As CES 2021—also known as the virtual Consumer Electronics Show—winds down, it’s time to look back at all the latest and greatest computer tech announced at CES 2021. There is a lot to unpack, but I’ll try to hit the highlights. Rather than go by manufacturer, I’m going to touch on themes—because this virtual CES definitely had themes.
For the better part of a year, many Canadians have been working from home, or taking classes remotely. That’s been a big trend globally during the pandemic, and PC makers responded at CES 2021 with a wide range of products designed to make things easier.
Dell introduced a series of videoconferencing monitors with integrated webcams, stereo speakers, microphone arrays and even dedicated Microsoft Teams buttons. The company showed off new OptiPlex miniature modular PCs that snap into the back of a monitor stand, freeing up valuable desk space. For those who are concerned about privacy, Dell also showed off Latitude laptops with integrated—and automated—webcam shutters. I didn’t have a separate feature for Lenovo, but the company’s Yoga AIO 7 (pictured) really stood out. The all-in-one PC has a 27-inch 4K display that can rotate for use in landscape or portrait mode.
Students and those who simply prefer the Chrome OS experience have some compelling new choices including the new AcerChromebook Spin 514 and the ASUS Chromebook CS9. The Spin 514 is equipped with AMD Ryzen chips, while the Chromebook CS9 gets the latest 11th generation Intel processors.
Speaking of processors, both Intel and AMD announced their latest mobile processors. Look for AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series in laptops, while intel showed off 11th generation Tiger Lake H-series mobile chips and 11th generation Rocket Lake-S desktop processors. It’s going to be a big year for laptops. These new chips deliver unprecedented performance, with integrated graphics that are more powerful than ever, along with a big leap forward in battery life.
With the double whammy of the pandemic and its big boost to gaming plus those new mobile processors, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Consumer Electronics Show where so many new gaming laptops were being launched.
Some highlights from this category? I’ll try to keep it to a few …
They would include Alienware’s m17 R4 which gets the option of a 17.3-inch Full HD display with a 360Hz refresh rate along with NVIDIA RTX 30-series mobile GPUs. Acer had multiple offerings in its Helios, Nitro and Predator Triton series laptops, but the one that caught my eye was the Predator Triton 300 SE (pictured). This is an ultraportable 14-inch laptop in an attractive metal case that’s just 17.9 mm thick and 1.7 kg. Despite the slim form factor it packs a punch with a 144Hz Full HD display, up to an Intel Core i7 H35-series Special Edition processor, and GeForce RTX 3060 graphics.
Where to start with ASUS and its Republic of Gamers? ROG was out in full force with an almost overwhelming collection of new gaming laptops and accessories. There were interesting options like the ultraportable (just 1.3 kg) Flow X13, a 2-in-1 gaming laptop that plugs into the ROG XG Mobile portable eGPU equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 card for additional firepower. There was also the photogenic ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, with dual displays.
However my favourite had to be the ROG Strix Scar 15 (pictured) and Strix Scar 17. They get new AMD Ryzen 7 5800H or Ryzen 9 5900HX processors, up to 64GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200MHz RAM, an NVIDIA RTX 3070 or RTX 3080 mobile GPU and up to 2TB of M.2 PCIe NVM storage. In other words, these are powerhouses. Both sizes offer a display choice: 1080p at 300Hz or 1440p at 165Hz. Both include a new ultra-responsive, optical mechanical keyboard with per-key lighting, and quad-speakers with Dolby Atmos support.
Computer monitors also got a lot of time on the virtual “stage” this year. There were the working-from-home options with built-in webcams, as well as super-sized options like the Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD monitor for productivity powerhouses—that’s 40-inches at 5,120x 2,160-pixel resolution.
Gaming monitors were pushing refresh rates to new extremes. The Alienware 25 Gaming Monitor won a CES 2021 Innovation award for achieving the world’s fastest refresh rate at 360Hz. ASUS had an offering that had many mobile gamers taking notice. The ROG Strix XG16 (pictured) is a portable monitor. It’s a thin and light 15.6-inch IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate. It offers USB-C and micro HDMI connectivity, charges using a second USB-C port, and has a built-in battery good for three hours of gaming on a charge.
Computer monitor manufacturers are also stepping up for next-gen console gamers. There were multiple gaming monitors announced with HDMI 2.1, for full support of 4K 120Hz gaming.
One thing that became clear at CES 2021 is that primetime is here for Wi-Fi 6. You won’t find a laptop or computer released in 2021 that doesn’t have Wi-Fi 6 support. Router manufacturers were stepping up with new releases including the TP-Link Deco Voice X20 (pictured). This CES 2021 Innovation Awards Honouree is the first Wi-Fi 6 mesh system with integrated Alexa voice control.
It was also clear that router companies are moving forward on Wi-Fi 6E, the latest generation of Wi-Fi that gets even better by adding a third band (6 GHZ) for additional bandwidth and cleaner communication in crowded areas. Netgear, TP-Link, ASUS, and Linksys all announced new Wi-Fi 6E routers at the show. Canadians will need to be patient on this development though, as the the 6GHz spectrum has not yet been approved for use in this country. But it’s something to look forward to!
My focus has been on computers and related technology, but the Consumer Electronics Show is about much more than just PCs. Check the blog for comprehensive CES 2021 coverage, including all the latest TVs, smart home products and all the high-tech products that made their debut at this year’s show. For round-ups by manufacturer, be sure to read my CES 2021 coverage of Dell and Alienware, ASUS, Acer, and Intel + AMD.