Three Flawless Takes on CES 2020

CES 2020 Keynote Address

Global tensions are running high. Headlines warn us daily of manifold existential threats while talking heads on airport televisions stoke fears and raise more questions than they answer. And despite all of this, one cannot imagine what kind of calamity it would take to stop the celebration of all things on the bleeding edge of tech at CES.

World news might’ve overshadowed the show this year, but it didn’t stop startups and tech giants from throwing down various gauntlets, placing big bets on the future, and trying to claim the lion’s share of hype and social media mentions.

While I didn’t cover the show as it happened, I’ve prepared some takes for you to enjoy. Or loathe. Your call.

AMD Ryzen 4000 U-Series

2020 Is AMD’s Year (For Now)

Had you asked me five years ago if AMD could ever reclaim its hallowed reputation for affordable, powerful hardware, I would’ve answered with a resounding ‘No’ followed by open weeping.

Then Ryzen dropped. Music swelled. Angels wept. And those among us with open-loop liquid cooling systems were rewarded with robust silicon and outrageous benchmarks from the aptly named Threadripper line of processors.

The Red vs. Blue rivalry is back with a vengeance, and it is a glorious sight to behold. Intel, who have thoroughly dominated mobile devices for years now, find themselves on their back foot as AMD flexes their new crop of low-wattage, high-performance chips. Against all odds, the Red vs. Blue rivalry has become interesting again.

Vision-S in the Mist

It didn’t exude the cyberpunk dystopian vibes of Uncle Elon’s Cybertruck extravaganza, nor was it flanked by Matrix cosplayers. But Sony’s Vision-S concept car reveal was a jaw-hits-floor moment. Not content with ruling gaming, audio equipment, and photography, the Japanese manufacturer has turned its sights on the EV market, and the results are stunning.

Sweeping lines, gorgeous bodywork, and a slick driver interface combined to create a vision of the future where Tesla isn’t the only credible EV game in town. To be clear, the Vision-S isn’t going into production. You cannot pre-order it and brag on social media about it. But in terms of raw buzz and excitement, Sony nailed it.

While I’m still partial to whining turbos in three-pedal cars, it’s clear internal combustion engines are on their way out. In the far-flung future of 2030, is it so outlandish to imagine being stuck behind a Sony Vision-S in slow-moving traffic? I think not. (Also, I will demand a criminal investigation of Sony if it doesn’t somehow include a copy of Gran Turismo that can be played with the Vision-S’s controls).

8K Ain’t It

How to discuss 8K products? On the one hand, the march to higher resolutions is largely accepted by conventional wisdom as inevitable. In game consoles, a bump in resolution is one of the primary selling points used to goad consumers into upgrading to the next generation of hardware.

On the other hand, native 8K content is so far outside of what average consumers can consume that 8K displays have become nothing more than a raw expression of hardware capability and numbers. I have no doubt 8K displays can deliver stunning imagery (diminishing returns of human vision aside). But I have yet to see a content distribution network that can reliably deliver 4K content without utterly decimating bandwidth caps. Never mind doubling that amount of data.

This isn’t to say that 8K couldn’t become the norm, but there would need to be a dramatic change to the way ISPs handle data caps, as well as considerable investments in infrastructure— which, despite promises to the contrary, have not come to pass.

That’s a wrap on CES 2020. Didn’t like my takes? Liked my takes too much? Do you also refer to Elon Musk as Uncle Elon? Let us know on social media.