Thursday at CES, we had one-on-one sessions with numerous computer hardware
manufacturers and a couple gadget and peripheral companies to boot. We
definitely received some interesting insight from these chats.
i. USB 3.0 v. Intel
One thing we heard across the board was frustration at Intel's laggard response regarding USB
3.0. Everyone is pretty much going ahead without Intel, but in order
to do that, companies like MSI had to pay for third-party controllers from a
chipmaker like NEC.
ii. AMD Tops Intel in Battery Life
Speaking of Intel, Microsoft's keynote last night contained another subtle dig
at the long time partner, aside from the announcement of a coming
upcoming version of Windows.
Speaking about soon-to-be-released models, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed
off an HP running Sandy Bridge. He bragged that with the tweaks,
consumers could get a whopping 5+ hours of battery life. Then he turned to
an awfully similar looking notebook powered by an AMD
Fusion SoC. Without pausing he stated that the AMD notebook gave 8+
hours on the charge.
Now Sandy Bridge is certainly powerful.
But for the entry-level consumer, it's really not that power efficient.
If consumers can pick an equally priced offering from AMD and get 3+ more
hours of battery life, why world would they pick Sandy Bridge?
Sure the story is very different for gaming notebooks, which value battery life
and performance. But the market for average consumer notebooks is a much
bigger volume business.
iii. Thermaltake: Powering B-2 Bombers?
In the more interesting department, a representative for Thermaltake, an enthusiast
brand known for its impressive coolers made a rather unusual claim to us.
They commented that an unnamed buyer in Washington D.C. placed a large order of
the company's gold series power supplies.
The Thermaltake employee claimed that the supplies were delivered to an Air
Force address, and told us that they believed the supplies were (literally)
being used with "B-2 bomber mainframes". This was a pretty
unusual claim, so Air Force types, feel free to chime in and clear up whether
this claim sounds plausible or not.
iv. Imation: Dual Security is a Win
Don't want your data becoming the next big Wikileaks
post? Well Imation's Defender
200 USB drive seems like a pretty solid solution. No degree of
security refinements can totally counter user incompetence, but a dual
biometric scan and AES-256 encryption system seems a pretty solid step in the
The hardy drive also comes with software to set advanced permissions to control
v. Amazon is Brutally Outpricing Newegg
Not exactly a new development, but a lot of the hardware suppliers we spoke to
expressed to us that with every passing year, an increasing percentage of their
business was running through Amazon.com, rather than traditional enthusiast hardware
sellers like TigerDirect or Newegg.
Now Newegg is a solid e-tailer with good customer service, but it just can't
seem to keep up with Amazon in terms of prices. Amazon appears to be giving
retailers the full amount they would get from Newegg, but taking a loss to
knock tens, hundreds, or even thousands (in the case of LCD TVs) off item
It makes one wonder how Amazon is even managing to turn a profit, but the
company indeed has been solidly profitable. Amazon sure seems to have the
online market flawlessly figured out, much to its competitors’ dismay.
For customers, though, the end result is great -- low prices. But Amazon
better watch out for those pesky antitrust regulators at the EU if it keeps up
it campaign of aggressive price cuts.(Edit: As some pointed out, Amazon's lack of sales taxes may have something to do about this, though in some states this situation is reversed and Amazon buyers pay taxes, while Newegg ones do not.)
vi. Archos -- Still no Honeycomb or Gingerbread Love
Archos is a step ahead of the game, being one of the few to offer an Android
tablet. In fact it offers both 5-inch, 7-inch,
and 10-inch form factors now (plus
which stretches what we'd call a "tablet", despite the company's
marketing labeling it as such).
Now some of these tablets have absolutely huge storage capacities, thanks to
their onboard hard-drives, a definite plus. But it was a bit
disappointing to know that the tablets are running Android 2.2 Froyo and not
the latest and greatest Gingerbread.
Hopefully they'll at least make the sweet Android
3.0 Honeycomb bus that should soon be pulling in to the world of smart
phones and tablets.
vii. Maingear Unveils New Carbon
Enthusiast PC builder Maingear showed off their latest edition of the shift
case, which comes with a full carbon fiber case. That, along with new
perks like triple GeForce 580 cards and laser etching makes the company
"the Ferrari of the computer world" its customers said.
Ferrari or not, the Shift is a pretty interesting case design. Released
last year, it flipped the motherboard, so that the exhaust from the GPU cards
is funneled upwards out the top (the premise being, hot air rises, so give it
the most direct path). From a pure physics perspective this seems like a
clever idea, though it would have to be seen how well it translates in terms of
real world performance boosts.
Maingear is apparently very eager to protect this technology and has filed for
intellectual property rights to it. So don't count on seeing other
vertical outlet cases in the near future.
We had an interesting conversation with Coda, an enterprising electric vehicle
firm. They just closed a major round of venture capital funding, in which
they collected $76M USD. They plan to bring a sleek EV with a 90-120 mile
range to market this year with a price tag of around $35K USD.
We hope to find out more about this upcoming EV from the company shortly.
They aren't going to be at the Detroit North America International Auto Show
2011 next week, so hopefully we catch them before our CES adventures are over.
ix. OCZ Claims it Will Nearly Double Competitors SSD Drives
OCZ showed off its new Vertex
Pro 3 series to us on Thursday. The company claims the drive
will provide 500MB/s sequential reads and writes (for highly compressible
data), and up to 60K IOPS for 4KB random reads and writes.
AnandTech has a more detailed
According to their expert analysis, those numbers do amount to practically
doubling the competition's current generation offerings -- if OCZ can deliver
the on the goods. Needless to say, they might be able to sell a few of
these if the performance is as good as they say.