Steam Boxes, 8K resolutions, gaming tablets and wall projections - the bold and bizarre exhibits of CES 2013
10th Jan 2013 | 16:30
The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show is coming to a close, and some interesting new gadgets and gizmos have been revealed this year.
For those not in the loop, CES is the consumer electronics industry's equivalent to E3, so it's where you can expect to see the tech of the future for the first time. Here's a look at some of the most interesting announcements so far.
The Steam Box
It's been rumoured, it's been teased, it's been denied then it's been rumoured a little bit more, but the Steam Box is finally a reality. Valve has invested in computer manufacture Xi3 who will be developing a special customised PC designed to bring Steam to the living room.
The box, codenamed Piston, will offer up to 1TB of internal storage and the ability to upgrade components like the RAM and CPU in the future, a spokesperson told Polygon.
Valve will also be making its own Steam Box in-house, and they'll be a few more from other PC manufacturers too.
The real test will be the price. If this Steam Box (or whatever it ends up being called) is as powerful as it's being rumoured (4-8 GB of DDR3 RAM and a quad-core 64-bit, x86-based 32nm processor running at up to 3.2GHz with 4MB of Level2 Cache) then it could potentially be too pricey to both attract console gamers and convince PC gamers that it's worth making the switch. Make us believers, Gabe.
Samsung's bendy television
Samsung showed off what it claims is the world's first ever curved OLED TV, which bends slightly inwards to create a more panoramic feel.
Samsung reckons the screen is "a comfortable experience for the human eye", and claims the curved screen means the viewing angle feels equal wherever you sit (though we're going to have to believe that when we see it).
One thing's for sure - considering how pricey a 55-inch OLED TV would be on its own, we can only imagine how much one with a curved screen will cost. Still, it's sure to be the perfect entertainment solution for all those tech-loving lighthouse owners out there.
The Asus Transformer AiO
This past year has seen plenty of laptops that transform into tablets (Microsoft's Surface being the first that springs to mind) but the Asus Transformer AiO takes that concept a little further.
When on the move, it's a standard tablet running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) from an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. Take it home and whack it on its stand however and it becomes a desktop PC running Windows 8 running on a Core i3 processor and Nvidia GT 730M GPU.
The trick's the stand, which has its own array of USB ports and a built-in 1TB hard disk (the tablet itself has 16GB flash memory). While it seems like a clever combination of Windows at home and Android on the move, it remains to be seen whether that actually works out in practice, especially with a $1500 price point.
Here's an odd little idea from Microsoft but one that, if executed properly, could improve the level of gamer immersion massively. IllumiRoom combines Kinect and a special projector to add visuals to the area around the TV, making it seem as if your entire room is part of the action.
The examples given in Microsoft's video include snow falling in winter scenes, FPS viewpoints extending well beyond the boundaries of the TV and the ability to see items around you that may not necessarily be framed on the screen.
The best way to explain it is by showing you Microsoft's concept video, so slap your sightballs round the video below. According to Microsoft, all the effects in the vid are completely real and nothing has been added in post-processing.
Sony and Panasonic's 4K OLED TVs
The trade show equivalent of two girls turning up to prom with the same dress, Sony and Panasonic were both showing off their brand new 56-inch 4K OLED tellies at their booths, each unaware the other was announcing the same thing.
This led to each company preparing claims that turned out to be embarrassingly inaccurate. Panasonic showed off its TV with the claim that it's "the world's largest 4K OLED", while Sony showed a similar product while proudly boasting it's "the world's first and largest 4K OLED TV". D'oh.
Still, the important thing is that both televisions look hotter than eating Nando's in the sun, with their 4K displays providing the sort of detail that will have Hollywood actresses quaking in their digitally enhanced high heels.
At least you'll have plenty of time to save up for one since it's going to be a while before they're on sale - both models are only prototypes showing the sort of thing that will be coming soon - and it's probably going to be even longer before 4K displays are actually of any use to the public. After all, it was recently reported that an uncompressed 4K trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man comes in at a massive 500GB so don't expect to see 4K films in HMV any time in the near future.
Not high enough resolution for you? How about...
Sharp's 85-inch 8K television
The award for Most Ridiculous Showpiece at this year's CES has to go to Sharp for its 85-inch 8K TV. The resolution of this display is so absurdly detailed that each individual frame is as detailed as a 33 mega pixel photo.
We can't even begin to imagine how this could be useful in a normal household situation, though chances are it wouldn't and would instead be used for other purposes, such as live sport in bars or delicate surgical operations that require cameras. After all, if a surgeon can't find and remove your gallstones when they're the size of a horse they should probably rethink their career path.
Obviously, this is purely a demonstration by Sharp to show how impressive technology could be in the distant future. 4K is the future for now, so the prospect of watching a football game on Sky Sports and being able to see a curry stain on the shirt of a fan in row W is still a long way away.
The Razer Edge
At CES last year Razer showed off a concept for a gaming tablet called Project Fiona. It said if it got 10,000 Likes on its Facebook page it would go ahead with the idea. The Likes were obtained and the project was greenlit. This is the result.
The Razer Edge is a Windows 8 tablet, but a ferociously powerful one with the sort of guts you'd expect to find in a gaming laptop. The standard model has a Core i5 processor, an NVidia GT640M LE GPU, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB solid state drive, while the Edge Pro has a Core i7 processor instead, 8GB of RAM and either a 128GB or 256GB solid state drive.
Here's the interesting bit - the tablet can also be plugged into a Gamepad Controller, which comes complete with two Wii Nunchuk-style handles featuring two analogue sticks, a D-Pad and a variety of face buttons.
Cheap? We'll crack the jokes. The Edge will be $999, while the Edge Pro starts at $1299. Want a bigger shock? The Gamepad Controller will cost $249.99 and a keyboard dock for it will be $199.99. Hold on, we think there's something ridiculous in our eyes.
Sony Xperia Z
Know what we haven't had for about 30 minutes? A new smartphone announcement. To be fair, the Xperia Z is packing a whole load of features that could make it the Android phone of choice for gamers. It's only 7mm thin, has a 1080p 5-inch screen and is packing a beast of a quad-core Qualcomm processor with 2GB of RAM.
According to Sony, the Xperia Z is the most powerful phone it's ever made and the first it's had a strong say in since it took over manufacturing from Ericsson, and it also claims that while it's running Android 4.1 instead of 4.2, its own "skin" is very minimal and it should be easy to upgrade the OS in the future.
The other big selling point is HD HDR video recording, which means the Xperia Z records each frame three times and decides on the best light level, making for a much more detailed picture.
The early verdict on the Xperia Z from our chums at TechRadar is that it's an absolute beast, yet one that should hopefully still have a decent battery life thanks to Sony's new technology that apparently draws very little power while in sleep mode. It's set to release next month, so keep an eye out.