This year’s CES unveiled a ton of new gadgets, but most of them aren’t that interesting. Here are the ones that we liked the best — just the most interesting gadgets and gear that we looked at.
The thing about conferences like CES is that there is a ton of stuff to wade through — mountains of bluetooth speakers, phone cases, and all sorts of random things that nobody would ever want. There are also a lot of great products, but we’ve managed to narrow down the list to just ten of the most interesting things that we saw this time.
Steam Boxes and the Steam Controller
The biggest news at CES this year was the introduction of the Steam Box, a gaming console designed to fit in your entertainment center and bring PC games to the TV in your living room. Sure, you could always connect a PC directly to your TV and play video games, but this isn’t quite the same thing. To confuse things a little further, there are at least 13 different Steam Boxes of all shapes and sizes. Confused? Keep reading.
Valve, the company behind Steam, the game distribution platform on Windows, Mac, and Linux, decided a few years ago that they weren’t happy with Windows 8, so they created SteamOS, a version of Linux that basically boots directly into the Steam client, so you can play your PC games easily. A Steam Box is just a PC that runs SteamOS and is designed to look good in your living room, and there are at least 13 different manufacturers that have already signed up to make their own Steam box in all sorts of different designs and specs.
What makes all this work is the Steam Controller, which uses touch pads instead of analog sticks for movement and looking around in the game. The left pad is used for moving around in a game, while the right pad is used to mimic using a mouse in a PC game, and it works surprisingly well. It’s the first time that somebody has figured out how to bring the PC gaming experience to the living room with the accuracy of a mouse, but in a console-style controller more friendly for the living room.
We’ll be writing a lot more about SteamOS and Steam Boxes in the near future once our review units get to HTG HQ.
RELATED: How to Dual Boot Windows and SteamOS
Playstation Now Puts Gaming into the Cloud
PlayStation Now is a cloud-based streaming game service that brings you PS3 games on a variety of devices like the PS4, PS Vita, PS3, new Sony TVs, and in the future, on a lot more devices. The only thing you need to bring to the party is a DualShock controller.
How does this work? It’s simple: Your TV or PS4 or PS Vita will need to have the PlayStation Now app installed, just like having the Netflix app today. That will connect to the internet and the games will actually be played in the cloud and streamed to your TV — obviously this requires a pretty decent internet connection, but for those that have one, it works well.
In our testing, the games work almost like you were playing them locally, with no lag between pressing the controls and seeing the action on the screen. One would imagine they will continue to refine it, and over time the internet will grow to handle that type of thing, but it was so fast that using it in person we didn’t know that the actual game was being played on a cloud server somewhere.
What makes this such an impressive feat, beside the obvious fact of PS3 games being played off a cloud server with nothing but a controller in your house, is that it brings backwards compatibility to the PS4, in a way. The games will be subscription-based, and you can login anywhere to play your games, assuming you have a controller.
The Pebble Steel is a Really Stylish Smartwatch
We’ve already talked about the Pebble, the smartwatch that just works, and now they’ve decided to launch a new version that does all the same amazing things, but looks great at the same time. You can still get your notifications from either iPhone or Android, you can customize the watch face to look like anything you want, and you can look good doing it.
The new Pebble Steel is made of either black matte or stainless steel, comes with leather or metal bands, and costs $249, a full hundred bucks more than the regular Pebble watch, which you can get on Amazon for $149, but it often goes on sale for even cheaper. And no, the original model isn’t going away.
Mophie Space Pack
iPhone battery cases are always popular, largely because everybody who has an iPhone is always complaining that their battery is almost dead. None of that is news for anybody — so what makes this product interesting?
The Mophie Space Pack has extra storage for your iPhone along with your extended battery. While it can’t directly extend your built-in iOS storage, Mophie has an app that you can use to access videos, files, and pictures, and you can plug it directly into your computer to load it up with files.
We can only assume that in the very near future, everybody will be making cases combined with storage space and the market will be flooded with knock-offs. But for now, this is a rather interesting idea that nobody has come up with before. Kudos to them. And whatever the opposite of kudos is to Apple for making a phone that has such a small battery that an entire industry of battery cases has spawned from it.
You can get it in either 16 GB or 32 GB models, and it’ll be shipping in a few months.
ChefJet Candy Printer
3D printing has been all the rage for a while now, with the couple of main vendors constantly improving their printer functionality. What was originally just 3D-printed plastic has been adapted and improved to the point where now you can use 3D printing to make amazing things with all sorts of different materials. Many of these printers are actually affordable to own in your own house — sure, they aren’t cheap yet, but they cost less than a big screen TV did just a few years ago.
Now they’ve taken things to a completely different level with the 3D Systems ChefJet printer that can print candy in any shape you can imagine, using flavors like chocolate, mint, vanilla, and even watermelon. They have one that prints in monochrome and runs $5000, and then a pro model that prints in full color and costs double.
So maybe it isn’t practical yet for the home user. But imagine if you own a bakery or a high-end restaurant — you could print out all sorts of weird and interesting combinations for after dinner mints, or make a cake topper with the Eiffel Tower in candy.
Get ready for some really weird looking candy.
Curved and Bendable 4K TVs Everywhere
Everybody’s got a super high resolution 4K TV these days, and everywhere we went they were on display in all their glory. It doesn’t matter how close you get to the TV, you aren’t going to see any pixels, though you will get a weird look from the rep when you’ve got your face planted half an inch from the screen. How else are we supposed to see if there are pixels?
There’s nothing really new with 4K TVs this time around, other than everybody having one. What is new, though, is the plethora of curved TV models, some of which bend on command. You can literally press a button and the TV curves towards you to give you more of a feel of being immersed in the content, almost like 3D without glasses. As if we needed to inject Geico ads into our brains more easily.
The one thing that you really are going to need to watch out for is the refresh rate on monitors and TVs — some of the vendors are pushing models that drop down to a 30Hz refresh rate when using the 4K resolution, which is different than the usual 60 or even 120Hz. You don’t want to go cheap on the refresh rate.
While the 4K TVs are amazing and beautiful in person, when viewing 4K content, it’s probably not worth even thinking about upgrading to one at this point since there isn’t much, if any, content for them, and they are going to be really pricey.
But boy are they pretty.
The Linksys Blue Router is Back
That’s right, the Linksys blue router is finally back. After being acquired from Cisco by Belkin, they have decided to bring back the blue router that we know and love, and make it modern, open-source, and really interesting.
This new router will support 802.11ac, has a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, eSATA and USB3 ports for hooking up a network hard drive, gigabit ports, and it’ll support up to 1.3 Gbps over Wi-Fi. They are actually releasing all sorts of information to open source firmware developers to make sure that there is support for the Open WRT firmware, and DD-WRT / Tomato will probably be right behind.
The only knock against this router is the price, which is definitely not cheap at $299. But it’s got a ton of features, so choose wisely.
MetaWatch and Cogito Smartwatches
Yeah, we’re definitely fans of the Pebble smartwatches, but at CES there were a ton of choices, including a few that stood out from the crowd. The MetaWatch displays a lot of information in a really nice looking watch, and the Cogito goes minimal with the data but looks good, and has one killer feature: the battery lasts for a year, and is replaceable. Neither of them are available quite yet, but we’ll be getting some review products in the door at some point, and we’ll let you know then.
The External Battery Pack that Can Jump Start Your Car
We already talked about this one the other day, but we liked it so much that we decided to include it again. This external battery pack not only has dual USB ports for charging your smartphones and tablets, but it comes with jumper cables… so you can jump start your car if need be. Did we mention it has a 3-function LED flashlight too? You can get your own right now on Amazon for under a hundred bucks.
The Crazy AORUS X7 Dual-GPU Gaming Laptop
Just like the previous item in the list, we covered this announcement the other day, but any time you put two NVIDIA graphics cards running in SLI into a single laptop that measures less than an inch thick, you deserve to get a second mention. This thing is a beast of a laptop, with a blazing fast i7 processor, up to 32 GB of RAM, dual SSDs, and support for 3 external monitors. The AORUS X7 is a crazy laptop that is much more than most people would ever need to use, and with pricing at well over $2k, is more than most people can afford.
But that’s exactly what CES is all about.