CES 2018 Recap

t was a record setting year at CES 2018, with more the 3,900 exhibitors spread throughout Las Vegas. Reports of over 180,000 attendees braved the rain to get a glimpse at what the future holds in commercial and consumer tech. To even begin to cover a small percentage of it would be a daunting task, so I wanted to focus on what CES still means to the world of gaming. There are naysayers among you who believe that CES has turned into more of a showcase for smart phones and internet connected appliances, and while that is certainly a large portion of it, there were still plenty of gaming items to see and get my hands on.

The word that best describes the world of gaming at CES is innovation. What I saw and experienced wasn’t necessarily earth shattering or mind blowing, but it was advances in the items we use day-to-day. These advances showed innovation in ease of use, function or just that wow factor. It also means that much of what I experienced will be coming to market and in some cases coming to market in the next few months. Let me take you all on a little journey of my time at CES and the experiences I encountered.

My first stop on my gaming tour of CES was speaking with familiar friends in the computer gaming world EVGA. On display was their new X299 Dark motherboard, a board that features active cooling on not only the vram, but on the M.2 slots as well. The board is completely blacked out, maintaining a very stealthy sophisticated look. As one would expect they also had video cards on display, but the most striking piece of hardware I came across was their new DG-77 computer case. Remember how the keyword for this article was innovation…so now you are probably asking, what is so innovative about a computer case? For years, the most expensive piece of equipment running in your desktop was the graphics card. It could have all the lights and bling in the world, but it was always hidden…sandwiched between your pcie sound card or video capture card. EVGA has designed this case and the included bracket so that the graphics card can be mounted front and center in the side panel, showing itself off for the world to see. In fact, different colored brackets are also available to add a bit of flare to your system.

Next stop was with the folks at Be Quiet!, who are well known for their quiet power supplies and equally quiet cases. One of the most innovative items that Be Quiet! brought to the table was their Dark Rock 4 CPU cooler. It features their practically inaudible SilentWings 135mm PWM fan and six high-performance copper heat pipes, but that isn’t what makes it so gosh darn cool (pun intended). The heatsink is entirely black…no mishmash of copper and black here. The black coating enhances the heat transfer, so not only does it look amazing, but helps it stay cooler as well. On top of that (the puns keep mounting) it includes a top mounting system, so no more messing around with the back of the motherboard and mounting plates…extra-long screwdriver included!

I also had the opportunity to meet up with Alphacool at their suite in Caesars Palace. PC liquid cooling enthusiasts are extremely familiar with their brand and how they are well known for their quality. One complaint that many liquid cooling enthusiasts have had (myself included) is that their GPU waterblocks have always looked a bit…clunky. They were phenomenal at keeping your GPS’s nice and chilly, but were not always the most attractive to display. I’m happy to report that this is changing with a completely redesigned waterblock. With a much sleeker cover and some amazing visual effects to show off your UV liquid, I am pretty much convinced that my next watercooled rig will include a pair of these liquid cooling waterblocks. Redesigned waterblocks are cool and all, but how does that tie into our theme of innovation? Well, what if I also told you that Alphacool was bringing an all-in-one GPU cooler into the mix as well? And when I say all-in-one, I mean all-in-one…pump, coolant, fans, radiator all attached to your GPU. Other companies have released brackets that allowed you to attach a CPU all-in-one unit to your GPU, but this cools everything…and is in one nice, neat, package. For those who are looking for the convenience of an all-in-one, but the cooling efficiency of a custom look may not need to look any further than this. Oh, and they have the most amazing hardline tube tooling kit I’ve ever seen! It’s currently available and retails in the neighborhood of $210 dollars, but it’s something I simply must have.

Next on the tour I found myself at the House of eSports, a suite that was home to eSports legends Fnatic. For those who aren’t aware, Fnatic is an eSports team that’s been around before the term eSports was ever uttered. They focus on several titles, Dota, CS:GO, as well as the new mobile eSports games. I wish I could say I was there to show off some of my Dota skills (which I have none), but I was on a mission. Fnatic has decided that who better to develop tools for eSports competitors than those who have been in the business since the beginning. They are developing mice and keyboards that are designed with the eSports player in mind. That’s not to say these aren’t the perfect tools for your average gamer as well. Every button, led, and sensor has been designed with a purpose. They aren’t throwing in a multitude of LEDs or 16000 DPI sensors, because that isn’t what the professional gamer needs. They add just the right amount of bling so folks can show them off, but also have the ability to easily turn it off as well. I was given some advance information as to what else makes these innovative, unfortunately you’ll just have to wait and see for yourself when they are released. It’ll definitely be worth the wait!

While on the subject of keyboards and mice, my next stop took me to a place few people thought would ever return…Madcatz. Yes, Madcatz is back and determined to show gamers why it’s a name they should never forget. While speaking with the folks at Madcatz, they wanted to focus on only a subset of their original hardware, keyboard, mice and headphones. People clamoring for their flight sticks or console controllers will have to wait a little longer. This allowed them to focus on making the very best without attempting to expand the line too fast. The R.A.T is back, or rather various versions of the R.A.T are back. Yes, one of the most beloved mice for gamers who like adjustability has returned. This isn’t your fathers R.A.T though, indeed it still has the adjustable palm rest and the removable side panels as customization is still very much in the mind of Madcatz. However, they also bring to the table something innovative and new…the battery-free wireless mouse. True, other designers have shown this off as well, but here the entire pad has a coil that runs throughout it, promising no dead spots anywhere on the mousepad where your mouse resides. It’s incredibly light, and the charge on the mouse itself does hold for several seconds (if not longer) in case you want to run to the fridge with it and you forgot to click the pause button. They are also working on a new line of black and all white keyboards.

Our final stop on our grand tour of CES gaming is Western Digital. Traditionally hard drives have been an afterthought until all of your data was gone and you were scrambling to restore from backup (you do backup, don’t you?). Western Digital wants to change that. They want storage to be more than just a bit bucket, and want consumers to think of it as an experience. Their new My Cloud Home is not only a cloud storage device, but with the Smart Home Media app it enables voice-activation where users can access and share content from their phone to anywhere with an internet connection. It also features seamless and user-friendly integration with Alexa and Chromecast. Another device that was featured by Western Digital is their Passport Wireless SSD external storage device. Not only is it portable and shock resistant, but also provides up to 10 hours of battery life, a built in USB card reader with single touch copy and can also be used as a charging station for your mobile devices when attached via micro USB.

This concludes our little journey into gaming at CES, while this is nowhere near all the magic that was at CES, it’s a brief glimpse at what the future holds. The world of gaming may not be at the front of everyone’s minds when they attend CES, but that doesn’t mean that gaming innovation isn’t there. I feel each company definitely brought their “A” game here, with products that not only improve usability, but drive many of them into the future.