Audience Choice Awards: Top Tech of CES 2021

You came. You saw. You voted. And you picked our Top Tech of CES 2021 Audience Choice Award winners!

Normally, we get to have all the fun. Every year, our editors poke, prod, try on, and otherwise test all the hottest gadgets at the show, then gather in the final days of the show to pick our Top Tech of CES awards. But this year, for the first-ever all-digital CES, we’re shaking things up by reaching out to you, our readers. You’ve been voting on the best gadgets all week using the voting module on all of our CES content.

It’s always fun to hear reader feedback when we announce our own awards, and it was just as eye-opening to see which gadgets caught your eye. Only one of these awards overlapped with what our editors chose, which gives us an all-new perspective on what really matters to you at CES.

So, after tallying tens of thousands of votes, it’s now time to announce the first Top Tech of CES 2021 Audience Choice Award winners, as picked directly by our readers. There is no Digital Trends Electoral College, we promise.

Automotive: Mercedes-Benz MBUX Hyperscreen

It’s really no surprise that readers concurred with our editors to select this super-slick infotainment system as the best automotive innovation of CES 2021. Just look at it: A sweeping 56-inch panel of Corning Gorilla Glass elegantly blurs three separate OLED displays into one perfect dash. Besides the sheer amount of screen here, Mercedes has put a lot of engineering into the way drivers interact with it. The middle display uses A.I. to suggest relevant buttons at the right time, rather than forcing you to wade through menus, and 99 percent of the options can also be activated by voice.

What’s better, this is not a concept: It will hit roads in 2021 aboard the Mercedes EQ luxury EV.

Computing: Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 tri-band Wi-Fi 6E router

You all must be pretty fed up with flaky Wi-Fi, because in the same show that brought us titanium laptops, AR glasses that project virtual monitors, and mobile GPUs faster than a PS5, you selected … a router!

Not just any router, mind you. The RAXE500 is the first of a new generation of Wi-Fi 6E routers. This technology doesn’t just promise more speed — we know your internet connection can’t keep up anyway — but less interference. It taps into an unused 6GHz slice of wireless spectrum that you won’t have to share with baby monitors, microwaves, and a dozen apartment neighbors. Will you finally be able to Zoom reliably from your backyard? We can dream.

Gaming: TactSuit X40

The sci-fi appeal is strong with this one. Using 40 different vibration motors embedded in a vest that looks like something Batman would wear, the TactSuit X40 makes VR more immersive by emulating everything from getting shot to punched (if you’re less of a masochist, you can use it for movies and music, too). An internal battery and Bluetooth connection means it doesn’t add any cables to your VR setup, and Korean developer bHaptics also sells add-ons that bring motion feedback to your face, arms, hands, and feet.

This is definitely one we wish we could’ve tried on in person at a real-life show. But if you’re interested, you won’t have to wait long. It goes on sale February 8 for $499.

TV and Audio: Sony Master Series Z9J

Samsung and LG often duke it out for CES supremacy, but it was Sony’s flagship Series Z9J that made readers drool the most this year. And we can see why. It’s stacked with basically every spec you could ask for: 8K, full-array LED backlighting, and HDMI 2.1, the holy grail of connectivity that brings with it variable refresh rate, 4K at 120Hz, low-latency mode, and eARC. If you own a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, this is a TV that unlocks everything these next-gen boxes can do, and splashes it across a glorious 75 or 85 inches of screen.

Smart Home: Kohler Stillness Bath

Many of Kohler’s 2021 innovations focused on a touchless experience that makes bathrooms more hygienic, but we suspect it’s the luxurious $16,000 Stillness Bath that you would all love to have in your homes. Like an infinity pool, the Stillness Bath spills over on all four sides into a grate while the “Experience Tower” emits a thick fog over the surface of the water. And because this is CES, you can use voice controls to prefill the tub to just the right level and temperature, plus control all the other features.

     

Mobile: Catalyst Total Protection iPhone 12 cases

We thought for sure it was LG’s rollable OLED phone that readers would gawk over and mash “vote” for the most, but you surprised us all by nominating none other than an iPhone case. We’ll concede, though, it’s an appropriate accessory for the moment. Catalyst’s Total Protection iPhone 12 cases are basically an impenetrable bubble for your phone, allowing you to wash it with soap and water, or even disinfectant alcohol. Considering how disgusting your phone is under a microscope, it’s no wonder we’re after cleaner phones instead of bigger phones. The Catalyst Total Protection cases are made for every iPhone 12, and are already on sale for $90.

Also check out the winners of our Top Tech and Tech for Change awards. 

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