Paper-thin TVs that roll up like a newspaper. Robots that can destroy you in ping pong. Eight-thousand-pound mech suits.
CES has never disappointed on spectacle, but the biggest blockbusters have always had one thing in common: You need to see them to believe them. That will be a little bit tougher now that CES 2021 is going online-only, but if there’s any industry you can trust to adapt to going digital, it’s … you know, the industry that invented digital. And with the holidays squarely in the rearview mirror and a new year here, the all-new virtual CES 2021 is almost upon us.
Sure, we won’t be flying to Vegas, camping out in conference rooms, or guzzling stale coffee this year, but you can bet Digital Trends will cover the virtual show as completely and thoroughly as that new mesh network you found under the tree. If the whispers we’re hearing from manufacturers are any bellwether, there should be plenty to delight. Here’s what we’re expecting from every corner of the industry.
TVs have historically taken center stage at CES, and this year will be no exception, even if that stage is virtual. Samsung has already announced a 110-inch MicroLED TV ahead of the show alongside its new QLED NEO TV lineup, and we’ll likely hear about more models. After leading the way with another TV technology, Mini-LED, TCL will see competition from other big TV brands and their own Mini-LED TVs. HDMI 2.1, after sneaking into select high-end TVs in 2020, will also see more widespread adoption, bringing a host of gaming-friendly features to lower-priced TVs. And while it’s still in its early stages of deployment, ATSC 3.0 — A.K.A NextGen TV — will make its presence known as more TVs are announced with built-in ATSC 3.0 tuners. The theme this year is high-end TV tech filtering down to the mainstream.
LG has also announced its QNED TVs and we’ve gotten a peek at Sony’s 2021 TV lineup as well ahead of CES.
A lot about CES this year feels unknown. But there’s one thing you can count on: Lots of laptop launches. PCs have enjoyed a surprising bump in sales thanks to the quarantine, and you can expect laptop manufacturers to double down.
Companies like Dell, Lenovo, HP, Asus, and Acer are bound to bring an array of new laptops to the show. From gaming machines to commercial PCs, there will be no lack of new laptops debuting at CES.
Beyond just laptops, you can also expect these companies to play up gadgets, accessories, and devices made to enhance work from home setups. Working from home and blended offices aren’t going away anytime soon, and these companies have been quick to shift focus to support this drastic change.
Lastly, the dynamic Intel vs AMD rivalry, and Nvidia of course, is always on full display at CES. Each has scheduled press conferences, with AMD taking the main spotlight as an official CES keynote. The power balance between these companies is always shifting, and CES is always an important hinge moment that will set the tone for 2021.
The smart home has seen tremendous growth over the last year, mostly in part to how individuals and families continue to navigate this new norm of working and learning from home. CES 2021 should yield even more concrete smart home solutions that adapt to the current conditions this year. Sales of smart speakers, air purifiers, and robot vacuums have surged during quarantine, so we anticipate a continued focus on keeping people safe and comfortable in the home.
Expect innovations in home security systems, robot vacuums, small appliances, charging solutions, and lighting. This past year alone, germ-zapping blue light technology was implemented in just about every home gadget you can think of. For many people, keeping your home safe now means keeping it clean. And sometimes clean means hands-free. Remember the Alexa-enabled toilet?
Many of the established brands in the smart home space won’t be present at the big show, but often the smaller players have garnered more attention for thinking outside of the box — especially when it comes to products that are multifunctional.
CES hasn’t been a big mobile show for a few years, but there are still plenty of products and innovations to be seen that point to upcoming trends. Lots of big names are likely skipping CES entirely, but they weren’t likely to give us big announcements in any case. So what should you expect from mobile at CES? The angle is really about seeing new component innovations like cameras, screens, and sensors that could make it into the next generation of phones, tablets, and foldables. It’s easy to expect new lower-end and value-focused phones that will round out a company’s portfolio for the year. But that could all be turned on its head if rumors hold that Samsung will tease the upcoming Galaxy S21 during the show.
The only area we could see a typical array of products is in the wearable space, as CES has built up a reputation for being a health and fitness show. New smartwatches, plus fitness bands of all kinds, and the usual slate of wacky concept glasses are likely.
Carmakers no longer need to book space at CES to showcase their electrification projects: Electric and hybrid cars are either already in showrooms across the nation or scheduled to get there in the coming years. Autonomy is the next frontier for many companies, and it’s a topic we’re expecting to hear much more about during CES 2021. While the technology is better than it’s ever been, there is still a lot of work to be done, and there are many hurdles (including regulations) that haven’t been cleared yet.
How users — whether they’re driving or riding — interact with their car will evolve significantly during the 2020s. Infotainment systems will learn new tricks, like in-car shopping and in-car gaming, and these advancements will go hand-in-hand with autonomy. Looking ahead, in five or 10 years, your car’s touchscreen will offer the same set of functions as your smartphone. Here’s everything we expect from cars in 2021 — and it all starts at CES.
Without a doubt, one of the most exciting parts of CES is the odd and unexpected tech that pops up on the show floor and captures the world’s attention with a brute force display of novelty. It happens every year. Last January, for example, we stumbled across a laser-powered mosquito blaster, a hydrofoil e-bike, and a mind-bogglingly dextrous robotic prosthetic arm.
This year, there’s almost certainly going to be some oddball announcements in this same vein, but due to the fact that CES 2021 is significantly smaller than previous years, it’s also a safe bet that the strange and unusual gadgets will be a bit less numerous.
But don’t fret. Despite this year’s low exhibitor count, we have it on good authority that there’s still plenty of strange gear set to debut. Unfortunately, we can’t provide details quite yet, but be prepared for oddities like kitchen robots, VR workstations, and one-handed drone controllers. Weird and wild technology will be on full display at CES 2021 — you have my word.
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