Usually, our team of tech industry veterans – Elizabeth Harper, Suzanne Kantra, Josh Kirschner, Andrea Smith, Jonathan Takiff, Stewart Wolpin – heads to Las Vegas to scour the CES show floor in search of stand-out products that represent amazing advances in technology and have the potential to significantly improve our lives. This year, the show was smaller and virtual, but there was still an impressive array on display. We spent untold hours pouring through press releases, watching demos, and going hands-on virtually via Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet. In the end, we selected 18 of our absolute favorite products to earn the honor of our Techlicious Top Picks of CES 2021 Awards.
Audio & Video
LG 48C1 OLED 4K TV
LG’s 48-inch 48C1 OLED is the ultimate gaming TV for small spaces. The 4K TV’s stunning OLED panel, which delivers pure blacks and impressive image clarity, is powered by LG’s new a9 Gen 4 processor with AI Picture Pro and AI Sound Pro. AI Picture Pro uses artificial intelligence to recognize the type of content you’re watching, including games, to more effectively remove noise and optimize picture quality. AI Sound Pro up mixes sound to deliver virtual 5.1.2 surround sound through the TV’s speakers for an immersive gaming experience. And the new Game Optimizer feature automatically applies the best picture settings for the challenge at hand – first-person shooter, role-playing, or real-time strategy – so you can see your enemies lurking in the shadows. There’s even Google's Stadia game streaming service onboard.
The LG 48C1 will be available later this year for around $1,500.
LG HU810PW 4K UHD Smart Dual Laser CineBeam Projector
With the HU810PW 4K UHD Smart Dual Laser CineBeam Projector, LG has made the best projection technology – lasers – affordable. Most laser projectors use three lasers (red, green, and blue), making them expensive. LG’s CineBeam created a clever two laser (red and blue) design that also throws the blue beam through a phosphor panel to make green. And the CineBeam is a true 4K UHD performer, putting out a picture so bright (2,700 ANSI Lumens) and dynamic (two million-to-one contrast ratio) that you don’t have to turn out the room lights. It throws an image as big as 300-inches, though LG recommends keeping it in the “mere” 100-inch to-150-inch picture range.
The CineBeam is smarter than your average projector, too. There’s onboard access to Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and AMC Theatres on Demand, a web browser, the LG app store, and voice recognition (LG ThinQ, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa). For backyard fun, you can make do with the built-in 10W stereo speakers. However, if you’re set up inside, you can connect to a multi-channel system, including Dolby Atmos, for an authentic theater experience.
The LG HU810PW 4K UHD Smart Dual Laser CineBeam Projector is available now on LG for $2,700.
Samsung 110" MICRO LED 4K TV
Controlling the color and illumination of each individual pixel in a big screen TV means being able to create the purest, most life-like TV picture possible. This individual pixel control is OLED's claim to fame, but now Samsung has matched OLED with its game-changing 110” MICRO LED 4K TV.
MICRO LED sets eschew traditional LED TV backlighting and so-called backlit dimming zones. Since each micrometer-sized MICRO LED pixel is self-illuminating, the MICRO LED 4K TV is essentially equipped with 8 million dimming zones. Samsung says its MICRO LED TV is 30 times brighter than OLED and claims it will retain this brightness for 100,000 viewing hours.
Since the MICRO LED TV essentially has no bezel, the viewing experience is an even more immersive, "infinity" TV effect. And Samsung's Majestic Sound System compliments that picture with built-in 5.1 surround sound using no external speakers. Even more enticing, Samsung lets you watch four different 55-inch content sources simultaneously, perfect for monitoring multiple sports matches or playing video games with your friends.
The Samsung 110” MICRO LED 4K TV is due sometime in the next few months for a hefty $156,000. Smaller – and presumably less pricey – 99- and 88-inch versions are due later this year.
Samsung 85” Q900 Neo QLED 8K TV
Samsung’s Neo QLED 85-inch Q900 combines best-in-class 8K picture quality, immersive life-like sound and a collection of innovative features – from its solar-powered remote to the built-in fitness programs – that really impressed us.
The Q900A’s Neo QLED panel uses a new quantum matrix light source that Samsung says is 1/40th the size of conventional LEDs, providing more precise lighting, with less blooming and enhanced contrast. And since there isn’t much 8K content out there, the Q900’s processor provides enhanced neural network upscaling capabilities to optimize picture quality of 4K content. On the audio side, the Q900A has eight speakers for pinpoint object tracking and truly enveloping sound. And new for this year is an Active Voice Amplifier feature that will automatically boost voices when there is ambient noise, like a lawnmower passing by the window or a vacuum cleaner running.
Using the mounted camera, the new Samsung Health Smart Trainer analyzes your form while you work out, counts reps, and provides training feedback. The camera also supports Google Duo for video calls. And you can remotely access your PC to get work done on the big screen.
But what really gets us excited is the remote. Yes, the remote. It is now solar powered – no more hunting for AAA batteries! The solar cell will recharge the included rechargeable batteries, which can also be done via the USB-C port on the bottom of the remote. Why didn’t someone do this 10 years ago?
All in, the Samsung 85” Q900 Neo QLED 8K TV is a killer TV. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced.
TCL 6 Series TCL Roku TV (model R648)
This is the year that 8K will hit the mainstream and there are plenty of beautiful sets for those with the means to buy them. But what about for the rest of us who weren’t fortunate enough to buy Amazon at its IPO price? The TV that everyone will want is TCL’s new 6 Series TCL Roku TV (model R648), which combines a stunning 8K picture with a price that fits most budgets.
The TCL R648 is a Mini-LED TV, which means that it has hundreds of dimming zones for more precise and focused lighting and better contrast. And with the bump to 8K, you’re getting four times the resolution of last year’s 4K 6 Series TCL model. Worried there’s not enough 8K content out there (there isn’t)? TCL’s AiPQ Engine will upscale 4K material to 8K, giving you plenty to enjoy on your new set.
While TCL hasn’t announced pricing, the company said that it will be a mainstream price point, which we’re estimating will range from $700 - $1,500 for 55-inch, 65-inch, and 75-inch models, based on last year’s models.
Computers & Networking
HP Elite Folio 2-in-1 laptop
This sleek 13.5" laptop from HP has excellent tech specs, but the Elite Folio first caught our eye because of the clever way that it flips between laptop and tablet. Instead of the screen flipping backwards behind the keyboard, it slides forward over the keyboard. This gives it a particularly stable base when you use it in tablet mode on a flat surface, which is ideal for watching movies. It's a design we really love.
The Elite Folio runs on Qualcomm's speedy Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 processor, with optional 5G connectivity so you're never without internet access. The laptop has a fanless design, so it's whisper-quiet and has a long battery life — you can expect up to 24.5 hours of video playback time. And HP Fast Charge will let you charge to 90% in 90 minutes, so you don't have to worry about battery life. It comes with the HP Elite Slim Active Pen, which has a built-in storage space above the keyboard. That makes it easy to draw or take notes when you're using it as a tablet, and you never need to worry about losing your stylus.
The HP Elite Folio will be available next month. Pricing hasn’t been set.
Lenovo Yoga AIO 7
The Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 is the most versatile all-in-one desktop we’ve seen. As a desktop computer, it features a 27-inch 4K IPS display that you can view in the traditional horizontal mode or press a button to rotate into a vertical mode that’s perfect for reading long documents, working on spreadsheets, and browsing. And it’s powered by AMD Ryzen 4000-series processors and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics.
Connect your laptop through a USB Type-C cable to the Yoga AIO 7 and you can use the all-in-one’s display and peripherals, share the hard drive and move files between the two PC’s, as well as charge your laptop with 65 watts of power. You’ll also be able to cast content from your tablet or smartphone directly to the display, without having to turn on the desktop.
The Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 will be available in select markets later this year starting at $1,599.
TP-Link Deco X96 AX7800 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System
The TP-Link Deco X96 AX7800 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System is one of the first announced at CES to include the newly-certified WiFi 6E standard. While standard WiFi uses 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies to provide a wireless internet connection to your devices, WiFi 6E also uses 6GHz frequencies, which the FCC opened available for consumer usage last June. The 6GHz WiFi band is essentially empty, and is comprised of up to seven super-wide channels, which means you'll get faster connections with lower latency when connected to compatible WiFi 6E wireless devices, which will make online gamers who rely on instant reactions happy, and reduce video buffering.
What we really like about the TP-Link solution is that the Deco X96 Wi-Fi 6E mesh system can connect up to 200 devices without dragging down performance, and the company's premium HomeShield security service scans and identifies these connected devices, blocks malicious URLs or other potential threats, fixes network vulnerabilities, and prevents malicious internet connectivity attacks – it is a complete IoT connection and security solution. At press time, there was no word on price, and availability is expected to be later this year.
Health & Beauty
Clean Air Zone air purifier
The most exciting advancement in air purification we saw at CES is the Clean Air Zone. This innovative technology takes inspiration from Mother Nature: instead of cleaning the air by forcing it through a HEPA filter, Clean Air Zone filters air through water. The water traps contaminants — including viruses like Covid-19, as well as mold, smoke, allergens and other contaminants — and breaks them down using enzymes. It can capture ultrafine particles as small as 0.00006 microns — significantly smaller than what HEPA or Ionic air purifiers can capture — and eliminate 99.99% of contaminants.
The Clean Air Zone system is 100% green. There are no filters to throw away and all contaminants are broken down into harmless organic compounds, so it cleans without creating pollution of its own. It uses just 0.6kW of electricity per day, far less than other air purifiers. Though it doesn't have filters to change or clean, the system does require some maintenance: you need to add water about once a week (unless you connect it to a water line) and you need to add fresh enzyme solution about every four months. Other than that, it runs quietly and efficiently, without interrupting your routine.
A single Clean Air Zone unit is designed to clean from 700-1200 square feet, making it a good fit for open-plan living spaces and small apartments. Look for it to be available later this year for $1,495.
Fluo Labs Flō Allergy Management
On the surface, the idea of shining a light up your nose to alleviate your hay fever seems at least fanciful, if not ridiculous. And yet, this breakthrough device from Fluo Labs promises just that: to manage your allergic rhinitis (AR) without drugs and with no known side effects using a light therapy technology called photobiomodulation. Shining Flō up each nostril for just 10 seconds once or twice a day, as needed, inhibits the release of histamines and reduces inflammation, essentially acting like a natural antihistamine that girds you against congestion, itching, runny nose, and sneezing. A recent study conducted by the company showed a 31% improvement in the Total Nasal Symptom Score (TNSS) over baseline.
If Flō ends up working as Fluo Labs claims, it will bring revolutionary relief to 30-60 million seasonal allergy suffers. Fluo says it's been working on this technology for 15 years, and recently completed a successful clinical trial that yielded results "significant and superior to what is generally achieved with antihistamines," according to the company; two additional clinical trials are planned. Fluo Labs is pursuing FDA approval and hopes that Flō will be available for purchase over-the-counter for less than $100 in late 2021, or you can join a wait list on the company's web site.
Olive Pro True Wireless Buds/Hearing Aids
True wireless ear buds are usually designed to shut out the world so you can just enjoy your music without distraction. While these new Olive Pros certainly fulfill this purpose, they also do the opposite. As an FDA class II medical device, the Olive Pros double as hearing aids – the only true wireless buds to earn this classification – yet are priced at a remarkable $299, just $199 if you pre-order.
You can save even more money over standard hearing aids by skipping the hearing aid tuning required by an audiologist and calibrating the Olive Pro yourself via the Olive Union iOS or Android app. To further aid your aural comprehension, artificial intelligence detects and isolates unwanted noises and automatically cancels background noises while distinguishing and amplifying voices. And you can custom tune your music and TV listening via the app's 10-band equalizer.
In addition to the incredible cost savings over conventional hearing aids, the Olive Pro look downright fashionable – everyone will think you’re just wearing a cool set of earbuds (unless you reveal the secret).
The Olive Pro provides 7 hours of listening on a single charge and a total of around 20 hours when recharged in their battery case, and they're IPX7 water resistant.
Panasonic nanoe EH-NA67-W Hair Dryer
Panasonic has finally made the hair dryer essentially dummy-proof with its nanoe EH-NA67-W Hair Dryer. Those who dry their hair frequently know they should keep the hair dryer in-motion. But all too frequently, we become distracted and end up leaving the dryer in one spot too long, overheating our hair (and sometimes our scalp) and damaging it. The solution is simple and elegant – an oscillating quick-dry nozzle that more evenly distributes the air, preventing hot spots. No more wearing out your wrists to get the perfect blowout.
The nanoe EH-NA67-W also uses Panasonic’s patented nanoe technology to pull moisture from the air and blow it back into your hair to help dry your hair without drying it out. The hair dryer has three temperature settings and two speeds, and concentrator nozzle and diffuser are included. The nanoe EH-NA67-W will be available later this month on Amazon for $150.
AirPop Active+ Halo Smart Mask
The COVID-19 pandemic is still top of mind as we peruse the virtual booths of CES, so it is no surprise there are new products on display that make the masks we’ve all become so accustomed to wearing smarter. And our favorite was the AirPop Active+ Halo Smart Mask.
The Active+ Halo has a built-in sensor that measures outdoor air quality, as well as your own breathing, to provide helpful health and fitness insights. In conjunction with the companion app, the Active+ will let you know how much external pollution you’ve been exposed to and how long before you’ll need to change your filter, which typically has about 40 hours of life. It also tracks your breathing and offers insights into your respiratory patterns, such as breaths per minute while working out, which can be shared and combined with other health data via Apple HealthKit. The sensor connects to your device through Bluetooth, with a coin-cell battery that lasts around six months before needing replacement.
The Active+ Halo mask has a medical-grade soft touch membrane and offers a full seal (though we haven’t had a chance to try it on ourselves). The replaceable filters block particles down to 0.3μ with a filtration efficiency over ninety-nine percent (99.3%).
The smart mask has useful features beyond COVID protection. It can be used to filter out poor air quality if you live near wildfire areas, something we saw a lot of last year.
The AirPop Active+ Halo Smart Mask will cost $149.99 and come with four filters when it hits stores in Q1 2021.
Home Tech & Automation
Alarm.com Flex IO
It’s a common problem – you have areas of your property you want to secure – gates, a shed, your garage, pricey lawn equipment, or even a chicken coop – but they’re too far away from your home to get a WiFi signal. The new Flex IO from Alarm.com is the perfect solution to protecting your entire property, without the need to run expensive wires.
The Flex IO is a weatherproofed sensor that can be attached to a door, gate or almost anything that opens and closes, and is the first sensor of its kind to use cellular LTE-M, allowing it to communicate alerts to Alarm.com from almost anywhere a cellular signal is available (AT&T and Verizon, for now). And with optional magnetic loops in lengths of up to 70 feet, the Flex IO can also be used to secure expensive equipment, such as riding mowers, motorcycles, or boats. Inside, the Flex IO is powered by four replaceable Lithium-ion batteries that can last up to two years.
The Alarm.com app allows you to set up various alerts (e.g., when a door is opened or a gate is left open) and notifications methods (text, phone, email). It can be incorporated into your home’s existing Alarm.com system, or even used as a simple standalone alarm on the front door of a vacation cabin or apartment.
The Flex IO is available through Alarm.com partners for $130, with a $10-15 per month cellular service fee.
Chamberlain MyQ Pet Portal pet door
This smart doggie door keeps your home safe and secure while letting your four-legged friend come and go throughout the day, and it does it all with style. Instead of a flap that your pet pushes through, the MyQ Pet Portal is an elevator-style door that slides open and closed when your pet wants to go outside. It's seamlessly integrated with your door — it replaces your existing door, and you can choose from a number of different door styles from their partner, Kolbe — and you won't even notice the MyQ is there, which is a huge style improvement over the traditional doggie door.
Cameras on the inside and outside of the door let you see when your pet is at the door (and even talk to them via the MyQ app with 2-way audio). You can configure the Pet Portal to open whenever your dog approaches (based on a Bluetooth collar), or you can get an alert on your smartphone when your pet approaches the door to open it manually. Regardless of how you configure it, the MyQ system, made by Chamberlain Group (parent of veteran garage door opener manufacturer LiftMaster) is a lot more secure than a standard pet door, and won't let anything except your pet come and go.
The Chamberlain MyQ Pet Portal will be available this spring starting at $2,999, depending on the model.
Kohler Stillness Infinity Bath
If you’re looking for the ultimate escape without leaving home, the Kohler Stillness Infinity Bath virtually transports you to another dimension. The generous 48- by 48-inch bath, which is based on ancient Japanese soaking tubs, fills the bath each time to the perfect temperature and depth, based on your preferences.
Meanwhile, full-spectrum lights create a soothing ambiance and the “Experience tower” provides fog(!) and aromatherapy to delight your senses. And for the ultimate luxury, you can choose the “Infinity Experience” – water fills from the bottom of the bath and overflows with a relaxing sound into the wood surround. The water is then filtered, warmed, and recirculated, so there is no waste.
This freestanding bath of relaxing awesomeness will be available later this year, starting at $6,198 and running up to around $16,000 if you go for all the features.
LG InstaView Range with Air Sous Vide
If you love to cook, the LG InstaView Range with Air Sous Vide is the range for you. This new 6.3 cu. ft. capacity oven builds in two popular cooking technologies – air frying and, for the first time in a slide-in range, air sous vide – that would normally require separate appliances taking up space on your counter or in your cabinets. Plus, the LG InstaView Range with Air Sous Vide comes loaded with convenience features that make this a helpful addition to any kitchen.
LG’s new Air Sous Vide mode can precisely maintain any temperature between 100 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 48 hours – just vacuum seal your food and place it in the oven, with no water required. While we haven’t had the opportunity to test how air sous vide compares with traditional sous vide, the results from sous vide cooking can be spectacular. And it’s lowest setting of 100 degrees, the Air Sous Vide mode could potentially be used for accelerated dough proofing, as well.
And LG’s Air Fry technology will give you deep frying-like results without the oil. Add your food to the LG’s included air frying basket rack and the range’s internal fan circulates hot air (more aggressively than standard convection cooking), giving you the crispy outside you expect from frying, with no pre-heating required.
Beyond cooking, the LG InstaView lights up with two quick knocks on the oven’s glass door (helpful when your hands are covered in gook), LED-illuminated knobs let you easily verify if a burner is on, and a bunch of smart features that…well…you may find useful, or not.
All in, this is one incredible range. Pricing and availability not yet released.
Lockly Duo Smart Lock
Many doors have three locks: a latch lock and a deadbolt in a single assembly operated by a latch or doorknob, plus a separate deadbolt. Yet, most DIY smart locks are designed merely to smartly control the deadbolt. Enter the Lockly Duo ($399.99). By simply closing the door and lifting the Duo's latch handle upward, you can simultaneously secure both the single-assembly latch lock and the deadbolt in single motion. That is security that is truly smart.
The Duo, which will be available by early spring in either satin nickel or matte black, incorporates many of Lockly's unique smart lock security features. For instance, there's Lockly's PIN Genie touchscreen, a "hack-proof" digital keypad that makes it nearly impossible for anyone to guess the shuffling pin number, and its 3D biometric fingerprint sensor reads only real fingerprints. Like most smart locks, you can create timed PIN-code entries, distribute e-keys, and track exits and entries. By adding Lockly's Secure Link WiFi Hub, you get voice control, remote control and monitoring while you're away from home.
[Image credit:Techlicious, Chamberlain Group, Lockly, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, TCL, TP-Link, Fluo Labs, AirPop, Kohler, HP, Lenovo, Olive Union, Clean Air Zone, Alarm.com ]