Samsung gaming laptops and AV gear are its most exciting CES releases

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Samsung had a pretty rough 2016. Exploding phones and costly recalls will do that to a company. At this year’s CES in Las Vegas, the company is doing its best to talk up its new TVs, laptops, audio gear and home appliances. New phones? We’ll have to wait until Mobile World Congress later this quarter for those. Until then, it’s the new laptops and audio gear that are meant to be getting us excited, along with the already announced new QLED TVs, but we have to wonder how many of these devices will actually ever make it to South Africa. Our suspicion? Not very many. But we know that doesn’t mean you don’t still want to know about them.

Laptoppers and would-be Mactoppers

Samsung’s new Chromebooks and its Notebook 9 (none of which we’ll ever see in South Africa, boo hiss) look a whole lot like the previous generation of MacBook Pros. And that’s not a bad thing. We’ll keep the Chromebook rundown short, given there’s even less chance of us seeing them than the Notebook 9. Here are the pertinent bits: two models (the Plus and Pro), touch displays, the bendiness of a Lenovo Yoga and support for a built-in S-Pen type stylus.

The Notebook 9, meanwhile, is an ultra-slim Intel Kaby Lake processor-powered laptop that includes a full-sized HDMI port, a pair of regular USB ports (or USB-A, for those sticklers among you) and a future-friendly USB-C port. Good job Samsung! Here’s to being eased into the future instead of forced.

There’s also a new Quantum Dot Curved Monitor for desktop computing coming. We’re not even remotely convinced by curved displays for big-screen TVs, but they make a whole lot more sense for desktops, especially if you can make do with a single display (though it looks like a pair of Samsung’s curved monitors would work pretty well side-by-side, too).

Homer’s plaything

Gaming laptops tend to have potent innards, backlit keyboards, superfluous and ornamental lights and ridiculous price tags. Samsung’s new Odyssey devices tick almost all of those boxes. There’s the 2.5mm of travel in the mechanical, backlit keyboard keys (limited to red on the 15-inch version, rainbow-friendly on the 17er), anti-glare displays, SSD hard drives and Core i7 processors. So far, so standard. What’s different is the pricing. The entry-level unit will start at $1,200, which is well under R20,000 (at today’s exchange rate, it’s actually under R17k).

A particularly pleasing touch is the easily removable SSD and RAM modules, making upgrading each an option and potentially drastically increasing longevity in the process. But where the tech gods giveth, they must also take away. In exchange for flexibility and a decent entry-level price (no word on the much more potent 17-inch models recommended retail, yet, though) we get the most pointless choice of flourishes around the trackpad we’ve yet seen in this product category.

First, trackpads on gaming laptops don’t tend to get much use. Fragging noobs is just so much more satisfying with a precision gaming mouse. So why on earth would anyone put a decorative, illuminated parallelogram around the rectangular useful bit… and then make it a glossy fingerprint magnet in the process? You’ll have to ask Samsung.

Nonetheless, we like competition. So we’d be very happy to see the Odyssey range in South Africa. But as mentioned earlier, we probably won’t, so don’t get your hopes up.

Sound and vision

What we will see, though So, you’re saving up for a new QLED TV and are looking forward to the best treat your eyeballs have had since your parents first took you to a fireworks display, but what about the audio? Samsung’s releasing a new soundbar called the Soundbar Sound+, and an updated all-in-one speaker called the H7, which is a beautifully minimalist slab of high-end audio kit with uncharacteristically understated design (and no Samsung insignia in sight).

The H7 includes 32-bit audio upscaling, which means it’ll take lower quality audio and try to improve it, in much the same way video upscaling works. Let’s hope that it’s better than the video equivalents, though. All too often, using machines to fill in gaps with guesswork doesn’t produce the most elegant results. Also, can most listeners even tell the difference between audiophile-quality bitrates and regular ones? We suspect not.

 

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