In some ways, manufacturers treat CES like the wall where they throw things to see if they’ll stick. A lot of unusual gadgets are trotted out that for one reason or another —whether that’s solving a problem that didn’t exist, or a $300,000 price tag— won’t ever see production. But there are also a lot of home runs. These are the products that immediately grab your attention and don’t let go. They’re not just shiny, they’re spectacular. And they’ll be on store shelves this year. It’s hard to choose among the thousands of products that were showcased, but as things begin to wind down for another year, these products really stood out to me as being among the best of the best at CES 2013.
Panasonic ZT60 Plasma TV
One of the leaders in plasma TV technology (and a best in show winner from CES 2012), Panasonic is no brainer if you’re looking for a big screen HDTV and you’re picky about picture. The ZT60’s new “Beyond Reference” quality display promises even deeper blacks than before, while the built-in camera and operator recognition adds a high tech cool factor.
Samsung S9 Ultra HDTV
If money was no object, this is the TV I’d want. Sure, native 4K content is scarce for now and the frame wouldn’t be my choice, but just look at that 85-inch television set. Eight million pixels of LED beauty. Buy one this year and you’ll be the envy of the neighbourhood (if not the city), or wait until next year when you should be able to pick one up for less than the price of a new car.
Sony Xperia Z
There was an endless parade of new smartphones and “phablets” at CES, but Sony’s was the one I’d buy right now —and I’m an iPhone guy! Its 5-inch display with full HD, 441 ppi and Sony’s Bravia Engine is impressive, the quad-core CPU and full 2GB of RAM should make for snappy performance, the 13MP camera looks excellent and Android Jelly Bean is the best version of Android yet. Add in this device’s water resistance and you’ve got a winner.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix Hybrid Laptop
This laptop/tablet hybrid from Lenovo has been getting considerable attention at CES. It’s a Windows 8 Ultrabook with sufficient power for business users and 10-hour battery life, but its 11.6-inch touchscreen display is removable, becoming a Windows tablet. Leave it on the base and the display can be twisted around so the keyboard becomes a stand. It’s a no-compromise approach for those who want both a laptop and a tablet, but only want to carry one device.
Seagate Wireless Plus
While Solid State Drives (SSDs) have stolen most of the storage thunder in recent years, Seagate’s new Wireless Plus hard drive turned heads at CES, despite being an old school, spinning-disc device. The drive is very compact, holds 1TB of data, has 10-hour battery life when used as a portable and has it’s own Wireless-N access point. So this hard drive not only lets you take data on the go, it can serve as a WiFi hotspot that lets up to eight other devices (computers, tablets, even Smart TVs) share its Internet connection. You can also stream content such as movies from the hard drive to all eight devices. That’s a lot of functionality for the $200 asking price.
3D Systems CubeX
3D printing is on the verge of becoming disruptive technology. Imagine, being able to “print” toys, spare parts and other products at home, using a desktop printer and a spool of plastic. The $2,499 CubeX addresses one of the key limitations of last years initial consumer-level 3D printers: size. Where older printers can only handle small projects like green plastic army men, the CubeX will print out objects as big as a basketball.
Samsung TecTiles (and Android App)
There were tons of mobile apps on display at CES as well, but the one that really stood out to me was an app hardware combo from Samsung. They’ve been shown before, but there was a big push on TecTiles at CES 2013. TecTiles are inexpensive stickers with embedded NFC chips in them. Tiles can be programmed via a smartphone app to trigger different events when an NFC-equipped device is near. For example, program a TecTile with your contact info and stick it on a business card. Anyone with an NFC-equipped Android smartphone who taps the sticker automatically receives that info on their phone as a contact —no typing required. TecTiles can be programmed and stuck on objects to give people instructions, even on the fridge with a grocery list.