And the Award Goes To...
Gear Patrol Award Winners: The Best Products of CES 2018
The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone, and we were on the Las Vegas floor for all of it. Like last year, autonomous-driving cars were a main focus again. Also, Google — specifically its Google Assistant — was everywhere, integrating its “Ok Google” commands into speakers, headphones, televisions and home appliances. Apple’s HomePod was a no-show, unfortunately, but troves of smart home devices announced that they now support HomeKit. Admittedly, a lot of the news was about aspirational products and prototypes — AR glasses, smart refrigerators and super expensive exercise equipment — and you probably won’t be able to (or want to) buy in the next few years.
That said, we walked away from this year’s trade show with a lot of excitement. A number of products really impressed and we can’t wait to test them in the future, whether that’s in the coming days or later in 2018. We’ve given the below products our “Best of CES” stamp of approval, in categories from high-end audio to televisions, cameras to smart homes devices. These are our favorite products from CES 2018.
Audiophile Headphones: Sennheiser HD 820
The just-announced Sennheiser HD 820s are the company’s new flagship studio headphones. Unlike its predecessor, the open-backed HD 800 S, the HD 820s are closed-back headphones that have curved Gorilla Glass-covered transducers. According to Sennheiser, the curved Gorilla glass reflects the sound waves from the rear of the transducer into two absorber chambers, which results in minimal resonance — and ultimately a super realistic and accurate listening experience. For audiophiles, this innovation could be game-changing, giving access to studio-quality audio outside the dead quiet of their house. That said, these innovative headphones will go for a premium. They’ll be available this summer for $2,400.
Best in Cars: Fisker EMotion Electric Car
Capitalism thrives on competition, and it’s about time someone put Tesla in the ring. Henrik Fisker, the man behind iconic vehicles like the BMW Z8 and the Aston Martin DB9, has relaunched his California-based electric car company with a glimpse of a vehicle dubbed EMotion. The vehicle boasts battery tech capable of supporting a top speed of 161 mph and a purported range of 400 miles, which, if true, would make it the farthest-ranging EV yet. Production is slated for 2019, but pre-orders begin on June 30 of this year.
Desktop Audio: Astell&Kern ACRO L1000
We love Astell&Kern for its portable hi-fi music players, which are beautiful and cut out of single slab of aluminum, but this year the company announced something quite different. The ACRO L1000 is the first product in the company’s new desktop audio range. It’s an all-in-one desktop amplifier, headphone amp and DAC that’s made of aluminum. According to What Hi-fi, it’s capable of playing hi-res audio files up to 32bit/384kHz without downsampling, and it also supports native DSD playback (up to 11.2MHz). The standout feature of the ACRO L1000 is its huge volume wheel, which has LED lights that also indicate what kind of sound setting (default, bass-boost, high-gain) you’re using. The ACRO L1000 is available for purchase now.
Best in Smart Speakers: Lenovo Smart Display
This might be the most impressive smart speaker to be integrated with Google Assistant that we saw at this year’s show. It’s an obvious rival to Amazon’s Echo Show, with a tablet display that you can actually watch YouTube on (Google recently dropped YouTube support from all Amazon Echo smart speakers). Lenovo is making two different sized Smart Displays, an 8-inch and a 10-inch — with 1200 x 800 and 1920 x 1200 display resolutions, respectively. If you have a bunch of Nest devices and/or Chromecast speakers, you can expect this Smart Display to work seamlessly with them. You can purchase the 8-inch ($199) and the 10-inch Smart Displays this summer.
Best in Cameras & Lenses: Nikon Nikkor 180-400mm Lens
This is Nikon’s first ever lens to features a built-in teleconverter, allowing it to quickly transition into a 252-560mm lens. Aimed at sports and wildlife photographers, the lens is a master of versatilely. And, according to Digital Trends, you can mount it to a crop sensor DX-format camera and turn into the equivalent of a 270-600mm lens (or 378-840mm lens when the teleconverter switch is flipped). For those intrigued, the lens is expected to cost $12,400, with a March 2018 release date.
Best in Camera Peripheral: DJI Ronin-S
Meet the DJI Ronin-S. It’s the company’s first stabilizer for DSLR and mirrorless cameras that’s meant to be held with one hand. It has a three-axis gimbal to ensure you won’t take blurry photos, even if you’re aggressively moving around. And, according to the company, the gimbal’s high-torque motors will allow it to work with most major cameras, including Canon 5D, Sony Alpha and Panasonic GH systems. Just how easy the Ronin-S will actually work is still up in the air, but judging by DJI’s past Ronin gimbals, we expect this could be a potential home-run for serious photographers.
Best Wireless Headphones: B&O Play H8i and H9i Headphones
B&O Play has updated its H8 on-ear and H9 over-ear wireless headphones. The main difference with new models, the H8i on-ear and H9i over-ear, respectively, is that they both have longer battery lives than their predecessors. The H8i has doubled its battery life, for example, and now promises to get up to 30 hours with active noise-canceling and Bluetooth. The H9i doesn’t quite match that, only getting 18 hours on a single charge, but its battery is swappable. Other updates: the new H9i now supports USB-C charging, while the H8i still uses micro USB. Both have improved Transparency modes and touch gestures as well. You can expect both headphones to be available on January 25.|
Best in Hi-Fi: Technics SP-10R Turntable
Technics is calling the SP-10R its most premium-to-date turntable. It’s a coreless direct drive motor turntable that has a 7kg heavy platter. And, according to the company, it boasts “the most impressive Sound to Noise ratio, rotational stability and flutter, and wow ratio of any of its turntables.” All in all, this is an accurate and super elegant turntable that we can’t wait to test. There’s no exact release date or pricing info yet.
Portable Power: Anker PowerHouse 200
Anker’s original PowerHouse is a beast. The portable generator is perfect for taking on camping trips and keeping your gadgets alive when the power is out. The only real knock against it is price ($500) and size. Now, the company has announced the PowerHouse 200, a smaller and more affordable version of original PowerHouse. It has a 200-watt capacity and weights about seven pounds, making it slightly more reasonable alternative to the 434-watt and 9.4-pound PowerHouse. The PowerHouse 200 will cost $300 and be available this summer.
Televisions: Samsung The Wall TV
The 146-inch “The Wall” TV is a heck of a lot bigger than your average “big” TV. It essentially rivals many of the new and ultra-expensive 4K projectors, which can produce a 150-inch picture. But The Wall TV is different for reasons other than its size. It’s not an LCD or OLED TV, but a MicroLED TV, which is a technology found in many large video billboards. Samsung is adamant that this a consumer product, not a prototype, and one that many people will be able to buy. Of course, The Wall TV will likely cost as much as a car. More pricing and availability info is expected to be announced this March.
Televisions (New Tech): LG 65-inch Rollable OLED TV
LG’s OLEDs are arguably the nicest televisions you can buy. Last year, the company impressed with its ridiculously thin (three credit card thick) Signature W7 “Wallpaper” TV and this year it announced something even more spectacular: a 65-inch OLED TV that can be rolled up like a canvas or newspaper. Granted, this rollable TV is just a prototype and there’s no telling when you’ll actually be able to buy it (or if you’ll be able to afford it). It also needs a remote-operated motor to carefully roll it up — you can’t just roll it yourself. The real appeal is that it can basically be stored anywhere without taking up much space while delivering the 4K picture with excellent brightness and contrast that LG’s OLEDs are known for. No pricing or availability information has been announced.
Televisions (Value): TCL 6-Series Roku TV
Last year, TCL’s P-Series were some of the most coveted 4K smart TVs out there. They were extremely affordable, starting at well under $1,000, with a picture quality that pushed well above its price. But the TVs weren’t perfect. And they had a plastic design that wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. Also, you couldn’t buy one that wasn’t 55-inches! Now, with the new 6-Series of Roku TVs, TCL has righted many of those wrongs. The 6-Series will come in both 55- and 65-inch models and its exterior is now made of polished metal. Like the P-Series, the TCL 6-Series will support both HDR formats, HDR10 and Dolby Vision, but the new models also boast a new iPQ engine that, according to the company, will allow the TVs to naturally produce more accurate colors — no calibration needed. Pricing info hasn’t been released, but you can expect the 6-Series to be available this spring.
Fitness: Peloton Tread
The reality is that this $4,000 treadmill is probably impractical for most people — but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. It has a huge 32-inch HD touchscreen display and the treadmill itself is designed to be used essentially the same way as the company’s indoor training bikes: taking pretaped or live-streamed classes that are taught by fitness pros. (These videos are subscription based, so you’ll need to pay a further $39-per-month to watch.) The machine itself features a very minimalist design, with several knobs to control speed and incline of the track. If you’re a runner who dislikes going to the gym and wants to try the added motivation of Peloton’s classes, this device could be a good fit. You can preorder the Peloton Tread today with a $250 deposit. It’s expected to ship this coming fall.
Apple Accessory: Incase IconConnected Power Sleeve for MacBook Pro
The 2017 MacBook Pro gets about 10 hours, give or take, on a single charge — if you travel a lot, that might not be enough. Incase’s latest sleeve solves by basically being a two-in-one: a protective sleeve and a powerbank. It’s a combination of the brand’s famous ICON sleeve and a 14,000MaH battery, which will charge your portable command center with he included USB-C cable. Launching later this year, the IconConnected will be available for both 13- and 15-inch versions of the laptop for $200. It potentially could be the best travel accessory you purchase all year.
Best in Home: 3M Filtrete Smart Air Filters
The air filters in your home’s heating and air conditioning system needs replacing. However, you oftentimes don’t know when to replace them until too late. That’s where 3M’s new smart air filters come in. They have a Bluetooth-connected pressure sensor that monitors the air flow through the filter. When it’s too congested, an alert will get sent to your phone to let you know that the air filter needs to be replaced. Additionally, you can check the filter’s status (and the general air quality of your home) by logging onto the Filtrete Smart app. The filters will be available sometime in Q2 of 2018, and they’re expected to cost between $20 and $30.