For gadget lovers, the holidays don't end until the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas closes its doors in early January. Each year, CES bestows upon them a bounty of next-generation TVs, PCs, mobile devices and all the modern home must-haves.
It takes some searching, but CES also offers great finds for small business technology buyers looking to explore new opportunities, to boost productivity or to simply upgrade their gear.
Here are some of the small business technology standouts at this year's CES.
Small Business 3D Printing Grows Up
Small product design firms love 3D printers for their ability to turn on-screen models into physical objects in a relatively short amount of time. The problem with most compact 3D printers is that rapid prototyping can hit a wall if a project calls for parts that are more than a couple of inches big.
The new Ultimaker 2 Extended desktop 3D printer is a step up from the crowd-favorite Ultimaker 2 with four additional inches of build volume. It's not cheap—more than three grand (USD)—but small businesses with big ideas will appreciate the added headroom.
Figure 1: The Ultimaker 2 Extended desktop 3D printer.
Meanwhile, MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based company that has become synonymous with 3D printing, continues to grow its ecosystem. At CES, the company unveiled a new line of filaments (the 3D printer version of ink or toner) made of composite materials that more closely mimic wood, metal and stone. The new filaments, available later this year, will give designers more options than plain old plastic.
Powerhouse Business Laptops
ThinkPad Lenovo's legendary line of business laptops has a new X1 Carbon model that stuffs all-day battery life and blazingly fast file storage in a slim and light package. At 4 pounds, the latest X1 Carbon ultrabook features a 14-inch screen, a 4G LTE connectivity option and a PCIe-based SSD that delivers 80 percent faster storage performance than traditional SATA solid-state drives (SSDs).
Figure 2: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook.
Crave more pixels? Dell flipped open the lid on the striking new XPS 13 with a 4K "borderless" (thin bezel) display. It packs Intel's fifth-generation Core processors (codenamed Broadwell) and SSD storage for brisk boot times and fast file operations.
Intel's Broadwell chips also power HP's new 14 and 15u ZBook portable workstations. Built for demanding applications like image- and video-editing and/or 3D-modeling, these Windows laptops can be outfitted with up to 16 GB of RAM and a whopping 1.25 TB of storage.
Figure 3: The HP ZBook Workstation Ultrabook.
Data Backup in Your Pocket
Cloud backup services have made data protection for small office/home office environments a breeze. If they're connected by a reliable broadband connection, that is.
Figure 4: Samsung's SSD T1 solid-state storage drive.
This year, Samsung is making the case for on-premises, or rather in-pocket, backups by unveiling the SD 1, an external flash storage device roughly the size of a business card that can store up to 1 terabyte (TB) of files and that weighs a mere ounce. It supports USB 3.0, providing brisk file transfer times (450 MB per second) while safeguarding data with AES-256 encryption. And it looks slick, to boot.
Now, there's no excuse not to backup that laptop or PC. It's admittedly pricey at $600, but Samsung is also shipping 250 GB and 500 GB editions, for $180 and $300 respectively, when it goes on sale later this month.
Figure 5: The Seagate Seven external drive.
If you prefer traditional hard disks over flash chips, Seagate unveiled an eye-catchingly slim 500 GB external drive that is just 9.6 millimeters thick. Claiming the mantle of the "world's thinnest 500 GB drive," the Seagate Seven supports USB 3.0 and will have a price tag of $99.99 when it ships in mid-to-late January.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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