Tech trends we saw at CES 2021

Another CES is in the books. Going virtual meant it was a smaller show than usual – and since it was already a show that had been on the decline in terms of influence for a few years now, we could feel it. Still: there were some great stories to follow and things to learn about what was going on in consumer tech.

That’s the problem with CES: Most of the time, the best tech showcased here is conceptual, hugely expensive, far into the future, or all of the above. We are interested not because we expect to find it in a store next week, but because it informs the things that we will find in stores over the next couple of years. Plus, we’re interested in it because gigantic screens are dope, especially when they fold.

This year, I think there are a few big trends to watch out for. There are these concepts. But there was also some very real CPU news with release dates looming. AMD, Intel, and Nvidia have all announced components that could make very good laptops (especially gaming laptops). And then: a slew of laptops have been announced that will use these parts.

And since it’s CES, we’ve seen the state-of-the-art TVs advance once again with brighter Mini LEDs and OLEDs. I have to say that with TVs in particular, I’m happy to see tech companies competing for direct picture quality through higher contrast and HDR instead of just a higher pixel count and, I don’t dunno, 3D or curved screens. There is also HDMI 2.1 in the world and all the features that it allows. Expect reviews, sure, but I guess if you have a TV with a few miles, it’ll be a great year for the upgrade and you’ll be surprised by the improvement in quality.

Was there also a pod-based ice cream maker that fun-loving people liked and grumblers like me complained about? Yes. There is always a gadget that pops and gets more attention than expected. The problem with this year’s virtual CES is that there was simply less to choose from. We had almost as many big announcements as usual, but we didn’t have the weird corners of the showroom where we found diamonds in this very rough convention center.

I know this is not an experience that the vast majority of people have. For most of you, CES has always virtual summer. But we’ll never know which sales deals go wrong or the wacky speakers won’t grab attention because a few hundred thousand people have stayed away from Vegas this year.

Five years ago, I was lucky enough to have the chance to walk around the CES living room with Walt Mossberg, playing around with the stuff that was new at the time. After watching the CES 2021 rundown at the top of this article, I encourage you to take a look at what CES 2016 looked like, below. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I hope I can return to the show in person next year.

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