This year's CES tech show was as excessive as you would hope, given its 'city of vice' Las Vegas location. Product categories went from barren to saturated in the space of a week. And several big themes were drummed into the 155,000 press and trade attendees.
TVs, as usual, were the big ticket items. 4K lead the way once more, with dozens of new boxes announced. However, the price of big-name 4K TVs will remain prohibitive for most consumers in 2014. And claims of a £500 4K TV from Kogan deserve to be approached with suspicion.
Flexible TV displays were the new advances this year, with both LG and Samsung demonstrating the tech, among others. LG’s OLED 4K looked absolutely amazing but we’re yet to be convinced that curved or flexible TVs will really enhance the viewing experience. But it’s a technology that will have applications in other areas – tablets, phones and wearable tech.
And wearable gadgets, in particular fitness-related ones, seem to be the products everyone is releasing. There were more fitness watches than you could shake a broken New Year's resolution at.
Every company wants in on the action Nike’s Fuelband started, from LG to Qualcomm to Razer. Some look to have potential, others are a case of cashing in on the bandwagon. We’ll be reviewing them all as they come to market to steer you in the right direction.
Giants of the kitchen
‘The Internet of Things’ was the catchphrase of the show. It refers to everything that can, and should, be connected to the internet, including plenty of things you might not expect.
From your microwave to your car, from your toothbrush to your baby’s onesie (yes, really) the ‘Internet of Things’ will one day let you remotely control, or check in with, pretty much everything in your life.
Your washing machine will tell you if it's about to conk out and your fridge will let you know that you had better buy some eggs if you want a fry-up breakfast tomorrow.
From giant smart appliances to the world's smallest computers, we have the SD card-size Intel Edison. It’s still some way away, but Intel’s tiny computer makes the Raspberry Pi looks like a desktop in comparison.
Edison is crammed into an SD card shape and is surprisingly powerful. It has a dual-core processor, 500MB of RAM, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Typical of the geekiest computers around, it runs Linux. Intel's vision is that is can be crammed into all sorts of devices to make them ‘Smart’. Its a proof of concept, but a fascinating one.
On the gaming front, Valve finally unveiled the first Steam Machines, made by a variety of manufacturers. Steam Machines could become a major threat to the current kings of living-room gaming, the PS4 (soon to have PlayStation Now) and Xbox One.
VR gaming gets a level-up
However, arguably the most exciting product on demo was the new Crystal Cove version of the Oculus Rift – the gaming video headset that looks to finally deliver the immersive experience sci-fi movies have been tempting us with for decades. Further refinements have been made, although a release date is still not forthcoming.
Of course there was an obligatory glut of phone and tablet releases, mostly from smaller players, but also a pair of giant 12.2-inch tablets from Samsung. One brave surprise, and our favourite phone of the show, was the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - a diminutive 4.3-inch handset with flagship level specs. CES isn’t really an event about phones and tablets, though.
One of the most dramatic advances on show was in the 3D printing sphere. Just a year ago only very basic 3D-printed shapes were on display – fast-forward 12 months and printed movable objects and polished sculptures were on show. 3D printing is one of the most exciting recent technologies and something that has the potential to change our lives.
All the above is just a small taste on everything that was on offer at CES 2014. We’ve not yet mentioned the smaller innovative companies with so much to show. Granted the number of iffy Google Glass clones on offer was too damn high, but among the dross, the poor quality Android tablets and iPad cases were gems, like MOSS, the dynamic robot construction kit. Find out more about this great new toy here.
As a start to the tech new year CES 2014 was exciting, stimulating and definitely exhausting - just like Vegas itself.
Next, read our look at Samsung's new TVs for 2014