After three days in Vegas, countless miles trod over Technicolor convention center carpet, and one long meeting, we finally did it. We found the coolest stuff at CES 2015.
We could show you a formula, gin up some numbers, and explain how we objectively selected the Top Tech of CES 2015 from a 17-point selection process, but the truth is, we didn’t. This is just the stuff that swept our editors, experts in their fields and jaded to every type of hype and manipulation, off their feet. It’s the stuff you wish you were here to see, and more than likely, you will in the near future at a store near you. So until that day, check out the biggest, the fastest, and the most innovative CES 2015 had to behold. And tip your hat to the amazing companies that made it happen.
Best of Show
Dish Sling TV app
It’s not a TV, a smartwatch, or even a shiny something you can show off to your friends, so what the hell is Dish’s Sling TV app doing as our Best of Show? Because it’s going to change the TV industry forever, whether you use it or not.
While TV manufacturers were busy cramming enough pixels in their displays to illustrate every one of Gary Busey’s nosehairs, Dish was out finding you something better to watch. And it bagged the 10-point buck everyone else has been stalking for nearly a decade: ESPN.
For $20 a month, you can now get live ESPN without cable or satellite service. You know, the channel everyone says they would finally cancel cable if they could just get it somewhere else. We feel like we just turned 21, and now we don’t have to get our friend’s sketchy older brother to buy us beer (and keep the change, and hang out uncomfortably long drinking it with us. Later, weirdo).
Oh, and you also get CNN. And the Food Network. And TNT. And TBS.
It always seemed like Apple would be the one to throw its weight into TV’s content titans and break the chains that kept us shackled to cable, but Dish somehow pulled it off. And with one of cable’s most valuable properties liberated, it’s only a matter of time until the rest topple too.
2015 is looking like a good year for TV, and you won’t even need a $10,000 OLED set to enjoy it.
– Nick Mokey
LG EF9500 Flat 4K UHD OLED Television
Choosing this year’s winner was excruciatingly difficult thanks to an embarrassment of riches for videophiles. Samsung and Panasonic both showed off gorgeous new LED TVs with new lighting technology that enables High Dynamic Range for higher contrast and significantly expanded color reproduction. But the lack of content to exploit those advances steals some of the wind from their sails.
In the end, LG’s newly introduced flat OLED gets our pick because it wowed us more. OLED is simply a superior display technology to LED/LCD, and it doesn’t hurt that LG’s WebOS 2.0 is our favorite smart TV interface by a wide margin. Perfect black levels, surreal colors and engrossing, realistic motion made LG’s EF9500 OLED our favorite Home Video announcement of CES 2015.
– Caleb Denison
Klipsch’s Reference Premiere Wireless System eliminates the need for a bulky A/V receiver and speaker wires, and replaces them with a small wireless transmitter hub about the size of a Wi-Fi router. The box accepts input from one of three HDMI ports and then transmits a hi-res audio signal to up to seven self-powered speakers, and up to two subwoofers. Setup takes mere minutes, and it couldn’t be easier. Home theater audio will never be the same.
– Caleb Denison
LG G Flex 2
LG’s G Flex 2 fixes nearly every problem we had with the original G Flex, and a few we didn’t even think of. It’s the fastest phone we’ve tested with a fancy new Snapdragon 810 processor in it, but more important, LG took a lot of time to shrink the size of the phone and make it more comfortable for ordinary people to hold and use. And we’d be lying if we didn’t say that the beautiful, vivid OLED screen didn’t help curry our favor.
Unlike last year, this G Flex looks like one we can recommend for almost anyone who wants the latest and greatest, and it will hit major U.S. carriers in the near future. That’s exciting.
– Jeffrey Van Camp
This year’s CES was packed full of strange wearables, from fitness trackers to belts that monitored your waistline and shirts that monitor your health. If it’s wearable, someone wants to make it smart. The problem is, when you make wearables smart, they often look ugly. Jins Meme does not have this problem.
Designed by Japanese eyeglass company Jins, the Meme look like ordinary glasses, but pack a ton of cool ideas. Using accelerometers and velocity sensors, it can determine your posture and step count (like any fitness tracker), but it also has electrodes fitted to the nose pads that can help track eye movement and blinking, which allows it to do a lot of amazing things, including monitoring how fatigued you are. We’re not sure exactly which features are best on the Meme, but we do know that Jins is taking a bunch of the coolest trends at CES and cramming them all into a pair of glasses you wouldn’t guess had a wire in ’em.
– Jeffrey Van Camp
The idea of transforming a 3D printer into a food-making machine has been around for a while, and we’re slowly moving away from mere novelty and toward a useful machine to have in your kitchen. XYZprinting moved us one step closer to that day with the food printer it debuted at CES 2015. Yes, it has a limited scope, being mostly suitable for cake decorations and cookies (which need to be baked post-printing), but that’s just a temporary situation, according to the company. One day, the machine will be able to make pizza and other foods. XYZprinting already has a solid, accessible 3D printer for plastic, and when the food version rolls out later this year, we can’t wait to see what happens. After all, it can already print a chocolate dinosaur. What more could you want?
– Jenny McGrath
Vigilant Lily Pad Pool UV Sensor/Thermometer
People are thinking outside the smart home with their new connected products. That’s literally true in the case of Vigilant’s LilyPad, a smart pool thermometer and UV sensor. Simply making a pool thermometer that can monitor the water’s temperature and send alerts to your smartphone wouldn’t be all that remarkable; it’s the UV sensor and accompanying app that make the LilyPad impressive. As the sensor reads the ultraviolet light hitting it, it sends the information to the app. If you’ve selected your skin tone on the dermatological chart, the app will give you sunscreen recommendations accordingly. Essential? No, but we like the focus on health and the fact that’s it’s so different from everything else we saw at CES.
– Jenny McGrath
Anyone without a sink anywhere near the washer will appreciate Samsung’s Activewash Washer. The top lid opens to a basin with a jet stream of water, which is useful for pre-treating, rinsing out a garment, or just washing the detergent off your hands. A second lid leads to the drum, which loses no capacity from washers without a sink. Any water that’s gathered in the top basin drops through a slot when the second lid opens, along with the clothing. Should you choose to forgo the sink option, you can just directly lid the second lid and bypass that feature. Keeping the pre-treating and washing together in one machine will undoubtedly save time and keep the floor between the kitchen sink and the laundry machines free of dribbles. We’re all about not having to mop up after doing the wash.
– Jenny McGrath
Dell XPS 13
Notebook manufacturers have chased the dream of a portable, productive and beautiful computing experience since the first notebook was introduced by IBM decades ago. Each year they’ve inched closer, but reality has never quite lived up to expectations. Until now.
While nothing is perfect, Dell’s new XPS 13 comes as close to the ideal Windows experience as any notebook we’ve seen. It’s attractive, durable, has a beautiful thin-bezel display and lasts well over a work day on a single charge. What really sets the XPS 13 apart from others, though, is the price; it manages all of this at an entry MSRP of $799. Everyone can afford this dream machine.
– Matt Smith
Panasonic’s first prosumer camcorder is easy to use for casual videographers, but advanced enough to be a secondary 4K camcorder for pro-level users. Even if you aren’t ready for 4K, the WX970 is a great Full HD camcorder. Down-converted video still looks stunning, and a high-dynamic range (HDR) 1080p video mode – a first for consumer camcorders – ensures proper exposures.
Sony and Panasonic both have compelling new 4K camcorders that deliver on video quality, and both deserve the recognition. We think Sony’s BOSS stabilization, fast bitrate recording, and multiple camera support are terrific technologies. But we’re giving our nod to Panasonic for its own impressive features: 4K/50p resolution, HDR video, fast and accurate autofocusing and tracking, 20x Leica optical zoom lens, twin camera function, and 5-axis image stabilization.
– Les Shu
Leave your iPad at home. The Audi Tablet can do more anyway.
First available on the 2016 Q7, the Audi Tablet is the first of its kind, and serves as both an infotainment device and next-level automotive tool. Constructed to automotive standards, it can endure both extreme heat and car crashes.
In the car, Audi Tablet users can control any number of infotainment features, from navigation, to climate, to streaming video, thanks to the onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Delightfully, the Audi Tablet isn’t just useful in-car; owners can take the tablet with them and control their car remotely … or just use it as a normal tablet.
– Nick Jaynes
What if you could fire up Grand Theft Auto V and use nothing more than your eyes to draw a bead on your target? Or tune in to watch a pro StarCraft 2 player light it up on Twitch, with a data overlay that shows you where his or her attention is focused at any given moment? Perhaps you’d like to train up and become a pro yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice to have analytical data that tells you how much attention a pro pays to the minimap and other parts of the screen in a given match? That’s the three-pronged feature set of the Steelseries Sentry eye-tracking hardware, developed in collaboration with Tobii eye tracking.
– Adam Rosenberg
Audeze makes some of the best headphones on the planet, and the EL-8 are another the no exception to that sterling reputation. These headphones took our best of show with an incredible list of new innovations, including a NASA-developed, 2-micron driver membrane, a new magnet system that makes for incredible efficiency, and a die-cast frame that allows for better durability and a more affordable $700 price point. But our favorite thing about the EL-8 is the most obvious point: exquisite sound from top to bottom.
– Ryan Waniata
Sports & Fitness
Cerevo XON Snow-1
Using tech to capture snowboarding analytics definitely isn’t a new idea, but Cerevo has approached it in a unique and different way, which is why we picked them as this year’s winner for the Sports & Fitness category. The company’s XON Snow-1 snowboard bindings not only track things that other gadgets don’t (board flex, weight distribution), but they also do so in a seamless and unobtrusive way. The device isn’t an extraneous pod you need to mount somewhere — it looks and feels like a normal set of bindings, and just happens to have a bunch of tech under the hood.
– Drew Prindle
One of the coolest things about the health & fitness tracking zeitgeist is that it’s ignited an arms race of sorts, and helped to bring medical tech out of the lab. It’s not just about accelerometers that track steps anymore — it’s heart rate sensors, pulse oximeters, and ballistocardiography. Extremely complex and sophisticated technologies are shrinking down and making their way into our pockets. Skulpt’s Aim device is a perfect example of this trend, which is why we’ve chosen it as one of this year’s Best of CES winners. The device uses a technique known as Electrical Impedance Myography to measure body fat percentage and muscle quality — information that’s far more insightful than your body weight, waistline, or the number of calories you burned on a given day.
Not everything we see at CES fits neatly into an established product category – so we don’t bother trying. We save three Cool Tech awards each year for off-beat, futuristic, and just plain amazing tech that deserves special mention, no matter how hard it is to classify.
Tobii eye-tracking technology
Tobii’s collaboration with Steelseries on the Sentry has big implications for gaming, but the broader applications of the eye-tracking tech company’s hardware is perhaps even more exciting. With two micro-sized cameras positioned under each eye and tracking pupil movements, it’s possible to see precisely where you’re looking, and apply the analysis data in any number of arenas, from professional sports to education to medicine to everyday behaviors like driving. Tobii’s been developing this tech for years, and it’s rapidly coming to a point where it is both accurate and affordable. We’re excited to see where the company goes from here.
The number of features that Bragi managed to fit inside these headphones is simply staggering. They’ve got Bluetooth connectivity, touch controls, 4GB of onboard storage, microphones, accelerometers for motion detection, and even sensors that can track biometric data from inside your ear canal. With all of it together, they can do some amazing things, like detect when you’re on a run and start tracking it automatically. Check out our full article for all the dirty details — there’s far too much going on under the hood than we’ve got room to mention here.
Thync mood enhancer
Thync is a mind-altering drug for the digital age. It’s a wearable device which either replicates the calming effect of a glass of wine at lunch, or gives the energy boost of a double espresso; using electrical stimulation delivered directly to your brain. Designed and created by neuroscientists, it delivers its digital hit in a 15-minute session, through a small unit attached to your temple, then linked to a sensor on your neck, and synced via Bluetooth on your smartphone. The crazy thing is, it actually works, as a brief session amazingly proved to us. You can try it for yourself later in 2015.
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