What’s old is new again.
CES, originally known as the Consumer Electronics Show, was launched in 1967 — well before PCs — but for much of its life it was a computer-centric show. Over the past few years that’s changed. The focus has widened, this year including a wide range of gear including self-driving and electric cars, virtual assistants and robotics.
But despite a declining PC market, computers and their underlying silicon are again in the news at this year’s CES, convening this week in Las Vegas. The focus, as always, is on reducing size, increasing power and innovating in design.
Intel, which supplies most of the central processing units (CPUs) powering both Apple and IBM-compatible computers, today announced new members of its 7th Gen Core processor family, the first of which it introduced in August. The processors, code-named Kaby Lake, now include the Core i7-7700K and the Core i5-7600K, both of which Forbes reports are unlocked, allowing enthusiasts to overclock them. Also new is an unlocked Core i3-7350K, allowing overclocking on a lower-cost chip.
Compared to past generations of Intel silicon, the newest chips offer longer battery life, USB 3.1 support and a new “media engine” that allows streaming 4K UHD material though services such as Netflix, according to Intel. The top-end Core i7-7700K has a maximum frequency of 4.5GHz, but the new processors aren’t touted as offering performance increases over the just-prior generation, dubbed Skylake, notes tech site Anandtech.
The Kaby Lake processors have found their way into five new models of Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC) mini-PCs. These are pint-sized aluminum boxes, shipped as kits and devoid of any frills, sporting only USB ports, a headphone jack and a few other essentials. Users must add their own operating systems, RAM and solid-state drive.
Dell announced a series of Inspiron- and Alienware-branded gaming laptops ranging from 13 to 17 inches, oriented toward 4K games and VR. Some of them use Intel’s new chips. With a new emphasis on low price, the machines are priced at $799 to $1,299 and are set to ship in the U.S. by mid-month. It’s not hard to see the business appeal of gaming-oriented computers, since Dell says such hardware is expected to yield $35 billion in revenue by the end of 2018.
Dell also released a Microsoft Surface competitor, the Latitude 5285 tablet, priced at $899 and available Feb. 28 in the U.S. It offers a 12.3-inch display, a 1-TB SSD option, 16GB of RAM and a choice of 7th Gen Intel Core chips.
Hewlett Packard debuted a new curved all-in-one computer and monitor, the 34-inch Envy Curved. It features a camera that pops up only when in use, to protect the user’s privacy; up to a 7th Gen Intel Core i7 processor; and up to 16GB of RAM. Set to ship by Jan. 11, it starts at $1,729.
HP also introduced the Sprout Pro G2, a computer designed to capture objects in 2D and 3D and then render them onscreen, allowing manipulation and redesign. It’s meant for use in manufacturing, design and education. Pricing and availability are set for announcement in March. And HP released a spate of new Spectre and Elitebook laptops.
Acer announced an Aspire V17 Nitro laptop with integrated eye tracking from Stockholm-based Tobii, that company said. Eye tracking lets a user gaze at a point on the screen and then touch a button, causing the mouse pointer to snap to the gazed-at point, Tobii said. It also allows quicker switching among applications.
The venerable Lenovo ThinkPad, now in its 25th year, comes in new designs with faster processors, of course including Kaby Lake. The new X1 Carbon won a favorable review from The Verge.
Researcher Gartner estimates 442 million personal computers and tablets sold worldwide in 2016, down 8.6 percent the year before, according to the The Seattle Times. Another decline, to 439 million units, is expected this year as more consumers use smartphones as their primary computer.