Should You Buy New CES Tech, or Opt for the Previous Generation?
The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show just swept through the Mojave Desert with a week-long stint in Sin City. But when it comes to tech, what happens in Vegas definitely doesn't stay in Vegas. Many of these electronics will soon start popping up in a store near you, and you may be wondering if any of them are worth the first-run, retail price tag. (Or, if you're smart, the slightly discounted price you'll see by patiently waiting for an initial deal.)
Thus, the question is: To upgrade or not to upgrade? Below are some of the most notable CES releases this year (as far as the average tech consumer is concerned, that is; we don't expect you to be genuinely interested in buying a $15,000 TV). We've included notes about whether you should spring for the latest and greatest, or instead opt for the previous-generation, "old tech" counterpart, which will surely be seeing new discounts in the coming weeks.
Cameras: Canon PowerShot N
The PowerShot line of compact point-and-shoot cameras has been a big earner for Canon, and the latest model to be unveiled is the PowerShot N – a 12.1-megapixel, ultra-compact device with WiFi support and a 2.8" touchscreen. Small enough to take one-handed pictures, the LCD is hinged to help you capture awkward shots, and the front mounted ring-based zoom and shutter controls are unusual to say the least. The camera also boasts an 8x optical zoom lens and full 1080p video recording capability.
The PowerShot N has some fun and quirky features to be sure, and it's slated to hit stores in April for $299. (You can preorder it now.) But you can get much of the same performance from a cheaper PowerShot that'll cost you about $150, so why pay extra for gimmicks?
Smart HDTVs: LG GA 7900 Series
We saw a lot of impressive TVs at CES, but unless you want to take out a second mortgage on your house, the 85" 4K models and 55" OLED TVs are not affordable right now. What is affordable are LG's latest range of Google TVs, like the 47" and 55" LED edge-lit LCD GA 7900 series. These Smart TVs come packed with apps like Netflix and HBO Go. You'll also find OnLive for cloud gaming, web browsing capability, and support for 3D. The Bluetooth remote can be tilted for easy navigation and Siri-like voice control is also an option. You can actually say, "go to NBC" and it should change the channel. Or you could search for "horror movie" and it will return a list of content tagged with that genre.
There's no firm release date, but these TVs start at $1,500. If you already have a decent HDTV and an HTPC, set-top box, or games console that you use for video-on-demand services and web browsing, then the smart features on offer here aren't going to add much. Moreover, if you have a 2012 smart model, or you're considering one, then the 2013 counterparts don't add much more that make the increased price tag worthwhile.
Budget 7" Tablets: Acer and Polaroid
The Kindle Fire (and later, the Nexus 7) really established the demand for small, reasonably priced tablets, and it seems as though every other manufacturer in the world has since been looking to jump on the 7" tablet bandwagon. CES 2013 was host to a shower of budget 7" Android tablets from names such as Alcatel, Acer, Archos, Coby, Polaroid, and Vizio. In terms of performance, these tablets don't compete with the Nexus 7 (the specs are closer to the Kindle Fire 2), but they are serious contenders in terms of price.
Running Android 4.1 OS (Jelly Bean), the Acer Iconia B1-A71 will be priced around $150. Its 7" display has a 1024x600p resolution, a dual-core processor, a 0.3-megapixel camera, and 8GB of storage. It's a solid budget entry, but CES offered us one better. In addition to the same OS, storage capacity, and CPU, the Polaroid M7 instead features a 1280x800p 7" display and a 2-megapixel camera for video calls. Considering it also sports a $130 price tag, and it looks like we have a new budget tablet king on our hands.
Big Tablets: Razer Edge
There were some notable budget tablets in the 10" range on show, not least the Polaroid M10 at just $230. If screen size is a concern, you'd be hard-pressed to find many that retail for this cheap. There was also a giant 20" 4K Windows 8 tablet from Panasonic which is sure to be at the other end of the pricing scale.
However, the standout device was the Razer Edge tablet, perhaps the first pure gaming tablet we've seen. This is a Windows 8 device and the basic model is packing a Core i5 processor, an Nvidia GT 640M GPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD, all for $1,000. Extras include a gamepad case and a keyboard dock. Because of who this tablet caters to and its level of specs, the Razer Edge compares more so to laptops with a similar configuration. You'll undoubtedly be able to get comparable specs for cheaper in a more traditional form factor — we've seen Alienware laptops priced as low as $899 for example — but gamers who crave mobility should take note.
Tablet/PC Hybrids: Asus Transformer AiO Hybrid
Many manufacturers are taking a different approach to contending in the tablet market by creating laptop hybrids. The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, for example, is an 11.6" Ultrabook, and if you detach the screen you have a Windows 8 tablet. But it costs a hefty $1,499.
One of the more interesting devices on show was the Asus Transformer AiO Hybrid. This is essentially a Windows 8 all-in-one PC with an 18.5" IPS 1080p LCD, but the display can be detached and it works as a standalone tablet running Android 4.1 OS (Jelly Bean). Prices start at $1,199, but considering this includes both a desktop and a tablet to use around the home, it's actually a pretty tempting option.
Lenovo also showed off the Yoga 11S, an update to its convertible tablet device that it debuted last year. At $799 though, you might prefer to snag the previous generation, as we now consistently see the Lenovo Yoga 11 for under $700, dropping to as low as $665 just two weeks ago. (It's currently $699 with free shipping, a low by $50.) Those prices should continue to drop once the new model hits stores.
Smartphones: Sony Xperia Z
The trend in smartphones is bigger displays, and we saw a range of Android smartphones with 5" touchscreens at CES 2013. The pick of the bunch was the Sony Xperia Z, which boasts a quad-core processor, 1080p screen, and a 13-megapixel camera. Thanks to the waterproofing technology, you can even take it in the shower with you. Pricing is not confirmed, but it will likely be around the $800 mark unlocked, and perhaps $200 on a 2-year contract.
The specs definitely surpass the current market leaders including the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPhone 5. But keep in mind that those highly-rated phones have been seeing deals that cut them to all-time low prices, including free and "for profit" promotions for the S III. Moreover, a host of new smartphones, including the Galaxy S4, will be debuted at Mobile World Conference in late February. This will knock prices on 2012 models down even further, which might make the Sony Xperia Z's specs (and $200 price tag) less appealing.
Did anything at CES this year catch your eye? Is there anything so enticing that you'd be willing to pay full retail price, or will you wait for a deal or opt for a previous-generation model? Sound off in the comments below, and don't forget to set up an email alert for any device that piqued your interest.