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We may be living through a pandemic, but not even COVID-19 could stop CES 2021. For the uninitiated, CES is the annual Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas, and up until this year, it was one of the biggest IRL gatherings for product manufacturers, brands, media, industry insiders and entrepreneurs to mingle and catch a glimpse at the future of technology. And while CES 2021 couldn’t take place in Las Vegas this year, it did exist in a virtual space.
Even though we couldn’t see these products in real life, we were still given the virtual rundown from all the most innovative companies in tech, including the likes of Samsung, Sony, Lenovo, TCL and Razer. Last year, we named the best gadgets of CES 2020, and the list included great products like the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds, which proved to be hugely popular among SPY readers when they were finally released months later. Even as a virtual conference, CES is a great chance to preview some of the year’s hottest product launches and emerging tech trends.
Unfortunately, when choosing the best products of CES 2021, not every new announcement could make the cut. There were a few really cool concepts that fell just short, including a smart toilet that promises to analyze you … ahem… output.
As for the ones that did make the cut, we selected 15 awesome products that we feel are the most exciting, innovative and relevant gadgets at CES 2021. Many of these products won’t be available until later in the year, but we’ve tossed in as many links and included as much pre-order information as we can. Our Best of CES 2021 list includes big and bright OLED TVs, robots that can serve you wine, futuristic face masks and smarter security tech. But that’s just the start.
Keep reading for the winners of SPY’s Best of CES 2021 awards.
Sony Bravia XR A90J OLED TV
This year, we believe regular LED TVs are poised to catch up to OLED TVs thanks to new micro-LED technology. However, this new Sony OLED TV has definitely earned our Best of CES 2021 award. Along with LG, Sony has been making some of the best OLED TVs for a long time now, and with the Bravia XR A90J, Sony is addressing one of the biggest shortcomings of its OLED TVs: peak brightness. A brighter display means that the new Bravia model can deliver a stunning picture in a variety of environments. While Sony hasn’t released all the details on the A90J yet, this could be a big step forward for OLED technology. And given the company’s track record as of late, they’ve more than earned the benefit of the doubt here.
HD Medical HealthyU Remote Patient Monitor
BEST HEALTH & WELLNESS PRODUCT
As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, telemedicine will continue to be a crucial healthcare service for everyone on this planet. If you can receive medical guidance without having to leave your home, it can greatly help fight the spread of coronavirus and keep those with underlying health conditions out of harm’s way. In order to accomplish this, doctors need as much data and information as possible, and that’s why the HealthyU device could be a true game-changer.
To use the HealthyU monitor, telemedicine patients would place four fingers on the device and hold it against their chest. When they do, this remote monitoring device has the ability to monitor heart health thanks to an integrated ECG sensor, as well as have the ability to provide metrics on heart sounds, lung sounds, blood oxygen levels, temperature, respiratory rate and blood pressure. With this vital information in hand, a doctor could assess your symptoms, assemble a care plan and make more-informed decisions on what treatments are needed.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
There weren’t many smartphones announced at CES this year, and while it was tempting to slap the “Best Smartphone” tag on LG’s gimmicky rollable phone, the truth is that there’s still too much we don’t know about that phone to hype it up that much. Instead, our best smartphone of CES 2021 is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which takes everything that was good about the Galaxy S20 Ultra (beautiful 6.8-inch, 120Hz AMOLED display, fast Snapdragon 888 CPU, nice design) and fixed everything that was wrong with it (broken camera autofocus).
On top of that, there’s support for mmWave ultra-wideband 5G, a 5,000 mAh battery rated for 24 hours of use, support for the SPen stylus (a first for non Galaxy Note phones) and the option to configure this with up to 16 GB of RAM. This may not be the flashiest Galaxy launch for Samsung, but it is an impeccable, if incremental, refinement of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which was already very close to being a truly great phone.
BEST SMART SECURITY PRODUCT
Even the best home security products available today rely on a multitude of different hubs, cameras and sensors to detect when there’s suspicious activity in the home. But what if you only needed a few pieces of equipment to secure your entire home? This is what the Origin Hex is promising, and the technology promises to change the way we approach home security going forward. With the Hex system, you can say goodbye to expensive cloud video systems and complicated installation.
Instead of using video, motion sensors and door sensors, the Hex security system from Origin Wireless emits a layer of waves throughout your home. When someone moves through those waves, they “bend” around the person, which is then interpreted as activity. Depending on your settings, it can then alert you to unwanted entry or behavior while you’re away. According to Origin, only two devices are needed — a main hub and a satellite sensor — to provide coverage for a 1,500 square foot space. Customers can use the included app to adjust detection modes and sensitivity levels as needed. Even better, the devices also come equipped with sirens and nightlights, adding an extra layer of functionality in the mix.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
While there were certainly more premium headphones announced at CES 2021, sometimes it’s the products that manage to offer high-end performance at a lower cost. And when it comes to wireless earbuds, Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro could potentially have as much impact as the TCL 6-Series in the TV space. One of the biggest changes this time around is the addition of active noise cancelling, which can cut out the noise of a train during your commute to work, noisy roommates in your apartment or chatty co-workers when you eventually return to the office. In addition, the Liberty Air 2 Pros add two extra microphones to help improve call quality. And like the previous Soundcore Liberty Air 2 earbuds, these still have a fully customizable eq (with a handful of sound profiles created by industry pros), wireless charging and offer seven hours of playback on a single charge (along with an additional 19 hours stored in the case).
We haven’t had a chance to listen to these new buds yet, but we were impressed with the Liberty Air 2 earbuds last year and if these can improve on those, these could end up as the best budget AirPods Pro killers.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga
2021 wasn’t the biggest year for laptops at CES, but there were still some models that raised a few eyebrows. Lenovo slapped an e-ink display on the back of a ThinkPad. Acer and Samsung revealed some beefed up Chromebooks, which are perpetually some of the most underrated laptops you can buy. Asus and HP even had a few new offerings of their own. But at the end of the day, we only had room for one laptop on our Best of CES 2021 list, and it was a business-focused laptop from Lenovo that was the most impressive of the lot.
Like other Yoga laptops, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is a 2-in-1 device that can fold back on itself and function as a tablet or a freestanding display. Coming in at just 2.54 pounds and 11mm thick, it’s thinner and lighter than a MacBook Pro, and in our work-from-home times, it comes Dolby Atmos speakers, four 360-degree mics and an HD camera to make video conferencing less of a struggle. But what we love most is the 13.5-inch QHD display, which comes in a spacious 3:2 aspect ratio (which is the best aspect ratio for a laptop) and is rated for 450 nits of brightness, which goes a long way towards enabling its Dolby Vision capabilities.
Samsung Jetbot 90 AI+
BEST HOME APPLIANCE
As more and more smart devices fill our home, finding ones that can pull double duty will be crucial so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by the unbearable weight of all the tech in your home. And it just so happens that the Samsung Jetbot 90 AI+ is not only a robot vacuum, but it can also use its camera to function as a security sentry, if that’s your thing. As a vacuum, the Jetbot 90 AI+ is equipped with all sorts of tech to improve its cleaning routine, which includes a LIDAR sensor and an object-sensing AI powered by Intel. This means that if the camera notices a towel or jewelry on the floor, it will know to avoid that area. In fact, this bot is so smart that it can recognize over 1 million different objects, which is why this appliance easily made our Best of CES 2021 list.
Sometimes, companies release concept products or vaporware at CES that will never actually come to market. Samsung guilty of this, too. (Just look at the handy robot below.) However, we really hope this smart robot vacuum hits the market in 2021. Unfortunately, there’s no word on a release date as of yet.
Samsung Bot Handy
The Samsung Bot Handy is a general helper robot that currently exists squarely in the realm of tech concepts, and it might always remain there. It’s a concept you’ve seen before: A humanoid robot is imbued with precise movement and motor skills that are fine enough to do things like pick up laundry or place a flower in a vase. But it’s 2021 and we’ll be damned if we’re not completely charmed by the idea of a robot that can do our dishes after we’ve baked our millionth loaf of sourdough bread and can then pour us a glass of wine afterward. The world needs more robots like Handy.
Razer Blade 15 Advanced
BEST GAMING DEVICE
This was a massive year in the gaming world, what with the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, so it makes sense that the gaming world was taking a bit of a breather at CES this year. The one exception was Razer and NVIDIA, who are combining forces to give us a Razer Blade gaming laptop equipped with a GeForce RTX 3080 GPU (yes, you read that right). So what does that mean in real-world terms?
It means you will get games that run at 1440p resolutions with ray tracing and 120 Hz refresh rates… on a LAPTOP. This also means you’ll be able to play games like Cyberpunk 2077 in a non-broken form… if the botched launch didn’t ruin it for you already. While there will be other gaming laptops also packing the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 later this month, we love the Razer Blade because of its streamlined design which gives you all the performance you need without the excessive visual flourishes you tend to get with the gamer aesthetic.
Satisfyer Love Triangle
BEST SEX TOY
The Satisfyer Love Triangle is not your average sex toy. While it might look like other clitoral suction sex toys, this device has been given the ability to hit pleasure zones with little pulses of air. But going one step further, the accompanying Satisfyer Connect app lets you customize how the vibration and air pulse patterns work. You can even sync it to your favorite songs on Spotify or let a long-distance partner control it remotely. And thanks to IPX7 waterproofing, you can use this tiny device anywhere you please. We’ve seen Bluetooth sex toys before, the unique air pulse feature and connectivity makes this the perfect toy for the social distancing era.
Sony 360 Reality Audio Speakers
BEST SMART HOME DEVICE
With the ability to project sound throughout a room from a single speaker and make the listener feel like they are actually in the middle of the sound, Sony’s 360 Reality Audio could be a game-changer. Of course, lots of products at CES could be game-changers, so why does Sony 360 Reality Audio deserve a spot on our Best of CES 2021 list? This isn’t just a fancy speaker system; rather it’s more of a platform for music-focused 3D audio. Similar to a movie-focused format, such as Dolby Atmos, this technology could be perfect for enjoying live music performances in your own home.
The technology behind 360 Reality Audio isn’t new, per se: Sony announced it at CES 2019, and technically Amazon’s Echo Studio supported it. But in 2021, Sony is now pledging to back the standard with new content focused around live performances, which is crucial in these pandemic times where we can’t attend concerts. More importantly, Sony has two new speakers on the horizon in the form of the SRS-RA5000 (pictured below) and the SRS-RA3000, which will serve as the hardware foundation of this experiment. The RA5000 has three sets of tweeters and woofers which are all brought together by a sub that sits on the bottom of the housing. Availability for U.S. markets hasn’t been discussed yet, but we’re eagerly waiting to put this thing in our living rooms.
Fossil/Skagen Jorn HR
The best smartwatches can technically replace 90% of your phone’s functionality. Call us old-fashioned, but we actually prefer smartwatches that can’t do everything under the sun. Just because a device can do something doesn’t necessarily mean it should. And this is why we appreciate Fossil’s Hybrid Watch platform, which takes the general stylings and approach of a traditional timepiece and adds a few subtle smartwatch features to enhance it in just the right ways. These hybrid watches aren’t super new as a general product, but for CES 2021, Fossil teamed up with one of our favorite watchmakers, Skagen, to launch a new model that looks as sharp as anything Skagen has ever put out, and as smart as any of Fossil’s other watches.
In addition to Skagen’s typical minimalist Scandinavian approach to design, this watch employs an e-ink display that can transform on the fly to deliver notifications, media playback controls and info on your activity and heart rate. And because it’s not trying to do everything, it has a battery that lasts for 6 months between charges.
Popsockets PopGrip for MagSafe
BEST MOBILE ACCESSORY
It’s hard to argue that Popsockets’ PopGrip isn’t a useful smartphone accessory. But, typically, you have to semi-permanently stick it to your phone with an adhesive gel. With the PopGrip for MagSafe, that changes now. Because the iPhone 12 models have a ring of magnets running along its backside, you can freely attach and detach this new PopSocket as much as you want with no hassle at all. This means you can still keep your phone in your pocket most of the time and pull the Popsocket out of a bag to use when you need that crucial selfie at a tricky angle. It’s not the most innovative product release, but when selecting the best products of CES 2021, the new PopGrip was a no-brainer.
TCL Wearable Display
The last decade has brought us many ambitious experiments in the realm of virtual and augmented reality, but one technology that has been left behind a little is the humble wearable display. Unlike VR or AR, these wearable units are not interactive, nor do they enhance the world around you. Instead, you simply put them on like a pair of glasses, connect a device, and enjoy a TV, movie theater or monitor-like experience housed in a tiny form factor. TCL arrived at CES wanting to change that, and their solution is the TCL Wearable Display, which is still a work in progress, but which the company says it fully intends to release sometime this year.
TCL is being tight-lipped about these spectacles so far, but we do know that they will apparently use a pair of Sony OLED mini-displays to deliver visuals. As we continue to work from home and may not have space for a big monitor in our homes or apartments, a solution like this could be a true game-changer.
Razer Project Hazel N95 Face Mask
There are many products announced at CES that have no firm release date, but whose makers say they are definitely coming to market. There are others that target a specific release, but never end up seeing the light of day. And then there are pure concepts, which aren’t necessarily meant for retail. Even if they do end up coming out, they tend to look significantly different. It’s a tactic you generally see at auto shows, with companies using these concept products to establish their vision of the future.
Razer’s Project Hazel N95 face mask falls in this latter category, but just because the gaming company has no definite plans to manufacture this futuristic face mask doesn’t mean it’s not noteworthy. After spending 2020 manufacturing disposable face masks for frontline workers, Razer started thinking about the long-term implications of COVID and what the ideal reusable face mask could look like. Hazel was their answer, and the company put a very cyberpunk spin on the traditional face mask with gas mask-esque N95 filters that can be replaced, a voice amplification system and a transparent plastic over the mouth so that people can see speech and facial reactions. But it wouldn’t be a Razer product without LEDs, and they are abundant here. These lights are not without function; the LEDs can illuminate your mouth in dark settings so people can still follow along with what you’re saying.