We came, we saw, we drank in the very best tech CES 2014 had to offer. After revealing our Best of CES 2014 nominees in 15 different categories on day one of the show, we slept (very little) on our decisions, roamed the show floor again, and now we’re back to reveal the hard-fought winners – including the coveted Best of Show award. It took some agonizing, nail biting and even a little arguing, but we managed to whittle our list of five nominees in every category down to just one. Except, of course, in the Home category, which has the distinction of claiming six winners this year to accommodate for its exceptionally broad scope. Without further ado, here are the products that defined CES 2014.
Home theater (video): LG 77-inch curved OLED
The larger 105-inch curved 21:9 Ultra HD LED televisions being shown at CES 2014 almost made our pick for this category difficult … almost. The fact is, LG’s 77-inch curved Ultra HD OLED is simply the most awesome TV we’ve ever seen. While the 55-inch curved OLEDs of 2013 were impressive in their own right, the sheer scale of LG’s 77-incher this year takes things to a whole new level. OLED panels are notoriously tricky to produce, so the fact that LG managed to get the fledgling technology pushed to 77 inches is an impressive feat on its own.
Home theater (audio): Philips Fidelio E5 wireless surround speaker system
Having to choose just one winner for home audio just seemed unfair this year thanks to the embarrassment of audio riches. But, at the end of the day, we chose the Philips Fidelio E5 because it hits all the right notes. The system has a luxurious look and feel, and the truly wireless, battery-powered surrounds (a technology Philips carried over from its Fidelio sound bar released last year) are an innovation that we feel is long overdue. Besides looking and sounding great, it’s well-connected enough to be the centerpiece of any small- to medium-sized home entertainment system. Well done, Philips.
Computing: LG Ultra PC
When it comes to notebooks, we want a system that’s as thin and light as possible without having to trade in huge gobs of performance and features for lesser bulk. With the Ultra PC, LG achieved a superb engineering feat by creating a notebook that weighs a feather-like 2.16 pounds, which is less than the lightest MacBook Air, while also packing it with a superb 1080p IPS display, adequate specs, along with a nifty quick boot feature that works as advertised. Not only is it incredibly light, but the Ultra PC is also freakishly thin. The entire chassis is 0.54 inches thick, and the display lid itself has only 0.17 inches of chunk. The 13.3-inch 1080p IPS display looked fantastic, while the Ultra PC’s specs (which include a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB or 256GB SSD) should get you through the work or school day without any issues. Then, there’s Fast Boot, which allows Ultra PC users to turn the system on simply by flipping the display lid up, taking only about seven seconds to boot into Windows. If LG prices the Ultra PC to compete with the MacBook Air, it could become a serious challenger.
Photography: Sony FDR-AX100 Handycam
Despite fewer new photo-related product announcements than in previous years, the camera industry did have some highlights at CES 2014: Fujifilm’s instant photo printer for smartphones, Canon’s beefed-up Vixia Mini X, Panasonic’s compact long-zoom, Samsung’s feature-rich mirrorless NX30, and Nikon’s small D3300 DSLR were just some noteworthy mentions. But, ultimately, we’re giving the nod to Sony’s FDR-AX100 Handycam. Pro-level 4K video capture is now available in an easy-to-use consumer camcorder, which could help boost the adoption of 4K TVs now that we can make sharp-looking home movies. At $2,000, it’s still early-adopter territory, but it could lead to more and cheaper 4K cameras in the near future.
Smartphones: Huawei Ascend Mate 2
A lot of new phones are announced this year at CES, but only one of them truly excited us. Huawei’s Ascend Mate 2 is a great phone in every way, but its 5-megapixel front camera, innovative new camera software, and 2+ days of battery life got us drooling (just a little). Even cooler: It has reverse charging, which means it can act as a battery bank and charge other devices. We’ve always been lukewarm on Huawei’s phones, but the Ascend Mate 2 really does take its lineup to the next level.
Tablets: Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
There were a lot of tablets at CES this year, but few of them were truly impressive. We’re not sure if anyone will really buy a huge 12.2-inch Galaxy Note tablet, but the large size combined with the S Pen stylus offers some compelling new ways you can use a tablet. Samsung even has a four-way split-screen mode, allowing you to quad multitask. You may not want to take it out of the house much, but Samsung’s big Note Pro does things few other tablets can.
Wearable tech: Pebble Steel smartwatch
The Pebble was the first smartwatch people wanted to own, and at CES this year, it just got a lot classier. The Steel adds a sturdier Gorilla Glass screen, a brushed stainless steel design, band options, waterproof-ness, and a tricolor LED display. The only downside is that it’s price has jumped from $150 to $250. Still, we want this watch.
Mobile: Mophie Space Pack
If you’re an iPhone owner, you will undoubtedly run into two major problems at one point or another: Your battery is going to die too soon, and you’re going to run out of storage space. Mophie made a name for itself with its great line of battery-extending cases, and at CES this year it showed off its next big idea: a way to double or triple your iPhone’s storage. The Space Pack adds 16GB or 32GB of storage to your phone, plus longer battery life, and somehow stays surprisingly thin.
Headphones: Westone W60
While their $1,000 price point make them a premium product of the regal kind, Westone’s W60 in-ear headphones won this category by packing a monumental six armature drivers into their tiny frame for jaw-dropping sound. Employing two drivers each for the bass, midrange, and treble, the buds offer brilliant clarity, excellent detail, and the kind of smooth, rich warmth at the bottom end that you just don’t find in the vast majority of armature-based headphones. The W60’s braided tensile-wire cables, and interchangeable anodized-aluminum faceplates also provide durability and a sharp aesthetic, placing the buds near the top of our CES wish list.
Automotive: Chevrolet Performance Data Recorder
There are lots of performance-oriented tech items for sale in the automotive realm these days. While most are undeniably cool, few actually push past novelty into the realm of useful, let alone educational. That, however, is exactly what Chevrolet’s Performance Data Recorder does. With it, you can record video, audio, and vehicle data of your track-day exploits. And then, with the Cosworth Toolbox, you can watch it all back on your PC tablet, dig through the data, analyze your laps, and become a better driver.
Cool tech: Thalmic Labs Myo gesture-control bracelet
There are a number of reasons why we chose Thalmic’s Myo as the winner of our cool tech section, but the main one is for shifting gesture control away from camera-based methods and developing something more effective and versatile. Instead of cameras, Myo uses a technique known as electromyography to read the muscles in your arm. This allows it to detect extremely minute movements in your hands and fingers, and then translate those movements into commands almost instantaneously. In short, this is what the future of gesture control looks like, and it’s way better than the Kinect.
When the PlayStation 4 arrived in late 2013 with no backwards compatibility, we were left with only vague promises of a streaming service that would eventually give us access to PlayStation games via the cloud. PlayStation Now fulfills that promise using technology from Gaikai, a cloud-gaming service Sony acquired in 2012. The details, including price and available catalog, are still unknown, but based on our experience with Gaikai, its service just plain works. With the technology moving into all certified Sony products like Bravia TVs, PlayStation games will be everywhere soon, and that’s a very good thing.
Sports and fitness: Razer Nabu fitness band
CES 2014 brought no shortage of smartbands and fitness gadgets, but sometimes it takes a different approach to make one stand out. As a gaming company, Razer brought that fresh perspective to smartbands with the Nabu. Most smartbands only offer a function or two, like distance and heart-beat tracking through built-in sensors. The Nabu does that, and then so much more. It pairs with your smartphone allowing you to receive notifications, tracks the personal info you want to know, and social discovery – letting you know when friends are near and more. Most impressive though, it’s an open platform that allows third-party apps. Whether you’re a gamer or not, the Nabu has earned a spot on your wrist.
There was a lot of sleep tracking tech at CES this year, but all the different sensor-studded gizmos were outshined by the Withings Aura. It takes sleep tracking to the next level with the addition of a wake-up light, which gradually brightens in the morning to wake you from your slumber. It’s two awesome things blended together into one device.
We applaud Dacor for venturing into new territory by mixing its proven Discovery IQ connected tech into a gorgeous commercial-width range, an appliance that’s typically as “analog” as they come. We also like that Dacor’s not trying to hide the Android-based control on the oven, allowing the usual customization Android offers, including running arbitrary apps from the Play Store. This helps to future-proof a big investment.
Home: Samsung Chef Collection Dishwasher
Samsung’s really thinking outside the box with several of the features debuting on the Chef Collection dishwasher. We think the new WaterWall wash system is a great idea that’s been a long time coming. The new top-rack design is a seemingly simple feature that solves real-world problems in an elegant way. As a whole, the Chef Collection dishwasher has the potential to really change people’s expectations, and we’re glad to see some of those features already appearing in Samsung’s more affordable dishwashers.
Home: Flir FX portable Wi-Fi camera
Wi-Fi surveillance cameras are nothing new, but we were impressed by how flexible the Flir FX is. The same camera can be used in a whole pile of different scenarios just by adding a base, and we love how the app’s user interface adapts intelligently to light up different controls depending on which base is in use. The ability to act as a Wi-Fi access point and built-in microSD storage let a single Flir FX act as a replacement for several devices.
Home: Netatmo thermostat
Smart thermostats allow you to save money on home heating and cooling by intelligently adjusting to your schedule. They definitely aren’t a new and groundbreaking product category for CES. In fact, there were dozens of them here this year, so why did we pick Netatmo as a winner? Three words: droolworthy industrial design. We really dig the minimalist look, feel, and interface, which makes it one piece of home technology we would be happy to show off, not just tolerate.
The smart home market is quickly getting crowded, but Kolibree proved there’s still room for innovation. The company’s connected toothbrush uses two sensors to examine your brushing and give you feedback on areas you might be missing. We give Kolibree credit for bringing sensor tech to a new frontier (your mouth) and designing a product that can have a positive impact on your health.
Best in show: MakerBot Replicator Mini
When Digital Trends’ editors filed into a windowless meeting room to vote on the single best product shown at CES 2014, we were a haggard group. Bleary eyed, overcaffeinated and disheveled from an entire day on the show floor, the team looked better equipped to fall asleep sitting up than make the single most important decision of the show. Then two products emerged in a tie in our voting, and a room full of sedated tech enthusiasts snapped awake and erupted into heated debate.
On one hand, anyone who had seen the LG agreed it was the single most immediately striking thing on the show floor. A combination of razor-sharp Ultra HD resolution and spectacular OLED colors gave this TV a picture that impressed even the most grizzled cynics. And as an early example of emerging display technology, it truly represents the future; this is what we’ll all have in our living rooms someday.
The Replicator Mini, meanwhile, represented not just a better version of a category we know and love, but the shining star in an entirely new category. 3D printing, once an expensive luxury afforded only to engineers, is beginning to infiltrate the home, and no printer comes closer to truly making it accessible than MakerBot’s $1,375 Replicator Mini. Besides the low price of entry, the interface has been simplified to the point that a novice can literally click a model and begin printing it on the spot.
Instead of merely drooling over its betterness, we imagined the possibilities aloud: printing toys, tools, dishwasher parts. Whatever you need, when you need it.
When it came time for our tiebreaker vote, the choice was clear: MakerBot’s Replicator Mini was the single most exciting product at CES 2014, in a category of technology that’s quickly going to become one of the most exciting additions to our lives. For that, we’re happy to bestow it with the honor of Best in Show. Congratulations, MakerBot! We can’t wait to see you in our homes.