Ikea and Teenage Engineering launch co-developed speakers and party products

Two and a half years after Ikea first announced its collaboration with Swedish design collective Teenage Engineering, the products are going on sale. The Frekvens range (which translates to “frequency”) will be rolling out in US stores from today through February 1st, according to Ikea.

Teenage Engineering is best known for its music products like the iconic OP-1 synthesizer, so it’s no surprise that the Frekvens collection sees Ikea continue its expansion into the world of home audio. There are two speakers in the range, a $69.99 model and a more portable $19.99 option with a belt clip, along with a $149 subwoofer combo and a $10 light-up speaker base.

“The Items got narrowed down towards sound,” Teenage Engineering founder Jesper Kouthoofd says. “What we said was ‘why do you have to hide speakers. They are furniture in their own right.’ Sounds should not be hidden. So when you start to build a modular system and add fronts and accessories on, it’s a more fun way to think about sound.”

It’s just not a party until someone pours a martini on a table tennis racquet on the floor.

The rest of the range includes more traditional Ikea products and is designed to help you host a stylishly minimalist home party. There are various lights, furniture, crockery, and other somewhat incongruous items like a cajón and a reflective raincoat. Many of the lights and speakers are able to be connected together.

“We know that for younger people spontinuity is key,” Ikea creative design leader Michael Nikolic says. “The idea of gathering some friends could become a reality in minutes. What is needed to have a good party at home? That’s what we wanted to investigate with Frekvens. Together with Teenage Engineering, we have explored the possibilities of taking the party with us.”

Here are some selected items from the collection:

Speaker with subwoofer, $149

Portable speaker, $19.99

Cups, $9.99 for four

Side table, $29.99

Eating set, $17.99

Cajón drum, $29.99

LED multi-use light, $40

Blanket, $49.99

Raincoat, $24.99

Alleged Xbox Series X photos show off the port selection

The back panel of the Xbox Series X has been the subject of heightened speculation ever since AMD used a fake render of the upcoming console as part of its CES presentation. Now, alleged photos have appeared online of a prototype unit that may give some indication as to what Microsoft is preparing to ship.

First appearing on Twitter and corroborated as authentic by Thurrott’s Brad Sams, the images show the Series X’s vents, two USB-A ports on the back, one on the front, a single HDMI-out, an optical audio port, Ethernet, and a power-in. A further mysterious rectangular port is for diagnostics, according to Sams. The unit is marked with a serial number and labeled as “Xbox Product Name Placeholder.”

Even assuming the photos’ authenticity, they shouldn’t be taken as indicative of a finished product that isn’t set to be released for almost a year. It’s more than possible that Microsoft could alter the design or never intended prototype models to be identical to retail units. That said, the images do suggest certain hardware decisions on Microsoft’s part; the removal of the Xbox One’s HDMI-in, for example, would mark the final backtrack from Xbox’s ill-fated focus on TV features.

The iPad Pro can now run Fortnite at 120 frames per second

Epic Games has just released an update for the iOS version of Fortnite that unlocks a niche-but-cool feature if you have the hardware to support it: a 120 frames per second mode for the latest (2018) iPad Pro. This mode makes the most of the screen’s high refresh rate to deliver ultra-smooth performance. The update also adds support for controller thumbstick buttons.

I checked the 120 fps mode out for a few rounds, and while I’m not sure how many people play competitive Fortnite on an iPad, the difference is noticeable. The frame rate does occasionally drop down into the 100s or 90s, which I’m sure will happen more often if you’re playing for hours on end, but otherwise the game does indeed deliver the advertised 120 fps.

Enabling the mode automatically drops the resolution and fixes the visual settings at “medium,” just as you can only run at 60 fps with “high” settings and 30 fps with “epic”. It’s a pretty big visual downgrade, but then again I used to disable textures altogether to try to get an advantage in Quake III Arena back in the day, so I’m sure the tradeoff will be worth it for some.

Epic first added 60 fps support for Fortnite on iOS with the launch of the iPhone XS and XR in 2018. At the time, it was the only way to play the game at 60 fps on the go — the Nintendo Switch version is restricted to 30 fps, though many higher-end Android phones now support the faster frame rate as well. The game runs at 60 fps on the PS4 and Xbox One, and of course you can run the PC version at whatever frame rate your hardware is capable of.

Facebook gives Oculus Go permanent $50 price cut

Facebook has permanently cut the price of its Oculus Go VR headset. “Oculus Go is now priced at $149, which is equal to a $50 price drop,” the company tells UploadVR. “We are applying comparable discounts across all countries where Go is sold. Updated pricing is rolling out to all channels.”

The Oculus Go is manufactured by Xiaomi and marked Facebook’s effort to produce a low-cost, entry-level headset that could handle 360-degree video and other basic VR content without relying on a phone. With a Snapdragon 821 processor and no real head or hand tracking, it offered a roughly comparable experience to phone-based solutions like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream.

Phone-based VR is kind of a dead end, though — both of those competing platforms are essentially finished, and while the Oculus Go has a reasonable content library, it’s hard to recommend it in 2020 unless your needs are very simple. (This isn’t going to work with Half-Life: Alyx, for example.) The all-in-one Oculus Quest is far more advanced and, with its new PC compatibility, looks to be where Facebook will be focusing most of its effort from now on.

Huawei P40 Pro leak shows off five-camera bump and ceramic body

New renders from Evan “Evleaks” Blass give us what may well be our best look yet at Huawei’s next flagship phone. This is the P40 Pro, according to Blass, who says that the phone will make use of ceramic in its build. As with a previous leak, it looks like the front glass and back panel will curve on all four edges.

The most prominent design feature revealed in the images is the colossal camera bump that houses five lenses, one of which is a periscope-style telephoto camera. The Leica branding and technical details describe the array as covering 18-240mm equivalence, which between the ultrawide and telephoto should amount to more than 13x zoom reach. It’s likely, though, that Huawei is relying on software enhancements to arrive at that figure.

On the front of the phone you can see a notchless screen with a hole-punch cutout for two selfie cameras. The power button and volume rocker are on the right edge, the top and left sides are essentially blank, and there’s a USB-C port and speaker on the bottom. No headphone jack, unsurprisingly.

Huawei’s last two P-series flagship phones have been announced in Paris in March, so an official launch shouldn’t be far away. The difference this time, of course, is that Huawei may again be forced to release its phone without onboard support for Google services, as was the case with last year’s Mate 30 Pro.

Asus’ ROG Chakram mouse has an analog stick and wireless charging

The last gadget I checked out at CES 2020 was Asus’ latest Republic of Gamers-branded mouse, which was announced last year and offers a pretty long, potentially compelling list of features. The ROG Chakram is designed for customizability and flexibility, and my overall impression was that most people could probably find a way to make it work for them.

The most prominent addition, literally, is a little analog stick that protrudes from next to the thumb buttons. This is a full-on analog controller if you want it to be, similar in concept to the “hat” switches that used to be popular on joysticks; one common use case for those was looking around a flight simulator cockpit. You can also set the Chakram’s stick to work like a four-way directional input, which could be handy for things like selecting weapons in a shooter as you would with a D-pad on a controller.

The Chakram has wireless charging, though unlike many competitors it’s compatible with the Qi standard and should work with the same phone charger you have on your desk. It’s a wireless mouse with support for both Bluetooth or RF, while you can also plug it in over USB-C. Asus says it lasts up to 79 hours on a charge.

DPI goes up to 16,000 and is designed to be easily adjustable on the fly. There’s a dedicated button on the bottom of the mouse that, when depressed for a few seconds, lets you alter the sensitivity with the scroll wheel. Further customization comes alongside the removable magnetic portions of the shell, which let you swap out the Omron switches for the main mouse buttons or insert your own design over the custom ROG logo.

All in all, the ROG Chakram is looking like a solid all-round gaming mouse with a few features that may set it apart. though it’s definitely aimed toward the higher end of the market. It should be shipping later this month for around $150.

This year’s monitors will be faster, brighter, and curvier than ever

If there’s one product category that still often sees genuine technological advancements at CES, it’s screens — and these days, PC monitors in particular. As someone who enjoys looking at nice displays, I’m always down to check out some even nicer ones, and CES 2020 brought us some of the fastest, brightest, largest, and curviest monitors ever.

The question, though, is when I’ll actually be moved to buy one. A couple years ago I wrote about how monitor shopping sucked through the lens of my quest to find one that checked off all my boxes. It’s harder than you might think! And I’m still pretty much happy with what I have.

That’s why I spent one day at CES specifically tracking down as many monitor “firsts” as I possibly could, in an attempt to gauge the value of all the brand-new features that might push a prospective buyer to snap up a new screen. Here’s my take on how important each one is.

The ROG Swift 360Hz monitor, at left, coming “later this year.”
Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

Faster screens at 360Hz

Asus introduced the ROG Swift 360Hz G-Sync monitor at CES, setting a brand-new bar for high refresh rates. Now, I am a huge proponent of VRR (variable refresh rate) technology, and made it a priority when buying my own 165Hz monitor years ago. Theoretically, the faster refresh rate lets players respond even faster than before. That said, 240Hz monitors are already a thing, and I think you hit diminishing returns pretty sharply unless you’re a pro League of Legends player.

Asus had the new 360Hz monitor set up next to a 240Hz model, scrolling through the same MOBA battlefield at high speed. And honestly, I didn’t know which was which until I noticed the frame rate counter in the corner of each screen. After that, I felt like I could just about tell the difference, but I might have been kidding myself.

Put this one down in the “cool that it exists, but you almost certainly don’t need it” column. Especially if you’re considering laptops, which now have optional 300Hz screens, but haven’t yet gotten a powerful new wave of mobile GPUs to drive them.

Acer’s 32-inch ROG Swift PG32UQX. Not pictured: the Acer Predator X32 that meets the same spec.
Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

Very bright HDR screens with Mini LED backlights

Between unreliable software support and displays that aren’t quite up to the task, HDR on Windows has been kind of a mess for years. VESA’s DisplayHDR certifications were meant to help sort things out, but now there are lots of 400-nit “HDR-certified” monitors in the market that don’t produce brightness levels anything like what you’d expect from a good HDR TV set.

This year at CES, however, Asus and Acer both announced some of the very first monitors with eye-searing 1,440-nit brightness and support for the DisplayHDR 1400 standard along with Mini LED backlights, which are supposed to offer more accurate local dimming in addition to providing that brightness boost. And yeah, after looking at them in person, I would say that this is legit PC HDR. It’s not perfect — you still get a degree of typical IPS glow on dark screens, and the Mini LED dimming isn’t going to compete with OLED. But for most games and movies, these displays look great.

If I were buying a gaming monitor today, I would probably at least want to future-proof myself with HDR support, and I think that would probably mean considering a high DisplayHDR spec to be essential. As for Mini LED, it’s hard to say how much of a leap forward it represents — the effectiveness of LED dimming solutions can vary from model to model or panel to panel. But if nothing else, it should signal that you’re looking at a monitor with serious HDR support.

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

More curved than ever with 1000R curvature

Both Samsung and MSI introduced what appear to be the first monitors with screen curvatures of 1000R, which is a measurement I admit I have never heard of, but supposedly replicates the human eye. Samsung’s are available in 27, 32, and 32:9 49-inch sizes, while MSI’s is a 21:9 34-inch model.

I’ve never really been a curved monitor guy. I have been a 21:9 monitor guy, though never at such gigantic sizes. I don’t really think the extra curvature will be much of a bonus for monitors designed for regular desks. But if you do like curved monitors, you probably already know whether you’d like yours to curve even more.

I did, however, think that the curvature was pretty novel on Samsung’s gigantic 49-inch 5120 x 1440 Odyssey G9, a monitor so wide that it truly does benefit from 1000R, up from 1800R for previous monitors. When I sat in front of it, I tried to imagine what it’d be like if it curved less, and it’d just involve pushing the edges of the screen further away from my eyes. The combination of shape and size makes you feel like you’re sitting inside the screen — it’s honestly a cool experience.

At least, it would have been if Samsung hadn’t inexplicably decided to demonstrate it with Overwatch, a game that doesn’t support ultra-wide aspect ratios at all. The 16:9 image was stretched across the display, and frankly it looked terrible. Though, I wonder what the sweeping vistas of Red Dead Redemption 2 would look like.

What I will say about 1000R curvature is that on this specific Samsung monitor, it is not a gimmick if you are okay with dropping what is almost certainly going to be an ungodly amount of money and probably refitting your entire home office at the same time. In other words, you probably shouldn’t allow yourself to want it.

The Acer Predator X55, an OLED TV turned monitor.
Image: Acer

Sheer size

Lots of PC companies are now offering gaming monitors in sizes more commonly associated with TVs, from Asus’ 43-inch VA panel to Acer’s new 55-inch OLED to HP’s Nvidia-endorsed 65-inch LED display from last year.

I thought this was a cool idea when Nvidia introduced it a couple of years ago at CES — blend the best features of TVs and gaming monitors into giant panels with simple interfaces. Obviously they’d be niche products, since most people aren’t going to build PC gaming dens around 65-inch screens, but it felt like a niche worth serving.

Things are a little different at this CES, though, because HDMI 2.1 is one of the big stories of the show. The new specification brings variable refresh rates at high resolutions to standard living room TVs for the first time, and it’ll work with next-gen game consoles as well as PCs. At this point, it’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t be better served just buying an HDMI 2.1-compatible OLED TV instead of a PC monitor.

An awesome clamp stand

When writing about niche technology, I try not to write off potential use cases. I like to imagine who might possibly want a particular thing, even if it seems excessively specific to me at first. After all, we shouldn’t encourage the tech industry only to cater for the most mainstream users imaginable.

That’s why I’m including LG’s new UltraFine Ergo monitor here, because you and I probably have no use for it, but I think the design is great anyway. It clamps onto the back of your desk, and then you’re able to raise, lower, tilt, turn, or swivel the panel more or less however you want. One use case LG suggests is turning the monitor all the way around to show the person sat opposite you at work.

Would I buy it? No, because there are a bunch of things that I personally need a monitor to do that it doesn’t. But I bet there are people out there who put ultimate flexibility at the top of their own list, and they’ll probably be very happy with this.

That’s the thing about monitors. They’re an unavoidably messy market with trade-offs in all directions. You can’t really make a perfect one. But this CES has certainly got me thinking about my next upgrade.

2020 might be the year of reasonably okay foldable PCs, maybe

“We will bend it for you,” an Intel representative told Vjeran, The Verge’s video director, at our CES meeting. “Three times maximum.” This did not make me think that Intel is particularly confident in the durability of its foldable PC.

That’s fair enough, really. It’s only meant to be a reference design, as Intel isn’t a company that sells finished consumer electronics in the first place. But it’s an example of how this year’s CES has demonstrated the state of foldable screen technology. On one hand, the showings have convinced me that these products will be a big deal at some point. On the other, they’ve convinced me that that point is some way off.

Intel’s Horseshoe Bend
Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

While Intel’s demonstration was the least finished, it also felt like the most significant. “Horseshoe Bend,” as the codename goes, is a 17-inch 4:3 OLED tablet that folds in two to give you something roughly akin to a 13-inch laptop with a touchscreen replacing the keyboard and trackpad. It runs on a new type of Intel chip called Tiger Lake, which allows for a slim 7mm fanless design and a claimed 11 hours of battery life.

The utility is obvious. I wouldn’t mind having one right now as I type this article on my conventional laptop in my hotel room. In desk-bound situations, you’d get a much bigger screen than would be practical to carry otherwise. For laptop-style use, you get a traditional physical design that can have a regular keyboard added if you need one or absent if you don’t.

Horseshoe Bend is a reference design, meaning it’s an Intel-provided example of what PC manufacturers should be able to do with a given class of chip. It’s not quite a prototype since it’s not intended to ever be finished. Intel has made similar moves to define categories like the ultrabook and the 2-in-1 in the past. If Tiger Lake performs in actual products as Intel claims, and if manufacturers can execute on durability while keeping prices reasonable, I think computers similar to Horseshoe Bend will be appealing to a lot of people. But that is a lot of “ifs.”

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold.
Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

In the here and now, the closest device in this class to becoming a reality is Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold. It has an OLED screen that flexes the same way as Horseshoe Bend, but it’s much smaller at 13 inches across. This means it takes up about as much room in your bag as a hardback novel. And while it’s big by tablet standards, it would make for a pretty tiny laptop when folded. I would describe its design as feeling like a first-gen product. No more, but no less. Unlike Dell’s concepts that were also shown off this week, it’s real.

Lenovo plans to sell the X1 Fold for $2,499 in mid-2020. We even have a basic spec sheet: 8GB of RAM, up to 1TB of storage, and an unspecified Intel processor that’s probably Lakefield but remains officially unconfirmed. I don’t think anyone who follows tech is going to forget the risks of launching a foldable device after witnessing Samsung’s travails in 2019. There are still some obvious concerns — plastic, for example, isn’t the ideal protective material for these displays — but I do think Lenovo is far enough along that these products no longer feel like impossible dreams.

As Tom Warren wrote yesterday, though, the bigger problem may be the software. I haven’t spent enough time with the X1 Fold to live with its quirks, but my sense is that pure Windows 10 really is not the best fit for this form factor, despite Lenovo’s bandage-like customizations. While the software is obviously unfinished, there are some really glaring flaws. In laptop-style use, for example, the keyboard obscures the task bar with no way to pin it to the bottom of the “top screen” where you’d expect it to be. Shifting between screen orientations doesn’t feel smooth or responsive.

Microsoft’s Surface Neo.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Maybe Lenovo will improve things before the X1 Fold ships, but it’s likely that the Windows 10X version will prove a better fit. That’s Microsoft’s new version of Windows with a user interface specifically designed for dual-screen and foldable devices, including the company’s own Surface Neo. Unfortunately, we have no idea when these products will actually be available.

What we do now know is that a bunch of gigantic companies are invested in making foldable PCs a thing. Lenovo is likely to be first, it may not be best, and it definitely won’t be the last. A lot of elements need to fall into place before any of these products actually achieve any significant degree of success, to be sure. But when was the last time any technology ever made its debut at CES fully formed?

Neon CEO explains the tech behind his overhyped ‘artificial humans’

The most buzzed-about company at CES 2020 doesn’t make a gadget you can see or touch. It doesn’t even have a product yet. But for reasons I’m still not entirely sure I grasp, the lead-up to this week’s show in Las Vegas was dominated by discussion of a project called Neon, which has emerged from a previously unknown Samsung subsidiary known as STAR Labs.

What Neon has been promising is so ambitious that it’s easy to swing your expectations around full circle and assume the mundane. The project’s Twitter bio simply reads “Artificial Human,” which could mean anything from an AI chatbot to a full-on android. Promotional videos posted in the run-up to CES, however, suggested that Neon would very much be closer to the former.

Yesterday, we were finally able to see the technology for ourselves. And they are, indeed, just digital avatars, albeit impressively realistic ones. We weren’t able to interact with Neon ourselves, and the demonstration we did see was extremely rough. But the concept and the technology is ambitious enough that we’re still pretty intrigued. (To get a clear idea of the tech’s limitations, check out this interaction between a CNET journalist and a Neon avatar.)

After a low-key event on the CES show floor, we caught up with Neon CEO Pranav Mistry to chat about the project.

Even at a youthful-looking 38, Mistry is a tech industry veteran who’s worked on products like Xbox hardware at Microsoft and the original Galaxy Gear at Samsung. “It was completely my baby, from design to technology,” he recalls of the early smartwatch. As VP of research at Samsung he later moved on to projects like Gear VR, but with Neon he’s now spearheading an initiative without direct oversight from the parent company.

“Right now you can say that [STAR Labs is] owned by Samsung,” Mistry tells me. “But that won’t necessarily always be the case. There’s no technology relation or product relation between what STAR Labs does and Samsung. There’s no Samsung logos anywhere, there’s nothing to do with Bixby or any other product that’s part of Samsung. Even what we’re planning to show at CES — no-one at Samsung other than me knows about it or can tell me not to do it.”

Mistry speaks at a thousand miles an hour, and one day I would very much like to sit down with him for a longer chat conducted at a less breakneck pace. At various points he invoked Einstein, Sagan, and da Vinci in an attempt to convey the lofty goals he was aiming to achieve with Neon. It was never less than entertaining. My focus, however, was on figuring out how Neon works and what it actually is.

Neon CEO Pranav Mistry on stage at CES 2020.

The Neon project is — or as the company would say, “Neons are” — realistic human avatars that are computationally generated and can interact with you in real time. At this point, each Neon is created from footage of an actual person that is fed into a machine-learning model, although Mistry says Neon could ultimately just generate their appearances from scratch.

I asked how much video would be required to capture the likeness of a person, and Mistry said “nothing much.” The main limitation right now is the requirement for a large amount of local processing power to render each avatar live — the demo I saw at CES was running on an ultra-beefy PC with two 128-core CPUs. Mistry notes that commercial applications would likely run in the cloud, however, and doesn’t see latency as a major hurdle because there wouldn’t need to be a huge amount of data streamed at once.

The CES demo featured a Neon employee interacting with a virtual avatar of a woman with close-cropped hair and dressed in all-black. I’d seen video of this woman, among other people, playing around the Neon booth ahead of Mistry’s presentation — at least, I thought it was video. Mistry, however, swears that it was entirely computer-generated footage, albeit pre-rendered rather than captured in real time.

Well, okay. That’s not necessarily impressive — we’ve all seen what deepfakes can do with much less effort. What’s different about Neon is the promised real-time aspect, and the focus on intangible human-like behavior. Multiple times, the avatar I mentioned before was told to smile on command by the employee conducting the demonstration. But, according to Mistry, she’d no more produce the same identical smile each time than you would. Each expression, action, or phrase is calculated on the fly, based on the AI model that’s been built up for each Neon.

This is all by design, and Mistry even says Neon is willing to focus on humanity at the expense of functionality. For example, these avatars aren’t intended to be assistants at their owners’ beck and call — they’ll sometimes “get tired” and need time to themselves. According to Mistry, this cuts to the core of why Neon is using language like “artificial human” in the first place.

“I feel that if you call something a digital avatar or AI assistant or something like that, it means you’re calling them a machine already,” Mistry says. “You are not thinking in the terms of a friend. It can only happen when we start feeling the same kind of respect. I’ve been working on this for a long time. In order to design this thing I need to think in those terms. If they are human, what are the limits they will have? Can they work 24 hours and answer all your questions? A Neon can get tired. Programmatically, computationally, that will make you feel ‘Okay, let me only engage in certain discussions. This is my friend.’”

The obvious question, then, is what’s the use case for an artificial human AI with artificial flaws? On stage, Mistry mentioned possible implementations from personal assistants to foreign language tutors. Then again, he literally said “there is no business model” a few minutes later, so I had to follow up on that point.

“There are a lot of people in the world that people remember,” Mistry says. “I was an architect and a designer before, and there are a few people that are remembered like that like Einstein, or Picasso, or some musicians in India, and we know their names not because they were rich but because of what they contributed to the world. And that is what I want to end up being, because I have everything else. Do I have enough money to live with? Yeah, more than enough. What I want to give back to the world is something that’s remembered after I go. Because you don’t know how rich Michelangelo was — no-one cares!”

“But you’re going to be selling this technology to people, right?” I say, somewhat bewildered.

“Of course. What I’m pointing out is that we believe Neons will bring more human aspects and maybe we will license that technology, or not technology as a license but Neons [themselves] as a license. Just to make a point, of course we are not saying we’re a philanthropic company. But the goal is not to build around data and money and so on. Because I want to get a good night’s sleep after 20 years.”

Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

The concept of ultra-realistic, entirely artificial humans with minds of their own raises obvious questions of nefarious use cases, particularly in a time of heightened fears about political misinformation, and very real examples of AI being used to create non-consensual pornography. I asked Mistry whether he’d considered the potential for negative side effects. “Of course,” he said, comparing Neon to how nuclear technology generates electricity while also being used for weapons of mass destruction. “Every technology has pros and cons — it’s up to us as humans how we look at that.”

Will Neon limit who it sells the tech to, then? Mistry says the company will “more than limit” the tech by encoding restrictions “in hardware.” But he’s not clear what restrictions would be encoded or how.

Neon still has a long way to go. Even allowing for the unfavorable network environment of a CES show floor, the demonstration’s responses were delayed and linguistically stilted. As someone with an interest in AI and natural language processing, I could see that there’s something to hype here. But I could also see that the average layperson would remain underwhelmed. It’s also worth reiterating that Neon isn’t allowing private demos at CES beyond its staged presentations, reinforcing the idea that the technology is far from ready.

Still, even if the “artificial human” pitch is a little over-egged, Neon is actually more ambitious than I’d assumed. And, despite the pre-CES hype, Mistry is entirely open about the fact that there’s basically no product to show. The message right now, in fact, is to come back in a year and see where Neon is then. If real progress has been made by CES 2021, then, maybe we’ll get excited.

Intel’s Horseshoe Bend concept is a look at the future of foldable PCs

Earlier today, Lenovo announced the ThinkPad X1 Fold, a 13-inch tablet PC with a folding OLED screen and an Intel processor. But Intel doesn’t expect it to be a one-off. The chip giant has brought its own folding PC concept along to CES, with a view toward providing inspiration for an entirely new category of devices.

The prototype is called Horseshoe Bend, and the biggest difference between it and the X1 Fold is, well, it’s much bigger. The OLED display is 4:3 and 17.3 inches diagonal when unfolded, which means it feels much closer to a traditional laptop size when you fold it at an angle and use it on a desk. There’s also a Surface-style kickstand so you can make use of the full display size when paired with a wireless keyboard.

The most common mode of operation is likely to be somewhat like a laptop where content and UI exists under your fingers as well as in front of your face. Webpages feel like they scroll on forever; you can continue reading an article just by moving your hand away.

Another use case demoed was video editing where you can manipulate the timeline directly where the keyboard would normally be. If you want to play a video full-screen, you can just turn the display around and use the kickstand. If the on-screen keyboard doesn’t do it for you, you can attach a wireless one to the bottom half of the display.

Horseshoe Bend is built around Intel’s new 10nm Tiger Lake architecture, which is set to ship in laptops later this year. It allows for a 7mm-thick chassis with a 9W TDP and without any active cooling. The device we saw was running regular Windows 10, but Intel expects Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10X to be a good fit for the category later on.

Compared to the X1 Fold, Horseshoe Bend obviously doesn’t have the fit and finish of a shipping device, but with its thinner bezels and slimmer profile, in some ways, it does feel sleeker. Of course, there’s also something to be said for putting a much bigger slice of OLED in front of you.

Unfortunately, Intel wouldn’t let us fully fold the screen ourselves, so we can’t tell you all that much about how the Intel-designed hinge feels to actually use. What we can say is that Intel really does seem to be pushing this form factor, and it expects to be working with several manufacturers to help develop these devices in the not-too-distant future.