My favorite innovations from the event
If CES 2022 proved one thing, it’s that it will take more than an ongoing pandemic to halt innovation in the tech world. Over the past week, we’ve seen countless exciting new products and technologies, from TVs that roll around to EVs that can change colors.
The plethora of new electric vehicles stood out, with established automakers such as Chrysler, BMW and Mercedes competing with upstarts such as Sony to reveal the most eye-catching new models and concepts. Samsung, LG, TCL, Hisense and Sony all showed off new TVs, including some breathtaking OLED and Micro LED models, while Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Alienware and others unveiled a slew of new laptops and PCs. In short, CES was business as usual in terms of new products.
One thing Covid did affect was our ability to attend the show in person, meaning we’ve not been able to go hands-on all of the hottest gadgets at this year’s show. But after evaluating dozens of products based on their features, design and the level of innovation on display, these are the ones that make our CES 2022 awards list.
BEST OF SHOW: CHRYSLER AIRFLOW
I don’t know if you’ve looked out your window lately, but global warming is getting a lot worse, and automakers are responding by going electric. At CES 2022, the Stellantis-owned Chrysler brand announced that it will only sell electric cars by 2028. That’s a full seven years before GM plans to go all-electric in 2035.
Leading the charge is the new Airflow concept, which will start production in 2025. This SUV EV packs two 201-horsepower electric motors and promises a range between 350 and 400 miles. The Airflow will also feature STLA AutoDrive, an advanced driver assist system that will enable Level 3 autonomous driving. The interior is chock-full of screens as you would expect, and Chrysler says it’s aiming for a new level of personalization through its new user interface.
With EV versions of the Dodge Ram and Jeep also on the way, Chrysler has some catching up to do with Tesla, Ford and GM. But this was a bold and welcome statement at CES.
BEST DESIGN: ASUS ZENBOOK 17 FOLD OLED
Imagine if you could carry around a 17.3-inch laptop anywhere with the flexibility to use it in any mode you want. That’s the appeal of the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED, which sports a foldable OLED display and can be used as a tablet, big-screen laptop or mini clamshell. In the latter mode you get a 12.3-inch display, which is big enough to get work done on the go. The bundles keyboard is full size and has a generous 1.4mm of travel.
The specs are pretty solid, too, and include a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 U-Series CPU, up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage. But it’s really all about new opening up new possibilities for mobile computing, which is where Asus’ ScreenXpert 2 software comes in for more easily splitting the screen and multitasking. There’s no word on pricing yet, but the ZenBook 17 Fold OLED will launch in Q2 2022.
BEST CONCEPT: ALIENWARE CONCEPT NYX
The idea of streaming games is not new, whether it be from the cloud or from a gaming PC. But Alienware’s Concept Nyx takes things a step further by promising to let you stream AAA titles to any screen in your home using a central server, whether it’s a laptop, tablet, TV or phone. Using a streamlined interface, you could start playing Cyperpunk 2077 in your bedroom on your PC and then pick up right where you left off on the big screen in your living room. You can even stream four different games to different devices all simultaneously.
BEST TV: LG G2 OLED TV WITH OLED EVO G (97-INCH)
OLED, QLED, QD-OLED, Mini LED and Micro LED panels all made compelling CES 2022 appearances, so naming a CES 2022 winner required navigating this alphabet soup. And while the first living room-friendly Micro LED and the reveal of two QD-OLED sets are certainly worth paying attention to, we think the 97-inch LG G2 OLED TV with OLED evo G deserves the crown. Not only is it LG’s largest OLED TV ever (home theater, anyone?), it improves on last year’s OLED evo with special heat-dissipation technology that lets the panels get brighter without causing the dreaded OLED burn-in. We saw obvious improvement viewing the G1 and G2 side-by-side in person.
Maintaining the Gallery Series’s beautifully svelte chassis and near-bezel less effect, the G2 will make your jaw drop, and unlike some of the emerging TV technologies, LG’s OLED is one many people can actually afford. Instead the trouble with the 97-inch LG G2 OLED TV is finding the space to mount it. What’s more, the LG G2 OLED TV comes with 7.1.2 channel sound, a complete HDMI 2.1 port array and the latest upscaling Alpha 9 Gen 5 Processor 4K.
BEST LAPTOP: LENOVO THINKBOOK PLUS GEN 3
making it easy to run multiple apps side by side. But the killer feature is the 8-inch secondary display, which lets you do everything from take notes with a pen and use a calculator to control tools in Adobe Lightroom. You can even ‘waterfall’ apps from the top display to this bottom panel. Add in a fast 12th gen Core processor and penty of ports and you have what could be the ultimate work-from-home laptop. The ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 arrives in May for $1,399.
BEST AUDIO/HEADPHONES: NOVETO N1
We could have picked one of the many new headphones revealed at CES, including the ANC-at-a-low-price Jabra Elite 4 Active or the excellent Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones. But this being CES, we’re instead going with the most innovative audio product revealed at CES 2022: namely the Noveto N1 “‘invisible headphones.”
This first-of-a-kind device uses “smart beam” tech to send you audio that only you can hear, without the need for headphones. Yes, seriously. It works by transmitting ultrasound through the air and into little pockets of sound just outside of your ears. Others will apparently hear no more than a whisper, and the N1 device’s smart facial tracking will follow your head so that the effect still works as you move. Sure, we don’t yet know how much it will cost or when it will be released, but if the Noveto N1 fulfills its potential, it could change the entire audio market.
BEST FITNESS: CLMBR
Think of this as the Peloton climbing wall you never knew you needed in your home. Easily the fitness gadget that made me sit up and say, ‘hey, I want to try that’ this CES, Clmbr is a freestanding machine with a small footprint (33 inches square) that allows you to complete climbing workouts from the comfort of your living room. If you subscribe to the app, you’ll get access to a library of live and on-demand climbing workouts, as well as strength classes and yoga.
Anyone who’s ever gone hiking will know climbing is physically far more demanding than walking or cycling, so the classes are shorter, and designed to torch calories between meetings. Climbing doesn’t come cheap; the Clmbr costs $2,799, and if you want to follow the classes you’ll need to pay the $39 monthly subscription, that said, it’ll take up a hell of a lot less space in your home than a Peloton.
BEST VR: SONY PSVR2
It might seem odd to give an award to a device we’ve not actually seen the design for, but at CES 2022 Sony revealed specs for the PlayStation VR2, as well as the first game for the headset. And what a specs sheet it is; the headset will sport a resolution of 2,000 x 2,040 per eye, which beats that of the Oculus Quest 2, our pick for the best VR headset you can buy right now. There’s also a single-cable setup, improved field-of-view over the original PSVR headset, as well as built-in DualSense-inspired haptics and cameras for movement tracking, as well as compatibility with Sony’s 3D Audio tech.
That alone would be enough to pique our interest. But Sony also revealed Horizon Call of the Mountain, a VR game based in the same setting as Horizon Zero Dawn and the upcoming Horizon Forbidden West. It looks like the type of immersive experience that even VR skeptics could be willing to try. Coupled with the power and popularity of the PS5, the PSVR2 could be the headset that takes virtual reality mainstream for a lot more households. And that’s worthy of early recognition.
BEST PHONE: ONEPLUS 10 PRO
We could do without OnePlus’ drip-drip-drip approach to unveiling its new phone, but there’s no denying that the OnePlus 10 Pro is a flagship device worth getting excited about. From the fast 80W charging to the fast-refreshing display supported by an updated version of LTPO technology, the OnePlus 10 Pro sounds like a phone that will more than hold its own against anything from Apple or Samsung. We’re also pleased that Swedish lens specialist Hasselblad is back to support the OnePlus 10 Pro’s cameras, as the OnePlus-Hasselblad partnership created some great cameras for last year’s OnePlus 9 phones.
Now the only thing left to do is wait — not just for OnePlus to reveal the last remaining features about its phone but for the company to set a release date outside of China. The OnePlus 10 Pro debuts in that country on January 11, but it’s still unclear when it will come to other markets.
BEST EV CONCEPT: MERCEDES VISION EQXX
Range is one of the most important things an electric car can offer, but it seems like the days of range anxiety might soon be over. Especially if we start seeing cars like the Mercedes Vision EQXX hit the streets, with the ability to travel 620 miles on a single charge.
Mercedes accomplished that feat by prioritising aerodynamics and lowering the weight to reduce the amount of power you’d need to get this car where it needs to be. A new battery design also helps: it’s 50% smaller and 30% lighter than the one in the Mercedes EQS, while offering the same 100 kWH of power. Plus, it has solar panels that can generate power while you drive.
While the jury’s out on whether the EQXX will go into production, these advancements are already being utilized for future Mercedes EVs. Here’s hoping the new batteries are at the top of that list.
BEST MONITOR: SAMSUNG ODYSSEY NEO G8
The Samsung Odyssey Neo G8 is a striking 4K 240Hz curved gaming monitor, and it’s the most exciting display we’ve seen at CES 2022. This 34-inch, 1000R curved white monitor looks like the little brother of last year’s Samsung Odyssey Neo G9, and like the G9 it also has a Quantum Mini LED display capable of achieving higher brightness levels, deeper blacks and richer contrasts than more traditional IPS monitors. With a 1ms response time it has the potential to claim a spot among the best gaming monitors on the market, but it probably won’t be cheap: Samsung hasn’t yet confirmed a release date or price for the G8, but it will likely be within spitting distance of the G9’s $2,500 price tag.
BEST 2-IN-1: ASUS ROG FLOW Z13
The reason the Asus ROG Flow Z13 wins for best 2-in-1 at CES 2022 is simple: it delivers gaming laptop power in a thin, light and versatile design. The ROG Flow Z13 will ship in 2022 with Windows 11 and the latest Intel 12th Gen CPUs, along with up to an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti graphics card, 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to a 1TB SSD. Its 13.4-inch 16:10 touchscreen can be configured as either a FHD 120Hz screen or a 4K 60Hz display, and it doubles as a gaming tablet when detached from the keyboard.
You can pop out the built-in kickstand and wirelessly pair a gamepad to it for some Nintendo Switch-like tablet gaming action on the go, or reconnect it to the keyboard and hook up Asus’ ROG XG Mobile eGPU enclosure (sold separately) to access the extra power of an external GPU (up to an Nvidia RTX 3080 or AMD Radeon RX 6850M XT) in gaming laptop mode. Asus has yet to announce a price or release date for the Z13, but we look forward to testing it out.
BEST SMARTWATCH: GARMIN VENU 2 PLUS
This year’s CES saw more smartwatches than usual, but picking a clear favorite is no challenge: The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is CES 2022’s best smartwatch overall. We tested the Venu 2 Plus ahead of the show and found it challenged the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch lineups better than any Garmin watch before. That’s thanks to the additional phone call support for iOS and Android users, as well as voice assistant support. Both a capable workout companion and stylish lifestyle device, this wearable is designed for all-day use but can go much longer courtesy of an epic 9-day battery life.
BEST GAMING LAPTOP: ALIENWARE M17 R5 RYZEN EDITION
If you’re like me then you prefer gaming laptops that can deliver the best graphics and performance possible. For that reason, I found the Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen Edition to be the most impressive gaming laptop revealed during CES 2022. Configurations of this monster gaming rig pack the latest AMD Ryzen processors and Radeon graphics cards. Though it lacks an OLED screen, the large 17-inch display (up to 4K) will bring out every minute detail of whatever game you’re playing. I also love its semi-futuristic eye-catching design and overall sturdy build. This is a laptop crafted for the hardcore gamer, and I can’ts wait to run it through its paces when it releases in Spring 2022.
BEST WEBCAM: SONY BRAVIA CAM
The newly announced Sony Bravia Cam shows how the webcam is breaking out of your computer, and that’s a great thing. While we’re not keen on doing Zoom and Google Meet calls in our living room from the sofa, the Sony Bravia Cam (which does support those services) is providing smart new features your current TV doesn’t have: its cameras will detect where you are to improve your viewing experience.
If the Bravia Cam detects that nobody’s in the room it will turn the TV off to save power. It can also adjust picture and sound settings based on where you’re sitting. Oh, and it will tell you if you’re sitting too close to the screen. This is arguably more important for children (who doesn’t remember sitting too close to the TV?) than adults, but we could all use the help in protecting our eye health.
On top of all that, we’re excited to see webcams in the living room, because it will move us closer to remote co-watching experiences where we don’t need to use a phone or tablet for the camera that shows us to our friends and family.
BEST GAMING PERIPHERAL: HYPERX CLOUD ALPHA WIRELESS
The HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless isn’t simply a marginal upgrade of a popular peripheral. Instead, HyperX wants to address one of the biggest problems with gaming headsets: short battery life. Even the most robust gaming headsets tend to get only about 30 hours of charge, meaning that they’ll run out in less than a week of regular work and play. Compare and contrast with the Cloud Alpha Wireless, which could last up to 300 hours on a single charge when it debuts in February 2022 at $200. That’s theoretically more than a month between charges — and the charge itself takes less than five hours.
Beyond that, the Cloud Alpha Wireless offers many of the features you’d expect from a high-end gaming headset, including 50 mm audio drivers, plush earcups and a removable mic. If battery life is the next great frontier in wireless gaming peripherals, then the Cloud Alpha Wireless could be a pioneer.
BEST WI-FI ROUTER: TP-LINK ARCHER AXE200 OMNI
TP-Link made a splash with the Archer AXE200 Omni, a Wi-Fi 6e router with four stubby antennas powered by electric motors that can change position as your connected devices move around the house. The antennas fold out, fan out, pivot and twist in order to maintain optimized connections.
For devices on the same floor, the antennas will stand upright; for gadgets on upper or lower floors, they will angle themselves so that their flattest parts face the targeted device. It kind of has to be seen to be believed. Even without the dancing antennas, the TP-Link Archer AXE200 Omni is pretty impressive, with a 10-Gbps Ethernet port for high-end media and gaming devices, built-in security software and parental controls and, of course, the wide-open 6-GHz band offered by Wi-Fi 6e. The Archer AXE200 Omni will be available later in 2022 at a price yet to be determined.
BEST CAR GADGET: WALLBOX QUASAR 2 CHARGER
There are benefits to owning an EV, and there are benefits to having some sort of backup battery system installed at your home. But what if your EV was the battery? That’s the idea behind the Quasar 2 EV charger. Not only can it save you money on your bills, storing electricity when it’s cheap and using it when it’s not, it also turns your car into a backup power supply if the grid goes down.
The original Quasar could do that too, but the Quasar 2 takes things a step further. It offers a dedicated ‘Blackout Mode’ which isolates your home from the electric grid, with Wallbox claiming the system can keep your bare essentials powered up for around three days. This new box is also compatible with the CCS charging standard, which most modern EVs use, and offers 11.5kW DC charging speeds — a significant speed boost from the more common 7kW home chargers.
BEST SMART HOME: SCHLAGE ENCODE
CES 2022 didn’t disappoint in the smart home category. We saw a collection of cool robot vacuums, Cync’s competitive smart thermostat and the official debut of a residential smart door. But the HomeKit-compatible Schlage Encode Plus was our favorite smart home device at CES overall, being the first smart lock with support for Apple’s virtual keys.
Yes, Schlage’s new smart lock can be unlocked with your Apple Watch or your iPhone. When you’ve added your home key to your Apple Wallet, you should be able to open or close the Schlage Encode Plus installed on your door just by holding your device up to the deadbolt. While some of the existing best smart locks have proximity controls through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, the Encode Plus works with NFC.
The Encode Plus isn’t the only HomeKit device for your front door, but the integrated controls in the HomeKit app and support for digital keys embraces Apple’s smart home platform in a manner more brands and users could soon.