Experiences at CES 2019: What We Saw and What We Learned
This year’s CES 2019 team at MakeUseOf ran eight members strong, and it was the perfect size to cover all the nooks and crannies of the event within the four days it ran. For half of us, CES 2019 was the very first CES we’ve ever experienced, while the rest of us have had a taste and already knew what to expect.
We thought it’d be interesting to hear what our team thought of CES 2019 and what we took away from it as the booths wound down and came to a close.
James Frew, Staff Writer
CES’s reputation as the world’s largest tech conference is well-established, so as I gathered my belongings for the trip to Las Vegas, I was prepared for an overwhelming experience. The airport was crammed with CES badge pickup booths, so I grabbed my badge and ventured on. This was one of the first times I’d met many of the MakeUseOf team, so even that in itself was worth the trip. I spent most of the conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center, right across the street from our Airbnb. A casual stroll and I was surrounded by some of the newest products from many of the world’s largest technology companies.
I always try to keep a sense of wonder about how far the consumer tech industry has come in the past few decades, but at CES it was easy to feel jaded about the marginal improvements, excessive cost, and marketing gimmicks. That said, looking past the noise, I did find some products that made me genuinely excited. While many of my colleagues had to venture to the other CES venues, I was able to spend most of my time in the largest and experienced some of the best CES had to offer.
Dan Price, Senior Writer
Throngs of people, endless noise, bright lights, and a desire to keep going back for more. Not the casinos of Las Vegas, but the CES technology show which has been in town all week.
CES isn’t for the faint hearted. The traffic is terrible, the lines for public transport stretch as far as the eye can see, and you need elbows made of steel if you want to force your way to the front of the most popular booths.
But in typical Las Vegas style, it also has a strange attraction. Just ask the people who queued for more than two hours to play Google’s gumball machine. The dream? To win a Pixel 3. The reality? Most people walked away with a hat.
Covering the show from a media standpoint also brought its own challenges. The free lunches were surprisingly good. The number of plug sockets and ethernet points, less so.
And what about the tech itself? At one end of the scale, it’s awe-inspiring. Beautiful new laptops, cutting-edge haptics technology, and the latest developments in VR all caught the eye. At the other end, companies selling “unique” iPhone cases in bulk don’t exactly inspire excitement.
So as the world’s tech community spends the next two weeks recovering from “CES-itis” (yes, we all got sick), many people will be left wondering why they even bothered, vowing never to return. But come January 2020, will we all be back? You bet.
Ben Stegner, Deputy Editor
CES 2019 was the first time I’ve experienced a show like this. I expected cutting-edge technology you can’t find anywhere else. In reality, a fair bit of the products on display were copycats of items we’ve seen before, or cheap junk that you’d walk past at your local mall. But there’s something about being here that’s really special.
Cruising the confusing show floor and navigating the app’s map to find the booths you’ve bookmarked, then interviewing the rep and furiously taking notes, is quite a process. But flashing your media badge to waltz into the lounge and get your posts written is a cool feeling. The free lunch helps, too.
As expected, there is some mind-blowing tech to see here. It’s so far off and too expensive to even think about using it in the near future, but cool to see the latest innovations. My favorite products of this show were standard products redone with a focus on making them easy for non-techy people. For instance, we saw a portable hotspot that had great app and simple setup process, as well as new routers with a great app for managing your network.
I’m honored to have been at CES. Finally meeting people who I’ve worked with for nearly five years but never met in person is exciting, and we’ve had such a great time together. My expectations were pretty much met, and I’m glad I came.
Dave LeClair, Hardware News Editor
Last year I wrote a whole article about how underwhelmed I was by everything I saw at the Consumer Electronics Show. In spite of that, I actually came away from this year’s show with a fairly positive outlook on where the technology world is going.
Sure, a lot of what’s out there isn’t coming anytime soon, but this year we saw some pretty impressive advancements in the VR space that are actually available now. We saw drones that work underwater, haptic feedback that’s actually being used in real-world applications, and plenty more. Plus, we’re seeing the early stages of 8K, which could be a game-changer for the home entertainment world.
So while I wasn’t necessarily blown away by much at CES, I can definitely say that I wasn’t underwhelmed either. I’m even more excited to see what 2019 holds. Plus, I got to spend some quality time with my fellow MakeUseOf writers, and that blows away anything on the show floor.
Joel Lee, Editor in Chief
If CES 2019 has confirmed anything for me, it’s to never judge a book (or booth) by its cover. Walking through the show floors each day, it’s amazing how often we were drawn to flashy and impressive booths only to be disappointed by what we found there. In fact, my favorite finds were at some of the most regular-looking booths.
Take underwater drones, for example. One company—the one with a bright and inviting booth—wooed us with their yet-unreleased drone that could dive to a depth up to 40 meters with a slated release price of $2,500. A few steps over, in the most depressing booth I saw at this year’s CES, another company showed off their already-available drone that dove down to 100 meters and had a price tag of $1,500.
This is the kind of thing that happened all throughout the event, with some of our most favorite finds—such as the Jabra Elite 85h wireless noise-canceling headphones—tucked away in the lesser-walked halls of CES.
What a fantastic time we had. So much walking, so much ooh-ing and ah-ing, so many moments of intrigue and novelty. But it was a good wake-up call for me: stop going with the flow and learn to take a step back, to look beyond the surface of what’s presented. Be willing to give the benefit of the doubt, because you never know what you’ll find if you just give that booth a chance.
And it should go without saying, but we have the best team in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed every single day spent with my colleagues, who quickly became my friends.
Tina Sieber, Chief of Operations
2019 was my second CES and my sixth technology trade show overall (3 x IFA and 1 x CeBit). At IFA, the European CES, once the media days are over, the show is open to the public. You’ll see families with kids and groups of teenagers roaming the show floors. Not so at CES.
CES is hardcore business, kids are banned, and the audience is overwhelmingly male. This was a bit of a culture shock for me in 2018. In 2019, however, I noticed a small shift, with more women among the audience. And according to official numbers, four out of nine keynote speakers were women, compared to zero in 2017 and 2018. Progress.
Having family in Vegas (of all places), I’ve come here every few years since I was a kid and it feels like a different city every time. With CES in town, Vegas is even more overwhelming than on a “normal” day. The traffic is insane, the exhibition is packed, and unless you know what you want to see, the amount of mesmerizing tech might leave you paralyzed.
It’s also impossible to see all of CES, even if you’re well organized. While most new products I saw only received incremental improvements, I’m in awe at how close technology has come to the SciFi dreams of my childhood. Drones and robots, man! I’m also most easily impressed by simple products, which is why my favorite item at CES 2019 was a laptop stand.
Thanks to the size of the venues, we easily hit our 10 thousand steps a day and by the end of day 3, my body invoiced me. Like many others who spent a week with poor sleep and rubbing elbows with more than 180 thousand people, I caught a cold. It cost me a night of playing board games with my colleagues.