The new year had barely arrived when the Digital Trends team rolled into Las Vegas for CES 2017, but we wasted no time prowling the Las Vegas Convention Center for the gadgets that will come to define tech in 2017.
With more than 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space sprawling across nearly every convention center in Vegas, that was no easy task. The conference is well past its lean recession years and back to the sprawling, bawdy spectacle it was born to be. From drones to dishwashers, electronics manufacturers from across the world packed up their best to show it off in Sin City.
Fortunately, we brought our own record-breaking crew to handle it all. Digital Trends flew out its largest-ever editorial crew of writers, editors and video staff, plus hosted a booth for the first time, delivering nonstop video coverage straight from the show floor.
When all was said and done – and plenty was said and done, trust us – a handful of gadgets rose above the rest. Whether cutting edge or just profoundly practical, these are the devices we can’t wait to buy in 2017.
Our favorite product at CES isn’t a glitzy OLED television or an electron-sipping car, but a laptop; and not even a particularly flashy one. It’s a humble Chromebook. But modesty is one of the things we love most about Samsung’s Chromebook Plus. It’s important, and interesting – yet accessible.
Designed with cooperation from Google, the Chromebook Plus is the first Chrome OS device built with Android apps in mind. The 2,400 x 1,600 panel has a digitizer for built-in stylus support, and flips a full 360 degrees for dedicated tablet use. It’s one of the sturdiest Chromebooks we’ve laid hands on, in a field full of systems that cheap out with plastic components and low-resolution panels.
But the real draw is the Google Play Store. While Chrome OS already provides a suite of useful web-based apps, the rich Android ecosystem brings huge new functionality. And since it was built with Play support from the start, the Plus has features that are needed for perfect compatibility – like an accelerometer. Google Play is a big deal for Chromebooks, and we’ll see roll out to more models over 2017, but Samsung’s latest is the pioneer.
Samsung’s Chromebook Plus with an ARM processor will roll out starting next month for $449, while the Intel Core-powered alternative, called the Pro, should make an appearance in the first half of 2017. Unlike most new tech at CES, the Plus is a device most people can afford, make use of every day, and we expect to see it rise in the best-seller rankings as soon as it’s sold.
– Brad Bourque
Many automakers are gunning for high-level autonomous vehicles by 2020, which is just a short three years away. To do that, it’s going to take more than just networking a bunch of cameras and sensors to monitor conditions — a car will have to learn what to do when those conditions change. Nvidia’s PilotNet gives cars the brainpower to do just that.
Running on Nvidia’s Drive PX 2, the company’s autonomous driving hardware, PilotNet employs “deep learning,” which is basically a computer’s way of dealing with the abstract. It acts like a neural network, learning habits demonstrated to it and applying them to safe driving.
At CES this year, Nvidia demonstrated these capabilities by “teaching” an Audi Q7 to drive around a demonstration course in a couple of days. After that, the car — without having the course mapped — learned how to drive it on its own, and even how to safely alter the route when it was obstructed by an obstacle.
What impressed us the most, however, was the lack of drama in our demonstration: The Q7 concept drove itself with the poise of a human chauffeur. It felt like just another person was driving, and that’s ultimately the point. From what we’ve seen of PilotNet, we’re looking forward to sharing the roads of 2020 and beyond with cars that have learned a wealth of safe driving habits.
– Alexander Kalogianni
Dell’s XPS 13, introduced at CES two years ago, was a revelation. It proved not only that Windows laptops can be awesome, but also that they can achieve greatness without copying Apple’s MacBook Pro. The XPS 13’s thin-bezel design and carbon fiber-infused chassis was like nothing we’d seen before. We liked it so much, we gave it our Best Of CES award in 2015.
Now, Dell has brought the same quality and creativity to the 2-in-1 form factor with its appropriately named XPS 13 2-in-1. While it admittedly adheres closely to the XPS 13’s formula, that’s not much of a problem, because no one has really caught up to it. And as you might expect, the XPS 13 2-in-1 shaves weight and thickness. It’s 0.56 inches thick at most, though feels thinner due to its tapered design, and tips the scales at 2.7 pounds.
The subtle changes made converting the XPS 13 to a 2-in-1 have also refined its look and feel. Compared to the traditional laptop, the 2-in-1 seems even sturdier, and its chassis lacks the relatively chunky rear end of its peer. Many small touches have been introduced to make this possible, such as an antenna that’s integrated into the display lid without the need for an antenna strip.
Yet one thing hasn’t changed: The XPS 13 2-in-1 is still a great laptop. The display looks outstanding, the keyboard is wonderful, and the touchpad is responsive. It feels like a system we’d be happy to use every day. It’s hard to maintain the balance between 2-in-1 portability and laptop functionality, but Dell has walked that tightrope.
Dell sells the XPS 2-in-1 for $999, and it’s available now.
– Matt Smith
This year at CES, Monoprice unveiled a 3D printer that costs $150. Let that sink in for a minute.
Just a few short years ago, you would’ve been hard pressed to find a decent 3D printer for less than $1000 – but now, you can get one for the same price as an iPod Nano. That, my friends, is a pretty big deal. We’ve finally reached a point where this amazing technology is available to everyone.
But price alone isn’t why we’re giving the Monoprice Delta Mini our best of CES award. Despite being outrageously affordable, it’s also extremely sturdy, capable, and user friendly. Just like its predecessor, the MP Select Mini, the Delta Mini is equipped with a range of high-end features that are usually only found in printers that cost much, much more than $150.
In addition to a sturdy metal frame, the Delta Mini boasts a heated bed (which helps prevent prints from warping), an adjustable temperature hot end (which allows you to print with a variety of different materials), and a full color LCD screen to help you navigate settings. You won’t find this stuff on any other printer under $200 – I guarantee it.
A cheap printer alone doesn’t impress us – but a cheap printer that can stand toe to toe with machines that cost five times as much? Now that’s something special.
– Drew Prindle
Ever since 3D printing broke into the consumer space, proponents of the technology have foretold of a utopian future in which 3D printers are a household staple akin to dishwashers and microwaves — where we can print products on-demand instead of buying them at a store.
That hasn’t happened yet. Why? It’s hard to say – but one thing that’s certainly holding printers back from widespread adoption is the fact that most of them can only make plastic parts. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to be able to print a doorknob or a showerhead and skip the visit to K-Mart, but if my only choice is printing in plastic, I’ll happily drive to the store for something better.
Ability3D wants to change this. Company founder and former NASA engineer Ben Willard has created an innovative new 3D printer (called the 888) which is capable of printing high quality metal parts in the comfort of your own home. But that’s not what’s impressive about it. Metal printers have been around for years at this point – but unfortunately, even the cheapest ones cost as much as a Lamborghini. What’s incredible about the 888 is that when it hits Kickstarter later this year, it’ll retail for less than $3,000.
So why does this printer cost so much less than currently available metal printers? It’s all about technique. Rather than using lasers to fuse metal powder into a solid object, the 888 uses a combination of MIG welding and CNC routing to achieve a similar effect. Because welding machines, metal filament, and CNC toolheads are all relatively accessible and cheap, Willard can sell his printer for a fraction of the cost.
– Drew Prindle
Chess may have made its way to computers and smartphones in the roughly 1,500 years since its invention, but the physical board itself hasn’t changed much.
Infivention’s Square Off is changing that with artificial intelligence, magnets, and Wi-Fi. Square Off is a large, hand-crafted rosewood chess set that uses magnets underneath the surface to move pieces — almost as though you’re playing Wizard’s Chess from Harry Potter.
Self-moving chess boards aren’t exactly new (see Phantom Force), but what makes Square Off unique is that it comes with a companion app. With the app, anyone in the world can play a game with you and you’ll see their moves come to life on your board.
What’s even crazier is that you can “live-stream” chess games happening around the world to your board. So if grandmasters are squaring off somewhere in the world, you can watch their moves in real time on your board.
Want to solo it? You can always play against the board’s AI — there are 20 different difficulty modes to choose from.
Square Off will start at $250 and is expected to ship in April thanks to a successfully-funded Kickstarter campaign from November 2016.
– Julian Chokkattu
The HTC Vive, our favorite product of 2016, is about to get a whole lot more interesting. The HTC Vive tracker is a small black disc that can be attached any supported device and make it visible to the Vive’s room-scale sensors — you can now bring props into VR.
VR is still a medium in its infancy, but the Vive Tracker will boost it many steps forward by removing the layer of abstraction created by the controller. Instead of thinking about which buttons to press, you simply act. Everyone knows how to swing a baseball bat. Anyone can pick up a ball with their hands. Moreover, the simple act of holding the real object in your hands, which has a real weight and feel, adds a sensory element to VR that’s simply impossible to emulate with a standard controller.
Working with third-party hardware- and software-makers, there are already a number of new VR controllers on the way, ranging from VR gaming essentials — guns, gloves — to more abstract, experimental ideas like a VR camera. From what we’ve seen, these controller work with the same low latency and accurate control as the standard Vive controller.
Last year, the HTC Vive transported us to other worlds and let us walk around. In 2017, we’ll be able to act in them.
– Mike Epstein
CES 2017 was poised to be the year of the true wireless earbud, and there were plenty of examples on the floor — with varying levels of quality. Battery life issues still plague many of these new wireless wonders, while others simply aren’t ready for primetime when it comes to usability and wireless connectivity. As such, we decided to go the other way this year and choose an example of good old fashioned amazing sound.
Enter Beyerdynamics’ stunning Xelento Remote, an updated version of the Astell & Kern AK Ti8E. To fashion its latest audiophile gem, Beyerdynamics shrunk down the the company’s storied Tesla dynamic moving coil driver. The result beats out the new upstarts with the best sound from a headphone we’ve heard at the show. Even on the noisy showroom floor, it’s evident that Beyerdymamic has something special in the Xelento Remote. Melding a brilliant mix of stunning clarity, excellent balance, precision, and a gorgeous aluminum design, Beyerdynamics’ Xelento Remote proves that corded beauties can still win the day.
The earphones come with dual tangle-free cables, including one with a remote (hence the name) and a wide variety of accessories. With a price point of around $1,000, these are firmly in the audiophile category, but those looking for uncompromising sound and a sterling aesthetic will want to give the Xelento Remote a long look, and listen.
– Ryan Waniata
How hot do your stove’s burners get? Aside from an arbitrary number on a dial, you have no idea. Medium-high on your front left burner might not be the same as medium-high on your back left burner, and that’s what GE FirstBuild is trying to fix with its Paragon Mat.
Ovens let you select a temperature, but that exact control isn’t found on cooktops. Though the Bluetooth-connected mat currently only works with GE’s Induction Cooktop, the future implications are pretty intriguing. When you make pancakes, the batter cools the pan down a bit, but your burner doesn’t adjust for that. The Mat does. Using a sensor, it constantly monitors the temperature of the pan resting on top it, and then it cranks up or lowers the Cooktop in response. The result is more precise cooking.
Because it’s app-controlled, GE will be able to guide users through cooking their first grilled cheese or rasher of bacon. From there, the results should always be repeatable. If you like your bacon a little crispier, you can fiddle with the temperature down to the degree. Once you have it figured out, your bacon should always come out perfect. GE has been known to take innovations created by its FirstBuild division and implement them in its more mainstream appliances. In five years or so, we’d love to see this technology in full-size induction cooktops, so we never have to throw out the first pancake again.
– Jenny McGrath
GoldenEar’s statement speakers, the Triton One, stand tall as one of the few speakers (or products in general) to garner a perfect score from our review section, offering a mix of incredible precision up top, a warm and smooth midrange, and what we simply referred to as “Best. Bass. Ever.” This year at CES, GoldenEar has done it again with its uncompromising new flagship towers, the Triton Reference.
Calling its new speakers “an evolution of everything that we have achieved with the Triton One,” GoldenEar has spared no expense, and left no instrumental timbre unturned with the new Reference speakers. In our listening session, the speakers bowled us over with the same tight and powerful bass we gushed over from the Triton One, now with even more power and expansive rigidity. The newly re-designed ribbon tweeters and six-inch midrange woofers massaged our ears with near-live reproductions of brass, piano, guitar, and cymbals.
Trumpets soar with the Triton Reference, while piano cuts through with a luscious touch of creamy ivory that seems to only sound better as the notes move up the keyboard. The soundstage seemed to expand like an ocean before us in the small Las Vegas suite in which we auditioned the speakers, while still accurately placing each instrument in space. While the Triton Reference’s price of $8,500 per pair price isn’t for the timid, you’ll have a hard time finding a better ride in a tower speaker at this price point or above.
– Ryan Waniata
Picking a winner for our Best Tech of CES in the home video category is always difficult – there are usually three or more extremely qualified candidates – but this year, the race was tighter than ever. With Samsung’s new QLED technology and LG’s stunning W7 Series Wallpaper OLED in the mix, a determination took hours of consideration. In the end, though, Sony’s jaw-dropping Bravia A1E OLED TV walks away with our award.
Sony was reluctant to jump into the OLED game, but with recent OLED panel advancements and dropping prices, the time was right. Sony told Digital Trends it set out to create the best OLED TV on the market, and while we’ll reserve judgement on that point until we’ve had an opportunity to review this year’s batch, we are confident in calling the Bravia A1E OLED a remarkable achievement.
Processing – the brain inside a TV – is what separates the good from the great. Sony’s processing has always been among the very best, and its 4K HDR X1 Extreme processor is its finest achievement yet. That processor, combined with truly innovative design elements, results in what has become a bright shining star at this year’s CES.
In additional to mesmerizing picture quality, the Bravia A1E 4K OLED TV incorporates an audio system unlike any other on the market. A pairing of dual-actuators affixed to the TV panel itself vibrate the screen to create sound – there are no conventional speakers built into the TV cabinet. This allows for a very slim TV, and surprisingly convincing sound. Paired with a small 4-inch “subwoofer” built into the TV’s stand, the audio was full-bodied, crystal clear, and full of stereo effects.
Check out our video and full rundown of the A1E OLED from the CES show floor, and keep an eye out for our full review in the coming months.
– Caleb Denison
Every year, Digital Trends en Español selects a Latin company doing outstanding work at CES for our Latin Innovation award. This year, it goes to Sur 3D, an Uruguayan 3D printing company that transforms consumers into creators.
Sur 3D makes Selva, software that allows anyone to design their own products quickly, then manufacture them immediately using 3D printers.
At the moment, Sur 3D software is available in several candy stores throughout the world (like Dylan’s Candy Bar in the U.S.), working with the world’s first gummy candy printer, developed by The Magic Candy Factory. The company has also worked with Pancakebot, the first 3D pancake printer, to generate the first pancake selfie filter. Yes, you can print selfies in pancakes with just two clicks.
At CES, Sur 3D presented two new products: one that lets you design and print fashion accessories, and another that allows you to design and print toys.
– Juan Garcia
Budget phones don’t have to be ugly and boring anymore. The $250 Honor 6X is a new breed of budget phone with a strong dual-camera setup that performs many of the same tricks as Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus for a third of the price.
Its slick metal build gives it the look and feel of a premium flagship phone that you’ll be proud to carry with you everywhere. The Honor 6X impressed us with its speedy performance and solid battery life. It’s nearly three times faster than last year’s Honor 5X, which cost $200.
The 1080p screen resolution is nothing to sneeze at, either. It’s not every day a budget phone performs this well and takes such high-quality photos. Honor promises to bring the latest version of Android Nougat to the 6X in January of this year, too, so you’ll soon see a more streamlined, modern software experience on the phone.
Although budget phones aren’t the most exciting devices in the world, they are very popular, and it’s refreshing to see such a high performing and stylish device arrive with a price tag that’s less than $300. The Honor 6X represents the future of powerful, beautiful budget phones.
– Malarie Gokey
Goal Zero introduced a massive upgrade to its line of Yeti portable power stations at CES 2017. Where the previous models used lead-acid batteries, the new Yeti Lithium line uses Panasonic-made lithium-ion batteries – the same battery technology inside Tesla electric cars.
The new battery packs feature a long list of improvements over the company’s previous models, including a more powerful AC inverter, a smart digital screen for monitoring energy consumption, faster charging times, and the ability to daisy chain the batteries to achieve longer run times. The new products also weigh considerably less, making them a much better solution for use while camping, tailgating, or even just around home.
The Yeti Lithium line is capable of being backup power in case of power outages, which means you don’t need to scramble to eat all your ice cream in the dark during a blackout. Those into motorsports will also appreciate the Yeti Lithium as it’s capable of powering air compressors, tire warmers, and other power tools. It’s simpler, lighter, more portable power without all the noise, drama, and weight of tradition gas-powered generators or lead-acid batteries.
– Marcus Yam
Panasonic teased us with the Lumix GH5 mirrorless camera last year during Photokina, but it was at CES 2017 where it officially unveiled the highly anticipated camera and revealed all the details – and they’re impressive. The GH5 brings 4K movie capture at 60 frames per second (180fps if you shoot in Full HD), and there’s no time limit (most 4K-capable cameras muster 30fps at 30 minutes). And priced at $1,999 (body only, available in March), it brings professional-level filmmaking to consumers, enthusiasts, YouTubers, and even pros working on a budget.
Its predecessor, the GH4, is considered by many to be one of the best and affordable digital cameras for video, bringing 4K to the masses. With the weather-sealed GH5, not only can you shoot in 4K at 60fps, but you get 10-bit 4:2:2 output, fast autofocusing, a full-size HDMI port, and five-axis image stabilization (even steadier if you pair it with a image stabilized lens). Panasonic is using a new 20.3-megapixel sensor with a no optical low-pass filter and Venus image processor that are 1.7 times and 1.3 times faster, respectively, than the components in the GH4. The new Venus engine also delivers better color performance. In short: specs that filmmakers desire, in a video camera that’s more compact and attainable than much heavier and expensive cinema gear.
For consumers, Panasonic includes user-friendly features that make it easy to operate. It’s also introducing 6K Photo burst mode that, like the previous 4K Photo, lets a user extract a high-resolution image out of a 4K video. But instead of an 8MP image, 6K Photo delivers 16MP. Still photographers will love the fast continuous shooting at 12 fps, or 9 fps with continuous autofocus.
Panasonic continues to push the envelope of what its flagship Micro Four Thirds cameras can do, particular when it comes to video. The GH5 looks to further this trend, and should satisfy video makers of all levels.
– Les Shu
Sleep sensors have a lot of potential, but so much depends on position. If you wear it on your wrist, is it really going to take your breathing into account? That’s where a whole smart bed has the advantage, but then the question becomes, what do you do with all that data? Knowing you got a terrible night’s sleep isn’t much good unless you can do something with it.
Sleep Number’s 360 Smart Bed can actually act on the data it collects. Sleep Number introduced a smart bed at last year’s CES, but the 360 Smart Bed is more like a responsive bed. It has the same tech but instead of merely offering suggestions for better sleep, it works to help you stay in Sleepy Town.
First, it adjusts the fill position, via its pumps, based on your body position. When you flip from your stomach to your side, it will cradle you differently, hopefully keeping your comfort at an optimal level in the process. It also heats your feet 15 minutes before you go to bed and can work with Nest to raise or lower the room’s temperature, based on whether you sleep best in tropical or igloo conditions.
But the thing that will come as a godsend to many an unhappy couple is the snore technology. The bed can actually detect snoring and slightly raise the head of the log sawer – without waking them – before the noise disturbs anyone else. It’s a sleep tracker that also offers solutions, while keeping your feet nice and warm.
– Jenny McGrath
Digital Trends has been tracking Garmin’s line of athletic- and outdoors-centric Fenix smartwatches since the introduction of the first model in 2013. Not a single model failed to take home either an Editor’s Choice or Recommended award, so it’s little surprise the Garmin’s excellence continues in the new Fenix 5, 5S, and 5X. While the Fenix 5’s 47mm face addresses one of our main complaints with the Fenix 3’s bulkiness, it’s the 5S’s 42mm measure that has us most excited about the new model.
Garmin says that the 5S was designed with a focus on female adventurers, but the design is very neutral and unisex, making it easily the most accessible and generally appealing out of the bunch. The laws of physics mean that a smaller casing means less battery capacity, but even then, the 5S lasts up to eight days in smartwatch mode and 13 hours in GPS mode. To us, that’s a small concession for a watch that’s literally a better fit for anyone who felt that the bulk of the previous model was holding them back from the Fenix.
The smaller Fenix 5S gives up nothing else in relation to its bigger brother, the Fenix 5, and is our most anticipated adventure watch for 2017.
– Marcus Yam
Women’s tech is the most overlooked segment of a very big industry. This year at CES, all that changed. A number of interesting companies are innovating in women’s tech, and the star of this year’s show is the Willow breast pump. Any woman who’s breast fed their babies knows the struggle of pumping breast milk. It’s no easy task and it can be painful or difficult to do at work or in other public situations. The breast pump hasn’t changed much in decades, but Willow is changing that. Its smart breast pump is a subtle wearable that slides right into your bra and collects milk without the pain or hassle of a tubular, archaic machine. The pump is easy to clean, small enough to transport without issue, and subtle enough to use in public. A leak proof pouch collects the breast milk for storage or later use, and the app helps you keep track of the dates and times you pumped the milk, so you know what’s fresh. The pump is smart enough to react to different levels of milk production and other changes a woman’s body goes through. Willow is nothing short of a game changer for women, their babies, and their families.
– Malarie Gokey