The annual Las Vegas-based gadgetfest known as CES is officially in the books. While Harry McCracken, Jared Newman and I soak our feet (I don’t know about them, but my Fitbit clocked in at around 10 miles per day) and work on a couple full nights of sleep (most nights at CES were four hours or less), here’s a look at our favorites from the show floor and far, far beyond.
Best Technology We Don’t Want to Wait a Single Day Longer For: Valeo Self-Parking Car
Pull up to the front entrance of Costco, get out of your car, and it’ll go find its own parking spot. Open the smartphone app while you’re in the checkout line and tell your car to come back and meet you at the exit. This stuff is at least 2-3 years off, but it can’t come soon enough. Read more here.
Best Stunt: TiVo
As I approached TiVo’s booth, I saw some bored-looking folks sitting around, surrounded by half-eaten snacks. That’s actually a fairly common sight at CES. But it turned out that these particular folks were participating in TiVo’s attempt to break the Guinness record for binge TV consumption by watching it for 87 hours straight. The trio of contestants reached their goal on Friday morning, by which time they were presumably the most exhausted people at a trade show full of exhausted people.
Best Tablet: Samsung Galaxy NotePro
Are larger displays the future for productivity-minded tablets? Maybe not, but at least the Samsung Galaxy NotePro takes advantage of its 12.2-inch screen by letting you run up to four apps in a split-screen view. Read more here.
Best Conversation Piece for Your Living Room: Samsung Curvable TV
There were curved TVs at the show and there were flat TVs at the show. Samsung showed off an 85-inch TV that went from flat to curved and back again on the fly. Read more here.
Best Food Deal on the Show Floor: Banana
Bottle of water? Three bucks. Mediocre burger? Nine bucks. Coffee? At least double what you’d pay just about anywhere else. The lowly banana, however, provided a healthy energy boost for the low, low price of $1.50. Call it supply and demand: There weren’t too many people standing in line to eat fresh fruit, so bananas were easy to grab and even easier on the wallet.
Best Tagline: Mrice
Mrice, a Chinese company showing off Bluetooth speakers in its booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall, had signage with its slogan: “Change is Chance.” I’m not sure what that means, but it’s refreshingly cryptic and scary.
Most Promising TV Tech: Dolby Vision
Forget 4K and curved displays; Dolby Vision is the kind of leap forward you can actually notice, with much richer colors, deeper blacks and brighter whites. Of course, Dolby will need to drum up support from content creators, and TV makers aren’t even talking about prices, but at least you’ll feel like you’ll feel like it’s worth the money when the technology is ready.
Best Way to Spend $8,000: Sleep Number x12 Bed
There are a lot of insanely expensive luxury items at this show – mostly gigantic TVs or futuristic cars that none of us are ever going to buy. But a connected smart-bed with sleep analysis features, full-body massage, ambient lighting, independent firmness levels and a button to get your partner to stop snoring? That’s got me trying to figure out how I’m going to move some money around. Read more here.
Best Act of Sincerity by a CEO: Kaz Hirai, Sony
When I asked Sony CEO Kaz Hirai what he thought of curved TV sets, I thought he might avoid saying anything nice: After all, they were the centerpiece of archrival Samsung’s CES news and Sony doesn’t have any curved 4K models yet. (It does offer one curved HD model.) But rather than downplaying its importance or being non-commital, Hirai told me he’s a fan of the technology.
Best Resurrection: LG WebOS TV
LG has finally shown what it’s been doing with WebOS, the left-for-dead smartphone software that was the talk of CES five years ago. LG’s acquisition from HP now looks like it was made for TVs all along, with a responsive interface, fast app-switching and some clever interaction with smartphones and tablets. WebOS will appear on 70 percent of LG’s smart TVs this year. Read more here.
Best Craps Table: New York, New York
After yours truly went on an hour-long run with the dice, the three of us walked off with a collective $1,000+ in winnings. The kicker? Harry and I didn’t even know how to play craps. Jared had the brains, I had the touch, and Harry brought a heaping helping of good luck.
Best Fuzzy-Math Claim: T-Mobile
T-Mobile plastered the Renaissance Hotel, across from the Las Vegas Convention Center, with a giant banner proclaiming itself to be “America’s #1 choice in wireless.” A footnote explained that the boast was based on the net recent increase in its subscriber count, but it must still have come as a shock to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint — all of which have more customers than T-Mobile.
Best Appeal to Be Bought by Apple: World’s Smallest Laptop Adapter by Finsix
By leveraging what can only be described as alien technology sent to Earth through a wormhole, a bunch of MIT geniuses developed a universal laptop power adapter that can fit in your pocket. They then showed it off at CES dwarfed by a MacBook power brick, instantly making the MacBook power brick look like the most un-cool product in Apple’s entire lineup.
Just one small but enormous problem: Apple won’t license its magnetic connector to anyone, so this thing is PC-only until further notice. Sure, Apple could change its mind and make a one-time exception, but buying the world’s smallest laptop adapters outright, making them Mac-only and packaging them with the world’s coolest laptops* might prove to be too much for Apple to pass up. (*I use a PC. Don’t yell at me for typing that.) Read more here.
Best Act of Passive-Aggressive Marketing: Klipsch
Audio company Klipsch marketed its wares on signage bearing such heartwarming sentiments as “Stop buying crap audio. It’s embarrassing.” and “Pissing off the neighbors since 1946.”
Best-Looking Steam Machine: Alienware
We thought Valve might steal CES by showing off the first batch of Steam Machine game consoles, but those feelings faded when no one showed their hardware in working order. Still, it’s encouraging to see some companies working on smaller Steam Machines that look more like game consoles than full-blown PC rigs, and Alienware’s little box is the best-looking of the group. Look for it in the second half of this year. Read more here.
Best Burger: Peanut Butter Crunch Burger, Pub 1842 in the MGM Grand
There are only two non-human things I love unconditionally in this world: good beer and good burgers. And I’ve had more than a few $20 burgers that haven’t even come close to living up to their price tags. The Peanut Butter Crunch Burger is not one of those burgers.
This burger scared the hell out of me on paper – I’m a bacon/cheddar/fried egg man – but it just worked somehow. Peanut butter, bacon jam, pimento cheese and chips? All on a burger? It makes no sense at all. But it tasted outrageous. I’m going to eat this burger once a year, every year. No more, no less.
Best Inducement to Pay for Hotel Wi-Fi: 4G Dead Zones
In my room at the Encore on the Strip, both my Verizon iPhone and AT&T iPad reported decent LTE signal strength — but couldn’t get online, period. I wasn’t surprised: Hotel-room communications have always been painful at Vegas tech shows, dating back to the days when I tried to use my dial-up modem at places like the Sahara and got nothing but busy signals.
Most Swearing in a Press Conference: John Legere, T-Mobile
If not for the ridiculously uncomfortable seating (low-to-the-ground cubes with no back support – whyyyy?!) T-Mobile’s press conference could have been confused for open mic night at a moderately popular comedy club. CEO John Legere pulls no punches when talking about his competitors, and takes extra special pleasure in skewering AT&T. The Verge has put together a nice five-minute cut of T-Mobile’s presser, though the swearing contained within it was only the tip of the iceberg.
Best Wacky Technological Demo: Toshiba
Toshiba showed off a Fitbit-like fitness tracker it’s thinking of building. That’s not newsworthy in itself. But this one synced wirelessly with a special bathroom mirror tricked out to display stats on your activities, so you can monitor your well-being while brushing your teeth.
Best TV Innovation Not Involving Curved Screens: Sony
Sony gave a preview of a short-throw projector TV that can sit right up against a wall and cast a high-quality 147-inch 4K image on it. It would be the perfect solution for cramped apartments — if it weren’t for the fact that the company plans to charge $30,000 to $40,000 for it when it ships this summer.