The Pre-CES Wave of PC and Chip Vendor Competition: Analysis
Often, much of the interesting drama at CES happens by companies that aren’t directly participating in the show. That was the case again this year when Lenovo and Nvidia stood out from their peers by aggressively moving in various directions and showcasing product depth that was largely unmatched in their segments.
Let’s talk about how these two vendors differentiated themselves from their peers at CES last week, and we’ll end with my product of the week, a new monitor from Acer that’s suddenly at the top of the products I’m coveting already this year.
Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo all came to play at CES this year, and each had eye-catching prototypes to showcase. However, Lenovo had the most exciting products coming to market, and several caught my eye as potential game changers.
I will detail them by manufacturer.
What seemed really interesting from Acer was its Spatial Labs TrueGame technology, designed to provide realistic 3D upscaling for games typically played in 2D. I tried similar technology from Nvidia almost two decades ago. While the depth of field was interesting, the game objects remained 2D, so it was like walking through a movie set where nothing had depth, and everything was a false facade.
What Acer showed off was full 3D rendering where objects were also 3D, giving games a depth you don’t see today.
Acer also teased an Orion X desktop that seemed to be groundbreaking (they didn’t provide any details) and two large-screen laptops (16″ and 18″) with a 13th Gen Intel processor and AmLED displays running at 240-hertz refresh rate, potentially making them awesome gaming and productivity laptops.
Dell’s most interesting product was also a prototype, but in this case a prototype controller that could be used on airplanes to play PC games on your laptop. This has been a long term annoyance for me as I tend to fly a lot, and I like to play as it makes hours feel like minutes, which is great for long trips if the tray table is big enough for a mouse, which is usually not the case.
I’ve long thought that a game controller designed for PC gaming would solve this problem, but no one has. Fortunately, Dell plans to create one. Assuming the project gets the green light, it could be a huge game-changer in flight.
The other thing Dell showed off was an important development for Concept Luna, its durable laptop. This breakthrough allowed a remotely located robot to reconfigure a Concept Luna device somewhere, like in the middle of a Best Buy. Think of a large robotic vending machine where you insert your laptop and credit card and watch as your device is customized and upgraded with the latest graphics, processors, batteries, cases, or screens.
This innovation would allow the laptop to be upgraded indefinitely, keeping it out of landfills and ensuring it was uniquely yours and always up to date, potentially avoiding premature obsolescence.
HP has been preloading Nvidia’s GeForce Now gaming platform on its consumer laptops for some time now (I’m noting it because I didn’t know HP was doing it), allowing laptops without discrete GPUs to play games High-end PC in the cloud.
The company showed off prototype 3D-printed keyboard caps, which didn’t make much sense to me because the resulting keys would be difficult to use. Yet it promised a potential future where that same technology could deliver custom cases, laptop upgrades, and accessories only limited by your imagination.
HP has also demonstrated the most aggressive use of recycled materials in its PCs and continues to lead the segment with active recycling and use of recycled materials.
Interestingly, Dell’s and HP’s sustainability approaches would overlap, and both efforts would benefit from closer collaboration between the two vendors. For example, HP could create the 3D printed parts that Dell’s Concept Luna customization robot would use.
Going forward, I expect HP’s true power to emerge once it figures out how to better integrate its 3D printing solutions that now include metals with its PC offerings. This is the first time I have seen this trend come to fruition.
Lenovo blew me away with several products. While its peers’ most interesting showcases were prototypes where final products weren’t announced or might never materialize, Lenovo came to play with products that will exist in 2023.
The initial product that stood out as potentially revolutionary was a laptop with two screens. Unlike previous offerings that placed the second screen next to the first or a smaller screen next to the keyboard, this one stacked the screens on top of each other.
This design made a lot of sense because when you’re on a plane with a laptop, you have limited width but much less limited height. Placing the second screen above the first raises it to the perfect height for watching a movie or playing a game on an airplane.
Lenovo is the only PC OEM other than Apple that has a smartphone business, and it announced the ThinkPad smartphone called ThinkPhone that solves a problem the industry has had since BlackBerry exited the phone business: the absence of an iPhone, focused on business. phone with better security, greater durability and a more professional appearance.
ThinkPad is as strong a brand in the retail space as Apple is in the consumer space, and I’ve followed the requests for a phone like this from everyone from banks to governments. This year, Lenovo has stepped up what could be a game-changer.
Finally, Lenovo announced an Android tablet. Although we haven’t seen one in a while, Android stacks up better against iOS than either Windows or Chrome OS, and the result feels much more like the iPad.
AMD and Intel have stayed close to their knitting, showcasing the latest advancements in processors and graphics. Both companies have made solid progress but seem so focused on each other that they miss the big picture, which Nvidia again highlighted with its keynote on the Tuesday before the show.
Nvidia almost seems to be in a different class in that it has showcased a growing cradle-to-grave capability for anything built in future factories that uses AI.
For self-driving electric cars, Nvidia is involved in vehicle design, factory design, assembly robot design and programming, both the car’s operating and entertainment components – and their on-board brains still more efficient.
In fact, and somewhat ironically, the firm seems more involved in the future of the automotive market than in that of the PC.
Another fascinating announcement was the licensing of its GeForce Now gaming platform by automakers like Polestar, which will integrate it into future cars (backseat or when parked only, although I wonder how many time it will be before someone finds a workaround and some idiot driver kills himself playing instead of driving). Undoubtedly, this approach will be much safer once cars can drive themselves.
Nvidia showcased gaming capabilities with its new graphics cards. However, what I found even more interesting was how much of its GPU technology now focuses on improving how we look on Zoom calls, allowing us to use AI to draw like an artist, write like an experienced author or virtually create the world of tomorrow.
Building the future
Nvidia has become a solution provider from a GPU provider. Next-gen automakers like Foxconn (the company that also makes most of Apple’s products) are using Nvidia to jump into the electric car market and move ahead of existing vendors who aren’t as aggressive with this technology.
The company’s work with Omniverse and Avatars promises to remake the TV and film industry, and its advances in robotic design, training and management will revolutionize manufacturing and automation.
In short, as its peers build parts that complement the visions of others, Nvidia is increasingly building parts for a future that its CEO, Jensen Huang, envisions, potentially making the company a much larger part of our coming.
The initial and especially pre-CES announcements were huge, and as of this writing, CES hasn’t even officially started. Next week, I’ll be covering some of the most exciting products that came out of the show, like the incredible automotive prototypes, flying cars, ever-smarter devices, personal robots and robotic pets, 8K TVs, screens rollable and a few things I didn’t expect.
So far Lenovo and Nvidia have set the bar very high as both companies have really stepped up and got people thinking differently this year.
Acer Predator X45 OLED Gaming Monitor
For me, monitors can never be big enough or sharp enough. My current primary display is a 49″ monster from Dell designed for stock traders. It’s great, but it’s not for gaming and doesn’t have the resolution and color gamut of a gaming monitor.
The Acer Predator X45 is a 45-inch curved OLED gaming monitor with 0.01ms response times, up to 1000 nits brightness making it viewable outdoors and an incredible contrast ratio of 1,500,000:1 – the advantage of OLED.
The Predator X45 features a 45-inch curved Ultra Wide Quad High Definition (3440×1440) OLED display. Image credit: Acer
Typically, OLED isn’t used for gaming, but rather for creators or enjoying entertainment, which means games often lack the brilliant colors that OLED can provide.
It will display 1,078 colors and has a 240Hz refresh rate, which is covet-worthy. You can even wall mount it and it has two 5 watt speakers. Pricing has yet to be announced. I doubt it’s cheap, but if you want a monitor that will knock your socks off, the Acer Predator OLED X45 gaming monitor is worth your covet, so this is my product of the week.