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Demartek Comments on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2010

13 January 2010

By , Demartek President

I spent this past weekend attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Some of the technologies on display at CES are part of Demartek’s core business and some are not. Most of this report will focus on the technologies that are of interest to us.

Solid State Disks (SSDs)

One area of particular interest to Demartek is solid state disks (SSDs). We saw some SSDs, mostly consumer-grade not surprisingly, at CES. We spoke with Intel, SuperTalent and RunCore about their SSDs, and discussed MLC and SLC flash based designs. We have already begun equipping our lab servers with SSDs and will continue implementing SSDs. We will also equip some of our desktop systems with SSDs. We are conducting various real-world tests with SSDs and will continue to do so in 2010.

We will be looking at the effects of SSDs on servers, especially the impact of increased O.S. and page file performance on other aspects of the system such as application processing speed, networking, other storage, etc.

View all the Demartek SSD resources at the Demartek SSD Zone.

USB 3.0 – SuperSpeed USB

USB 3.0, also known as SuperSpeed USB, is here. At CES 2009, I spoke with the USB Implementers Forum about the specifications for this new version of USB that is 10x faster than USB 2.0. As a result, I was telling many of my audiences at conferences in 2009 that USB 3.0 was coming with the promise of increased speeds. I am pleased that at CES 2010 I was able to see actual USB 3.0 products including stand-alone USB 3.0 controller cards, some desktop and gaming motherboards with onboard USB 3.0, and at least one device, a SuperTalent RAIDDrive USB 3.0.

Just before CES 2010, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced the first 17 consumer products to pass compliance and certification testing for SuperSpeed USB. There are now a number of USB 3.0 device silicon products available such as USB 3.0 to SATA controllers. Various types of devices that support USB 3.0 have been announced including motherboards, notebook computers, external hard drives and drive enclosures, USB 3.0 add-in cards and at least one high-performance USB 3.0 digital camera.

With a 4.8 Gbit per second (Gbps) interface speed, SuperSpeed USB is in the same league as disk interfaces and now becomes interesting as an external interface for SSDs and digital video cameras, two applications that can take advantage of the increased speeds.

Although not a standard, it appears that the USB 3.0 products will have blue plastic inside the USB connectors instead of the white or black plastic seen inside the previous versions of USB connectors.

For additional information on USB, view the Demartek Storage Networking Interface Comparison Summary.

SATA 3.0

I also saw desktop and gaming motherboards that included onboard SATA 3.0 with its 6 Gbps interface speed. This now brings SATA even with SAS as far as the speed of the interface is concerned. There are already some disk drives that have a 6 Gbps SATA interface, and I would expect to see more 6 Gbps devices become available in 2010.

Although 6 Gbps SAS made an appearance in 2009, it appears that 2010 will be the year of 6 Gbps storage interfaces, including both SATA and SAS. This higher speed interface seems a natural fit for SSDs. This should be a very interesting year for storage interfaces.

For additional information on SATA, view the Demartek Storage Networking Interface Comparison Summary.

Consumer Devices

There was an abundance of 3D television and gaming solutions at this year’s CES. The 3D displays with the proper 3D glasses were very interesting and I even winced a few times when it appeared that something was jumping out of the screen. However, the 3D picture seemed less crisp to me than the new high definition pictures that I’m getting used to seeing on my new 1080p display in my living room. For now, I don’t care to make a substantial new investment in all the equipment necessary to display 3D, and I’m not sure that I want to watch television that requires wearing special glasses. We’ll have to wait and see if I still feel this way at next year’s CES.

It appears that digital cameras are all moving to 1080p high definition formats, including camcorders and still cameras. We saw some still cameras that take better high definition movies than camcorders, due primarily to their much larger CMOS image sensors. Canon told us that some professionals in the movie and television industries are buying their digital still cameras and using them to take short video footage because it is cheaper to buy these cameras than to rent high-end professional movie cameras.

Another new trend is the detection of physical motion to provide the interface to computing devices rather than a remote control, keyboard, mouse, etc. I believe that using natural human physical gestures and movements to control televisions, computers and other devices will continue to grow and improve. This “natural human interface” technology is worth watching.

We saw some very interesting prototype devices displayed in the ASUS booth, using their “Waveface” technology. They showed three products that use this flexible, translucent display surface. One was a widescreen display that has a flexible cover, another was a laptop computer made of this flexible surface that can be folded or opened to lie flat. The third, and the most interesting to me, was the clear band worn around the wrist as a watch that displays time and text or email messages and that also functions as a cell phone that can be snapped flat and held like a telephone.

I saw several gaming and video editing computers that had three or four graphics cards in them, all operating together. MSI even has a motherboard and special driver that allows multiple graphics cards from different vendors, such as ATI and NVIDIA, to operate together.

There were other technologies that I simply didn’t have time to explore, including the pico projectors, robotics and the numerous new mobile telephones.

This is a wonderful industry in which to work, with lots of creativity and innovation appearing in all sorts of products. It should be a great year!

Other CES Commentaries