Dell does a really nice job picking moderators for their CES events and this year they did their launches in a large auditorium as opposed to a restaurant—better fitting their size and status. This year’s moderator was Aisha Tyler who was impressive on stage appearing both knowledgeable and appropriately funny. This year, Dell is really ramping up their design forward strategy to better match Lenovo and HP’s aggressive design efforts and the result was impressive.
Let’s cover the highlights.
McLaren And the Secret Workstations
One of the interesting projects that Dell is connected to is using Alienware computers to improve aerodynamics. One of the interesting backstories on Alienware is they used to have a significant workstation business that many of us thought Dell would shut down. Apparently, Dell didn’t kill it given how McLaren is using the Alienware technology. This has been kind of an industry secret, if you are mostly just focused on pure performance and don’t need vendor certifications for a workstation, a good gaming computer will often provide a far greater bang for the buck and Alienware is apparently doing just that.
AeroFarms is one of the most interesting companies in farming. This is farming much like it might be done on Mars. Rather than using lots of land located remotely outside of a city, they use huge warehouse space to grow produce in layered racks and controlled environments. This lowers the cost of the produce by increasing production given there are no weather events and a greater ability to optimize the growing cycle. In addition, pest problems, resource usage, and spoilage are vastly reduced. If we keep screwing up the environment this may eventually be the only way, we’ll be able to grow food. This firm is using Dell technology to both massively reduce water use (something like 4,000 percent less water) while reducing transport cost and risk (the farms are placed far closer to the people that consume the produce). Had this existed while I was in farming I might have stayed in farming.
Dell had a goal of pulling 2 billion pounds of waste out of the ecosystem by 2020—and they have already achieved that goal. Dell is one of the most aggressive companies in terms of pulling waterborne plastics out of the water and putting them into products, in recycling metals and plastics, and in reducing their waste footprint on the planet.
Last year Dell got an impressive number of awards for design on their XPS. However, one embarrassing problem with the old XPS was something we called the nose camera. This resulted because Dell wanted to focus in their infinity edge screens and there wasn’t a cameral small enough to fit on the top of the screen (where it belonged) and so they put it on the bottom of the screen. Granted this helped a number of us that have nose hairs that grow like weeds stay trimmed, or not, but it didn’t exactly result in an attractive shot. Well they made a smaller camera and put it on the top of the screen and sadly we will no longer to be able to see up Sam Bird’s nose hairs at any more launch events, Sam runs Dell’s PC unit and a picture of his nose was used to showcase this problem. (For some reason I’m not heartbroken about not seeing this picture ever again at all). They showed a video by Colby Brown, a world class photographer, who apparently uses the XPS line exclusively for his work. Professional photographers often carry high powered laptops to do editing in the field.
Dell Cinema is one of the most under-appreciated apps on Dell computers. It significantly improves the movie watching experience on Dell PCs. This is broken down into features that include Dell Color which allows you to optimize the color for different color types. This feature now has Dolby Vision, which increases the contrast and HDR quality with up to 8K resolutions and far greater color accuracy (you can better experience a video the way the creator wanted you to see it). Cinema has a number of sound enhancements that enhances the sound, optimizes it for the position of the notebook, and finally 3D Audio by Waves NX which significantly improves spatial accuracy which adjusts for head placement.
Dell Mobile connect has always better-integrated smartphones with Dell PCs than Apple integrates the iPhone with the Mac (yep Apple missed another meeting). The latest enhancement allows the phone to virtually appear in a VR experience when a call comes in, an appointment pops up, or a critical message arrives. Now if someone could just get the hand interfaces in VR right.
The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 is a showcase for how much laptop technology has changed. Business PCs used to be clunky beasts that no one really wanted to carry. This laptop looks like it was carved out of stainless steel and it has several interesting unique features. These include proximity sensors, enhanced holistic security, 24-hour battery life, 1-hour charging, and a 14-inch display in a 13-inch footprint. This laptop has a sub 3-pound carry weight (and this is a true carry weight because, with 24-hour battery life, you don’t need to carry a power supply).
One of the interesting things is that Frank Azor, who co-founded Alienware, is still with Dell (generally when a company is acquired, the acquiring company forces out the founders) and he currently runs Dall’s gaming lines—including Alienware. He showcased the Dell Gaming G7 laptop using NVIDIA’s new RTX 2070 or 2080 graphics processor, providing desktop level graphics performance.
Dell updated their Alienware M15 to RTX graphics and launched their new M17 laptop at the show with a 17-inch display. This runs Xbox Play Anywhere so you can play your Xbox games on the laptop.
They are announcing a new design language for Alienware called “Legend”. This new design language apparently has two personalities that are called Lunar Light or Dark Side Of The Moon. Showcasing this language is the new Dell Area 51M which is fully upgradeable for memory, desktop processor, and GPU while being 30 percent smaller than its predecessor. Updates to the Alienware command center (about 30) include enhanced overclocking and light personalization capability.
In addition, over the next few months, Dell will announce gaming screens for notebooks with 240Hz refresh, more OLED displays, and a 55-inch OLED gaming display using the new Legend design. Monitors are surprisingly big at this show this year. A 55-inch desktop OLED display! Suddenly I have something else to lust after.
Dell is doing some really nice work with their hardware and their latest offerings are both attractive and powerful. Behind the scenes they are also one of the most aggressive companies fighting pollution and promoting women in tech. Their new Latitude is arguably one of the most beautiful laptops I’ve ever seen and that 55-inch OLED monitor should be on every gamer’s lust list. Perhaps the biggest announcement, however, was that we’ll never have to see Sam Bird’s nose hairs ever again and that picture will go into the CES archives never again to see the light of day. Impressive work.