Gaming news from CES 2011; put a PC in your pocket

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As the only "core gamer" in the ITworld blogging bullpen (to the best of my knowledge, anyway), I felt it was my duty to recap the gaming hardware news from CES. Honestly there hasn't been a lot (though today is only day 2 of the show). Plenty of talk of mobile gaming on smartphones, but not much in the way of console or PC gaming. But let's recap what we've seen and heard so far.

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Intel is making a lot of noise about its new Sandy Bridge processors which put CPU and GPU on a single chip. What does that mean for gamers? It means that the phrase "integrated Intel graphics" won't be the cause for disappointment that it used to be. Sandy Bridge machines won't have the graphics horsepower of a gaming rig with a state-of-the-art Nvidia or ATI graphics card, but they'll do a decent job of running modern games. For proof check out this post at VentureBeat; Valve's Gabe Newell hit the stage with Intel's Mooly Eden to show off Portal 2 (as well as World of Warcraft) running on a Sandy Bridge machine. Truth is, WoW runs on just about anything but seeing Portal 2 performing well is encouraging.

I talked just the other day about streaming gaming service OnLive partnering with Vizio to build the OnLive client into Vizio Via Plus televisions. Joystiq got some hands-on time with one such TV and they sound pleased. Among the benefits? A bit less input latency and a TV that knows to switch to Game Mode when you start to play.

Sticking with Joystiq and Vizio, another post described Vizio's Versus system. Versus lets two people play a game at the same time on a single TV (without resorting to split-screen). Essentially they're taking a 3D television and instead of creating two similar images and sending one to the left eye and one to the right eye, they're creating two completely distinct images and sending one to the left player and one to the right player. So Player 1 wears glasses with two Left lenses and sees his view of the game and Player 2 wears glasses with two Right lenses and sees his view. Get it?

Downsides? There are a few. First the resolution is only 540P. Second, the games have to be built or modified to support the system. Third, you have to wear those silly glasses. Four, how do they handle audio? An interesting idea but I'm not sure it'll catch on in this first iteration.

Razer has a couple of products to show off. The first is the Onza Xbox 360 controller. This is an adjustable controller for serious gamers (you can adjust how tight or loose the analog sticks are). PC Mag has the details. The best news? The more expensive "Tournament" edition is only $40 (though they aren't wireless; I suppose when you're this obsessive about your controller you don't want to risk any kind of wireless lag).

But I've saved the best for last. Razer was also showing off the Switchblade, a Windows 7 based tiny laptop built for PC gaming. Razer is calling it a concept for now. It has a 7" capacitive touchscreen running at 1024x600. The keys on the keyboard are label via LCDs. When you're not gaming you'll get standard letters and numbers, but when you fire up a game the keys automagically change to support that particular game (see video below). You can plug a mouse into the USB port, or use the touchscreen.

Those lucky Engadget bloggers got a chance to go hands-on with the Razer and I urge my fellow gamers to head over and read their lengthy impressions. This isn't something we'll be seeing on store shelves soon (if ever, though the Engadget guys got the feeling that Razer intends this as a real product) but it's an awful nifty gadget for gamers to drool over.

That about sums up all the 'core gamer' news and products I've seem coming out of CES so far. Did I miss something? I'm sure I did, and I'd really appreciate comments pointing the rest of us out to other big gaming news from the show.

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith.

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