CES 2021: what to expect from the first all-digital CES

The world’s biggest annual consumer electronics show will be a markedly different affair for 2021.

Rather than taking over Las Vegas for several days in the new year, CES 2021 – the 51st edition of the event – will be an all-digital experience for the first time. Companies will be sharing their latest and greatest innovations online via the organiser’s media hub, as opposed to at a physical event in the Las Vegas Conventional Center.

So what can you expect (other than tip-top reporting from a fresh-faced, jet-lag-free What Hi-Fi? team)? Here are the CES 2021 dates, participating brands and our expectations of what new products to expect…

CES 2021 dates

CES 2021 will officially take place from Monday 11th to Thursday 14th January, a week later than the show’s usual dates. A heads-up for forward planners: CES is due to return to Las Vegas from 5th to 8th January in 2022. (We hope.)

The first day will be the ‘media day’, when over 20 companies will host their biggest press conferences of the year. Essentially, that’s when you can expect a raft of new product announcements.

Exhibitors will be able to use the following days to show off their newly announced kit through online demos and presentations.

CES 2021 will officially kick off on Monday at 11:30pm GMT (6:30pm ET, 3:30pm PT) with an opening keynote by Verizon’s chairman and CEO, Hans Vestberg. The keynote will discuss, “5G as the framework of the 21st century, the essential tech of the present and accelerated tech of the future to move our global community forward, such as telemedicine, tele-education and more”.

On Tuesday at 12:30pm GMT (7:30am ET, 4:30am PT), Samsung, Fox Sports and ATSC will host a ‘Next Generation Television in Focus’ session concerning the advent of 8K Ultra HD and NEXTGEN TV. “A revolution in TV is coming, and with it will come advanced display technologies giving consumers a taste of truly immersive viewing experiences. How are consumer expectations going to change and how are leading manufacturers aiming to meet — and even exceed — those expectations?”

The CES 2021 schedule can be viewed here.


(Image credit: CES)

CES 2021: who will exhibit? What will be announced?

CTA, the event’s organiser, is expecting more people to ‘attend’ than ever before, owing to its digital nature. Over 1000 companies are set to offer over 100 hours of programming. Big AV hitters Sony, Samsung, LG, Philips, Panasonic, TCL and Hisense are all officially involved, as are audio companies including Audio-Technica and Pioneer. 

Brands who are not officially linked to the show will no doubt use the CES timeframe to make announcements of their own, too.

LG has picked up a ‘CES Best of Innovation Award’ ahead of the show, with its OLED TV technology being recognised in the gaming category. The company’s announcement reads: “Particularly noteworthy for 2021 are LG’s latest entertainment products including LG OLED, LG NanoCell, NEXTGEN TVs and TONE Free earbuds. More details on specific LG Home Entertainment products honoured will be announced at CES 2021 in January.” Watch this space, then.

Press conference: Monday 11th January, 10pm GMT (5pm ET, 2pm PT)
Sony is usually nothing if not prolific at CES, so while we’re cautious to presume anything next year will be typical, we’re at least hopeful that the Japanese giant will have plenty of new products in store for us in January. New 2021 Sony TV ranges and presumably plenty of PS5 talk will no doubt be on the cards, and our fingers are crossed for more Sony audio product reveals than were at CES 2020, too. Could CES 2021 mark the introduction of the highly anticipated Sony WF-1000XM4 (successors to the WF-1000XM3)?

2021 looks to be quite the exciting year for Samsung. It has already confirmed plans to launch a consumer MicroLED TV early in the year, and last month it registered a host of new QLED TV technology trademarks – which we’d presume would be at the core of a new-and-improved QLED offering for 2021. Samsung is also tipped to launch its Galaxy S21 phone on 17th January (a month earlier than usual), when we could also see new Galaxy Buds Pro true wireless earbuds.

TV reveal: Friday 8th January, 10am GMT (5am ET, 2am PT)
Panasonic is due to unveil its 2021 TV line-up the week before CES kicks off. The company is behind some of the best TVs of 2020, so we are expecting plenty more where that quality came from in the new sets, which hopefully sport next-gen HDMI features for gamers this time.

HARMAN ExPLORE: Thursday 7th January, 2pm GMT (9am ET, 6am PT)
While not officially associated with CES, Harman is hosting a ‘HARMAN ExPLORE’ virtual event that will ‘offer a behind the scenes look at what’s in-store for 2021’ from the Harman-Kardon and JBL brands. Expect new audio hardware – headphones, portable speakers and high-end kit – as well as plenty of automotive audio talk. It’s 2021 marks JBL’s 75th birthday, so we’re expecting the brand to celebrate in style.

More to follow…

CES 2020 highlights

CES 2020 marked the 50th year of the Consumer Electronics Show, and predictably TVs stole a lot of the spotlight, with 8K TVs from SamsungSony and TCL, an impressive-looking 4K OLED flagship from Panasonic, and new rollable and 48in LG OLEDs all giving us a glimpse of the sets that could be in our living rooms in a few months. The 8K push this year isn’t surprising considering the Tokyo Olympics is set to be broadcast in 8K in the summer.

Car technology and audio also basked in the limelight, as did true wireless headphones from the likes of Technics. We even got confirmation of the Playstation5 logo ahead of the PS5 release date later this year.

Despite obvious trends emerging, thousands of brands showed a vast range of consumer electronics – from smart robots to high-end hi-fi – within the walls of the Las Vegas Convention Centre and several other venues across the city. 


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