11 Jan 2014

WIRED Best Of #CES2014





Of all the consumer electronics (and other products of varying origin) we saw at CES 2014, these are WIRED Magazine picks for the most interesting, the most important, and the most awesome.

Above:

Oculus Rift

For the second year in a row, the Oculus Rift was one of the coolest things we saw at CES. The company's new Crystal Cove prototype has unbelievable head tracking, letting you lean in and out and look at objects from multiple angles. For example, you can now lean forward, angle your head and peer around a wall. They've also come very close to licking the immersion-quashing latency issues (lag time) of the previous prototype with some innovative new tricks. There's basically no discernible motion blur.

This year, nearly every member of our CES team got a demo, and we all had the same post-Oculus reaction: giddy, wide-eyed amazement. It's one of those rare products you know will change everything when it finally gets a consumer release.




Sony Handycam FDR-AX100

It's always great when a company figures out a way to make brand new tech affordable (see the Vizio P-Series TVs). At this year's CES Sony managed to do it with a 4K camcorder. Well, sort of. The $2,000 FDR-AX100 is still kinda pricey, but it's more than half the cost of last year's massive FDR-AX1. Even better, it has the same size sensor found in the insanely excellent RX100 and RX10 cameras: a 1-inch-type Exmor R CMOS to be precise. Throw in built-in Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities -- which let you transfer footage wirelessly and pair the AX100 easily with NFC-enabled mobile devices -- and you have something we weren't expecting for a quite some time: a legitimately awesome prosumer 4K camcorder.




Sony 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector

This was one of the most mind-blowing devices we saw at the show this year. It's a projector that sits on the floor and fires upwards, turning your blank wall into a massive 147-inch 4K screen. It is the home theater device of the show. It's got a gorgeous, sleek, minimalist design that looks like a work of art. But then it comes alive to fill the room with a true theater-quality visual and audio experience. Sony says its Ultra HD movie machine will ship this year, but the company hasn't announced any pricing yet. You should count on it being expensive.




Vizio's $1,000 4K Television

UltraHD televisions were literally everywhere at CES. However, the big news is that they're coming way down in price. For example, Vizio's P-Series Ultra HD sets will start at just $1,000 — yes $1,000 for a 50-inch, 4K television set. Granted, 50 inches is "small" for a 4K set — you'll need to be sitting pretty close to it to see the extra resolution goodness. But a grand for a high-end 50-inch TV is amazing. Even if you're not interested in Ultra HD content, that is an insane deal; you'll be able to watch 1080p content on it and have a future-ready panel at your service when 4K content is more prevalent.




Pebble Steel

This year, Pebble managed to address the two biggest complaints people have about smartwatches: their lack of functionality and clunky looks. The new Pebble Steel channels the styling of a classic men's watch while also adding a number of new optimized apps to the mix. A new Mercedes one was particularly interesting. It provides stats like your current mileage, how much fuel is in your tank, and your current tire pressure, whether you're near the car or not. While driving, you can set the app to deliver vibration alerts to your wrist for different events, like if traffic is getting heavy ahead. You can also configure Pebble's three buttons for quick actions performed through the phone and over the car's dash system, like activating Siri. The Pebble Steel will cost $250 and will ship later this month.




Intel Smart Earbuds

CES was awash in wearables this year — almost all of them wristbands, and all of them claiming to be unique even though they all do pretty much the same stuff. Intel's leap into wearables are truly interesting, though. The company is making a set of body-monitoring earbuds. There's a tracker inside that syncs to both iOS and Android phones. It collects calorie, pace, distance, and time data. But more importantly, it tracks your heartbeat in real time and offers a visible history graph on your phone's screen. Plus, if you're falling below or going above your target heart rate, the system automatically plays a song to pump you up or calm you down. Intel won't sell the smart earbuds itself. It plans to partner up with a company that's already handling activity trackers, like Nike, Strava, FitBit, or Jawbone. No word from on Intel on who exactly its future partner will be, but we should expect the the Smart Earbuds to arrive at retailers this year.


Razer's Project Christine

Razer had some pretty great stuff to show off this year, namely an innovative little wearable called the Nabu. But one of the coolest things we saw from the company was hidden away in a back room at the company's booth. Project Christine is Razer's first crack at a stackable and completely customizable PC. The idea behind this gorgeous glowing green tower is to make the build-your-own ethos that many hardcore PC gamers have embraced less intimidating and expensive to normal folks. Each key part of the machine (memory, graphics cards, etc) will be modular and self-contained unit, allowing users to swap them in and out as necessary. Razer is even toying with a subscription model that would let customers upgrade to the newest parts as soon as they become available. For now, Project Christine is just a concept, but the company hopes gamers will ultimately embrace the idea. We certainly do.



Mophie Space Pack

The charging phone case wizards at Mophie have a winner with their new Space Pack, a battery pack with built-in data storage. Available in 16 and 32 GB versions for iPhones, the Space Pack looks almost exactly like the Juice Pack Air except for the button on the back, which is used to signify battery level — on this model, it's silver. This button does double duty on the Space Pack, switching on its own internal file management system. Take photos, shoot videos, and download files, and store them locally inside the case where they won't waste space on your phone. And of course, like a Juice Pack, it provides double the battery life you'd normally get from your iPhone. It's iOS only for now, (Android phones already have built-in file management, and most have external storage options) and it ships March 14. It's $150 for the 16 GB model and the 32 GB version is $180.


GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array XL

Soundbars are a classic "me-too" audio product. They don't cost much to make, and companies know there's a massive built-in market for them, so they tend to push out a lot of ill-performing crap. Not GoldenEar. The company amazed us a few years back with a soundbar that sounded as good as (if not better than) a pair of great stereo speakers — not an easy feat. Now, the SuperCinema 3D Array has been stretched into an extra-large version designed for HDTVs 70 inches and more. While the new version comes with the same the crosstalk elimination technology that made the 3D Array sound so great, it also adds another pair of mid-bass drivers to the mix, giving listeners a full left/center/right speaker configuration, plus a second set of drivers. During our demo, the array sounded as amazing as ever. You can pick one up this spring for $1,500.




DoorBot

The DoorBot is a Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell that lets you see and talk to the visitors standing outside your entryway from an iOS or Android smartphone. When someone rings the bell, it initiates what is basically a video call on your phone. You don't even have to be at home, and you can set the DoorBot to work with multiple devices so that everyone who lives in your home can use it. It costs $200.

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