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Digital Trends Top Tech of CES 2016 award winners

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Every year, technological titans and scrappy startups alike descend on Las Vegas to show off the amazing products they’ve been quietly toiling away on all year – and offer consumers a glimpse at the future.

There’s something new lurking around every corner at CES, the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, and with 32 football fields worth of show floor, there are a lot of corners. We’re proud to say we turned them all.

From affordable electric vehicles to immersive VR headsets and the usual spate of stunning TVs, nearly two dozen members of the Digital Trends crew spent days hoofing it around the Las Vegas Convention Center to discover it all.

But it’s just the good stuff you’re interested in, right? We’ve got it all here. Our editors selected the 15 best new products that represent the pinnacle of their categories. Innovative, useful, and sometimes downright insane in just the right way, these are the gadgets that will leave you antsy for the future. Relax, it’s already here!


Best of Show
Chevy Bolt electric car

DT CES 2016 Winner
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We’ve all seen videos of Tesla’s P85D petrifying passengers in its notorious Insane Mode, and dreamed of what it would be like to own the ultimate electric car. But at $59,500 for the humble base model, and $105,00 for the one that will scare you stupid, there’s a good chance you still have a regular old gas guzzler in the garage, waiting for the EV that finally makes sense to buy. Chevy’s Bolt is that car. If Tesla’s Model S made electric cars practical and Nissan’s Leaf made them cheap, Chevy’s Bolt hits that magical Goldilocks point that makes them perfect for just about everyone.

No, it won’t hit 60mph in 3.1 seconds, or broadcast to the world that you’re a loud and proud ecowarrior. But it will move you 200 miles without a single drop of gasoline, and recharges so quickly, you can hit 80 percent of capacity in only an hour. Oh, and it will do it all for $30,000.

Inside, a host of technological amenities await, centered around a 10.2-inch touchscreen that reclines back at a comfy-to-touch 45 degrees. It also boasts some impressive features normally found in luxury cars like surround vision, which stitches together multiple camera views to help you park.

The best part: It’s coming this year. So make room in the garage; there’s finally an electric car that deserves a plug in there.

– Nick Mokey


Faraday Future FFZERO1 Concept

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Pie in the sky. Ambitious. Vaporware. For all the things we see at CES, some of the coolest stuff gets derided for being too fantastic and not practical enough. Now, if this was your standard auto show, we’d agree. But this is CES! This is exactly the event we’d expect visionaries to display their stellar, game-changing ideas.

In the automotive world, Faraday Future certainly brought forth the most forward thinking idea, exemplified by its FFZero1 Concept. The almost alien-like supercar concept would be capable of 1,000 horsepower if it were produced, with the ability to leap to speeds beyond 200 mph. Off the line, it would take under three seconds to spring from 0 to 60.

A specialized helmet designed for the FFZero1 would act as both a safety harness and biometric connection to the driver, who would control the car from a 45-degree-angled position.

Underpinning this concept is Faraday Future’s Variable Platform Architecture, or VPA, which FF touts as the most modular bed for electric vehicle construction. VPA can be as wide or long as needed, built around “strings” of batteries that make up the chassis base. The platform would be also pre-loaded with all the tech needed for autonomous driving as well as connecting each vehicle to cloud-based services.

Whether you desire an economic EV hatchback, an electric off-roader, or a lap-burning FFZero1 supercar, Faraday Future believes VPA could do it. FF wants to us to rethink our idea of cars, and its presentation certainly has us considering a few things.

– Alex Kalogianni

lenovo thinkpad x1 yoga

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga laptop with OLED screen

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OLED is the big news in the PC world at CES 2016, and for good reason. While the technology has previously graced smartphones, tablets, and televisions, it has been absent from computers. That’s finally changed, as Dell, Lenovo, HP, and Samsung all announced Windows systems with OLED screens.

Only one could win the award – and picking the ThinkPad X1 Yoga as the victor wasn’t difficult. But we didn’t pick it because of the display. All four OLED systems that debuted at CES 2016 look equally amazing.

Instead, we picked the X1 Yoga because it’s by far the best everyday notebook. The keyboard is excellent; the touchpad is huge; the battery lasts forever; and the internals are top-notch. While Lenovo’s competitors also brought their A-game, they all slip in at least one area. Only the ThinkPad aces every important trait.

OLED isn’t going to take over PCs this year. But it will quickly trickle down to more affordable systems. In 2018, when OLED is standard on most PCs, we’ll look back at the ThinkPad X1 Yoga as the notebook that started it all.

– Matt Smith


Cool Tech
Genworth R70i Exoskeleton aging simulator

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Of all the wild and crazy technologies we came across on the show floor this year, there was one in particular that stood out — not because it was revolutionary or game-changing, but because it changed our perspective on the world. The R70i, as it’s called, is an exoskeleton, but unlike most exoskeletons, it doesn’t make you stronger or faster. Instead, it actually makes you weaker and slower. It’s designed to make you feel like a crotchety old person.

To do this, the suit leverages a myriad of different technologies. The motorized frame restricts your movements to simulate arthritis and muscle loss, while a special augmented reality headset induces things like hearing loss, tinnitus, and even the tunnel vision that comes with glaucoma.

Individually, these technological tricks are disorienting, but when you experience all of them at once, it’s downright debilitating — and that’s the whole point. The R70i can’t make you stronger or faster, but it can provide the wearer with empathy and understanding for senior citizens and the challenges they face — and that’s pretty damn incredible. Can you think of any other technology that makes its users more empathetic? Neither can we.

– Drew Prindle


HTC Vive virtual reality system

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Virtual reality hit CES in a big way in 2016, but the HTC Vive (Pre edition) stood out as the most polished, high-end experience currently available, making tangible the immersive, holodeck future of VR gaming promised by decades of science fiction.

As a seated experience, the Vive is as smooth as any headset we’ve tried, but being able to stand up and seamlessly walk around in virtual worlds is what sets it apart. The new faceplate camera is instrumental in enabling safe walkabout, and will let developers blur boundaries between the real and virtual. It’s difficult to communicate just how cool it is to walk around the deck of a sunken ship and then suddenly see the ghostly, blue outline of your cords or other people in the room materialize before you trip over them—it’s like being in Tron. The new dual control sticks are also a fantastic addition. Their intuitive, flexible design makes the Wii remote look like a quaint relic of design past.

Pricing and space requirements might hold the Vive back from being the consumer-friendly breakout that brings VR to the masses when it launches in April, but it’s currently the high-water mark for the future of immersive gaming.

– Will Fulton


Audeze Sine headphones

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Audeze makes some of the best headphones in the world but there have long been two caveats to attaining audio nirvana with their cans: A near-prohibitive price point, and an inability to take them away from your headphone amp without losing fidelity. The company solved that conundrum in part with the brilliant EL-8 headphones last year, a small, portable pair that uses Fluxor magnet technology to allow even smartphones to drive them with ease.

This year at CES, Audeze has done it again — and this time almost everybody can take a ride. The new Sine headphones distill Audeze’s brilliant planar magnetic technology into a sleek, leather-bound pair of $500 beauties. These cans are comfortable, ultra portable, and sound incredible — even from your smartphone. They take the accomplishments of the EL-8 even further towards portability. For good measure, the company will also roll out its new Cypher Lightning cable, capable of sourcing 24bit/48kHz audio from an iPhone, to be sold separately at a price roaming around the $100 range.

For bringing audiophile sound to the masses with nothing more than the phone in your pocket, Audeze’s new Sine headphones take the crown as our Best Headphones of CES.

– Ryan Waniata


Home Appliance
Marathon Laundry Machine

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Invariably, when moving laundry from the washer to the dryer, a sock or other garment will drop on the floor, and you’ll have to decide what to do: clean it again or just throw it in with the rest of the clothes. The Marathon Laundry Machine eliminates this problem, but that’s not even the only reason it’s cool.

As a combination washer-dryer, it does both washing and drying in one machine. It’s a concept found on many machines in other countries, but usually has a ventless design, which means clothes take much longer to dry. The Marathon is unique because it’s vented like a traditional dryer.

You only need half as much space, and don’t have to stack. You could throw your clothes in before bed, and wake up to clean laundry without having to set an alarm to transfer them in the middle of the night. It’s connected, as well, so you can add the Marathon to your Wi-Fi network to give it some additional capabilities, whether it’s figuring out the temperature that works best with your detergent or starting up when electricity prices are lowest.

– Jenny McGrath


Home Audio
Doppler Labs Here Active Listening earbuds

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It’s not often (or ever) that you hear about someone being blown away by earplugs, but that’s exactly what happened when we tried out the new Hear Active Listening system from Doppler Labs. In the crowded halls of Pepcom’s CES event, we put these sleek wireless buds in our ears, and with the swipe of a finger from the connected app, the raucous world around us melted away into sweet, glorious silence (at –22dB attenuation). And that’s just a taste of what Here Active can do.

Through the app, you can actively control your hearing in real time, including boosting or attenuating specific frequencies via a five-band equalizer. There are also equalizer plug-ins, and even weird psychedelic effects to play with ambient sound. In essence, the Here Active allow you to mix the sound around you in real time, which applies to a host of applications, including boosting specific frequencies for the hearing impaired. True, these buds aren’t technically home audio – they’re all audio. And for completely revolutionizing personalized hearing, they take our Home Audio Award.

– Ryan Waniata


Home Video
Panasonic DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player

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Deciding on a winner for our Best Tech of CES award in the Video category was difficult this year, but after careful consideration, Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player walks away with the award. Although LG, Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic all showed off some outstanding 4K Ultra HD televisions this year — many of them sporting advancements on previously implemented HDR and Color Gamut technologies — it made more sense to honor a brand new source that would feed unparalleled picture quality to those fine displays, rather than target a display itself.

Optical disc is certainly living on borrowed time, but it presently stands as the best way to deliver ultra-high quality 4K material with HDR and Wide Color Gamut to existing and forthcoming 4K Ultra HD TVs. Until high-bandwidth Internet connections are available broadly and without data caps, consumers will need Ultra HD Blu-rays to get the most out of their 4K Ultra HD TVs, and of the three brands that have introduced Ultra HD Blu-ray players at CES this year – Panasonic, Philips, and Samsung – Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 looks to be the most promising.

– Caleb Denison


Latin Innovation

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The Digital Trends Latin Innovation Award is presented to the most innovative Latin company with a presence at CES 2016, a small but growing market.

The winner this year is Gowin, a Mexican company that designs, distributes, and sells electronics audio products, including headphones, Bluetooth speakers, cables, and more.

All of Gowin’s products are both designed and manufactured in Mexico, and targeted at young, urban consumers. Gowin sells all over in Mexico in the major retailers, and in the U.S. at Spencer Gifts. After five years in business, Gowin is exhibiting at CES for the second time, and hopes to have more American resellers in the near future.

– Juan Garcia


Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 2-in-1 tablet

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Tablet manufacturers are racking their brains to come up with a new type of tablet that will save the category from stagnating. Enter the keyboard-equipped Microsoft Surface lineup, Apple’s iPad Pro, and now, the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S.

At first blush, Samsung’s TabPro S may seem like another “me too” product, but it’s not; It’s a near perfect marriage of tablet and laptop. It’s the first 2-in-1 Windows 10 device that actually looks like a tablet when you take it away from the keyboard. You might even mistake it for Samsung’s gorgeous Android-powered Galaxy Tab S2, and it’s nearly as thin and lightweight. Like the iPad Pro, it prioritizes mobile use, but with all the power of a Windows 10 computer beneath.

Samsung packed it with power, including 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a speedy CAT.6 LTE chip, and an Intel Core M processor. It’s also got a gorgeous 12-inch AMOLED screen with a sharp 2,160 x 1,440 pixel resolution and a sharp-looking keyboard, which doubles as a slim case. For once, the keyboard that makes this tablet worth having is included in the price tag instead of being sold separately. It even has NFC built in, so you can easily sync up your phone with the tablet and share files with a single tap.

It sets the standard for what a 2-in-1 tablet should be, and that’s why it’s the best of Mobile from CES 2016.

–  Malarie Gokey


Livestream Movi live-event camera 

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Although camera companies have softened their new announcements at CES, there are some noteworthy products. Nikon’s new DSLRS (the D5 and D500) and KeyMission 360 4K action cam; Panasonic’s compact cameras and camcorders, with their very consumer-friendly features; and Olympus’ impressive 300mm lens, all deserve praise.

But what got our attention, and ultimately “best of” recognition, is the new Movi live-event camera, a 4K pocket device that lets you edit while you film. We’ve seen how Vine and YouTube create overnight media stars, and the Movi is the next step in citizen broadcasting: the ability to create our own live broadcasting networks. With apps like Periscope and Meerkat, consumers have shown that live broadcasting is a new tool they’re willing to embrace, whether it’s for self-expression or reporting.

Livestream has a few ideas of how people could use the Movi, from filming concerts to putting on a remote fashion show. But we’re excited at the prospects of what consumers could do with this new tool, as digital imaging becomes more social.

– Les Shu


Smart Home
Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator

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The Samsung 4-Door Flex Family Hub Refrigerator isn’t the first fridge with a touchscreen. It isn’t even the first Samsung fridge with a touchscreen. But the 21.5-inch display that’s built into the appliance is more useful than its predecessors.

The sheer size of the display means that when you mirror it with your Samsung TV, one of the fridge’s capabilities, you can continue to binge watch Making a Murderer, still make a snack, and not have to squint at the door to see what’s going on. You can also find recipes, use a browser, check the weather, play music, order groceries, and display your family photos.

It’s all stuff you could do on a dedicated kitchen tablet instead (for a lot less than the potential $5,000 price tag), but we think it’s a sign of things to come when this kind of technology will be found on every surface imaginable. And if developers start making apps specifically for your fridge, well, that’s when things could start to get really cool.

– Jenny McGrath


Sports & Fitness
FITGuard Head-Injury awareness mouthguard

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From fitness trackers and 3D-printed shoes to connected workout applications and infrared saunas, CES is a hotbed for sports and fitness technologies this year. Despite the usual flair from companies like Under Armour and Fitbit, fledgling startup Force Impact Technologies stole the show with an innovative mouthpiece designed to confront one of sport’s most controversial topics: concussions.

Dubbed the FITGuard, this revolutionary mouthpiece actively samples rates of acceleration to monitor the amount of force exerted on athletes during games or practices. For instance, if a football player endures what looks to be a hard tackle, his/her coach can look at the mouthpiece’s flashing LED display to get a reading of the impact. Flashing green represents a fairly low impact, blue means it’s more moderate, and red indicates a high probability of injury. This immediately gives players and coaches an opportunity to remove a player from a game or practice, even if said player doesn’t immediately feel any concussion symptoms.

There have been a number of firms geared towards curbing or preventing the effects of concussions, but no company’s product makes more sense than Force Impact Technologies’ FITGuard.

– Rick Stella


Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10

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At a time when almost every Android Wear smartwatch sports the exact same spec sheet and feature set, Casio is breaking the mold. The Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10 is packed with unique features that are sure to appeal to woodsy types. It’s water-resistant to 50 meters, meets the U.S. military’s MSL-STD-810 standard, sports a pressure sensor, compass, and accelerometer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a GPS, so it relies on your phone for that.

The screen conceals a genius trick: It’s a dual-layer LCD screen with a monochrome mode that basically turns off all “smart” features, turning it into a basic digital watch that can last up to a month on a full charge. You can also quickly access metrics like altitude, compass direction, air pressure, and sunrise and sunset times on the watch, thanks to dedicated buttons. Casio preloaded the WSD-F10 with key outdoor fitness apps including MyRadar, RunKeeper, Yamap, and ViewRanger.

It’s a unique smartwatch that stands out from a crowd full of stylish Android Wear devices. Casio’s watch proves that there’s more opportunity to be had with Google’s wearable operating system, and that smartwatches are just starting to tap into their true potential.

– Malarie Gokey

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