The first day of CES 2021 set the stage with grand announcements, but most companies were light on details. Day Two, led by big announcements from Nvidia and AMD, started to fill in the gaps with the reveal of an affordable Nvidia graphics card for PC gamers, new AMD processors for high-performance laptops, and plus-sized televisions from TCL.
Nvidia Brings Its Best RTX Hardware to an Affordable Graphics CardNvidia
The green team wasn't officially part of CES 2021, as its presentation was held outside the official virtual show, but Nvidia still had plenty to share. The biggest, and least surprising, was the launch of Nvidia's RTX 3060, RTX 3070, and RTX 3080 Max-Q graphics cards for laptops. These bring the architecture powering Nvidia's popular 30-series desktop cards, known as Ampere, to mobile devices.
Nvidia says the RTX 30-series mobile launch includes over 70 laptops from every laptop maker in North America, with availability starting January 26 and pricing from $999. Several specific laptops were shown, including Lenovo's Legion Slim 7, Asus' G15, and Alienware's m15.
While new RTX laptops were widely expected, Nvidia had a surprise: a new RTX 3060 desktop graphics card. Priced at $329, it will be the most affordable RTX 30-series graphics card yet. Its specifications include 13 teraflops of quoted shader performance (more than an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5) and GDDR6 memory.
This is a mainstream card targeting the millions of gamers still using a card that's five years old, or older, like the Nvidia GTX 1060.
"The GTX 1060 was one of our most successful GPUs we ever built," said Jeff Fisher, Senior Vice President of Nvidia GeForce, during the company's CES presentation. "Now is the perfect time to deliver an RTX for every gamer."
Availability remains a concern, however, as virtually all new PC graphics cards are currently out of stock or priced above MSRP. Fisher said during his presentation that Nvidia knows these products "have been hard to find, and we want to thank you for your patience as we continue to work hard to catch up."
In addition to new hardware, Nvidia announced feature support for several games:Call of Duty: Warzone is adding DLSS support.Outriders will support DLSS.Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach will support RTX ray tracing and DLSS.F.I.S.T. Forged In Shadow will support RTX ray tracing.Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch are receiving Nvidia Reflex support.
AMD Extends Its Lead in ProcessorsAMD
AMD's recently released Ryzen 5000 series processors proved the company can deliver best-in-class performance on the desktop. At CES 2021, the company's CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, unveiled a two-prong approach that brings Ryzen 5000 to laptops.
The company's Ryzen H-Series processors target ultra-thin and compact laptops. These have up to eight cores, sixteen threads, and clock speeds up to 4.4GHz. Su said during AMD's presentation that "when you take a look at the benchmarks, it's very clear the Ryzen 7 just runs your software faster." Benchmarks shown by Su claim the Ryzen 7 5800U is between 18-44% quicker than Intel's Core i7-1185G7, a processor in popular laptops like the Dell XPS 13.
The company also revealed its new Ryzen 5000 HX-Series processor for laptops. These target a category where AMD previously lagged Intel: gaming laptops. Intel processors often perform better in gaming laptops due to higher clock speeds.
The Ryzen HX series responds by hitting boost clocks of up to 4.8GHz, and it hits that speed while still delivering eight cores. AMD also unlocks the clock speed, so laptop makers and owners can attempt to overclock the chip. The company claims its fastest HX-series processor, the Ryzen 9 5900HX, has a 13-35% lead over Intel's Core i9-10980HK.
AMD's new hardware finally offers an alternative to Intel, and laptop makers have taken note. Su said during AMD's presentation that "we expect the number of notebook designs powered by our new generation of mobile processors to grow by 50%," leading to 150 new models. Laptops with AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile hardware will hit retailers in February 2021.
While AMD had plenty to say about processors, it didn't counter Nvidia on graphics. Su only could share that AMD will bring its latest graphics hardware, built on the same RDNA architecture found in the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, to notebooks sometime in the first half of 2021.
TCL Goes BigTCL
TCL doesn't have the same clout as LG or Samsung, but its staggering growth has challenged those well-known giants. TCL says its televisions are now the second most popular in the United States, and the third most popular in Canada, by sales volume.
The company has a simple plan for keeping up momentum in 2021: go big. The company's XL-Collection of 85-inch televisions will span all price points, from the affordable TCL 4-Series to the premium TCL 8-Series. All XL-Collection televisions will include Roku's streaming platform and QLED display panels, with prices starting at $1,600. High-end models will use the company's ODZero Mini-LED backlighting technology, which TCL announced on the first day of CES 2021.
"Only the biggest screens can truly transport you to the world beyond the surface of the display," said Aaron Dew, TCL's director of product development in North America, during the company's presentation. "There's no substitute to big screen size to replace the cinematic experience of a movie theater."
While big TVs make headlines, the key to TCL's recent popularity is its affordable 6-Series, which, over the past several years, has received excellent reviews. TCL isn't taking its foot off the gas, though, and plans to bring 8K resolution to the 6-Series in 2021. That's a bold commitment and, if it doesn't result in a big bump in the price (which remains to be announced), will give TCL's 6-Series a clear advantage over competitors, which reserved 8K resolution for their more luxurious TVs.
TCL also teased new 5G phones, its first 5G tablet, and a folding smartphone for North America in 2021, though details are scarce. TCL brought its first phone to Verizon, the TCL 10 5G UW, in late 2020.
Asus and Acer Show How Virtual CES Should Be DoneAsus
Most companies at CES 2021 stuck to video presentations, but Asus and Acer took a more aggressive approach. Both companies used virtual showrooms designed to replicate the CES booth experience from home.
Asus went direct to gamers with ROG Citadel XV, a free game uploaded to Steam, just as the company's video stream went live. ROG, which stands for Republic of Gamers, is a sub-brand of Asus that sells gaming laptops, video cards, and mechanical keyboards, among other gadgets.
The ROG Citadel XV "game" includes a story mode, complete with a guided tour from a cheeky robot, or you can skip directly to showroom mode if you just want to see the hardware. Since it's a game, it includes 3D models of Asus' devices instead of photos or videos. The visuals were definitely attractive, but you need a modern discrete graphics card to enjoy the demo without it becoming a slide show.
Acer's virtual showroom, on the other hand, works much like the interior view in Google Maps and similar applications, using a series of photographs taken from around the room to construct a 3D space you can "walk" through by moving from one point to the next. Though not nearly as impressive as Asus' ROG Citadel XV, it does have the advantage of working in a browser.
These virtual experiences left me wishing more companies had tried this approach at CES 2021. If Asus and Acer could pull it off, then why couldn't Samsung or LG? Perhaps we'll see more 3D virtual experiences at CES 2022 if in-person attendance still isn't possible.
Day Two of CES brings the bulk of the show's product announcements to a close. Day Three will likely be more of a transition to topic-focused talks on gaming trends, smart home innovations, and health. Stay tuned!
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