Best new prod­ucts

Th­ese are the prod­ucts we at TECH AD­VI­SOR are still talk­ing about when ev­ery­thing else has blurred to­gether

Tech Advisor - - Contents - Mar­tyn Wil­liams

CES 2018 is over, and we have a chance to pause and re­flect on what we saw that was ac­tu­ally great. Prod­ucts that ad­vanced their cat­e­gory, or broke new ground. Things that leaped ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion, Or maybe they just looked cool.

It’s easy to hit sat­u­ra­tion at CES, but th­ese are the prod­ucts we’re still talk­ing about when ev­ery­thing else has blurred to­gether. We start with the prod­uct that was so in­no­va­tive, two of us raved about it.

1. Cre­ative Su­per X-Fi head­phone holog­ra­phy

Hands down, this was the best demo at CES – and it’s the prod­uct I’m most look­ing for­ward to re­view­ing this year. Cre­ative’s DSP chip and soft­ware analy­ses how your ears per­ceive sound, based on pho­tos of each of your ears and your face. It then syn­the­sizes this data with in­for­ma­tion about the head­phones you in­di­cate you’re us­ing and the acous­tics of the room you wish to em­u­late, and builds a cus­tom au­dio model for pro­cess­ing the sound pass­ing through the chip.

The re­sults sim­ply must be heard to be be­lieved. In my demon­stra­tion, I could barely tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween Dolby At­mos demo tracks and movie sound­tracks played through a con­ven­tional high-end home cin­ema sys­tem and a pair of head­phones, even though the head­phones had just two driv­ers. The de­vice also made straight­for­ward stereo mu­sic tracks sound mag­i­cal, as if you were in the room with the mu­si­cians play­ing live. Cre­ative told me Su­per X-Fi will be avail­able later this year in sev­eral form fac­tors, in­clud­ing a USB don­gle that you’ll use with your own head­phones. Michael Brown As an au­dio en­gi­neer I read­ily claim that most ‘vir­tual’ sur­round

sound ap­pli­ca­tions are rub­bish – un­til now. Cre­ative Labs’ Su­per X-Fi blew me away. The company’s tech­nol­ogy makes a stereo head­set sound like a sur­round sound speaker set up in the room with you. This is an im­por­tant tech­nol­ogy used by pro­fes­sional ap­pli­ca­tions, made into an easy-to-use con­sumer prod­uct. This demon­stra­tion stole the show for me, and had my col­leagues floored as well. Adam Patrick Mur­ray

2. In­tel Kaby Lake G

Though its launch was over­shad­owed by Spec­tre/ Melt­down se­cu­rity ques­tions, In­tel’s Kaby Lake G was no less ex­cit­ing. The new CPU, which com­bines an AMD Vega M GPU and an 8th-gen­er­a­tion quad­core Core i5 or Core i7, prom­ises to de­liver more per­for­mance in slim­mer lap­tops.

Thus far, we’ve only seen two: HP’s Spec­tre x360 15t and Dell’s new XPS 15 2-in-1. Both lap­tops ba­si­cally prom­ise to give you the graph­ics per­for­mance of a lap­top that would likely have been likely twice as thick be­fore. Gor­don Mah Ung

3. Dig­i­tal Storm Pro­ject Spark

We’re suck­ers for squeez­ing per­for­mance into tiny boxes, but Dig­i­tal Storm’s Pro­ject Spark is truly some­thing to see. Not only does it get a 6-core Core i7 and GeForce GTX 1080 into a ma­chine smaller than a tis­sue box, but it does it with cus­tom liq­uid cool­ing too.

Dig­i­tal Storm does it all by build­ing a cus­tom chas­sis us­ing a Mi­croSTX moth­er­board and an MXM mod­ule. It all adds up to a lot of per­for­mance in a stun­ningly tiny PC. Gor­don Mah Ung

4. Acer Preda­tor Orion 9000

Wheels seem like such a lit­tle thing, but in this case it shows the at­ten­tion to de­tail on Acer’s Preda­tor Orion 9000 gam­ing desk­top. They nes­tle dis­creetly in the lower rear cor­ner, so your rig won’t look like a child’s wagon when you lift up a bit on one of the dual han­dles atop the PC and roll the en­tire rig into your next LAN party. Acer is hop­ing it will so­lid­ify its place in the bur­geon­ing gam­ing PC sec­tor. It’s hard to fol­low an act like CES 2017’s over-the-top Preda­tor 21 X lap­top, but this desk­top of­fers a sim­i­lar level of care. It in­cludes five fans: two on the top, two in front, and one more to help cool the avail­able dual GeForce GTX 1080 Ti cards in SLI. The power sup­ply has a slick Preda­tor-branded cover and its own ven­ti­la­tion. There’s a neat hanger for your head­set that pops out of the front panel. Clearly the company knows how to make a nice, thought­fully de­signed rig. Melissa Riofrio

5. Nvidia BFGD

The concept for Nvidia’s Big For­mat Gam­ing Dis­play (BFGD) must have been stupidly easy: Just make one big gi­ant

mon­i­tor. The re­sult is the Big For­mat Gam­ing Dis­play (BFGD). Note that the BFGD is not, re­peat, not a TV, as it has no tuner. In­stead, it’s the dis­play we might all want if we were de­sign­ing our next nerd-cave. If you’re say­ing a £499 Costco spe­cial large dis­play would be “just as good”, that’s prob­a­bly not true. Al­though no specs were re­leased, the BFGD prom­ises to be op­ti­mized for lower la­tency than you can get on a TV, as well as 120Hz G-Sync. Oh, and they’re HDR too.

The big ques­tions are how much, and when. We don’t know, but Nvidia said Asus, Acer and HP have plans to of­fer the BFGD. For fur­ther de­tails see 45 45 page 45. Gor­don Mah Ung 6. Razer Pro­ject Linda Razer loves to show off some­thing wacky at ev­ery CES. While this year the sur­prise was a bit more sub­dued, I thought it was still an awe­some pro­to­type. I’m talk­ing about Pro­ject Linda, which is es­sen­tially a lap­top dock for the Razer Phone.

At first glance Pro­ject Linda looks like a Razer Blade Stealth sans track­pad and any sort of pro­cess­ing but that’s where the Phone comes into play. While us­ing a phone as the brains of a lap­top/desk­top isn’t a new idea, I haven’t seen a more el­e­gant so­lu­tion than Pro­ject Linda’s, where the phone be­comes the track­pad, tuck­ing neatly into the lap­top’s pro­file rather than sit­ting in some dock.

Even though most Razer pro­to­types never make it into peo­ples hands, Pro­ject Linda felt pretty far along. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if we saw a fi­nal ver­sion be­fore 40 sum­mer. For de­tails see page 40. Adam Patrick Mur­ray

7. Asus Bezel-Free Kit

It’s the lit­tle things in life that mean the most some­times, and noth­ing proves that more than the Asus Bezel-Free Kit, an en­tirely low-tech so­lu­tion to a high­tech prob­lem. Prob­lem: Bezels when run­ning a triple­mon­i­tor set-up. So­lu­tion: plas­tic lenses and bezels to bend light around those both­er­some bor­ders.

Is it per­fect? No, and it won’t mag­i­cally turn three cheap pan­els into a pricey su­per-wide mon­i­tor, ei­ther. But it does work sur­pris­ingly well. Asus didn’t an­nounce a price, but it’s ex­pected to be well un­der £100 when re­leased. Gor­don Mah Ung

8. Hogar Con­trols’ Milo and Peb­ble

Milo is a $150 (around £110) Google As­sis­tant smart speaker with a built-in smart-home hub and all the wire­less tech one could hope for, in­clud­ing Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth, ZigBee, and Z-Wave Plus. It can do ev­ery­thing a Google Home can do, plus it can con­trol all your smart home de­vices, elim­i­nat­ing the need to buy some­thing like a sep­a­rate SmartThings or Wink hub

Milo has a glass touch­screen that you can tap and slide your fin­gers across to play mu­sic and con­trol the on-board am­pli­fier’s vol­ume. You can also use this sur­face to sum­mon light­ing scenes and per­form other com­mands if you won’t wish to use voice.

Hogar will of­fer a se­cond de­vice called Peb­ble that of­fers the same touch con­trols as Milo, but it doesn’t have mics or a speaker. It op­er­ates on bat­tery power, so you can eas­ily move it from room to room. Peb­ble will cost $50 (around £36). Both it and Milo are ex­pected to be avail­able be­fore the end of the se­cond quar­ter. Michael Brown

9. Google As­sis­tant

Ama­zon hu­mil­i­ated Google at 2017’s CES. Its Echo smart speak­ers and Alexa dig­i­tal as­sis­tant were ev­ery­where on the show floor and on ev­ery­one’s lips. It was al­most as if the world had al­ready for­got­ten about Google As­sis­tant and Google Home. I wouldn’t say Google turned the ta­bles this year, but the company has clearly be­come much more se­ri­ous about the smart home. Smart de­vices pow­ered by Google As­sis­tant, in­clud­ing a whole new class of smart speak­ers with touch­screen dis­plays, were ev­ery­where. Google rep­re­sen­ta­tives, mean­while, uni­formly dressed in white cov­er­alls and wear­ing knit ski caps, were sta­tioned in dozens of com­pa­nies’ booths ready to ex­plain how Google As­sis­tant was be­ing used in var­i­ous prod­ucts. This bat­tle is far from won. Michael Brown

10. D-Link AC2600 Wi-Fi router

In a world of mal­ware, hack­ing and bot­nets, most smart home de­vices rep­re­sent a huge vul­ner­a­bil­ity on your net­work, so it’s great to see D-Link’s AC2600 Wi-Fi router. It in­cludes a fire­wall from McAfee that can stop unau­tho­rized ac­cess to de­vices on your net­work, alert you to hack­ing at­tempts or pe­cu­liar In­ter­net traf­fic from

gad­gets. It will also scan your net­work to no­tify you of in­se­cu­ri­ties and for par­ents, there’s also a fil­ter­ing sys­tem that can block web­sites and re­strict web time.

And best of all, you’re not locked into an ex­pen­sive sub­scrip­tion. In­cluded in the router’s $250 (around £180) price is five years of up­dates for the router’s se­cu­rity soft­ware plus two years of McAfee pro­tec­tion for an un­lim­ited num­ber of PCs, phones and tablets.

Milo Con­trols Peb­ble

Ex­ter­nal de­tails on the Preda­tor Orion 9000 in­clude two top han­dles and a clear side panel

Cre­ative’s app con­tour-maps your ears and face to an­a­lyse how your ears hear sound

D-Links AC2600 Wi-Fi router

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