CES 2019 Announcements Have Begun

Can you feel the excitement in the air?!?! Over the next week, product announcements and presentations from a myriad of companies will shape the technological landscape for this year. While we’re expecting some surprises over the next few days, the initial wave of marketing publications or early releases of information have left us… slightly disappointed. Why is this?

For starters, the next wave of Chromebooks may come equipped with an AMD processor. This is good news as it provides additional options for consumers. Mass-market Chromebooks have been versatile and easy-to-use products that fulfill many use cases where a traditional laptop isn’t necessary. This also provides AMD with another revenue stream. While trade-offs have to be made at some level to reach the sub-$300 price point where most of these units fall, the use of AMD’s legacy cores is a cause for concern. When paired with the abysmal 720p screens that HP still foists upon unsuspecting consumers, the end result will most likely be something that pushes toward blue/purple from a display perspective while not offering the battery life that Chromebooks have been known for. Acer’s inclusion of a 1080p screen will warrant serious consideration at the $279 MSRP if the CPU can pass the muster. If we’re lucky, CES 2020 will offer Chromebooks with an Athlon 200GE-level APU at a comparable price point.

nVidia will be going all-out very shortly. The early reveal pertained to their BFGD finally coming to market. 65″ screen, 4K resolution, HDR support, and G-SYNC with a 144Hz refresh rate. All for the low price of $4,999. No, that’s not a typo. While I’m sure it will be impressive, the less than spectacular lifespan of the Dell S2716DG (replaced once under warranty, refurb unit failed about eight months later) may have tainted our view of the longevity and benefit of G-SYNC. When it worked, frame rates were noticeably better, even if the panel was less than satisfactory from a color accuracy perspective. Hopefully, these displays find a market and last long enough to be paired with a future-generation nVidia GPU that can drive this beast to the point where the high refresh rate benefit can be realized in conjunction with all graphical options being set to their maximum limit.

Finally, in the “strange bedfellows” department, Apple will be bringing its services and AirPlay 2 to Samsung TVs. Potential admission that Apple TV (4K or otherwise) isn’t doing well? Realization that there may be a non-trivial number of customers outside of the walled garden that would like to interface with a large screen sans additional purchases? Whatever it is, it feels questionable. The salient points raised by Nilay Patel over at The Verge do highlight the potential for lost sales of Apple’s streaming device. This development also makes it less likely that a lower cost “streaming stick” will be coming out of Cupertino. If Apple’s bringing their services to the Tizen platform, what’s holding them back from doing the same for webOS (LG), Roku (Sharp, TCL, HiSense, and Roku streaming devices with sufficient horsepower), or the FireTV platform (Toshiba, Insignia, and the millions of Amazon Prime subscribers that have a Fire TV device)?

While we still hate the new Apple TV remote with a passion, the image quality and performance of Apple TV is silky smooth and dependable. Support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats aid in providing an optimized picture for compatible sets. Additionally, Apple TV plays nicely with a myriad of network-based ad-blocking solutions. This is something we can confirm from first-hand experience that the Roku does not. Apple still hasn’t fixed the network flapping issue on the 4K box. While enabling these technologies in mass market products is one of the more consumer-friendly actions taken by Apple, we’d rationalize that the majority of consumers have already standardized on something that is NOT an Apple product for media consumption. A properly calibrated at the factory set with impeccable fit/finish and a “storage compartment” for an Apple TV device would have been an epic win. We can only jump to the conclusion that Apple was unable to achieve their desired margins on a Cupertino-developed television. Time will tell how this partnership works out.

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