find myself making the 3 hour drive, spending a week in the neon mirage in the middle of the cold and windy Nevada desert to check out what's new in the field of notebooks and accessories.

This year proved to be a far more busy affair as for the first time I had an actual schedule to adhere to, starting with the press events on Sunday. Various partners and exhibitors at the show commanded my attention and requested in advance my time for meetings, interviews, press conferences and booth tours. Even throughout the show week, my inbox was deluged with emails from manufacturers and vendors, a positive sign thanks to the work of the many PR people out there handling all this. It's also one of the perks of having a press badge and being qualified with full press credentials - unlike some guys who show up just to walk the exhibit halls rocking a Fisher-Price camcorder!


Much to my surprise, Toshiba failed to impress this year by showing NONE of their consumer notebooks at their booth. Even my rep was absent from their staff this year. Did my Shame File hit a nerve? Whatever the reason, the company has clearly downplayed a key staple of their product line - that's a bad move in my opinion considering the VERY prominent exposure CES creates, and the importance notebooks still play in the consumer electronics space.

Sony also failed to showcase any notebooks, but that's understandable given the sale of the VAIO brand last year. Even mentioning the word VAIO caused a very cold response from one of the Sony reps there. Ill feelings aside, I still have a job to do, though.

Going back to desktop CPU's in notebooks
Fortunately, there were plenty of other manufacturers at the show to take up the slack. I was quite pleased this year to see Eurocom make a presence on the show floor. The Canadian OEM had on display three of their Clevo models, including their latest P7 Pro. The 17.3" beast is unique in that it uses a system board with Intel's Z97 chipset, and along with that, a socket 1150 desktop Core i7-4790 CPU installed. That provides for far higher clock speeds (and performance) than any of the mobile Core i7 variants, even the unlocked XM parts. Paired with a GTX980M GPU, upto 32GB of fast 2133 RAM and a 120Hz 1080p IPS display, the P7 Pro makes for quite an impressive gaming and productivity solution.

Fancy a desktop GPU for your notebook?
Over at the Intel booth was Alienware showing off their latest 15" notebook, the Alienware 15, paired with their Graphics Amplifier docking station. The shoebox add-on connects to their notebook (13,15 or 17 model) via a dedicated PCIe 3.0 link using a proprietary cable. Inside the box is room for a dual slot desktop GPU upto 375W (dual 8-pin PEG). This offers desktop-class gaming graphics out of your notebook, provided you also connect a monitor to that GPU card - you won't be able to use it with the notebook's native display. Other features include extra USB connectivity. If anything, it's a great way to keep your notebook's gaming performance on par with desktops, since upgrading notebook graphics is in almost all cases impossible.


Small, wireless and self-powered
Audio continues to be a big theme at CES and I spotted quite a few nice items. BenQ had their newest BT speaker on display. Dubbed the treVolo, this compact solution uses folding drivers similar to floor-standing electrostatic speakers. It's built-in rechargeable batteries provide upto 12 hours of music playback. This is the perfect accessory for something like a netbook with it's horrible built-in speakers, but also a smartphone/slate. On the rear you will find a pair of 3.5mm jacks for line in and line out if you prefer to plug in directly. The fact that it can be easily folded and thrown in a gear bag to take along and use on the go makes this a great portable speaker system.

BT speakers with real bass
Over at the Creative booth the company showed off their latest T50 BT speakers. These are very similar to the older T40 speakers I reviewed last year and continue to use as my daily drivers. Of course, the big benefit here is they will work with devices that lack 3.5mm connectivity, and also don't require a USB port. While the demo had the system set up with a notebook, the T50's will work just as nicely with a slate/smartphone/hybrid. The redesign also eliminates the removable speaker grills. Since it's wireless, you could also place the speakers apart at strategic positions in your listening space, and control it with whatever device you have in your hand from a comfy lounge.

Gotta love that 21:9 aspect ratio
LG had a very prominent display showing off their latest monitors. I've been exceedingly satisfied with my 34UM95 since getting it back in May of last year. The company continues to push the 21:9 aspect ratio, but if 34 inches was too wide for you, LG now offers the 29UC97. It's essentially a 29 inch curved version of the 34UM95, which looks like is also being replaced in 2015 by a new curved model, the 34UC97.

Real 4K IPS at 60Hz
Not wanting to fall off the 4K bandwagon, however, LG also showed off a new 31 inch monitor aimed at professional content creators. The 31MU97 sports a narrower 17:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 4096 x 2160 that's pushed over a single DP stream at 60Hz refresh. Obviously, you will need a desktop GTX780 GPU or higher to run it at those specs, save for 24p HDMI. The demo had the display in portrait mode, handy for print proofing work. Maybe in 2016 we can get the consumer curved version?

m.2 for the masses arrives
Keeping with the notebook accessories theme, Samsung was also happy to show off their newest addition to their solid state storage lineup. The 850 EVO m.2 now joins their mSata and 2.5 inch line of SSD's. The 3D V-NAND equipped sticks will be available in 120GB, 250GB and 500GB capacities to fit the newest m.2-ready notebooks and motherboards and sport a solid 5-year warranty.


This has been a pretty quick wrap up of the events, but only because more is coming, and because I got hit with a nasty illness right on my last day there, meaning this article is a week late going live. Stay tuned for more coverage of CES 2015 as I get the material together... and my health slowly back!

What a party!
The highlight of the show? For me it was definitely the WD Fan Night event held at the TAO nightclub. Not only because of the great time I had there, but because I got to meet up with a very special friend who I hadn't seen in a long time. Even better, I got to make some great new ones there that night as well.

It was the prefect end to what had been a hectic week of walking, photography, business card shuffling and information overload. Most importantly, it made me realize that as great as this work is, it's important to spend time with people who I care about, and who I know care about me. A big thank you to WD for pulling off an awesome night that myself and those with me will remember.

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