This year at CES, we met privately with over 30 companies, and had the opportunity to see hundreds of different products on display. In this article, we'll be picking the best of the best in each of the ten categories that we cover here on The Tech Buyer's Guru.
Now, to be clear, some of these products are aspirational, and indeed all of the most exciting products we saw aren't even on the market yet, which means in most cases that we haven't had a true hands-on test with them. But based on seeing prototypes, or even in some cases mock-ups of the products, we are bestowing "best of" awards for innovation. And take note: of the ten products that we chose as "Best Of," three come from a single manufacturer - someone has been busy innovating, but you'll have to read on to find out who it is!
PC Industry Leadership
AMD: The Ryzen and Vega product lines
While AMD didn't quite release Zen 2 at CES 2019, we already knew it wasn't going to be ready (despite all the cries of disappointment from critics who like to pan AMD). The good news is that AMD continues to drive the industry forward as Intel and Nvidia tread water (literally, their new product releases for 2018 were no faster than their 2017 releases at the same pricepoints!). While AMD has yet to re-capture the performance crown that it wore in the CPU and GPU arenas for much of the mid-2000s, it's forced both Intel and Nvidia to release products that they likely wouldn't have otherwise. In particular, we surely wouldn't have any eight-core consumer CPUs today if it weren't for AMD.
Of note, AMD's Dr. Lisa Su took the opportunity to personally announce the new Vega VII GPU, which matches the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 at a lower pricepoint. The "VII" in the name refers to the 7nm manufacturing process, which is another example of how far ahead AMD is versus its competitors, which are stuck on 14nm and 12nm, respectively. The Vega VII is arriving on February 7th for $700 at a time when most RTX 2080 cards are still at $800. And the Vega has double the VRAM (an immense 16GB), plus far greater compute power for specialized applications. Nay-sayers shouted down AMD for only matching Nvidia rather than surpassing it, but consider that this surprise announcement comes only 3 months after Nvidia launched the RTX 2080, whereas the original Vega 64 took 14 months to counter the GTX 1080. AMD is catching up, very quickly we might add. Frankly, we can't wait to get our hands on a Vega VII!
SilverStone: The Raven Prototype (AKA Raven RV06)
This one's easy: the SilverStone Raven Prototype. In the mid-2000s, SilverStone was considered one of the very few ultra-premium PC chassis manufacturers, thanks to its exquisite line of Fortress brushed aluminum cases and the swoopy, stealth fighter-inspired Raven cases. But over the years, it has attempted to push more into the mainstream, where competitors are legion and margins are thin. We think the Raven Prototype is a return to form. Expect it to hit the market in June 2016 with a $200 price tag and thermal performance that is simply unmatched by any other case on the market, thanks to its dual 180mm bottom-mounted fans and its 90-degree rotated layout that promotes natural heat convection. And in keeping with the age of flashy aesthetics, its inverted design comes with a nice side benefit: the proposed clear acrylic window in the front of the case will provide a nice view of your GPU's heatsink through the "hood", like you would an engine in a car! Very cool!
Honorable mention goes to Cooler Master for its awesome little Q500 series of ATX cases, which use the exterior form factor of an mATX case, but fit a full ATX motherboard. One of our favorite cases ever (and one we still have in service) was the Elite 360, which in the late 2000s was the smallest ATX chassis on the market. Cooler Master is going to reclaim that title, but this time with a chassis that can truly fit gaming-grade gear!
Cooler Master: SK 651 Wireless Mechanical Low-Profile RGB Keyboard
This one is a little surprising. We go with Cooler Master, an industry stalwart not necessarily known for its gaming peripherals, which shocked just about everyone with its new wireless RGB mechanical low-profile keyboards. How the heck did Cooler Master jump ahead of the entire pack, including Corsair, Logitech, and Razer. Our guess is that someone high up at Cooler Master said "let's get this done!", and they threw the appropriate amount of money an industry connections to knock one out of the park. This is the future of high-end keyboards here today! Well, almost... the full-size model won't arrive until Q3'19, but it will be worth the wait!
Honorable Mention goes to Corsair for its Harpoon Wireless Gaming Mouse. Based on specifications alone, this would be the winner, but we are a little surprised that Corsair chose to unveil its revolutionary Slipstream technology in a mouse platform as cheap as the Harpoon (it retails for $30). That means you get mind-blowing wireless throughput with a mid-range sensor, a comfortable but basic shell, and not a whole lot in the way of customization. We expressed this to Corsair, and they said it came down to which product could be infused with Slipstream tech the fastest, and it happened to be the budget-friendly Harpoon. We'll be testing this in the near future, but our guess is that a flat-out "buy" recommendation will have to wait for the next model up the line to undergo the knife.