CES 2013: what does it mean for PC gaming?
The Consumer Electronics Show has hit full stride in Vegas this week. Huge amounts of mobile and tablet tech are flying around at the moment, but in between the techno-babble and nonsensical corporate catchphrases like LG's "touch the smart life" there are a few kooky bits of PC news. There's the Valve-endorsed living room box, big touchscreen PCs designed to lie flat on your coffee table, eye tracking tech and more. So what does the future hold for PC tech this year? Here's a quick overview of some of the PC trends we've seen so far at CES 2013.
Li'l gaming PCs in your front room
Valve approved hardware bundle incoming
The hardware bundle that Gabe Newell mentioned last year will get a public run-around on Valve's CES stand later this week. The box is being developed by Xi3, who say that Valve have offered some financial backing for the project. "This new system could provide access to thousands of gaming titles through an integrated system that exceeds the capabilities of leading game consoles, but can fit in the palm of your hand," says Xi3 president Jason A. Sullivan. It'll fit in the tiny Xi3 Modular Computer Chassis, run on Linux and work with Steam's Big Picture Mode.
Coffee tables that are actually PCs
Lenovo reveal 27-inch Windows 8 table PC
Lenovo's 27-inch, i7-powered PC is designed to lie flat on a table so that multiple users can gather round and poke its touchscreen surface. It'll cost around $1.7k (!), and come with some gaming accessories like mini ice-hockey paddles, joysticks and an e-dice (it's currently unclear how this is different from an ordinary dice). "We believe families, particularly moms between the ages of 35 and 45, will choose this as a replacement to their home PC," Lenovo exec worldwide marketing director Nick Reynolds told Tech News World. "It's a quite capable all-in-one desktop that adds a lot of new value in its ability to become a flat, immersive "edutainment" experience for the family." Yes, he actually said "edutainment."
There's a powerful GeForce 620 GPU in there, which will allow that big screen to run smoothly at 1080p, though they need to ship it with some e-coasters to keep the coffee rings off. Ooh, look, a video!
Ugly gamepads that are actually portable gaming devices
Nvidia show off Project Shield device that can stream Steam games
Nvidia's weird Project Shield thing runs on the new Tegra 4 mobile chip and will let you play games on the fly using its itty bitty HD screen. It'll offer a "full Android gaming experience" which is a bit like being offered a "full bread experience." The Android version of Hawken and the Android Arma are the only curiosities worth considering, though Nvidia revealed that the Shield will be able to stream Steam games locally using Big Picture mode. You'll need a GTX 650 to do it, mind. Find out more on the Nvidia site.
PCs that make eye contact
Tobii eye-tracking peripheral to Windows 8
The Tobii Rex USB peripheral is due out for desktop PCs later this year, PC Mag report. It's designed to read the point of the screen you're looking at, and can be used to scroll down documents by simply reading them, or zoom in on images by looking at a point and using the scroll wheel. It's a curiosity at the moment, but Tobii are selling developer licenses which could encourage some software experimentation among well-to-do designers. As a gaming application, it could deliver a Track-IR style experience without the need for a headset. Check out the Tobii site for more.
Wireless internet that doesn't suck
Qualcomm Atheros outline StreamBoost wireless tech
Qualcomm will be showing off their StreamBoost bandwidth management system using their high performance VIVE 802.11ac router tech at CES this week. StreamBoost will apparently allocate wifi resources intelligently depending on the nature of the web-heavy apps running in your home. If you're nuking your friends in SupCom StreamBoost will make sure you've got the internet speed to keep it running nicely, even if someone else suddenly starts streaming HD video - the online equivalent of someone flushing when you're in the shower. Will it work? I hope so. Wireless is still too flaky for those with the temerity to have walls in their homes.
Hardcore gaming PCs to look even more like Dr Who villains
Lenovo unveil giant bomb-proof rectangle
I'm still waiting for the first high-performance gaming PC that is simply a Dalek. Alienware tend to lead the herd in the super-chunky monster PC case stakes but Lenovo are leading their own counter-attack with the X700. The Verge noticed the ominous obelisk on their CES rounds. The $1500 tower will come with a choice of a pare of GeForce GTX660s or AMD Radeon HD 8950s. It also packs 16GB of DDR3 RAM and has a big "OVERCLOCK" button which you can press in emergencies to boost performance and project a bat symbol onto the clouds above your house. With all that high-level hardware and the sheer number of lights on it, it's bound to suck up a lot of power. Just don't feed it after midnight.
Greasy finger smudges everywhere
Unstoppable wave of touch-screen PC variants incoming, Norovirus thrilled
The prevalence of Windows 8 has triggered a storm of touchscreen laptops and desktop variants at CES this year. Engadget report that Vizio are refreshing their hardware line with a series of powerful laptops and desktop packages with touchy-feely support for Windows 8's tablet-esque Metro interface. Vizio are known to keep their prices relatively low, so it'll be interesting to see if their new models stay competitive when more is revealed in February. The Verge also highlight Toshiba's attempt to get into the reasonably-priced touchscreen laptop market with the U845T, which will cost around $799, which is still quite a lot, frankly. The Steam hardware survey picked up a slight increase in Windows 8 uptake, which is bound to increase as mass-market consumers buy packaged PCs. Games-wise, Windows 7 remains a solid choice, unless you really, really like stroking your PC.
And finally, imagine playing games on this 85-inch ultra-HD Samsung "floating" TV, spotted by Techradar.