Each January, tens of thousands gather in Las Vegas for North America's largest technology trade show, while millions follow the news from home, hoping for a glimpse for the products and trends that will shape the year ahead. However, those who really want a taste of what's next will keep an even closer eye on Computex, Asia's answer to CES, which takes place in Taipei starting June 2nd.
Spread across the two giant convention centers on different sides of Taiwan's capital city, the show has more than 1,700 companies exhibiting to a crowd of 130,000 attendees. And because Taiwan is at the center of the global electronics trade, visitors get a unique peek behind the curtain at gadgets we won't see in the U.S. for months. Some of the protoypes won't even arrive under the same brand name.
This year we’ll have our Tom’s Guide and Tom’s Hardware teams on the ground reporting on the latest innovations in computing, gaming, mobile, wearables and more. Here are seven reasons to get excited about Computex 2014:
1. Google Glass Competitors
While Google's famous wearable computer continues to make headlines in the U.S., in Taiwan, they're already working on next-generation alternatives that offer more features for less money. At last year's Computex, we got a first glimpse at ChipSip's SiMEye Smart Glass product in very rough form and were impressed with the device's high-resolution eye piece and strong potential. At CES, we caught up with the Taiwanese company again and saw a much more refined version of Smart Glass that seemed like it was well on its way to production.
At this year's show, ChipSip will be showing off a near-final version of the SiMEye, which will have the ability to run any Android app and conduct real-time video chats, both features which Google Glass lacks. With other companies racing into the wearable space, we wouldn't be surprised to see other wearable players showing off their protoypes.
MORE: Google Glass Full Review
2. Intel Moorefield: Quad-Core, 64-bit for Phones and Tablets
Back in February, Intel announced a pair of new mobile chips, the dual-core Merrifield line, which was due sometime during the first half of the year, and the quad-core Moorefield series, which should arrive by the end of the year. While the company focused on its dual-core line at Mobile World Congress, we expect to learn a lot more about Moorefield at Computex. We already know that the quad-core processor can run at up to 2.3-GHz, uses the same power-efficient 22nm manufacturing process as Intel's desktop Haswell line, and is capable of supporting up to 4GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a 13.1-MP camera. However, we hope to see some phones running Moorefield and get a taste of just how much performance and battery life it can offer.
We may also hear about Cherry Trail, the successor to Atom "Bay Trail," Intel's popular CPU platform for tablets. We've been impressed with the performance and battery life of Bay Trail-based tablets such as the ASUS TransformerBook T100, which lasted over 12 hours on a charge. If Cherry Trail ups the graphics performance so we can play real games on a low-cost tablet, it could be a potential ARM killer.
3. More and Better Hybrids
Not to be outdone by Microsoft, which claims that its new 12-inch Surface Pro 3 can replace a laptop, a number of PC vendors are likely to debut new 2-in-1 systems designed to serve as both notebooks and tablets. Hybrid designs are nothing new, as we've been seeing a renaissance in this category since the launch of Windows 8. However, many of today's 2-in-1's are good at neither function, pairing heavy tablets with flimsy keyboards. At Computex, we expect to see more refined, next-generation hybrids that provide a better user experience in both tablet and laptop modes.
4. The Next Ultrabook Could Appear (Broadwell)
Another rumor suggests that Intel will finally show real systems based on its long-awaited Broadwell processor line for laptops and desktops. The first Intel chip based on a 14nm production process, Broadwell promises significant power savings over the current-generation Haswell series, along with better performance, particularly in graphics.
At the Intel Developer Forum in September, the company demonstrated a Broadwell chip operating at the same performance level as a Haswell CPU, but with 30 percent less power consumption. The market has been waiting for Broadwell to appear, but Intel CEO Brian Krzanich recently told Reuters that systems based on the chips would arrive in time for the holidays. To hit that time frame, the processor must already be in good enough shape to show off at Computex.
5. A Gamer's Paradise
While CES mainly highlights "mainstream" consumer tech for the masses, Computex puts a bright spotlight on gaming peripherals and systems. We expect to see a number of new and exciting gaming mice and keyboards from the likes of Corsair, Cooler Master, Genius, Roccat, Rosewill and Steel Series. We're hoping that some of their mechanical keyboards will be among the first to feature the new Cherry Green key switch, which promises a record level of tactile feedback.
Gaming PC vendors will be out in force at Computex as well. We hope to see new offerings from the likes of ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI, all of which are based in Taiwan. We already know that Aorus, a division of Gigabyte, will be showing off a new build of its X7 laptop that will be powered by dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 860 chips, among the fastest you can get.
6. Mini PCs Galore
For a couple of years now, a variety of Asian companies have been offering Android mini PCs, which are the size and shape of USB sticks, but run full Android. We expect to see better and faster Android mini PCs and set-top boxes at Computex, but small Android systems are just the tip of the iceberg.
Since last year, we've been seeing a number of Intel-powered mini PCs that run Windows on 4th generation Core Series motherboards as small as 4 inches by 4 inches. Gigabyte, Zotac and Intel itself are among the vendors who have already embraced this super-tiny, super powerful desktops. At Computex, we could see a number of new PCs in this incredibly compact form factor.
7. Expect the Unexpected (and Weird)
The beauty of Computex is that many little- known vendors bring their latest and weirdest creations to the show floor, hoping to attract attention from vendors who wish to sell these gadgets under their own brands. Whether its a computer running an obscure or heavily-modified operating system, a tablet with a funky design or a computer chassis that looks like the Iron Man armor, you're likely to find it on the Computex show floor. This year, we'll be keeping a particularly sharp eye out for off-brand smartwatches and fitness bands.