CES 2015 Round-up – Asus, LG and Dell steal the show

Computer Electronics Show. The biggest annual electronics fair in the world, it attracts over 3000 exhibitors, 150 000 attendees and occupies nearly 2 million square feet of space every year without fail. It is a tiring effort to keep up with all the product launches and announcements, so we have decided to summarise CES for you right here.

Asus:

Zenfone 2

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First up, we’ve got Asus and their continuation of the Zenfone line-up with the Zenfone 2. What makes the Zenfone 2 special is that it is the first smartphone (or any phone) to feature 4 GB of LPDDR3 RAM. It boasts a 5.5″ Full HD (1080p) display thin bezels, a 13 MP camera with true-tone flash, a 3000 mAh battery, 16/32/64 GB storage options, mated to a quad-core 2.3GHz Intel Atom Z3580 chipset (which easily matches Qualcomm’s best).

Now you might recall that Samsung had developed 8 GB of LPDDR4 RAM last year (and that the new G Flex 2 has 2 GB of LPDDR4 RAM as well), but that is still in testing and we’ve not seen any indication of a near-future commercial application. Meanwhile, Asus has stolen the crown of the first manufacturer to possess 4 GB of LPDDR3 RAM.

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What’s more, the Zenfone 2 looks absolutely brilliant. The 1080p display gives it a 403ppi pixel density, and it only has 3.3mm of bezels. But that’s not even the best part. The Zenfone 2, will retail for just US$199 off-contract, but that’s only for the 16 GB storage/2 GB RAM option. Still, pretty damn good for a top-of-the-line device, no?

Zenfone Zoom

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The Zenfone Zoom is almost the same device as the Zenfone 2, with the exception of its camera. Its main perk is the 3x optical zoom f/2.7-4.8 lens, which also has optical image stabilization. At 11.95mm, it is slightly thicker than the Lumia 1020, but much thinner than the 16.6mm Samsung Galaxy K Zoom.

The press-images have quite a bit of obfuscation going on though. While demo units at CES demonstrated an f/2.7-4.8 lens, and plain true-tone LED flash, the images depict a constant f/2.0 aperture and a Xenon flash. What is consistent is the presence of the laser autofocus, similar to what the LG G3 possesses.

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Unfortunately, Asus was shy to comment on the sensor size, so it probably will be a 1/3″ variant, which isn’t too impressive anymore what with Sony’s 1/2.3″, Samsung’s 1/2.6″ and Nokia’s supermassive 1/1.5″.

The Zenfone Zoom isn’t too expensive though, costing US$399 off-contract. Expect both devices to launch in the 2nd Quarter this year.

Dell:

XPS 13

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Dell has practically hit a home-run with the new XPS 13, and I’ll be damned if isn’t the best 13″ laptop yet. While the previous simply added a good quality 1080p display, this new version will ship with a 3200 x 1800 pixels touch-screen, edge-to-edge “Infinity” display. This has been achieved by minimising the top and side bezels to a razor-thin 5.2mm, essentially squeezing a 13″ display into an 11″ chassis.

The build of the XPS has remained the same, which we love. It is an aluminium chassis that weighs 1.17kg or 1.27kg depending if you opt for a touchscreen or not. Dell is also using the latest, 5th-gen Intel Broadwell processors (more on that below) from the i3 to the i7, and have 4/8 GB RAM options with a mini DisplayPort.

Another major improvement is the trackpad. Previously, trackpads on Windows laptops have been a far cry from the level of Macbooks. But with the Dell XPS 13, the implementation of a glass button and a precision trackpad takes your trackpad experience to a whole new level. Precisions trackpads give you fine control so you feel like they are mini-touchscreens instead, and they allow you (in Windows 8.1) to directly control the pointer, multi-touch, and use gesture support.

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Not only that, Dell is promising a staggering 15 hours of battery life from this year’s XPS 13 – assuming you go for the 1080p display paired with an i5. The key contributing factors to this are probably the low power draw of the new Broadwell processors, as well as the Sharp IGZO display.

It is already on sale, starting from S$1699 for the i5 with 1080p, 4 GB RAM and a 128 GB SSD, going up to S$2099 for the QHD+ touchscreen version with 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD. No word has been released if the i3 version will hit Singapore shores, though it is on sale in the US for US$799.

HP:

HP this CES has gone on quite a monitor spree, releasing 7 of them all at one go, ranging from 4K, 5K to 3D and even curved ones. Let’s have a look.

227q

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The HP 227q is a 27″, 5K-resolution (5120 x 2880 pixels) monitor – identical to the new 5K-resolution retina iMac. It has a 60Hz IPS panel two DisplayPort 1.2 inputs, four USB 3.0 outputs, tilt, swivel, pivot, and height adjustment, and covers 99% of the Adobe RGB gamut. It will go on sale in March for US$1299.

Z24s and Z27s

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Next up are the two 4K-resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) monitors, at 24″ and 27″ configurations. In terms of colour, they have 60Hz IPS panels, 1.07 billion colours, and cover the sRGB colour gamut. Both have HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, Mini DisplayPort, four USB 3.0 ports, 1 audio out port, and tilt, swivel, pivot, and height adjustment. The Z27s will be available in January for US$749 and the Z24s in April for US$549.

Envy 34c, Pavillion 27c and S270c

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These three are the curved displays coming in at 34″ for the former, and 27″ for the latter two. The Envy 34c features an ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio 3440 x 1440 pixels AH-VA panel (similar to IPS), dual HDMI (one with MHL), one DisplayPort 2.1, 8-bit color depth, 98.8% sRGB coverage, low reflective coating, and DTS Audio with 6W per channel speakers.

The 27c and 24c have standard Full HD (1080p) AH-VA panels, HDMI 1.4, MHL 2.0, and VGA port. There are also built-in DTS Audio and 4W per channel speaker system.

The 34c will cost US$999 in April, while the 27c and 24c are for sale already at US$399.

Zvr

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Finally, we have the Zvr 3D virtual-reality monitor. It features a 1080p TN panel with advertised 170 degrees vertical and 160 degrees horizontal viewing angles, and has 3D cameras above the display that track your head movement and with the help of the passive 3D glasses. Not only can you see the objects in 3D but the monitor will use real-time parallax effect to move objects around relative to the position of your head.

You can also use the provided stylus to manipulate objects around. This is designed primarily for 3D software such as AutoCAD and for places like design studios, engineering labs, and schools. The Zvr has one DVI-D port, one DisplayPort 1.2, and two USB 3.0 ports. No pricing or release information has been announced yet.

HTC:

Desire 826

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The Desire line of HTC has seen a refresh this year, with the new 826 sporting a quad-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 clocked at 1.7 GHz, and a 5.5″ Full HD (1080p) display. The rear camera is a standard 13 MP version, with a front-facing UltraPixel selfie camera. It has a 2600 mAh battery, 2 GB of RAM and will come with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box.

It will be available in the Asia-Pacific region from the end of January and will roll out in other regions over subsequent months.

Desire 320

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The HTC Desire 320 is a low-end model, and has a paltry 480 x 854 pixels, 4.5″ display, a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 512 MB/1 GB RAM and 4/8 GB of storage (respectively).

The saving grace of this device is the CA$99 price, which is around the price of an Android One phone. This is probably the phone you should get for emergencies, or for your small kids clamouring for a smartphone.

Intel:

Broadwell

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Intel has continued on with their 5th generation of Celeron, Pentium and Core i processors, with the latest one called Broadwell for desktops and laptops, and Cherry Trail for tablets. These chipsets are the first to be built upon a 14nm fabrication process, down from the 22nm we saw with Haswell.

This has resulted in a 37% smaller chipset, but with 35% more transistors and a claimed GPU speed jump of 24%. Battery life has also been improved, you can expect to squeeze out an hour and a half more compared to a 4th generation chip and the new members of Core family are either 15W or 28W.

They also have a selection of Intel-made GPUs – HD Graphics 5500 and 600, plus Iris 6100. All support 4K Ultra HD video decoding with the new h.265 codec and wireless 4K streaming over WiDi, not forgetting DirectX 12 and OpenGL 4.3, plus OpenCL 2.0.

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For tablets and smartphones, the Cherry Trail chipset is also built on a 14nm process and offers 64-bit computing, improved graphics with Intel Generation 8-LP GPU and Cat. 6 LTE (300Mbps) with an Intel modem. This supports face and fingerprint unlocking, plus RealSense for 3D imaging.

Cherry Trail products are expected by the second quarter of this year. There should be beefier desktop chips from Broadwell too, but those will be unveiled later.

LG:

G Flex 2
The new G Flex 2 (left) vs the old G Flex (right)
The new G Flex 2 (left) vs the old G Flex (right)

Perhaps the biggest announcement in the smartphone industry this year, the G Flex 2 has taken all the faults of the original G Flex and fixed them. It’s more compact and more powerful than its predecessor, more curved and heals faster.

Gone is the paltry 720p 6″ display, and in place is a 5.5″, 1080p POLED panel. The screen is protected by an LG-developed glass cover that is said to be 20% more durable than Gorilla Glass 3. The back has a special self-healing coating – LG marked a massive improvement by cutting the heal time from 3 minutes to just 10 seconds at room temperature. And the best part is – it works.

The front of the G Flex 2 is curved to a 700mm radius, which according to LG, makes for an “immersive” experience and brings the mic closer to you. The rear is curved at a 650mm radius, to make it easier to hold and fit into your pocket.

The G Flex 2 will be the first device to sport the octa-core Snapdragon 810. This isn’t actually a true octa-core like the MediaTek MT6592, but instead works with four high-power Cortex A57 cores and four low-powered, battery saving Cortex A53 cores, similar to Samsung’s Exynos 7.  Software-side, it will have Android 5.0 Lollipop at launch.

It also comes with 2 GB of RAM, 16/32 GB of storage (with up to 2 TERABYTE expansion), and a non-removable 3000 mAh battery. The camera has also seen upgrades from the G3 ported over,  including OIS+ and Laser Auto Focus. The 13 MP snapper has a dual-LED flash, and a 2.1 MP camera is on the front.

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The LG G Flex2 will come in Platinum Silver and Flamenco Red, first in South Korea at the end of the month followed by other regions.

Samsung:

Galaxy A5

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While it seems that Samsung has reserved its Galaxy S6 launch for MWC in March, they did release the Galaxy A5. It continues a pretty bland design language over from practically all Galaxy devices, and has a plastic body.

It has a 5″, 720p SAMOLED display, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage, a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, and is 6.7mm thin and weighs just 123g. The back just features a 13 MP ISOCELL camera, LED flash and loudspeaker.

The Galaxy A5 is available in Pearl White, Midnight Black, Platinum Silver, Soft Pink, Light Blue, and Champagne Gold, and will set you back about US$470.

Sony:

SmartWatch 3 Stainless Steel

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It’s only been out on sale for a few months, but Sony has released a cosmetic upgrade for those interested in a SmartWatch 3. It now comes in a stainless steel finish, which gives Sony’s smartwatch a touch of much needed class and refinement. Apart from the new look though, the Stainless Steel variant is identical to the original.

03 SmartWatch3 colour range

It still features a 1.6” 320×320 TFT LCD Transflective display for visibility in bright sunlight, and is of course IP68 water protected, and it charges via a standard microUSB port. Even without your Android smartphone, SmartWatch 3 is a useful accessory with impressive standalone functionality – featuring native music playback, intelligent sensor technology and a unique inbuilt GPS sensor.

Roll-out will begin next month, but it is unclear if the stainless steel variant will see much of a mark-up over the competitive S$250 pricing of the original.

Looking onward to MWC

CES this year was far from boring. In fact, we saw further branching out from the standard releases of smartphones into more innovative ideas. However, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) is coming up in March, where we are sure to see Samsung announce the Galaxy S6, with LG and perhaps Sony too joining in with the next generation of flagships.

What did you think of CES 2015? Hit or a miss?

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