I know we say this every year, but it feels like just yesterday we were all crammed in a single room in Las Vegas eating mediocre takeout and voting for our best in show. But CES 2024 is actually just around the corner. The show officially runs from January 9 to January 12, though we’ll be on the ground well before that, with the first CES-related events expected to kick off on January 7.
Last year we saw a focus on accessibility and a rather disturbing amount of stuff that you were supposed to pee on or into. While we’ll probably see a good amount devices designed to help those with hearing impairments and mobility restrictions again this year, we anticipate some new trends to steal some headlines. Here’s a few predictions from our staff about what to expect from CES 2024 in Las Vegas.
I suspect CES 2024 will be full of clean energy technology, packaged in the form of consumer hardware. Solar panels have traditionally been the purview of professional contractors but standalone setups are gaining in popularity. Two or three years ago, this gear would have been targeted at RV users but now it’s cresting into the mainstream. Pop-up panels, coupled with inverters and batteries that look like air conditioning units, sitting unobtrusively in the corner, are all the rage. It’s a plus that most of these setups are plug and play, removing the need for a professional to get involved.
There are a couple of drivers for this beyond the niche audience of folks looking to get off of the electricity grid. In many places outside the US, the cost of energy has spiked dramatically and it’s folly to think the same won’t happen here. Not to mention that, in places like Texas, people have seen the power grid fail with devastating consequences. It’s going to be a big market in the next few years and I’d expect to see more and more consumer brands follow Anker and Jackery into the home battery world.
If Engadget’s audience stats are any indication, audio nerds are extremely excited about MEMS earbud drivers. As my colleague James Trew has detailed in his reporting, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) may very well be the next big thing in headphones. A California-based company called xMEMS is the first to bring the solid state components to market, and the first true wireless earbuds that use them have recently gone on sale.
Some of the benefits of MEMS drivers are said to be improved response, better durability and more consistent fidelity. They also don’t require the calibration or matching that balanced-armature or dynamic drivers need on a production line. The only downside is that in their current state, they still need a hybrid setup with a secondary driver for bass. In its next-gen MEMS speaker, though, xMEMS is promising 40 times louder bass response.
The new model is called Cypress and the company will be demoing it for attendees at CES. xMEMS says its performance is consistent with the bass performance of “the best” 10-12 coil speakers currently being used in earbuds. What’s more, Cypress can improve ANC performance, which xMEMs says will cover higher frequencies – including crying babies. The company has already said the components won’t go into mass production until the end of 2024, so consumer products are over a year away. But the promise is too good not to be excited about a very early preview in Las Vegas.r
Wi-Fi 7 in everything
While it may not be the most exciting development, I’m expecting to see a number of new devices with support for Wi-Fi 7 at CES 2024 — from laptops to TVs and everything in between. Currently, it’s still a work in progress, but with the official Wi-Fi 7 spec expected to be finalized sometime in early 2024, gadget makers are looking to get an early jump. Some benefits of Wi-Fi 7 include maximum speeds of up to 46 Gbps — more than twice as fast as what’s available using Wi-Fi 6/6E — along with a 320Mhz channel width that offers double the capacity compared to previous generations.
Another important feature is MLO (multi-link operation) which allows Wi-Fi 7 devices to use two bands at the same time, essentially turning a single wireless connection into a two-lane highway. For people with larger homes, this should improve the performance of mesh networks by allowing devices to switch bands without losing speed or connection. QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) is also getting a significant boost from 1024-QAM on Wi-Fi 6/6E to 4096-QAM with Wi-Fi 7 which allows devices to pack more information into the same carrier signal.
The downside is that while there are some gadgets on sale today like the Samsung Galaxy S23 that already support Wi-Fi 7, you’ll need both a compatible device and router (not to mention a sufficiently fast internet connection) to take advantage of the spec’s full capabilities. In short, you should keep an eye out for new devices that work with Wi-Fi 7, but don’t rush out and upgrade everything in your home until prices stabilize and they become more widespread.
The year of the AI PC
If there’s one buzzy term you’re guaranteed to hear a ton throughout 2024, it’s “AI PC.” It’s a phrase both Intel and AMD are using to describe computers equipped with chips featuring NPUs, or neural processing units. Similar to the way GPUs speed up graphics processing for gaming, an NPU offloads AI tasks to handle them more efficiently. For Windows 11, that’s mainly limited to Microsoft’s Studio Effects, which can blur your video chat backgrounds or punch up your lighting. But more Windows AI features are rumored to be on the way (Microsoft’s push to bring its Copilot AI everywhere is a big sign), and companies like Adobe and Audacity are also developing NPU-powered features for their apps.
For years chipmakers have been chasing higher clock rates, smaller process designs and a wealth of other architectural upgrades like 3D transistors to make their hardware faster and more efficient. The move towards mobile chip designs, like Apple’s Silicon, is yet another way to reduce power consumption while also speeding up computational possibilities. Intel, AMD and other companies are also focusing more on GPUs to beef up basic gaming performance, while also offloading some creative tasks like media encoding. NPUs are the latest tool chip designers can rely on, and they also have the potential to change the way we use our computers entirely (or at least, deliver a bit more power and battery life for ultraportables).
While it’s easy to be skeptical of marketing terms, the phrase “AI PC” is at least functional. There are still plenty of laptops on the market without NPUs — Intel only got into the AI game with its new Core Ultra chips — so consumers will need an easy way to differentiate between different types of systems. After all, if you’re upgrading your laptop to take advantage of Windows Studio effects and AI powered software, you don’t want to be stuck with a non-NPU system for several years.
Truly wireless TV
Displace made a splash at CES 2023 with its truly wireless TV that could be mounted anywhere, even suction-cupped to a window. The company’s demo left us with a lot of questions as it wasn’t yet ready to discuss key details of the product since what it showed off were CES-specific prototypes. The company is returning to Vegas this year and it’s already announced what it plans to have on display.
First, Displace says two sizes of TVs will be demoed: the 27-inch Displace Mini and the 55-inch Displace Flex. The display we saw earlier this year was also 55 inches, but a key difference between it and the Flex is that this new version attaches to an optional magnetic wireless charging stand. Both the Flex and the Mini pack enough battery life to last a month if you watch six hours of content per day, according to the company. There’s no pricing available for these yet, but they go up for pre-order on January 9, so we’re bound to find out soon. Displace said it will also show off a 110-inch model at CES, although details are scarce.
The original version has gone up in price since last CES: it’s now $4,499 and orders won’t ship until mid-2024. The new Mini and Flex aren’t expected to ship until late next year either. The main thing we’ll be looking for at CES is a status update. Are the units any more polished? Have there been any notable upgrades since that first prototype? How much will the extra swappable batteries cost? Does it look like the company will actually be able to ship in the next 6-12 months?
Displace has also announced an AI-based shopping platform for its TVs. Using the same gestures that control TV viewing, the tech can analyze a paused scene for products that might be available for sale. The system also allows you to quickly make a purchase by either bringing a phone or watch near the NFC-enabled TVs or by using a mobile app. Displace says the goal for its products has always been ambient computing, and the first step towards that is this shopping platform. It’s also a way for the company to make money off the TVs after the initial sale.
Announcements so far
Although CES 2024 officially kicks off on January 9, that hasn’t stopped some companies from making their announcements a few days early. Here’s some of the bigger news items we’ve reported on so far:
- Dell unveiled new XPS 13, 14 and 16 laptops, plus a curved 40-inch 5K monitor.
- Speaking of laptops, expect to see a bunch at CES that have shortcut keys for Microsoft’s Copilot AI assistant.
- LG has been one of the most prolific pre-CES newsmakers, with a two-legged AI-powered robot; a line of new OLED TVs (plus a 98-inch QNED model); updated Gram laptops; an odd-looking 4K projector; 480HZ OLED panel for gaming; 4K monitors with webOS baked in; and the DukeBox, which puts vacuum tube audio behind a transparent OLED display.
- More OLED gaming monitors! Samsung unveiled three anti-glare OLED monitors of its own.
- It wouldn’t be CES without TVs. Roku will be at CES with its first self-branded premium sets.
- Not all headphones with active noise cancellation need to be expensive. JLab unveiled a pair that costs just $80.
- Qualcomm has an improved Snapdragon chip for virtual reality and mixed reality headsets.
- TomTom and Microsoft are teaming up to bring generative AI to cars.
- For the foodies, GE will be showing off a $1,000 smart indoor BBQ smoker.