At a subdued CES, computers provide excitement

Although it was all virtual, CES 2021 still showcased some new concepts and innovations. See the highlights from General Motors, LG, and others.

Posted: Jan 13, 2021 6:30 PM
Updated: Jan 13, 2021 6:30 PM

In a most unusual time, CES was diminished this year, with lots of companies including Google and Amazon not having a substantial presence and presenters mourning the lack of face-to-face contact. But one category was still on fire with new product announcements: Computers.

Chipmakers Intel, AMD and Nvidia took to the virtual stage at this week's trade show to reveal their new processors that promise to make graphics look better, load faster and improve computer performance.

"Our relationship with technology has fundamentally changed," said AMD CEO Lisa Su during a keynote speech on Tuesday. "The pandemic has elevated technology to become an essential part of how we live, work, play and communicate. And at the center of all this technology is high performance computing."

On Tuesday, AMD announced a lineup of new mobile processors for laptops from Asus, HP, Lenovo and other manufacturers. Nvidia said its new graphics card — the $329 GeForce RTX 3060 — will be released in February.

Hardware companies Acer, Asus, Lenovo and others unveiled their latest computers and connected displays that put the new chips to use.

Computers also face production shortages of parts, especially chips, as Asian factories recovered from an early 2020 slowdown and demand outstripped supply.

For Taiwanese company Acer, the pandemic did not greatly disturb the introduction of its new product line including several new laptops and displays. Similarly, Asus, also headquartered in Taiwan, announced a lengthy lineup, from laptops to a projector and monitor.

Acer said that it's benefited from Taiwan being a coronavirus haven.

"Because Taiwan's been almost not affected [by the coronavirus pandemic] really, and that's our world headquarters, all the product development has been going very smoothly," said Acer Pan America president Gregg Prendergast. "Our factories are mainly all in China... they were a little spotty in calendar Q2 but they've been pretty operational ever since June."

Prendergast said that since Acer spun off its own factories more than 20 years ago, it can nimbly choose what factory to work with, giving it more flexibility during the pandemic.

Acer has a significant business in education, providing Chromebooks to students, and in gaming laptops and displays. Traditionally, the brand attracts PC gamers but it's gradually expanding to console gamers as well, offering a new display that supports gaming on the new PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X with optimized graphics.

"It depends on how some of these products do. If they start getting sticky and start selling well, we'll certainly expand the portfolio for sure," said Prendergast.

Despite many tech companies including Acer reporting record sales, all isn't sunny for chipmakers.

Intel debuted new processors for computers on Monday, including 11th generation Intel chips for gaming.

On Wednesday, Intel also ousted its CEO Bob Swan, naming his replacement, Pat Gelsinger. Under Swan, Intel struggled, losing market share to competitors on important segments.

Apple made waves last year when reports said that it would phase out using Intel chips in its Macs and make its own instead.

Intel told CNN Business on a call last week that Apple's decision frees up the chipmaker to "figure out how we go out and compete against those [Apple] products." Intel said it would focus on delivering the best experiences on Windows, Chrome and Linux, while it competes against Mac products.

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