CES 2021: how to watch the main events at the all-digital tech show

AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su holding an AMD EPYC server processor at CES 2020
(Image credit: AMD)

CES 2021 is going ahead in January, but not as we know it. Rather than spanning a handful of hotels, exhibition centres, and casinos in Las Vegas, the crowded tech show will instead be beamed across ethernet cables and over Wi-Fi networks. Thousands of attendees, companies, and exhibitors will be taking their show online for the virtual event.

From January 11 until January 14, 2021, CES 2021 will open its virtual doors to attendees. CES is a trade-only event, and as such, you can't just catch everything from the comfort of your own home, but that shouldn't mean you miss out on the latest news and announcements from the show. Not only will major companies beam out their own special events over the course of those few days—more details on those below—but we here at PC Gamer are prepped and ready to distil all the best bits from the biggest names in PC hardware into bite-size chunks.

You can expect to hear from all sorts of familiar faces at the show. The big three for PC silicon, Intel, AMD, and Nvidia, of course; but also the biggest names in components, peripherals, and monitors, too. You name a company, they'll probably have something going on over those few days—even if it's technically CES-adjacent and not officially part of the show. After all, it's a great time to set up expectations and let people know what you have in store for the rest of 2021.

Not everything that comes out of CES actually, well, comes out, however. It's often not a bad thing—the opposite, in fact. Prototypes are some of the more exciting products to come out of the show, and Razer is known to tease a prototype to generate some buzz, such as the famous Razer triple-display laptop known as Project Valerie. Alienware also made a splash with its Project UFO gaming handheld in 2020, which is also MIA and presumed in the bin or otherwise deterred.

CES is also a hotbed for monitor news, or at least it usually is. Samsung is known to go big at the Vegas show—last year it rented what felt like an entire E3's worth of capacity for its products alone—and so we're sure to see more from the Korean tech giant, and its competitors, too.

CES 2021 dates

CES 2021 logo on grey background

(Image credit: CES)

CES 2021 dates: when will the tech show take place?

CES 2021 will begin on Monday, January 11 and run until Thursday, January 14, 2021. It's an entirely virtual show this year, so don't expect to see any snaps from Las Vegas during that time. Instead, CES 2021 will be held online—essentially, a week of Zoom calls for anyone attending.

You can also expect further events throughout the weekend prior to CES 2021's official kick-off and during the remainder of the week post-show.

CES 2021 exhibitors

Dell conference at CES 2020

(Image credit: Dell)

CES 2021 exhibitors: which companies will be attending the show?

There's a long list of exhibitors for CES 2021, so let's just stick to those companies we know are attending and that may have something in store for PC gamers. We're certainly hoping for some surprises out of the show but for now, here are the companies that we know will be showing their faces. 

  • Adata
  • AMD
  • Asus
  • EKWB
  • HP
  • HyperX
  • Intel
  • Kingston
  • Kioxia
  • Lenovo
  • LG Display
  • Mad Catz
  • Microsoft
  • Philips
  • Phison
  • Razer
  • Samsung
  • Unity

There are also a few companies we think a shoo-in for CES 2021 that don't yet appear on the list of registered exhibitors: Dell, MSI, and Gigabyte, to just name a few.

Few of which have announced any specific plans for the show, but you can be sure that whatever AMD, Intel, and Nvidia have in store will make for further announcements from their partners. Further to that, we're hopeful for SSD and monitor updates from the major manufacturers and the first of the year's new peripherals.

CES has already awarded its Best of Innovation Awards for 2021, too. Asus, AMD, Dell, MSI, Razer, Samsung, Seagate, Unity, and Viewsonic all either won or have products as listed honorees for the Innovation Awards.

CES 2021 streams

AMD CES 2020 conference with Dr. Lisa Su on stage

(Image credit: Future)

CES 2021 what to watch: don't miss these major events 

With CES 2021 moving online, we're expecting even more publicly available streams this year. Here are a few not to be missed:

AMD CES 2021 keynote - Dr. Lisa Su, CEO - Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 8–9am PST

AMD's CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, will host a CES 2021 keynote alongside official proceedings. The CEO responsible for Ryzen and Radeon will be delivering a talk on "the future of research, education, work, entertainment and gaming, including new high-performance computing and graphics solutions."

“AMD technology is at the heart of some of today’s most popular consumer products and services," Dr. Lisa Su says. "As we push the envelope on performance, we expand what is possible in personal computing, gaming and online services and experiences. I look forward to sharing exciting new technology developments at CES 2021, and what it will mean to the way we live, work, learn and play.”

With the RX 6800-series and RX 6900 XT high-end and enthusiast cards already announced and, to use the term loosely, available to buy, we suspect possible announcements in Ryzen Mobile products for gaming laptops. There could also be some mention of AMD's RX 6700-series and below graphics cards, but I'd expect AMD to roll out the red carpet with its own gaming livestream event as we tumble further into 2021.

There's sure to be some mention of the company's server chips, AMD EPYC, as those based on the Zen 3 architecture (now found within Ryzen 5000 desktop chips), codename Milan, are set to launch early in 2021.

Intel news conference - Gregory Bryant, GM Client Computing Group - Monday, January 11, 2021 - 1–1:30pm PST

Bryant will be returning to the CES stage to talk about Intel's process, packaging, and architecture, along with the company's cloud aspirations. If past shows are any indication there's likely to be a little bit of waffle about big data at first, but Bryant's always an entertaining speaker and there's sure to be at least some announcements relevant to our gaming rigs.

Perhaps the show could even offer our first official glimpse of Intel Rocket Lake processors, but I'm remaining sceptical on that one. I reckon that might be saved for a bespoke event a little later in the year. Intel's other two confirmed events at CES 2021 are around its autonomous driving division, Mobileye, so if it were to be mentioned it would be during Bryant's talk.

Nvidia CES Special Event - Jeff Fischer, GeForce senior VP - Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 9–10am PST

Nvidia will be hosting its own GeForce Special Event at CES 2021 and so far it's left what that might entail up to the imagination. The only hints as to its purpose so far are its tagline, "GeForce RTX: Game On, a special broadcast event", and that Jeff Fischer, Nvidia GeForce top brass, will be hosting the show to talk about "the company's latest innovations in gaming and graphics."

We suspect Nvidia will announce RTX 30-series gaming laptops during CES 2021, and this looks like a prime moment to do just that. Multiple leaks suggest that Nvidia's mobile RTX 30-series is nearing release, and if that comes to pass we'll see cascading product announcements for brand new gaming laptops from all the usual names and faces.

There are hopes of further graphics card announcements during the show, such as more affordable RTX 30-series discrete desktop GPUs, but that's likely one for Jen-Hsun Huang's kitchen at a later date.

CES 2021 how to watch

Intel GM CCG Gregory Bryant on stage at CES 2020

(Image credit: Intel)

CES 2021 how to watch: keep up with the latest from virtual Vegas 

CES is a trade-only event, and that means that many companies will be there exclusively by appointment. Saying that, the biggest names in gaming tech will be keen to get the word out direct to gamers, and no more so than the all-digital CES 2021 show. 

  • AMD will host CEO Dr. Lisa Su's keynote address on the AMD website closer to the time.
  • Intel will host its CES 2021 conferences on the Intel Newsroom.
  • Nvidia will host the GeForce Special Event on a dedicated page over at Nvidia.com.

We'll also look to hosting all three of these shows on pcgamer.com nearer the time, so keep an eye out as CES 2021 kicks off.

CES is one of the biggest events on the technology calendar, and we're expecting plenty of love for PC gaming at the show. Our only reservations are as to how this all-digital event will live up to the in-person event—at least we'll be free of the mile-long Starbuck's queue.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.