UK tech channel reacts to Computex 2016

Dominic Sacco asks system integrators, retailers and industry execs what they think about the announcements from this year’s show.
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The Computex 2016 trade show in Taiwan once again impressed with a plethora of new tech, from virtual reality backpacks to ‘magnetic levitation’ fans and even a $599 robot from ASUS. Dominic Sacco asks system integrators, retailers and industry execs what they think about the biggest announcements from this year’s show.

The future is bright for gaming and VR

Virtual reality was one of the core themes from this year’s show in Taipei, of course. AMD announced its Radeon RX 480 GPU built for PC VR experiences; ARM revealed the Cortex-A73 and Mali-G71 VR-ready mobile chips.

MSI even showcased a cool VR PC backpack that aims to solve cabling issues, and impressed further with its VR-ready GT83/GT73 Titan SLI laptops and Vortex desktop. 

ASUS stole the show with the ROG Avalon concept – a cube-shaped system that allows the user to easily change the components by sliding out a tray. Then there was Overclockers’ $20,000 OrionX, an extreme gaming rig at the very top of the market.

“VR is a technology that will transform every aspects of our lives, from entertainment and gaming to training and holding virtual meetings. 

“Its potential usage is only just being realised. MSI’s backpack PC is a valiant attempt at bypassing the current problems of being cable tethered to a PC, but we don’t feel it’s particularly elegant.”

Ben Miles, Chillblast

“VR is definitely something that we want to bring in. Unfortunately it’s a bit difficult in the UK [to get the stock]. I think the backpacks could be successful. It’s definitely something we’d want to look at and listen to our customers to see if they’re interested in it.”

Maria Malageac, Mesh Computers

“I think bearing in mind the cost, VR is specialist. It’s too much money for people to spend online and too much of an investment for the nationals to take on board, so I think there’s a gap there for indies. Regarding the backpack, why don’t they make VR wireless? And will it sit on a desk – can you use that backpack as an everyday computer? It looks fantastic but gimmicky. I think the way forward for VR is wireless.”

Richard Alford, Black Bear Computers

“For me, VR was the biggest thing at Computex. I was surprised to see all the known stands like MSI and ASUS all showing a lot of VR products. 

“The backpack is brilliant – what a great idea. It’s great that a lot of new motherboards and components are coming out, but I think the real innovation has been VR. It’s superb – it’s made me excited again.”

CK, Yoyotech

PC component innovations

Intel announced the i7 processor Extreme Edition, the company’s most powerful desktop processor ever featuring 10 cores. It also showed off the Xeon processor E3-1500 v5 product family. 

AMD unveiled its Zen CPU, which has 8 Cores with 16 threads, and its 7th Generation AMD A-Series mobile Accelerated Processing Units (APUs).

Elsewhere, Corsair showed off a new range of magnetic levitation technology fans, DDR4 memory and the Hydro GFX GeForce GTX 1080 with MSI. 

A whole host of new motherboards were also on show.

“A lot happened in the industry in the run up to Computex: Nvidia launched the Pascal-based GTX 1080 and Intel launched the Broadwell E, both being significant launches. The regular channel vendors always save something to launch at Computex which is always exciting to see.”

Peter Davies, Scan Computers

“To me I think the future of gaming is no longer in components, it’s in solutions – people want a working product now. Graphics cards and motherboards are starting to look similar. RGB seems to be the USP for upcoming motherboards, which I find a bit bizarre, because I want performance not RGB lights. It’s a gimmick. Specification and value for money will be key in components going forwards.”

CK, Yoyotech

“The new products we saw in the confidential Cooler Master area for clients were impressive, they have some exciting products coming out this year. We were also very impressed by some of the new lifestyle case products from Cryorig, and of course, the GTX 1080-powered virtual reality exhibits at the NVIDIA stand.”

Ben Miles, Chillblast

“I love Overclockers for building that PC and showing off what can be done in a flashy way. If you break it down by component and look how much time they spent putting it together, it’s quite good value for money. It’s a lovely PC.”

Craig Hume, Utopia Computers

“There is a big
drive for quieter components - we’re looking forwards to the Be Quiet liquid cooler range coming soon. More people are asking for near silent solutions.” 

Richard Alford, Black Bear Computers

Will robots reach the mainstream?

Robotics were another interesting and emerging theme at Computex 2016. ASUS unveiled its ZenBo robot, which is designed to help users around the home, remind them of appointments, dance and tell children stories. It will be priced at $599 but a launch date has not yet been confirmed.

The president of Taiwan also spoke to ZenBo at the event, while another robot, Pepper, presented the Computex design and innovation awards. But will robots be a hit in the tech retail channel?

”I think it’s a very ambitious thing and we should all say bring it on, because we need to see some robots in our life, right! I think it’s about time for robots, I like the concept and it needs to come out. I can see myself selling this. It’s all about solutions and experiences for the end user, it’s no longer about a keyboard and mouse, it’s about changing the lifestyle. We’ve been talking about robotics for years, and it will eventually come into play.”

CK, Yoyotech

“I think there’s a brilliant opportunity here. Look at Apple – Steve Jobs knew a lot about the devices he wanted to bring out, but knew it was too early to launch. He waited until he had something of real value. I think this may also be the case with robotics.”

Craig Hume, Utopia Computers

“I think it’s a fantastic toy but it’s too limited in its uses. I’d imagine it will only work on a single storey, so how much use is it actually? It’s fine as a children’s toy or a gimmicky thing in the shop, because it encourages people to talk to you, but for the home I don’t think we’re there yet. It’s basically an iPad that talks to you – why do we need a whole robot doing that?” 

Richard Alford, Black Bear Computers

“The limit, as usual, was with the quality of the voice recognition. Even with a highly scripted exhibit, the ZenBo frequently got confused. Until technologies of really reliable voice recognition become available, these kinds of products will be niche, early adopter solutions. The hardware in the ZenBo was fairly impressive however, and we can see it being useful for those with restricted mobility. How it climbs stairs is also a major question for UK households!”

Ben Miles, Chillblast

“I wouldn’t say the public is really prepared for something like that at the moment. I’m not sure if it will be successful or popular just yet. For now I will not be stocking this, but in the future that could change.”

Maria Malageac, Mesh Computers

Mobility and the new wave of ultraportables

Notebooks and 2-in-1s are still very much ‘in’ – and vendors reflected that with a host of new product announcements.

Acer revealed two 10-inch 2-in-1 notebooks designed for students and budget-conscious families: the Acer Switch V 10 and Acer Switch One 10. Plus, Dell featured new Inspiron 2-in-1 notebooks, from the 7000 17-inch to the 11 3000 for family users and the more powerful 5000 series.

But ASUS stole the show again with the ZenBook 3 – a sleek new notebook thinner than the Apple MacBook, as well as the Transformer 3 and Transformer 3 Pro which are set to rival Microsoft’s Surface. In addition, the Transformer Mini is a tiny tablet with a keyboard.

”Those type of products are big in the John Lewis space. From an independent retail perspective we will get customers coming in looking for a thin ultra-portable computer and we will provide them – as long as they’re available in our channel.”

Craig Hume, Utopia Computers

“Exciting new innovative products will be needed and Computex 2016 points to a number of new developments from reliable vendors such as Acer, ASUS and Dell. Hardware sales will still happen, but the margin will be built from the service wraparound – not the physical products.”

Iain Shaw, Brigantia Partners Limited

“The new wave of ultra slim gaming laptop chassis was very impressive – a gaming laptop in an ultrabook chassis with all-day battery life will be coming to Chillblast’s range very soon.”

Ben Miles, Chillblast

Industry talks up IoT and 5G

Looking ahead to the future, 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) were touted as key areas at Computex.

Intel announced the AnyWAN GRX 750 system-on-a-chip (SoC) family and the 5th Generation 11ac MU-MIMO Wi-Fi family of products for home gateways. This enables local and cloud-based services, media creation and content sharing for tools including ‘things’ in a person’s home.

Acer also outlined its BeingAware vision powering IoT devices for connected cars, cities and devices (including home appliances).

“5G and the Internet of Things are coming and it is vital that independents evolve their business models now so they are ready to support the next wave of technological change that is just around the corner. The landscape is going
to change faster in the next five years than it has done in the last 25 years.”

Iain Shaw, Brigantia Partners Limited

“The IoT is still niche for the average UK consumer at the moment, but we anticipate IT technology and connectivity will eventually be part of virtually every piece of hardware in your home. Chillblast already offers bespoke IoT solutions for our business customers and we plan to continue to do so.”

Ben Miles, Chillblast

“I went to Computex with a clear strategy to further Scan’s development in varying sectors and it wasn’t a disappointment. VR and IoT were being demonstrated in a number of different ways on many booths. Now we just need to see how we use this technology and advance these areas.”

Peter Davies, Scan Computers

“I think it’s just around the corner. What we’ve found up here in the North is most of my clients aren’t asking for it, but slowly I’m seeing more things come on board, like automated heating and light switches. I think it links to robotics, in five years’ time all of these things are going to start appearing and we’ll see the IoT take off.”

Richard Alford, Black Bear Computers

Modular machines and custom cases

The ‘make it yours’ slogan from Cooler Master has seemingly spread across the industry. 

The vendor showed off its MasterCase and MasterConcept 2.0, allowing users to customise their case how they like it. Similarly, Aerocool’s Dream Box modular kit allows users to create a rectangular case, a helicopter themed PC or anything else.

Other innovations included iRocks’ LEGO-compatible keyboard, some crazy custom PC cases including a Ghostbusters-themed chassis, the Blocks modular smartwatch, and Antec’s Trapeze case with RGB lighting underneath the unit.

”For system integrators, modular products are fairly impractical, but they really enable some creative solutions for DIYers, so we applaud this kind of solution. A lot of the modded cases were extremely impressive.”

Ben Miles, Chillblast

“We’ve actually offered the MasterCase from Cooler Master for a while now. It’s not as popular as other more traditional cases, but we offer our customers that choice.”

Maria Malageac, Mesh Computers

“It’s niche, it’s like putting your own toppings on at Pizza Hut. Consumers have become so demanding, the modular stuff is good but it comes with a big price tag. I think this market will always be there, but it’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea.”

CK, Yoyotech

“Modular helps those building PCs from their bedroom. But building PCs is my job! So I won’t be promoting that much here.” 

Richard Alford, Black Bear Computers

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