We're fresh off of the biggest tech show of the year, the Consumer Electronics Show. Just about every company that makes tech was in Las Vegas to show off their latest products and innovations. Some stole more of the spotlight than others, while some didn't really show off anything all that exciting. Now that we're back from the craziness that is CES, and have had some time to digest everything that we saw at the show this year, let's talk about the winners and losers from this year's edition of CES (fun fact: this was the 50th annual CES).
In recent years, Samsung hasn't done a whole lot at CES (at least when it comes to Android and mobile products) as they save their big smartphones for Mobile World Congress in February. We didn't see the Galaxy S8 at CES this year, but we did see a few other rather interesting products. Samsung, who was one of the first manufacturers to release a Chromebook, released two new Chromebooks in Las Vegas. There's the Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro. From the outside, there's no real differences. The differences between the two lie within. The Chromebook Plus sports an OP1 hexa-core ARM-based processor, while the Chromebook Pro sports an Intel Core m3 processor. Both come with touch displays and stylus support as well as having 4GB of RAM.
That's not all that Samsung debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, but they also debuted Family Hub 2.0. This is the next generation of what was debuted last year at CES. Samsung expanded Family Hub to their range of popular 3-door and 4-door French Door refrigerators, but it will also continue to exist on their 4-door Flex lineup. The big changes to Family Hub 2.0 is to use voice commands with a variety of apps, including the ability to order groceries. Now this means that these new fridges have a speaker built in, which leads us to another feature of Family Hub 2.0, and that's the fact that you can play music through your fridge.
In the living room, Samsung showed off a new QLED TV, which looks much better in person than it did on their live stream of the press conference. According to Samsung, their QLED TV's are able to reproduce 100% color volume. Allowing viewers to see all colors at any level of brightness. Peak luminance for QLED TV's are between 1,500 and 2,000 nits.
NVIDIA's keynote was arguably the biggest one, before CES officially kicked off on January 5th. It was the official pre-show keynote and it was a big one, jampacked with new products and announcements. Of course for Android fans, the announcement of the new NVIDIA SHIELD was the biggest announcement. The new Android TV set-top box builds on what the original SHIELD brought to the table, and brings in support for HDR. So you'll be able to watch 4K HDR content on your TV through your SHIELD. But perhaps the bigger feature is Google Assistant being baked into the device. Allowing users to ask the Google Assistant for show suggestions, or even telling it to play Stranger Things on Netflix. Best of all, it'll be available beginning January 16th for the same price as the original set-top box, $199.
NVIDIA also talked about a few new partnerships, as it pertains to autonomous cars. They are working with ZF to create a new computer for autonomous cars. As well as working with Audi to make their Q7 autonomous. In fact, there was an autonomous Audi Q7 driving around one of the parking lots at the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES 2017, learning on the go. Which is pretty impressive, and that's what we can expect from artificial intelligence in the coming months and years.
Huawei and Honor
Huawei didn't have a proper press conference this year, but they still had a couple big announcements. Huawei announced that the Mate 9 is coming to the US. Actually it is already available in the US for just $599. This marks the first true flagship from Huawei to launch in the US and be openly available. The Huawei Mate 9 sports a 5.9-inch 1080p display, powered by the Kirin 960 processor and 4GB of RAM. There is also 64GB of storage included and a massive 4000mAh battery. We reviewed the Huawei Mate 9 shortly after it launched last November, which you can check out that review here.
While Huawei didn't have a press conference, their e-commerce brand (sometimes referred to as their "millennial" brand) Honor did in fact have a press conference. In fact, there press conference kicked off the week. They announced the Honor 6X, which is the successor to the Honor 5X that the company launched at CES 2016. It has a slight bump in price, coming in at $250, but still sports some rather impressive specs for the price. Not to mention the fact that it does also have dual cameras.
Amazon and Alexa
Everywhere you looked at CES, Alexa and Amazon were present. This is even more impressive since Amazon isn't an official exhibitor at CES 2017, yet Alexa was just about everywhere. In fact, Amazon was a bit surprised at how many integrations were announced for Alexa at CES 2017. There were a number of products already available, like TP-Link's switches and light bulbs that work with Alexa. But a few of the newer ones include Ford and Volkswagen. These two auto makers announced at CES that they will be bringing Alexa to their upcoming vehicles. This means you can use Alexa to check on your car, even start your car. For Volkswagen, it'll be available with their future vehicles, but Ford will make it available with an update to SYNC 3.
One of the more interesting integrations of Alexa were with the Inspecto Vinci headphones. These are Bluetooth headphones with touch screens on either side (surprisingly, battery life is rated at about 7 hours of continuous playback), and it has Alexa built in. So you can opt to use Alexa to play music and do other things directly from your headphones. Inspecto launched the Vinci headphones on Kickstarter already, and they were a huge hit - as expected - and now they are preparing to launch on Indiegogo in the next few weeks. The Vinci headphones are set to be available next month, and they are sure to be a top-seller.
The BlackBerry, Not Mercury
At CES, we had the privilege of taking a look at the next BlackBerry smartphone that is due to be formally announced at Mobile World Congress next month, which is being made by TCL. The company told us that it is not "Mercury" and that is the name that was created by the Internet. So it's essentially the BlackBerry without a name, at this point. It's a rather interesting device, with a full physical QWERTY keyboard, and a soft-touch back which at first glance didn't look all that great, but turned out to be rather nice after spending some time with the phone. We don't have any information on the device's specs, but you can check out our write-up here for more information on this BlackBerry device.
We entered CES this year not expecting a whole lot from the Taiwanese manufacturer, but they actually kind of stole the show. There were two devices that they announced that really caught our eyes. One was the ZenFone AR. This is a new smartphone joining their existing ZenFone lineup and features some rather beefy specs. But there's good reason for it sporting a Snapdragon 821, 8GB of RAM and a 5.7-inch Quad HD display. And that is because it supports both Google Daydream and Tango. So you've got virtual reality and augmented reality all in one device. Now it's also worth noting here that the ZenFone AR is coming in two SKU's, one features 6GB of RAM and the other with 8GB of RAM. They will also have either 64GB or 256GB of storage (some markets may get a 128GB model, but that isn't 100% concrete just yet).
The other device that caught our eye, is the Chromebook Flip C302. This is their latest Chromebook, and it is a convertible device (hence the name) with a touch screen. It's a very thin, aluminum Chromebook, and it looks incredible in person. It does have Android apps installed already, so you won't have to wait for Google to push the Play Store to that Chromebook. This one will also cost $499.
Most of you probably haven't heard of aiFi, but their new Ai-1 stackable Bluetooth speakers is something you should definitely check out. We got the chance to check out the Ai-1 before heading out of Vegas, and we are definitely glad we did. These are curved Bluetooth speakers that can be connected or stacked. In fact, you can build a wall of speakers with the Ai-1 and have incredible sound. You can also take three of them and make a soundbar for your TV. To be honest, this might be the best thing I saw at CES 2017 last week. These speakers are going to cost you $290 each, so they definitely aren't cheap, but definitely worth the price.
Xiaomi came to CES for the first time. Held a press conference on the opening day of the show and had a booth showing off all of their products as well. But, it wasn't as exciting as we thought it might be. They essentially announced a white Mi Mix, and a slew of TV's that we won't be able to buy in the US. We're pretty used to that from Xiaomi, to be honest, at this point. But with them being at a trade show in the US, we expected them to announce something else, like perhaps a new smartphone, instead of just a new color. We did speak with Xiaomi's Director of Product Management, Donovan Sung, he explained that they came to CES to really showcase their products to the US. Seeing as they aren't really popular here in the US yet, they wanted to open the doors for those in the US to see their products and experience them a bit. But they would not confirm when more products would launch in the US, but it should be soon.
While Google Assistant did get a couple of integrations at CES 2017, it was severely shown up by Alexa. While Alexa had dozens and dozens of integrations announced, Google Assistant had just two. One was with the NVIDIA SHIELD TV and the other being with Hyundai's Blue Link service. Yes, Google Assistant is a bit new, much newer than Alexa, but it's clear that there is still a ton of catching up needed by Google and Assistant at this point.
LG had some good announcements, but they also had some mediocre ones. From a mobile perspective, they really didn't showcase anything. We did get a chance to check out the LG K3, K4, K8, K10 and Stylus 3 (Stylo 3 in the US), but otherwise, there was nothing much here. That was a bit expected, since the LG G6 isn't slated to launch until Mobile World Congress next month. But it also seemed like a lot of their other announcements were just "me too" announcements. Last year, Samsung announced a fridge with a huge tablet on the front, LG did that this year. Although their fridge does have Alexa built in, which definitely gives it a leg up. But for the most part, LG's announcements were pretty mediocre.
ZTE came to Las Vegas and announced two rather mid-range smartphones. The Blade V8 and Blade V8 Pro. Both of which look like they could be pretty great smartphones, but the specs just aren't there. The Blade V8 Pro is coming to the US, so at least they did announce a device that will be sticking in the US. But there wasn't anything really exciting from ZTE at CES this year. Which is a stark contrast from what they've shown off in previous years.
There was a lot of cool new tech shown off in Las Vegas last week, in fact there was so much tech that it didn't all fit in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Some of it was good and interesting, some of it not so much. But these are our winners and losers from the trade show. There weren't a whole lot of smartphones announced at the show this year, which is becoming the norm, as most companies are waiting for MWC in February to announce their new smartphones. CES is a time to see a bunch of concepts and prototypes that you may never see available on store shelves.