OK, I hate CES. It really is a horrible event, largely because of the timing — and particularly this year, Las Vegas making it a nightmare to get around — but man did they have cool stuff at the show.
Among presentation highlights were Nvidia showcasing a whopping 65-inch gaming monitor TV (I so want one). Lowlights included Intel showcasing a human-carrying drone as something out of a horror movie.
Of course, the product I had the most lust for was a US$54K racing simulator being used to showcase the new HTC Vive Pro (the Vive Pro is damn good too). Once again, there was some weird and wonderful stuff at CES.
I’ll close with my product of the week: the new Dell XPS 15 laptop, which uses both Intel and AMD technology to give you performance AND long battery life (be still my beating heart).
Dell Embarrasses Apple
I’ll start with Dell and what for me was one of the funniest announcements. You see, I’ve been arguing that companies that have both phones and PCs, like Apple and Samsung, should have a “better together” strategy so that you could use one (mostly the smartphone) to enhance the other.
Apple, which uses a lock-in strategy, should have that so that more of its customers would buy both Apple PCs and iPhones. Did either Apple or Samsung announce something like this? Nooooo! It was Dell.
Dell announced the Mobile Connect app, which lets your smartphone (Android or iOS) would work directly with your PC.
While you are working, your alerts and caller ID information show up on your PC screen. If you have an Android phone, you can even run the apps there. That way you can keep working and not feel like you must pull your phone out to see what the hell is causing it to annoy you.
Way back in the 1980s at ROLM (then a division of IBM) we brought out a product that connected my desk phone like this (I was internal analyst on the product), and I fell in love. Trust me — if you ever use an app like this, you’ll never go back. (When I transferred, I lost that capability and it damn near broke my heart).
Dell can do more with Android than with iOS, but even crippled it does more to connect the iPhone to a PC (a new Dell PC, that is — this won’t work on an old one) than Apple does. I just think that’s funny and a little sad.
HTC Vive Pro Racing
I took the Mercedes Benz advanced driving course at Laguna Seca in California — it is fun very technical race course. So, imagine my surprise when I visited the HTC room at the Wynn and they set me down in a racing car simulator, and put the new HTC Vive Pro on my head. I suddenly found myself back on that track.
I have the old HTC Vive and it kind of sucks. It’s a pain to set up, and the resolution makes it look like you are looking though a screen door. The HTC Vive Pro is nothing like that. It has decent resolution and in that simulator, it really felt like I was really in a Formula One car.
They left me in the thing until I finally got motion sick — but when braking it felt like braking, when accelerating and cornering it felt like I was accelerating and cornering, and when I went off the track I think I knocked some fillings lose.
I would have bought both the HTC Vive Pro and the simulator — only thing is, while the Vive Pro is affordable that damn simulator is $54K, and I’m pretty sure my wife isn’t going to let me have one (though that has rarely stopped me before). Vrrrrroooooom! Watch me spin out:
One final comment: When I finally finished, I was drenched in sweat — apparently it gave me one hell of a workout. Hmmm, yes, it is a fitness tool!!! I wonder if my health insurance will cover it.
“BFG,” at least in my world, stands for big f*cking gun (thanks to the game Doom). Well Nvidia effectively added a letter and changed the last part to G-Sync Monitor. This is a 65-inch TV with gaming monitor specs. With G-Sync, fast refresh, HDR, 4K — and, I expect, a scary price — this thing was AMAZING. When they announced this at the Nvidia keynote, I think I swooned just a little big.
Currently my monitor of choice is a 42-inch Dell, which is pretty damn big, but it isn’t HDR and it isn’t 4K. This has 1,000 nits, a direct array backlight, and Nvidia Shield built in (which means you can connect your game PC to it wirelessly and play your PC game on the big screen). If it were up to me, I’d find a way to put this thing on my desk.
If you want to impress your friend who has a 34-inch curved 4K monitor, show him your 65-inch BFGM. Size does, in fact, matter. I lusted for this too, but I have no idea what it costs yet. (I’m guessing it won’t be cheap.)
Suddenly I know what I want for my birthday.
Intel’s Human Cuisinart
One of the most problematic keynotes I’ve ever seen was Intel’s. Typically I complain that folks don’t rehearse, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was the content. First, overshadowing it was the CEO’s massive stock sale right before the end of the year. At best, it showcased a complete lack of confidence in his company. (It’s been raising all kinds of flags.) The worst part of the keynote, though, was how Intel showcased a people-carrying drone.
Right now, there are two camps — those who think these things will be cool (I’m part of that camp), and folks who think they are dangerous, noisy, and stupid (like Tesla CEO Elon Musk, even though he recently hinted flying would be a feature on a future Tesla).
Well, Intel is supposed to be in the “we love it” camp, but let me walk you through what the company did at CES. After a dialog in which it created a mental picture of these things everyplace — kind of like automated taxis — Intel put its version in a big cage (reminiscent of Jurassic Park) and reminded everyone how dangerous all those unshrouded Cuisinart roto blades were. The cage was to keep it from fine-chopping up the audience. Then it lifted slowly about 5 feet, moved forward about 20 feet, and landed with no passenger — but with the looming expectation that it suddenly might turn the audience into hamburger.
Then Intel had 100 small drones fly over the audience and announced that it had just set a world record for indoor drones flying in formation without GPS. I was kind of expecting an Alfred Hitchcock The Birds moment. Or something like this. At least that would have distracted us from Intel’s cascading security problems.
Suddenly I want an Audi. (You’ll get what I mean if you watch the video I linked to above).
Replacement Human Bodies
There was a huge display advertising, I kid you not, replacement human bodies (sign me up, mine is clearly out of warranty).
The company is called “Psychasec,” and the folks in the booth explained that you could have the body you wanted after they transferred your consciousness into it. They had several bodies in large canisters on display and one or two in the back in shrink wrap.
You could see a ton of people walking through the booth having holy crap moments — a lot of holy crap moments. Sadly, it was a promotion for a new Netflix TV series, Altered Carbon — but it got my attention, and that show is now on my must watch list. Nice job Netflix!! (Altered Carbon starts Feb. 2).
I have a V8 Jaguar, and it is really annoying to have a Tesla S or X pull up and just dust me. I’m sure Corvette owners feel the same way, and at CES a company called “GXE” presented a solution: an electric Corvette!
It starts with an empty frame and body from a current generation (C7) Corvette Grand Sport. (It isn’t the fastest, but it is arguably the most balanced configuration for the car.) It has two motors — one in front and one in back. Sadly it has no 4-wheel drive, so traction is likely an issue, but it gets to a 50/50 balance in the car.
Test configurations have this thing getting to 60 in 3.0 seconds (still a little shy of the fastest Tesla) but with a top speed exceeding 200 MPH (which means it would run away from that Tesla at top end.
Granted, it costs a whopping $750K, which makes the regular Corvette sound like a massive value. Still, if I were in that price category (which I’ll never be), I’d likely get the Concept_One instead. For a paltry $250K more, it looks like a supercar. Still, with the massive move toward electrics, I expect that now that this Corvette is built it won’t be long until there is a far more reasonably priced electric Corvette from GM. (Jaguar, thank god, is working on an electric XKE as well).
Except for Intel, which appears to be doing its best to tank every market it touches now, CES had some amazing products. Sadly, one of the most breathtaking, a replacement body, was a gag — but the HTC digital racetrack demonstration, the electric Corvette, and Dell doing a better job with phone integration than Apple (or any PC company with a phone did) were amazing.
I can picture Steve Jobs spinning in his grave thinking Dell is doing a better job integrating the iPhone with Dell computers than Apple is with Macs. That puts an even bigger smile on my face.
The only issue for me is that now I’m thinking human-carrying drones are going to go rogue, and rather than wanting to ride in one, I now have an urge to run screaming from them. Thanks, Intel.
I mentioned I really wanted that $54K racing simulator, but there was another product I thought lustworthy — the new XPS 15.
You start with what must be the coolest and most controversial core technology on the planet: a blend of Intel Core and AMD Vega into a single SoC that basically gives you game-ready performance, a thin profile, and long battery life in a single package.
You add a 400 nit (outdoor viewable) screen, up to a terabyte of SSD storage, Thunderbolt ports (like Apple), and make it SD card ready.
Give it a touch display, glass touchpad and professionally tuned speakers, and you have something that causes a tech guy to just stand and drool.
The pictures of this 2-in-1 don’t do it justice. It is arguably one of the prettiest PCs I’ve ever seen, and one of the few that come in silver that inclines me to consider silver. This is because the silver is metal not paint.
It is one of the first products to feature Dell Cinema. I saw that run, and the movies and TV shows played on it look amazing. By the way, you should be able to use it to download and watch movies from both Netflix and Amazon (something you haven’t been able to do with most laptops).
Since this was the one thing I lusted after at CES that I could afford, the Dell XPS 15 is my product of the week.