WELCOME TO OUR CES 2021 liveblog! The WIRED crew isn’t in Las Vegas this year; the show was moved online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But even a global health emergency can’t stop the march of consumer technology. There are still plenty of gadgets, apps, electric vehicles, smart-home appliances, brain-training headsets, and Alexa-powered workout gear to tell you about. This liveblog is the place where we’ll report all of our findings. We’ll have videos, photos, written dispatches, and, of course, more than a few lulz.
Updated Tuesday, January 12: The first day of the first all-digital CES was pretty fun, and Day 2 is just getting started. The whole Gear team will be updating this blog today with more highlights from the show. New updates will load at the top of the page.
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Lenovo Still Loves E Ink
Lenovo is doubling down on its unusual E Ink laptop, the ThinkBook Plus 2. Unveiled at CES last year, The ThinkBook Plus is normal laptop on the inside, but instead of a logo on the lid, Lenovo slapped on an 11-inch black-and-white E Ink display. Think of it as a Kindle on top of your laptop. The ThinkBook Plus 2 ups the size and resolution of the E Ink to a 12-inch display at 2,560 x 1,600 pixels—the same resolution as the IPS display on the other side. That gives you even more room to jot notes (automatically saved to the desktop), see your calendar at a glance, or read an ebook. The ThinkBook Plus 2 will be available in the first quarter of 2021, starting at $1,549.
Lenovo has also updated its ThinkBook 14P and 16P, which run on the just-announced AMD Ryzen mobile processors. In a sign of the times, they are specifically optimized for video conferencing with Full HD webcams, and an AI-based noise cancellation algorithm to suppress ambient noise when you’re in a video chat.
Dell’s Massive 40-Inch Widescreen Monitor
It’s a fitting time to release bigger widescreens, given how woefully aware many of us have become of our home computers’ screen real estate in the past year. Dell’s biggest model for 2021 is 40 inches, with an astonishing 5,120 x 2,160 pixel resolution.
You can put about four full-sized browser windows side-by-side on this curved behemoth, no problem. It’s a huge screen, so big that some might ditch two full-sized monitors for a single one of these. You can even charge your computer through it, thanks to a Thunderbolt 3 port. There’s no word yet on pricing, but expect this bad boy to cost a pretty penny. I can’t wait to see this thing in person.
Just Let Me Relax My Troubles Away in Kohler’s Stillness Bath
Let not the bathroom be neglected! In the urge to improve every square inch of the space you’ve inhabited for the last 10 months, Kohler has debuted a bathtub that seems designed expressly for the purpose of making every tense, stressed-out gadget writer sulk, simmering in thwarted desire.
The Stillness Bath is a Japanese-style square soaking bath that has elements of a luxury infinity pool. It’s wreathed in hinoki wood and of course it’s smart, so you can fill it at your preferred temperature, turn on atmospheric lights, or dispense soothing essential oils at a soft command.
Fog and water spill over the sides, creating an ultimately false sensation of peace and abundance that will probably dissipate once you process that this tub costs a cool $16,000. It won’t be available until October 2021, so hopefully we’ll all be a little more relaxed by then—tub or no tub.
Stern Pinball Shows Led Zeppelin a Whole Lotta Love
The last of the great pinball manufacturers, Stern makes machines with modern themes like last year’s Stranger Things to old school classics like that campy Batman show. But the company’s real forte is music machines. Whether it’s The Beatles or Iron Maiden, each machine is chock full of meticulous details that’ll make any fan swoon.
Stern’s latest entry is a triple threat of Led Zeppelin nostalgia. There are three editions, each complete with real concert clips and all the glamor and bombastic lighting of a live show. Rock along to classics like “Immigrant Song” and “Kashmir” as you roll through replicas of the band’s iconography like a prominent winged Icarus logo and the legendary Zeppelin itself.
A Heads-Up for Drivers
Vehicle heads-up displays (HUDs) have been around for years in select car models, but they typically only splash a minor bit of information onto the windshield in front of the driver—speed, engine RPM, and, maybe, rudimentary arrows for navigation directions—and cover only a small area of the glass.
Today, Panasonic Automotive showed off its 4K-resolution AR HUD, which covers a much larger section of the windshield and mixes two-dimensional information such as vehicle speed, speed limit, and fuel range in the near-field view with three-dimensional overlays of navigation directions in the far-field view, which appear to be cast spatially onto the road ahead. If you’re navigating somewhere, it’ll look like an overlaid 3D blue line is actually painted onto the road surface of the path you’re supposed to take. For those of us who’ve ever heard Siri shout “turn right” and not known which of the two close-together roads she means, 3D navigation sounds like a welcome relief.
Bicyclists are recognized by the AR HUD and tagged with an attention-grabbing yellow bicyclist symbol on the display to make sure you see them. It’ll also highlight lane markers, objects in the road, and collisions ahead. The AR HUD has a 180-degree field of vision that can see 90 meters ahead across three lanes, and it can detect and display new information in under 300 milliseconds.
Just What You Need: A Matcha Tea Machine
Fans of the most elegant form of Japanese green tea will be excited to see the Cuzen Matcha machine, which reduces the entire teahouse prep cycle to the press of a button. You pour matcha tea leaves into the top of the machine where a ceramic grinder pulverizes them and turns them into the fine powder needed to properly brew matcha. The powder falls into the waiting cup of hot water, where a magnetic whisk whirrs the water around and whips the powdered matcha into a frothy, grassy brew.
A single-use specialty device like this raises one question: Is prepping matcha by hand using powdered tea leaves and a bamboo whisk really difficult or time-consuming enough to warrant machine automation? The answer is no. There are a great many machines at CES that tackle similarly easy tasks, when in fact there’s usually nothing overly difficult or time-consuming about the age-old method.
Maybe this one warrants a closer look. Freshly ground tea (much like freshly ground coffee beans) tastes better than pre-ground tea, but I can’t tell you if the matcha the Cuzen makes is any better than traditional handmade matcha. I look forward to testing it. Or you can go ahead and try it out yourself by buying one for three hundred and sixty-nine dollars.
The Cuzen Matcha machine is available here.
A Lot of Filmmakers May Use This Camera
Panasonic today touted its new BGH1 Micro Four Thirds camera as “the first micro four thirds camera approved by Netflix.” The box-shaped camera may become one of the go-to device for filmmakers.
It’s an order of magnitude cheaper than the popular Red Camera, and smaller and lighter, too. It has the kinds of specs filmmakers need with support for 10-bit 4:2:0 4K/60p, as well as 10-bit 4:2:2 4K video. There’s also support for all the industry standard gamma curves like BR.2100, V-Log L, and HLG. Perhaps most impressive though is the heat dispersion system, which Panasonic claims allows for unlimited recording time.
The Panasonic BGH1 is available now for $2,000.
Alarm.com’s Flex IO Sensor Lets You Keep an Eye on Nearly Everything
I’m quite intrigued by Alarm.com’s Flex IO security sensor. It uses LTE-M technology, so it works wherever there is LTE coverage—no need for a hub or Wi-Fi, and it’s weatherproof.
The magnetic sensors can be attached to things like windows, gates, barns, and chicken coop doors—basically anywhere traditional security sensors work—and a few places they normally don’t. There is also a loop option that monitors freestanding items like bikes, tools, and other supplies where an open-close sensor won’t work. You’ll get notified via the Alarm.com app if someone is creeping on your property at night trying to jack your motorcycle or set your chickens free, whatever it is people do.
You can set up rules, like being notified if something is opened during a certain time of day, or if something is left open past a certain time (like post-sunset if we’re still talking about chickens). If you have an Alarm.com camera, you can set up a rule to trigger video, too. The company says the sensors have an expected battery life of more than two years.
The Flex IO sensor is available now for $130. There is a monthly fee of $10 – $15 for the first unit.
Otterbox Is Getting into Gaming Accessories
As if you needed any more proof that 2020 was the year that we all got into gaming, outdoor lifestyle manufacturer Otterbox recently debuted a complete line of Xbox gaming products, ranging from a mobile gaming clip to attach your phone to your controller, to a controller shell, carrying case, and antimicrobial screen guard that you can stick on your phone. This collaboration makes complete sense. We already trust Otterbox to protect our food and phones in the wilderness, so why not our controllers?
Learn more about Otterbox’s gaming products here. They start going up for preorder January 25.
HP’s Latest 2-in-1 Laptop Is ARM-Based—And Definitely Not Leather
A couple years ago, HP tried to shake up the luxury laptop market by introducing its $1,300, leather-wrapped HP Spectre Folio. It was an odd move, considering leather is a weighty material and likely to upset those concerned about animal rights. But the laptop maker, one of the world’s largest, has come around. At the virtual CES this year HP is unveiling the Elite Folio, a new, 13.5-inch convertible laptop wrapped in “vegan leather.” Perhaps even more notably, it will run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8CX Gen 2 5G compute system when it ships, meaning it’s an ARM-based, always-connected laptop and should get spectacular battery life. The downside to ARM, judging by Microsoft’s own Surface Pro X, is that the Folio won’t be able to run some types of Windows 10 apps. We don’t have pricing info for it yet.
The HP Envy 14 will also get a significant overhaul this year to include a new 16: 10 1080p multi-touch IPS display. That extra screen height (compared with 16:9) doesn’t sound like much, but in our experience it’s nice to have. The screen also offers better color accuracy, a trend we’re excited to see a number of manufacturers embracing this year.
—Lauren Goode and Scott Gilbertson
For an Incredibly Precise High
Consuming cannabis isn’t too difficult:
You take a hit from your pen or bowl, munch on the recommended amount of an edible, or swallow a few drops of oil.
Then you either feel good and stop consuming it, or you repeat steps 1 and 2. In the event that you consume too much, you take a nap and consume less next time. Mode, a smart cannabis device unveiled at CES today, adds some data to the dosage.
Compatible with threaded 510 oil cartridges, this $100 gadget allows users to select a dose ranging from 1 to 5 milligrams. Haptic feedback tells you when to inhale and exhale (something Dosist does for less dough), and because it’s 2021, there’s a companion smartphone app to help you track how much weed you’re smoking and how various strains make you feel.
A device like Mode could be helpful for folks who don’t consume cannabis to get high, but rather for specific goals like pain management or curbing anxiety, and need accurate dosing and record-keeping.
Of course, you could dose more accurately on your own without spending a Franklin, and you can probably figure out how long to wait before exhaling on your own, too. Asking your local dispensary’s budtender for strain suggestions or taking some notes on your consumption might be worth trying first.
Mode is available for pre-order now. Devices are expected to ship in the first half of 2021.
C by GE Renames Itself Cync, Makes More Smart Home Stuff
The former C by GE brand is now Cync, having been sold to Savant. Any current C by GE products you might own, like its smart plugs and smart lights will, according to the company, seamlessly transition to the new Cync app in March.
The new app will supposedly offer more personalization options like the ability to preview color and brightness using a photo of your room. This could potentially be useful for scheduling purposes, or if you’re trying to plan a post-Covid party (whenever that is).
Cync is also releasing an indoor camera that looks small and unassuming from what I can tell. I particularly like that you can turn it off and on by simply switching the camera face up or pushing it down. It’s nice to know that it’s really off when you see that orange color (as shown in the photo above). An outdoor smart plug with two outlets and a fan speed smart switch are also coming.
A Fully Stocked Soundbar
I always recommend people hook up a subwoofer and surround speakers to their televisions if possible, but sometimes an all-in-one soundbar is all you can fit in your space. That’s where new bars like the JBL Bar 5.0 are really breaking new ground. This single soundbar uses JBL’s proprietary technology to bounce sound around your TV room, and it’s able to simulate true Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound without a single extra speaker. It’s even compatible with Alexa, Google Chromecast, and Apple AirPlay, for all your streaming needs. If you’ve been trying to better enjoy films in a tiny quarantined apartment, this might be the best option around.
Ampere’s Bluetooth Shower Speaker Is Powered by Water
Have you ever wished your showerhead could pump out water and tunes at the same time? No? Well, accessory-maker Ampere’s Shower Power does exactly that. The shower head is compatible with most plumbing, and the affixed speaker pairs with your phone over Bluetooth. Don’t worry, there’s no need to plug the shower head into an outlet. The whole thing is powered by the very water that moves through it. As a bonus, the plastic parts are made from recycled ocean plastic. It was funded on Indiegogo in late 2020 and is expected to ship this May for $100.
This Fridge Makes Spherical Ice Balls
LG showed off a new “side-by-side” refrigerator at CES this year. The thing most people are talking about is the fact that the fridge has a glass panel on the main door, and you can knock on the glass to turn on an interior light and see what’s inside.
But that’s not the true innovation. The only thing you need to know about the new LG fridge is that it includes a mechanism that makes spherical “craft ice.” Yes, the freezer’s ice maker can pump out boring cubes and pedestrian pebbles, but it can also make slow-melting ice balls that you can put into your glass of whiskey or bourbon for a more delicious beverage that’s less watered down. The ice balls don’t drop out of the dispenser nozzle. That sounds too dangerous. You just open the door and reach into the bin where they appear … automatically. The march of human progress.
Samsung Wants to Fill Your Home With Robots
I’ve been watching all the Star Wars movies and shows with my partner. (I know, I know, I’m 43 years too late.) If there’s one thing Star Wars does well, it’s make droids look helpful—and a bit chatty. At CES, Samsung introduced three droids of its own to make your life easier, though it’s unclear if they will actually hit stores.
Here’s one that will! The JetBot 90 AI+ is going to be available this year. It’s a security camera and robot vacuum in one that uses object recognition and sensors to clean efficiently without snagging cables or other objects.
Samsung’s really exciting bots (in theory) are the Bot Care5 and Bot Handy6, though. The former is a personal assistant that can become familiar with your daily routine and keep you on top of your schedule. The latter is, dare I say cute, with the ability to load dishes into the dishwasher or pour you a glass of wine. Hello, Rosey?
You can see more of Samsung’s bots here.
Acer Sticks by Its Chromebooks
Acer has announced a slew of new notebooks, including the Chromebook 514, which uses AMD’s Ryzen 3000 C-series processor. This is the first AMD-based Chromebook from Acer and the first of many AMD-based Chromebooks we expect to see this year.
It’s a solid contender to replace our favorite Acer Chromebook, the Chromebook 714. The new Chromebook 514 will go on sale in mid-February.
BioMilq’s Lab-Grown Human Milk Is Tailored to Your Baby
Breastfeeding my two children was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. (I was pumping and storing milk in the mini fridge at CES one year.) As a mother, it was a top priority for me that my children get the best food possible in their first year of life—but as a working mom, all that nursing, pumping, and storing food from my own body was logistically inconvenient and physically difficult.
So it’s no exaggeration to say that BioMilq would have been life-changing. The company collects a woman’s mammary epithelial cells while she’s expecting and cultivates them at their facility. When the cells are ready, they’re stimulated to produce personalized human milk for the infant and sent back to the mother. In June, the startup raised $3.5 million to optimize production and expand the team, hopefully bringing better feeding options to parents everywhere.
Like to Run in the Dark? These Earbuds Reflect Light
JBL’s new Reflect Mini NC TWS earbuds are designed for those of us who like to run in the morning or at dusk. They have a reflective coating on the outside of each earbud that’s like the bright paint you see on the white lines of the road, so cars and cyclists can see you while you’re busting through the miles. They also cancel noise, have an IPX7 water-resistance rating, will last up to 7 hours outside of their case, and are compatible with Google and Alexa smart assistants.
The Reflect Mini NC earbuds cost $150 and are available now. We have not yet tried them and do not know how effective the reflective coating is, but we have liked other JBL wireless earbuds.
V-Moda Finally Adds Noise Canceling to Its Headphones
I’ve been a fan of V-Moda’s jagged Italian designs and durable metal components for years, and I expect the M-200—the company’s first ever noise-canceling headphones—to be no different. The new model borrows its design from the company’s older over-ears, with customizable faceplates for the outside of each ear cup, and the same rounded hexagonal design we’ve come to expect from the brand.
Below the surface, they have custom-tuned 40-mm drivers, and a Bose-matching 20 hours of battery life to get you from here to there. Time will tell how they stack up to the ever growing mountain of noise-canceling models, but given its track history, I’d bet these will be among the year’s best.
V-Moda’s M-200 ANC are available to order for $500.
This Snap-On iPhone Stand Is so Stinking Cute
Moft (or “Mobile Office for Travelers”) is one of our favorite companies for making affordable, invisible accessories that are both incredibly useful and so simple that you slap your forehead in astonishment that you hadn’t thought of it before. We’re not traveling very much right now, but I’m anticipating that many will still find this snap-on stand for the iPhone very useful. It has a three-magnet design that can prop up your phone in portrait, landscape, or floating mode. It also holds up to three credit cards, and you can attach it to sticky magnet pads that you place around your house to record your weird and lonely kitchen TikToks.
Julian recently recommended it in our Best iPhone 12 Accessories guide, but it’s new to me, so I’m including it!
It’s a Rollable Computer Chessboard
“It’s Wizard’s Chess!” were the first words out of my mouth when I saw Square Off’s automated chessboard a few years ago. You play against built-in artificial intelligence, and the pieces move to the squares on their own via a mechanized magnetic system inside the board. It also connects to services like Chess.com, allowing you to physically play with millions of users around the world rather than relying on a touchscreen app.
Square Off’s latest is a rollable, battery-operated chessboard minus the automatic movements. It’s not as fun, since the pieces don’t move by themselves, but it makes it easy to transport and play against anyone online while at the park—perfect if you just finished watching The Queen’s Gambit.
If you want the magical self-moving pieces, Square Off’s crowdfunded Neo chessboard is finally shipping this June. It’s a lighter, faster, and cheaper version of the original. There’s also the Swap, which is a board that lets you play chess, checkers, halma, and Connect 4 all on the same board.
LG’s OLED TVs Are Ready to Shine Bright
One of the biggest issues with OLED (organic LED) TVs is how bright they’re able to get. With each pixel acting as its own backlight, they look stunning in darker rooms, but if you like watching TV with the curtains open, you’re better off getting a traditional LED TV. LG’s newest flagship TV line will combat this problem with a new technology called OLED Evo. The bad news? These will probably command a hyper-premium price, at least this year.
To help bridge the gap between the expensive OLED TVs and more affordable offerings from competitors like Samsung, Vizio, and TCL, LG has also announced a new LED TV line. QNED TVs (not quite the same as QLED due to the inclusion of LG’s nanocell technology) will feature multizone backlighting and quantum color, for better performance even in brighter spaces.
Time to Recharge … Your Face Mask
Surely we’ve all had the experience over the past 10 months of trying to take a phone call while wearing a protective face mask, and sounding garbled the whole time. (And if you haven’t been wearing a face mask out in public, well, you should.) Hong Kong–based electronics company Binatone thinks it has a solution.
A product called MaskFone—which was teased last fall but is making its “official debut” during CES this week—combines a machine-washable fabric mask with an N95 filter, a built-in microphone, and attached earbuds, so you can pop them in as needed and experience clearer-sounding phone calls. If you don’t want earbuds dangling alongside your mask when they’re not in use, you can attach them to the mask’s magnetized cable clip. And if you sync the mask to Binafone’s mobile app, Hubble Connected, you can bark your Alexa or Google Assistant commands directly into your mask.
This possibly over-engineered mask costs $50, and it comes with three PM 2.5 filters. Replacement packs will run you $20. It’s available for order now, but we have not tested it.
Qualcomm Sizes Up Its Fingerprint Sensors
A lot of phones now use fingerprint sensors embedded beneath their displays, but those sensors still aren’t as reliable as tried-and-true capacitive sensors that you see on the back or sides of phones. Qualcomm’s solution: bigger sensors. Its new second-generation 3D Sonic Sensor is up to 50 percent faster and 77 percent larger than before, so it can collect 1.7 times more biometric data from your fingertip. It sounds small, but that larger surface area for your thumb could make a huge difference. It’ll be inside select phones launching in early 2021.
Last week, Qualcomm also announced the Snapdragon 480 5G chip, bringing 5G connectivity to one of its most affordable processor lineups. Its 4-series chips usually power sub-$200 phones and tablets, and you can expect the 480 5G to crop up in such devices very soon.
Ready for a Car With an All-Screen Dashboard?
Who needs buttons when you have screens? Debuting on the Mercedes-Benz EQS electric luxury sedan this year, the MBUX Hyperscreen is a 55.5-inch-wide display that spans the entire dashboard. It’s made up of three haptic OLED touchscreens under one continuous piece of Corning Gorilla glass. The driver and front passenger each get a wide 12- by 3-inch screen, with an 18-inch screen between them for navigation, HVAC controls, smartphone messaging, and media controls. The passenger display can play video, and the driver display shows gauges and all the info you’d expect, such as the remaining range on the electric vehicle.
Mercedes’ press briefing also showed off a UFO graphic that zooms around on the display to demonstrate the g-force the car is undergoing in real-time. Why they chose to measure g-force, I don’t know. Automakers already struggle to keep the driver’s information feed easy to understand, and drivers don’t need to know g-forces. Hopefully it can be disabled.
The MBUX Hyperscreen was created entirely in-house by Mercedes-Benz, and it requires eight CPU cores (processor unknown) and 24 GB of RAM to power it. The tech will trickle to other Mercedes models after its debut on the EQS, assuming buyers really do want an all-touch interface.
Learn more about the MBUX Hyperscreen here.
Philips Is All In on Teeth and Sleep
Philips generally makes powerful and sleek electric toothbrushes, and like most toothbrush companies as of late, it’s been incorporating smart features into them. Its newest is the Sonicare 9900 Prestige, with auto-syncing so you don’t have to have an app open every time you brush (something we saw and loved with the Colgate Hum). It also claims to personalize your brushing experience, by sensing your technique and adapting in real time. So if you tend to apply too much pressure, it can automatically adjust the intensity.
Philips also has a tele-dentistry service, so you can get answers to your tooth concerns without venturing into the Covid-infested world.
If you care more about your sleep, the company also debuted a sleep apnea symptoms quiz and mask selector at CES. Patients get a photo taken of their face that will determine the best mask for them to wear, which will hopefully make sleeping in a comic-book-villain-style mask a bit more comfortable. However, that will have to be done at a participating location, which might not be available to everyone.
Cobalt-Free Batteries Are Coming
Today at CES, Panasonic touted new batteries with less than 5 percent cobalt and pledged to work toward cobalt-free batteries “in the next few years.”
Lithium-ion batteries power nearly every gadget you own, but chances are you don’t know much about what’s inside your battery. Lithium batteries don’t just contain lithium, they also use cobalt as a cathode material within the battery. Today well over half of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and numerous investigations have found child labor and dangerous working conditions rife within the cobalt supply chain.
Panasonic is one of the largest lithium-ion battery producers in the world and supplies the cells for Tesla’s battery packs.
Belkin’s Linksys Hones in on Wi-Fi 6E
Last year was all about Wi-Fi 6, but in 2021, Wi-Fi 6E is all the rage. It’s a huge update that adds the 6-gigahertz spectrum on top of the existing 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands, allowing for less congestion and faster speeds. You need new hardware, but Belkin-owned Linksys says its new Wi-Fi 6E mesh router (the Linksys Velop AXE8400, $450) employs all three bands for speedy performance with any device, even ones without Wi-Fi 6E support. Debuting alongside it is an update to the Linksys Aware app, which now takes advantage of Wi-Fi-connected smart home devices (in homes with an existing Linksys Wi-Fi 5 router) for precise room-by-room motion sensing.
Belkin also has new hardware of its own, the Soundform True Wireless Earbuds with respectable specs, including eight-hour battery life (20 or more in the wireless charging case), environmental noise cancellation, in-ear detection, and IPX5 sweat and splash resistance—and the Boost Charge Pro 2-in-1 Wireless Charger Stand with MagSafe ($100). You can attach an iPhone 12 to it in a vertical or horizontal orientation, and recharge another device, like AirPods Pro, at the base. Both the earbuds and the charger are set to launch in March or April.
Confused about Wi-Fi 6E? Mike explains it below!
What the Heck Is Wi-Fi 6E?
You may see news announcements coming out of CES touting a gadget’s “Wi-Fi 6E” capability. And you may have also heard of Wi-Fi 6, the new wireless standard. So you might be wondering: what’s the difference between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E?
There’s no difference! Wi-Fi 6E is just the branding the consumer tech industry has adopted to indicate that the device in question has all of the chips and radios necessary to give it the latest Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.
Wi-Fi 6E is a new standard for home networking gadgets—routers, security cameras, internet-connected doorbells—that allows these devices to utilize the 6-GHz wireless spectrum. The wireless router you’re using right now likely has the ability to use the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands. These new Wi-Fi 6E devices can also access the 6-GHz band, which the FCC recently cleared for consumer use. That extra chunk of wireless band should help make your home network less congested, so traffic can flow more smoothly among all the phones, computers, smart speakers, and streaming boxes currently competing for your poor little router’s attention. This new 6-GHz band is also a higher-bandwidth slice of the wireless spectrum, so Wi-Fi 6E devices can send stronger, faster signals that contain more information.
It’s a great development, but don’t be confused by the branding. If you see Wi-Fi 6E, it’s the wireless boost you’ve been waiting for. Just know that while older devices can connect to a new Wi-Fi 6E router, only Wi-Fi 6E devices will be able to communicate with it on that newer, faster wireless band. (You saw that part coming, right?) Also, if you already invested in Wi-Fi 6 hardware, you will need to check to see if it meets the Wi-Fi 6E standard now rolling out across the industry.
Lenovo Has a Cheap New Android Tablet
On paper, this Lenovo tablet looks like a run-of-the-mill Android tablet, but what makes it stand out is its $230 price tag. For this low price, you get a high-res IPS LCD 11-inch display, the Snapdragon 662 chip with LTE connectivity, 6 gigabytes of RAM, and quad speakers with Dolby Atmos. Also included is Google’s Kids Space, a customizable tablet experience for kids.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay extra for accessories like the pressure-sensitive stylus, keyboard with trackpad, and dock. It’s available this month.
The P11 is on Lenovo’s site.
TCL Continues Its Push into Mobile
You know TCL for its TVs, but it’s also nurturing an up-and-coming platform of mobile devices. It showed two concept devices at CES: a somewhat normal-looking phone with an AMOLED screen that can be rolled out vertically to increase the screen size (up to 6.7 inches), and a cylindrical tube you can open up like a papyrus scroll to view a 17-inch OLED rollable display. It’s unclear whether these will launch this year, but TCL says it will release a foldable or rollable of some type in 2021.
It also has more traditional line of smartphones. There are five upcoming models, and we know a bit about two of them: TCL 20 SE has a Snapdragon 460 chip inside with a 5,000-mAh battery, ensuring long battery life; the TCL 20 5G’s Snapdragon 690 processor enables 5G connectivity—admirable specs considering the respective 149 and 299 euro price tags (around $181 and $364). TCL hasn’t confirmed if these will launch in the US (hence the euro prices), but at least one from the lineup will at some point.
Among a slew of other products, like wireless earbuds and a pet tracker, are two new tablets. The TCL Tab 10S is the only one announced to come to the US (in March), featuring a model with LTE connectivity (around $300). But the Nxtpaper is more interesting. It has a glare-free IPS full-color display that’s paper-like with no backlight. That means you can’t view the screen without some kind of ambient light nearby. TCL says this is meant to protect eyes by limiting exposure to blue light and flicker.
Targus’ Has the Pandemic In Mind With Its Latest Gear
Do you find yourself shifting between the home office and your company’s actual office during the pandemic? Targus has a modular backpack for you. Dubbed the 2Office Antimicrobial Backpack ($120), its roomy size and many compartments allow you to transport your entire desk setup from the office to home (or vice versa). That includes fitting a full-size keyboard, a mousepad, laptop, all your power cables, a lunchbox, and more. There’s even an antimicrobial-infused protective finish on several touchpoints, meaning fewer germs residing on the backpack (though that won’t protect you from Covid-19).
Targus’ UV-C LED Disinfection Light ($299) is another product made for the times we’re in. It emits ultraviolet-C light, which has the potential to inactivate the coronavirus, according to the FDA, but research is extremely limited and it requires the right circumstances. This light is designed for use on peripherals like keyboards and mice.
Targus also is leaning on its partnership with Samsung for a new USB-C dock ($110) you can tote around instead of a laptop. It triggers DeX mode on select Samsung phones, the company’s desktop mode when you connect an external display. It has several ports so you can attach headphones, peripherals, Ethernet, a monitor, and an SD card.
LG Teases a Rollable Phone
At the kickoff of LG’s virtual CES press conference, the company teased a rollable smartphone without actually mentioning it. In the video, a person watching the press event we’re watching (meta) held a phone as the screen rolled out, enabling a larger viewing area. There was nothing else distinguishable about the phone. This is likely an upcoming phone in LG’s Explorer Project, an initiative to make wacky phones different from the usual rectangular slabs, like the LG Wing and its rotating screen. This new rollable, which LG aptly named LG Rollable at the end of its presentation, could also just be a concept, but this is the second time LG has teased it.
LG has demoed a rollable TV before, which went on sale last year. TCL also showed a rollable phone prototype in 2020, and more concepts at its 2021 press event today.
You may wonder why anyone would want a rollable phone. The idea is, you get the benefit of a foldable display (a much larger screen) without the tremendous bulk. The extra screen real estate can be helpful for watching videos, running split-screen apps, or playing games. Also, it’s just damn cool.
TCL’s 6-Series Aims to Keep Its TV Crown with 8K
While I have yet to see the new TCL 6 Series in person, on paper it seems entirely possible it will once again be the best TV you can buy in 2021. The company has again packed an astonishing amount of tech into what we hope will be a sub-$1,000 TV model.
This year’s 6-Series will once again feature Mini LED backlighting, but the big news is that they will likely be the cheapest TV yet to feature 8K resolution. There isn’t much 8K content yet, but the added pixels, and associated upscaling, should be noticeable, especially on TVs 65 inches and above, which is one of the fastest-growing market segments according to insiders. TCL also announced a new line it calls the XL Series, which features 85-inch versions of its other models.
Motorola Refreshes Its G-Series Affordable Phones
Motorola has four new budget phones for your pickings: The Moto G Stylus ($300), Moto G Power ($250), Moto G Play ($170), and Motorola One 5G Ace ($400). The G-series phones are very minor updates over the 2020 versions. Each has a different Qualcomm Snapdragon processor inside but they all should perform well enough. It’s the big batteries that make them stand out—all of these phones will easily last two days, if not more. If you’re looking for a phone with a few extra perks, that’s where the new One 5G Ace steps in. It adds 5G connectivity, NFC for Google Pay, and much smoother performance.
Unfortunately, these phones all launch with the year-old Android 10 and will only get one update to Android 11 (which Google released last September). You’ll still get two years of security updates.
We will test the new lineup, but I stand by our current Best Cheap Phone picks.
Lora DiCarlo Rolls Out New ‘Heated’ Sex Toys
The sex toy manufacturer Lora DiCarlo, co-helmed by actress Cara Delevigne, is introducing three new toys this year, each of which will feature all-new heating technology to warm things up in the bedroom. The three toys are non-phallic in design, and use a nylon-based thermal conductive polymer to create a consistently body-warming intimate experience.
The collection includes Drift, a warming bullet vibrator; Tilt, a warming vibrating butt plug; and Sway, a dual vibration warming massager (it vibrates on both ends for you and a partner!).
Car Code Bloat
At its CES press event, Bosch highlighted a stat worth thinking about. The typical car had 10 million lines of code back in 2010. Today, it has 100 million lines of code. By comparison, the entire kernel for the Linux operating system had 27.8 million lines as of 2020. According to Bosch, a major parts supplier to the automotive industry, it’s heading toward 500 million lines of code as autonomous and semi-autonomous driving technologies move from concept drawing room to production. An average car is now a lot more complex than the operating system in your laptop.
This App Lets You Scan Your Skin for Trouble Areas
Ever spotted a freckle and wondered where it came from? The Miiskin app makes tracking those easy, so you won’t have to think about if a birthmark has grown or changed color—something that can potentially be a sign of skin cancer. While the app itself isn’t new, the company debuted a new feature, Automatic Skin Imaging, which helps you take full body photos while it scans for freckles, moles, and other skin lesions. It’s somewhat similar to getting a body scan at a dermatologist’s office and particularly helpful for places you can’t see, like your back. Just prop your phone up, and the app will walk you through the process.
It isn’t meant to be a replacement for a dermatologist, but it’s a way to bring changes to a doctor to get checked, and an assurance that nothing goes unnoticed. However, it could be incredibly helpful for anyone who can’t afford yearly visits.
The Automatic Skin Imaging feature is available on the app now, and a new mole sizing feature, which measures freckles and moles in comparison to something like a quarter so you can keep track of them, should be released this spring.
The company says that all data and images that you take on the Miiskin app are encrypted and no other app can access these images, which could show you in your underwear as that’s the only way to really see if anything new has popped up. You’ll also be able to blur any parts of the photo you’d like, and you could intentionally keep your face out of frame. The company is also HIPAA compliant.
You can download the Miiskin app here.
Fossil Has New Smartwatches, Sorta
The Fossil Group, which includes watches from a variety of fashion brands like Skagen and Michael Kors, has a slew of smartwatch announcements. Unfortunately, there’s nothing here that’s drastically different from last year’s offerings.
The new Fossil Gen 5 LTE watch, for example, adds LTE connectivity to the Wear OS-powered Fossil Gen 5 that launched in 2020. The new Michael Kors Access Gen 5E is a reskinned version of the Fossil Gen 5E that debuted late last year, and the Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR is the same E Ink watch as the Fossil Hybrid HR with a fresh design. If you were expecting a Fossil Wear OS smartwatch with Qualcomm’s promising new Wear 4100 processor, you’ll have to wait a little longer.
Konka Brings Basic Smart Home Line to North America
The Chinese home entertainment brand Konka is introducing a new line of smart home devices to its North American offerings. With a basic lineup of security cameras, video doorbells, smart plugs, and lights (with some variation in each group), all controlled by a singular app, the company is hoping to make smart home integration simple.
All will work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa and if you have a Konka TV, which were released in the US last year, you can use that as a hub for your smart home devices.
If the price is right when they’re released later this year, the simple lineup could be a solid option for smart home beginners. Some companies offer a dizzying array of products with miniscule differences, but Konka plans to start with just what’s necessary, For example, its smart lighting options include one A19 smart bulb for most light fixtures, a high hat bulb for recessed lighting, and a light strip, recently made popular again by cool TikTok teens. Its lineup also includes some smart TVs, smart doorbells, security cams, and smart plugs.
This Keyboard App Claims to Reduce
Tipos Typos by 80 percent
In July 2020, the Swiss keyboard startup Typewise raised about $1 million for a 100 percent private “next word prediction engine” that would boost productivity by eliminating typos and providing personalized, tailored autocorrecting solutions. That tech is still being developed. But right now, they have an app with a distinctive honeycomb keyboard that they claim is two-thumb-friendly and reduces typos by up to 80 percent.
This will be an interesting space to watch, as small companies raise their slingshots against giants like Apple and Google. But this small, helpful app already has more than 500,000 downloads, which makes it much more real and useful than most of the weird, wacky vaporware that I’m used to seeing at CES. If it can stop constantly replacing all the you-know-whats with “ducking” in my texts, that alone would increase my productivity by at least 50 percent.
You can download Typewise here.
Samsung’s Mini LED Takeover Begins
Samsung’s entire TV line will be getting big upgrades in 2021. First and foremost is the company’s use of Mini LED technology in what it’s calling “Neo QLED.” The tech essentially brings tens of thousands of tiny LEDs into the backlighting system of its top-end TVs—something we’ve already seen from TCL in 2020’s 6-series. This means better blacks and improved contrast. Samsung has also announced a brand new settings menu for new consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, which will make tweaking picture settings a breeze.
On the ultra high-end, Samsung also showcased a brand new 110-inch model that uses a next generation form of Mini LED technology in which each LED pixel acts as its own backlight, similar to the OLED technology we’ve previously seen from LG, but without the hindrances of burn-in, and with the potential for even brighter highlights. We can expect this to be Samsung’s big tech in mainstream (and more normally sized) TVs in a few years’ time, according to a conversation I had with Mike Kadish, Samsung’s head of product marketing. The company also introduced a cool new solar-powered remote, so you’ll never have to search for AAA batteries again.
JLab’s Frames Make Workouts Safer—and Louder
We all like to work out while listening to podcasts and music, but those who spend a ton of time on bikes, runs, or in other shared outdoor spaces know the importance of being able to hear what’s going on around you. That’s where JLab’s new Jbuds Frames come in. The $50 accessory essentially consists of small detachable speakers that can wrap around any pair of glasses. They’re much cheaper than headphones-in-glasses combos we’ve seen before (the Bose Frames come to mind), and they can easily attach to my prescription glasses and shades. Color me excited!
GoSun’s Solar-Powered Purifier Lets You Shower Off-Grid
GoSun’s innovative, solar-powered ovens have long been one of WIRED’s favorite outdoor cooking devices. But in a year wracked by political turmoil, a global plague, and seemingly endless natural disasters, being prepared to live off-grid seems more appealing than ever before. This year, GoSun is launching the Flow, a backpack-sized, solar-powered water purifier that comes with hoses for drinking, bathing, and outdoor cooking.
The Flow joins GoSun’s expanded lineup of solar-powered lights, ovens, coolers, and even a tiny, solar-powered coffee brewer. For less than $2,000, you can put together a complete off-grid living setup in your truck, drinking fresh milk and taking a hot shower every night. And it works whether you’re going stargazing with the kids, or taking off for the hills.
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