CES Press Day: NVIDIA, Samsung, and Intel
Three major companies—NVIDIA, Samsung, and Intel—had lengthy, interesting presentations on CES press day, and each had with their own agenda.
The first company was NVIDIA with CEO and Founder Jensen Huang making the presentation. The presentation started with a quick update on NVIDIA’s autonomous driving, which has been a major focus for them over the past few years. In fact, the NVIDIA booth has been and will be in the automotive area again this year.
We were soon informed, however, that this year’s presentation would focus totally on computer graphics and gaming. NVIDIA’s lengthy presentation felt like Jensen Huang talking through demo after demo, showing the capabilities of their new generation of graphics processing units (GPUs) and doing what no other can do yet by showing ray tracing at its absolute best. The demos were live—not videos—and they were gorgeous and impressive, brimming with vibrant, lifelike reflections with exquisite details. They were more lifelike than real life. More impressive was the fact that according to Huang—who told us at the very end—they were all powered by an RTX 2060 (accompanied by an Intel Core i9-9900X CPU and 32 GB of RAM) performing ray tracing in real time.
These demonstrations were not done with the top-of-the-line RTX 2080Ti, as we all assumed. They showed the performance possible with the just-announced RTX 2060. The 2060 is priced at less than half of the top end 2080.
If anything will make NVIDIA’s sales of the new generation GPU take off, it will be the amazing performance and high value of the 2060 based on its announced price and demonstrated performance. NVIDIA says that it is DLSS, which gets the credit. DLSS is essentially an AI-powered way to improve visuals. It can take a lower-res image, and using AI, learn what pixels need to be added to show real-life reflections. Thus, this improves what is on the screen while achieving higher frame rates with a middle of the range—albeit latest generation—GPU.
Showing a live demo of Battlefield V at 1440-p resolution, the system reached nearly 70 FPS with RTX off. With ray tracing enabled, performance dropped to about 55 FPS. But when they turned on DLSS, performance bounced back to where it was with ray tracing disabled. In addition to the low price of $399, NVIDIA will be giving free copies of some top games with an RTX GPU purchase.
The card will offer 52 teraflops of Tensor Core processing power, can handle 5 Gigarays per second, and features a 6-GB frame buffer. Historically, the GTX xx60 series has been the entry-level version of the GeForce series, although they have always performed well for the price, providing good value. The RTX 2060 per NVIDIA will offer somewhere between 1.4 and two times the performance benefit over its last generation GTX 1060. That makes it faster than the last generation GTX 1070Ti cards, which were one level higher.
There were other announcements such as the soon-to-be-available series of notebooks using portable versions of the new GTX generation. Also, there are some very high-end monitors available that take advantage of the next-generation NVIDIA sync, but the focus for most of us as we left the arena was that NVIDIA showed off ray tracing and amazed us while doing so. Further, they did it with a fairly priced middle-of-the-road next-generation CPU that he had just announced. Oh yes, and how did Huang describe this impressive device? He called it cute.
The Samsung PR event was very impressive, especially when you consider that in 50 years, they came from a startup third-rate B&W TV company to one of the largest consumer electronics companies globally.
The most impressive announcements from Samsung are, as expected, their new 90” 8K UHD smart TVs.
With their connected TV and partnership with Amazon Prime, why would you need satellite or cable TV? There is no doubt that Samsung is focused on AI and bringing its power into the home using Bixby or a version thereof. The Samsung vision of an advanced smart home includes connecting all appliances, lights, TVs, and other audio, and just about everything else. In doing, they want to use a door-sized screen on the refrigerator as a family home center. All other appliances, new phones, and other 5K-enabled devices will connect with the refrigerator door as the visual hub. I know it sounds strange, but when you see it, it actually makes sense. Remember when anyone in the family wanted to show a picture, note, etc., they would just pin it to the refrigerator door?
Besides demonstrating the Samsung vision of the modern smart home, a number of announcements were made both in and outside of the press event. Perhaps the most surprising was the announcement that Samsung’s Bixby digital assistant will soon be able to control apps made by Google. A report (from Tec Crunch) states that the list of Google apps Bixby will be able to control will include Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, and Google Play. Since Google has been pushing its own assistant so hard, this was very interesting. Perhaps Google does not consider Bixby much of a competitor and are not concerned about Bixby taking share from Google. Most of us who have used digital assistants have not been very impressed with Bixby, so we will see what the next iteration brings. The timing of this ability has yet to be announced.
Samsung also announced that Bixby will be added to the company’s new QLED and premium HDR TVs along with its growing lineup of smart appliances. Additionally, it added new software partners like Uber, Ticketmaster, and iHeartRadio. Still, no mention today on when the expected Bixby-supporting Samsung Galaxy Home smart speaker will be available. However, Samsung did confirm the expected news that its first smartphone that will connect to 5G networks will be released in the next six months. It was expected because all four major U.S. carriers (Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon) have announced that they will start selling a Samsung 5G phone sometime this year.
Some of the other new announcements from Samsung include a new version of its Family Hub smart refrigerators, a high-end gaming laptop, the Notebook Odyssey, and even some robots including Samsung Bot Care, which is an entirely new market for them. The rolling home robot is a healthcare assistant designed for elderly users and other people in need of home assistants. The robot can offer health briefings, give out medication, and check a user’s vitals. The company offered a preview of the robot on stage at the end of the event and gave us the ability to view it up close and take pictures. Overall, many interesting announcements were made by Samsung, and they have a clear path forward.
The next event was on Intel turf, which started with a one-woman concert showing the power of computers powered by Intel chips to generate the entertaining intro. After the expected series of impressive demos, there were a number of well-received announcements as Intel rounded out its ninth-generation Core CPUs with six new processors, going from low-priced but competent i3 models to high-end i9s. After years of waiting for 10-nm chips from Intel, it sounds like we'll get some this year from the new desktop Ice Lake CPUs to Lakefield chips that will bring together Sunny Cove cores with some Atom CPUs in one CPU package to balance high and power performance when needed with low power, but capable CPU workings when that is all that is needed—all in one CPU.
We also caught a glimpse of Intel's next Nervana AI processor, which will focus more on inference capabilities and not just deep learning. It seems that Intel’s 10-nm development is on track. The reveal of Ice Lake—Intel's 10nm CPU microarchitecture—comes after they had years of delays in debugging their 10-nm processors. This advancement in CPUs is expected to bring performance and power efficiency gains over Intel's current 12-nm CPUs. It is expected that the first computers with Ice Lake will start hitting shelves by the end of the year. Hopefully, the CPUs will be available this year to those of us who build our own.
Intel admits that everything is connected today—phones, tablets, smart devices, wearables, everything!—but the PC is the focal point of all of this. Without the PC, none of this ecosystem would work well. We are entering a new era of computing with the new Core i9-9900K ninth-generation processors announced from i3 to the supercomputer like i9. Also, Ice lake includes WiFi 6 (more on WiFi 6 in an upcoming article). The new script will now be enabled, which can categorize searching through hundreds of your pictures in different files and folders, and pictures that were never categorized or named accordingly. You will be able to find what you want based on how you categorize them. For example, you will be able to search for all pictures that have water or snow in them, etc.
Dell announced at the Intel event that computers from them running Ice Lake have 1- nm CPUs coming. Dell also announced that the next area of mobile computing (super thin and light notebooks) under the name of “Project Athena,” which is next-generation of mobile computing just as their Ultrabook was some years ago.
In addition to the PC category, data centers—which are the real force behind most things—will get the opportunity to use the New Xeon, which is code-named “Cascade Lake.” It’s designed to process the world’s data using a powerful 48-core CPU with AI deep learning and Optane persistent memory (persistent memory means that data will maintain in the memory even if the power is out). This new hardware will be used in what appears to be extremely impressive 3D athlete tracking. Further, this technology will be used at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, so when you see it, remember that you read it here first.
Almost as an afterthought, it was announced that the 5G modem is coming in the second half of 2019. In addition, Snow Ridge 10-nm architecture for 5G is coming, and in late 2019, we will see the Intel Nervana neural network processor (NNP).
So, what does this all mean? I would say that the rate of technological advancement is about to accelerate and we haven’t seen anything yet!
Dan Feinberg: A CES 2019 Preview