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CES: A Tour of the Most Interesting (and Strange) Tech Announcements

CES has been going strong all week with announcements of new gadgets: home automation gear, TVs, computers, and lots more. Many mobile phone makers and some big industry players sit out CES, but there is still plenty of news from companies big and small with new products and technologies to show off.

A lot of what gets hyped at CES is prototypes and concept devices that will never ship or will get delayed. Still, every year I find that CES is fascinating to study for the industry trends it reveals and the handful of gadgets I discover that I’d like to try.

After combing through hundreds of headlines and press releases, I’ve compiled a roundup of some of this week’s most compelling announcements. Feel free to skip around to the categories that you find most interesting using the table of contents below.

Table of Contents

Home Automation

Eve Cam

Source: Eve

Source: Eve

HomeKit Secure Video looks like it’s poised to gain wider adoption in 2020. The company that I’m watching most closely is Eve, the maker of a wide variety of HomeKit-enabled smart devices which are among my favorites. The company introduced the Eve Cam at CES, hailing it as the first indoor security camera built exclusively for Apple’s new HomeKit Secure Video feature. Logitech’s Circle 2 camera supported HomeKit Secure Video first, but it was on the market before the feature was released, so I guess that leaves room for Eve to claim that it’s first.

The Eve Cam will be released in April for $149.99, which is a competitive price compared to other options. The camera will have a 150-degree viewing angle, record 1080p video, has an integrated microphone and speaker for two-way communication, is equipped with an infrared light for recording in the dark, and includes a magnetic base. I haven’t been happy with the reliability of my Canary cameras, so I definitely plan to take a closer look at the Eve Cam when it becomes available.

Abode Indoor/Outdoor Camera

Source: Abode

Source: Abode

Abode, the maker of mix-and-match home security components, announced an indoor/outdoor video camera that it says will be compatible with HomeKit, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant. The company also says the wired camera, which is coming later this year, will include a 152-degree viewing angle, facial recognition, motion sensing, infrared night vision, two-way voice communication, and record in 1080p at 30 fps.

Netatmo NFC-Enabled Smart Lock

Source: Netatmo

Source: Netatmo

French smart home device maker Netatmo unveiled its new Smart Door Lock, which is compatible with cylinder door locks usually found in Europe. The lock works with an app as well as NFC Smart Keys, which can be deactivated from the app if you lose one. The app controls the lock via Bluetooth and supports HomeKit functionality, allowing users to set up automations to do things like trigger lights when the door is unlocked. Because the lock works using Bluetooth or NFC, it is not network-connected, which provides additional security. Netatmo has not released a shipping date or price, although The Verge reports that the price is expected to be between €350 and €400.

Kwikset Halo Touch Smart Lock

Source: Kwikset

Source: Kwikset

Kwikset has announced the Halo Touch WiFi-enabled smart lock, which can be unlocked using a fingerprint scanner. The device, which will go on sale later this year for $249, is smaller than the smart locks from many of its competitors because it doesn’t use a number pad. The lock will work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa but will not support HomeKit.

IKEA Tradfri Smart Blinds

After multiple delays, 9to5Mac reports that IKEA is bringing HomeKit support to its Tradfri smart blinds. The blinds, which require a hub, range in price between $129 and $179 depending on the size you pick and have been available since early 2019 without HomeKit support. Adding the Tradfri blinds to the Home app requires an update to your IKEA hub’s firmware.

Sengled Adds HomeKit Support

Source: Sengled

Source: Sengled

Sengled, a maker of smart lighting products which already supported Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, said at CES that the company’s products are adding HomeKit support soon. In addition, the company announced a new vintage-style smart Edison bulb, a new E12 candelabra bulb, a smart plug that can monitor energy usage, and a new hub, which is necessary to add HomeKit support to other Sengled products.

LIFX Lighting

MacRumors reports that LIFX will add several new products:

  • A filament Edison-style bulb with HomeKit support
  • A switch that can control four lights
  • LED strip lighting designed for TVs and gaming PCs
  • A candelabra bulb with adjustable color warmth

The new products are expected to launch this spring and support HomeKit.

Samsung Galaxy Home Mini

Samsung showed off a Galaxy Home smart speaker over a year ago that was never released. The company is back with plans to sell the Galaxy Home Mini, a small smart speaker powered by its Bixby digital assistant and the company’s SmartThings home automation products. Samsung’s Bixby digital assistant, which the company incorporates into its mobile phones, has been widely criticized as inferior to offerings from Amazon, Google, and Apple, so it will be interesting to see how the smart speaker fares.

Brilliant Dimmer Switch and Plug

According to TechCrunch, Brilliant, which makes a touch-screen smart home system that can control a wide variety of third-party smart home hardware, announced that it is adding a $69.99 dimmer switch and $29.99 electrical plug. The two devices will be available later in Q1 2020 and work with the Brilliant Control system, which starts at $299 per unit. Brilliant Control works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but not HomeKit despite the fact that the company announced at last year’s CES that HomeKit integration would be available by spring 2019, a good reminder not to purchase home automation hardware on the promise of unreleased features.

All the Rest

Source: Ring

Source: Ring

Amazon-owned Ring debuted a line of solar-powered outdoor smart lights and other smart lights that work with Alexa and require a bridge. Ring also announced that it is adding a privacy dashboard to its iOS and Android apps to manage devices, third-party services, and police access to video footage, in the wake of recent criticism of its handling of privacy issues.

Not long ago, I replaced an expensive ADT home alarm service with HomeKit-enabled devices. I suspect I’m not alone in ditching expensive legacy alarm service, so I’m not surprised to see that the company is moving into video doorbells and indoor and outdoor cameras.

TVs and Video

LG TVs

Source: LG

Source: LG

LG makes some of the best OLED TVs on the market, with the latest models supporting AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. At CES, the company is showcasing a new line of what it calls ‘Real 8K’ OLED TVs. There is very little 8K content available to showcase LG’s new 77 and 88-inch models, but the purpose is more to show off technology coming further down the road.

The Verge report that the TVs support HEVC, VP9, and AV1 content natively at 60 fps, unlike past models, which required a break-out box. The TVs will also feature a new processor that can upscale video to 8K and audio to 5.1 surround sound. As with past models, LG’s new TVs will include HomeKit, AirPlay 2, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant support. Also notable is the fact that in 2020, LG will be offering a 48-inch 4K OLED TV for the first time, which is smaller than any of its previous OLED TVs.

It seems that Samsung’s early exclusive on an Apple TV app is expiring too. LG’s new TVs will include a built-in Apple TV app, which the company says will also be added to its 2018 and 2019 models with a software update.

Samsung TVs

Source: Samsung Korea

Source: Samsung Korea

Samsung also announced an 8K TV. First revealed in a press release from Samsung Korea, the company’s new Q950TS TV practically eliminates the screen’s bezels, which are 2.3 mm on the top and sides according to The Verge, with a slightly wider bezel along the bottom edge. The TV is incredibly thin too at just 15 mm. The model will feature Samsung’s own smart assistant, Bixby, plus Alexa and Google Assistant support. There’s no word yet on whether the TV will include HomeKit or AirPlay 2 support.

Sony TVs

Like LG and Samsung, Sony showed off a high-end 8K TV alongside new OLED and LED 4K TVs. The company’s new models run a custom version of Android 9 Pie and support both HomeKit and AirPlay 2. However, Engadget says that unlike LG, Sony did not announce the addition of an Apple TV app. Among the models announced was a 48-inch OLED screen model, which is notable because, along with LG’s similarly-sized TV, it’s the smallest OLED TV made.

Klipsch Smart Soundbar

Among many soundbars announced, speaker maker Klipsch revealed a new WiFi-enabled soundbar called the Bar 54 for home entertainment systems that includes AirPlay 2, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant support. The speaker also features Dolby Atmos technology. According to Engadget’s reporting, the Bar 54 will cost $1,499 and be available this fall.

TiVo Stream 4K

Source: TiVo

Source: TiVo

TiVo has announced a small Android-based streaming stick called the TiVo Stream 4K, available for $50 at launch in April and $69 thereafter, which is still a pretty nice price. The device runs a custom version of Android TV with access to TiVo’s streaming service as well as Sling TV. The Stream 4K also lets users connect Ethernet adapters and expand storage via its USB-C port, though it is powered using a Micro USB connection.

Gaming

Razer and Gamevice Team Up on Mobile Game Controller

Source: Razer

Source: Razer

At CES, Razer announced that it’s working on Kishi, a mobile game controller that connects to your iPhone for mobile gaming that The Verge says is made in cooperation with Gamevice. The Kishi also works with Android phones by connecting via USB-C.

I’ve been a fan of Gamevice’s iPhone and iPad-connected controllers for a long time, so I’m looking forward to checking out the Kishi. There’s no price information yet, but Razer says the controller is coming in early 2020.

Elgato 4K60 S+ External Capture Card

Source: Elgato

Source: Elgato

Gaming accessory-maker Elgato debuted a new external video capture device called the 4K60 S+ that can capture and stream gameplay in 4K HDR at 60 fps, according to The Verge. The box connects to a computer over USB-C for streaming or recording directly to your computer’s storage.

Alternatively, you can capture gameplay straight to the 4K60 S+ with its SD card slot, although you can’t do so and also livestream or take advantage of all the features of Elgato’s software. According to Elgato, the 40K60 S+ can capture seven hours of video using HVEC encoding. The device also supports H.264.

For video game streamers, the benefit of the external device is that it captures and encodes video on-device where it won’t impact the performance of the computer. It also makes mobile streaming and recording an option. Although it’s designed for gamers, the 4K60 S+ could be an interesting solution for screencasters who want to offload screen recordings to an external device or work remotely using a laptop that might not have sufficient horsepower or storage otherwise.

Elgato says the 4K60 S+ will retail for $399.99.

Alienware Concept UFO Prototype

Source: Dell

Source: Dell

Dell-owned Alienware showed off a sleek-looking prototype gaming PC called the UFO housed in a hand-held device that closely resembles a Nintendo Switch. Although it’s just a prototype, it raises interesting possibilities. Because the Concept UFO runs Windows 10, it would benefit from a deep catalog of existing PC games. Also, the inclusion of USB-C ports would allow for traditional computer peripherals like keyboards and mice to be attached. Still, at over three times the weight of the Switch, the Concept UFO could stand to lose a little weight if it is ever produced. Check out The Verge’s hands-on video for more details.

Computers

Dell Mobile Connect Update to Enhance iPhone Support

Ahead of CES, Bloomberg reported that Dell is updating its Mobile Connect app to allow iPhone users to mirror their phone’s screen on their Dell laptop and drag and drop files from their iPhone to their computer. Similar features are already available for Android phone users. Dell owners can expect the update ‘in the coming months.’

Lenovo Yoga 5G Laptop

Source: Lenovo

Source: Lenovo

One of the most interesting laptops to surface at CES is the Lenovo Yoga 5G, which supports 5G wireless connectivity. Lenovo hasn’t said which carriers the new laptop will work with, but it will include millimeter wave and sub-60Hz 5G networks, plus LTE networks using a Nano SIM slot or eSIM. The other intriguing aspect of Lenovo’s upcoming machine is that it’s ARM-based, running Windows on Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.

ThinkPad X1 Fold

Source: Lenovo

Source: Lenovo

Folding isn’t just for mobile phones anymore. Lenovo took the wraps off of the ThinkPad X1 Fold, a 13.3-inch foldable laptop that weighs in at 2.2 pounds and features an OLED screen. The laptop supports touch input using a stylus and a Bluetooth keyboard. Lenovo says the Windows 10-compatible X1 Fold will be available in mid-2020, beginning at around $2,499.

The X1 Fold is an interesting take on foldable screens. The portability of a device the size of a hardback book would be nice, but that keyboard looks a little small to do much typing on. The device also further blurs the line between tablets and laptops, looking more like an iPad with a paired Bluetooth keyboard than a traditional Windows laptop.

MSI Creator 17 Laptop

Source: MSI

Source: MSI

Laptops are everywhere at CES, but few introduce new technology. However, Windows PC maker MSI has done just that with what appears to be the first Mini LED laptop display. The Creator 17 is a big 17-inch laptop with a 4K Mini LED display, 1,000 nits of peak brightness, and can reproduce 100% of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut. There’s no date or price yet, but it’s great to see manufacturers pushing the boundaries of laptop display technologies. For more details, check out CNET’s full report.

Accessories

Wacom One Tablet

Source: Wacom

Source: Wacom

Wacom debuted the Wacom One, a drawing tablet that connects to Macs, Windows PCs, and Android devices. The Wacom One has a 13.3-inch matte screen with a paper-like touch surface. The device, which retails for $399 and is available now, is meant to serve as an entry into the Wacom tablet world and includes both built-in apps and the ability to serve as an input device for a Mac or Windows PC.

Samson Q9U Hybrid XLR/USB-C Microphone

Source: Samson

Source: Samson

I’ve used an Audio Technical ATR-2100 hybrid XLR/USB microphone for a couple of years when traveling. The option to use it in analog mode with the XLR connection or plug it straight into my Mac via USB provides excellent flexibility. The recording quality is good too, but I can’t stand that it uses USB Mini to USB-A, which makes this upcoming microphone from Samson that connects via USB-C at both ends very attractive. Set to come out in the second quarter of 2020, the Samson Q9U will retail for $199.99.

Insta360 One R Action Camera

Source: Insta360

Source: Insta360

Insta360, the maker of action cameras that compete with cameras from companies like GoPro, has introduced an ambitious modular action camera with interchangeable lenses at CES. The unit consists of a camera and battery base, the default version of which can be swapped out for the longer-lasting Boosted Battery Base. The camera is IPX8 certified, meaning it can be submerged up to five meters, and there’s an optional dive camera that extends its range to 60 meters.

Insta360 says the One R offers 5.3K resolution, image stabilization, better low-light performance, and encodes video in H.265. The company also offers different packages, including one that features 4K, 60 fps, and 360-degree capture components, and another that offers a wide-angle Leica lens. Insta360 also has a drone mount for the One R. Insta360’s camera can be ordered now starting at $300.

Netgear Nighthawk M5 WiFi 6/5G Mobile Router

Source: Netgear

Source: Netgear

Multiple companies are showing off WiFi 6 routers at CES, but Netgear’s mobile router caught my eye. The router works as a hotspot supporting mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G as well as 4G and doubles as a WiFi 6 router on a local network when connected via Ethernet. There’s no pricing yet, but Netgear says the router is slated for release in the second half of 2020.

Aura Smart Strap

Source: Aura

Source: Aura

First announced at CES in 2019, Aura has begun taking orders for the Aura Smart Strap, a watch band with embedded sensors that works with the Apple Watch. According to Aura, the $99 waterproof band uses bioimpedance to analyze lung performance, changes in breathing, body composition and hydration levels. Aura says its Smart Strap works with Apple Watch Series 1 and newer, lasts six months on battery power, syncs with HealthKit, and is shipping in March.

Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD

Source: Samsung

Source: Samsung

Samsung announced a new entrant in its line of portable SSDs. The T7 Touch features read speeds of 1,050 MB/s and write speeds of 1,000 MB/s over USB 3.2 Gen 2, which Samsung says is about twice as fast as its T5 SSD. The device also includes a fingerprint sensor that can be used to lock it. The T7 Touch will be available later this month in the following capacities and prices: 500 GB ($129.99), 1 TB ($229.99), and 2 TB ($399.99).

GaN Chargers

Gallium nitride-based chargers aren’t new, but until now, there have been only a few companies, like Anker, making them. This year Griffin, Belkin, and Aukey each launched a variety of GaN chargers, which are distinctive because the gallium nitride allows the manufacturers to shrink interval parts, making the power bricks much smaller than was possible before.

Belkin 3-in-1 Boost Charge Wireless

Source: Belkin

Source: Belkin

Belkin introduced the 3-in-1 Boost Charge Wireless charging station that includes a wireless iPhone Qi charger as well as Apple Watch and AirPods chargers and can charge all three devices simultaneously. Belkin says the charger is coming in April for $109.99.

Zens Liberty Qi Charging Pad

Source: Zens

Source: Zens

Zens got out ahead of CES, revealing a new Qi charging pad that shares many of the elements of Apple’s canceled AirPower product. The charger incorporates 16 coils to allow two devices to be charged at once at 15W each. Zens also sells an optional USB-A Apple Watch charger that can be plugged into one side of the Qi charger, allowing a Watch to be charged alongside the two other devices. The Qi charger retails for $139.99 ($179.99 for a transparent glass version), and the Apple Watch accessory is $39.99. Zens is currently taking orders, and both the charger and Watch accessory are shipping later this month.

Automotive

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

Amazon’s Echo Auto initiative isn’t new, but the company is placing a bigger bet on bringing Alexa into your car than ever before. The company announced a partnership with Lamborghini and Rivan and plans to bring auto-centric skills to its Echo car products like purchasing gas from Exxon and Mobil stations using Amazon Pay. Amazon also says that they will be bringing back seat screens featuring its Fire TV product to Fiat Chrysler and BMW automobiles.

Weird CES

Source: Daimler

Source: Daimler

Every year, CES brings us new gadgets that promise to change our lives for the better. However, CES is also known for bringing the weird too, and this year did not disappoint with:


That’s all for this year’s CES. Although most categories saw iterative change that doesn’t push boundaries, there are plenty of intriguing products that I’ll be on the lookout for throughout the year and a few that I hope to write about again later this year.

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