Selecting the best in show is no easy task, because CES covers such a crazy range of devices: refrigerators, tablets, smartphones and even technologically advanced cutlery. This year was no different. We’ve combed our CES 2013 coverage and narrowed it down to the biggest announcements that had us chattering at this year’s show. Join us after the break for CES 2013′s very best.
BEST IN HDTVS: SONY’S 56-INCH ULTRA HD OLED
One of the narratives going into (and coming out of) CES 2013 was whether OLED or 4K TVs represented the best of the high-priced displays filling manufacturer’s high-end product slots this year. We saw many great displays and connected products at CES 2013 but our pick for best in show is the one that made the fewest compromises: Sony’s 56-inch Ultra HD OLED. It does have the drawback of being without a release date or possible price — hey, what happened to that Crystal LEDfrom last year? — but putting out an image in which we found no flaws pushed this one to the top. Other contenders included Panasonic’s new top-of-the-line ZT plasmas, Samsung’s 85-inch UHDTV and LG’s soon-to-ship 55-inch OLED, but when we’re thinking about what the best thing we saw this year was, there’s no question that this is it.
BEST IN GAMING: RAZER EDGE
Razer’s Edge was the most exciting gaming news out of CES 2013. Not just because it’s a powerful gaming computer (it is), but also because of its modularity. That it can be used as a standalone tablet, as well as a portable game console, as well as a home game console is extremely appealing. The Edge takes an open platform and combines it with the comfort of gaming consoles — two great tastes that taste great together. Except this is actually more like four or five tastes that taste great together.
BEST IN TABLETS: PANASONIC 4K 20-INCH TABLET
We hadn’t even heard whispers about this prototype 20-inch 4K tablet before CES, but it quickly became the thing showgoers were gushing over. Sure, it’s really heavy and the battery life is likely quite poor, but who cares? The display quality, impressive brushed-metal back and bezel and — to quote our own Jon Fingas — the “audacity of Panasonic to build something like this” was mighty compelling. The booth display had the tablets set up demoing architectural applications and remote photo shooting work. We’d take either thank you very much.
BEST IN SMARTPHONES: SONY XPERIA Z
What’s a modern trade show without at least a couple handset launches? Unfortunately, Mobile World Congress trumps CES for cell launches, but that doesn’t mean this show was without some magic. The Sony Xperia Z’s 5-inch 1080p display and the new Exmor RS sensor for HDR video capture plus the fact that it is waterproof helped it shine in our opinion. The overall look and feel of the device is head and shoulders above anything else we’ve seen from Sony; they’ve stepped from wobbly plastics to a premium feel. Carrier specifics and exact launch date are still being hashed out but look for the Sony Xperia Z this year sometime in Q1.
BEST IN LAPTOPS: LENOVO YOGA 11S
Given that Intel’s battery-saving Haswell chips won’t be shipping for a few months yet, it’s pretty clear the best laptop of 2013 is yet to come. For the time being, though, our favorite notebook of CES and the new year would have to be Lenovo’sYoga 11S. It offers the same comfy keyboard and versatile form factor we admired on the Yoga 13, except it’s been cut down to a more compact size (one that’s easier to use in tablet mode, we’d wager). At the same time, unlike the similarly named Yoga 11, it runs full Windows 8, not RT, and is powered by a more robust laptop-grade processor. Lenovo’s shape-shifting ThinkPad Helix was also a serious contender, what with its reversible display, but we have a feeling ThinkPad diehards are going to loathe that new buttonless trackpad.
BEST IN AUTOMOTIVE: FORD APPLINK DEVELOPER PROGRAM
The story leading up to CES on the automotive front was self-driving cars, but that ended up being a bit of a bust. Toyota’s automated entry proved to be nothing more than a research vehicle, and Audi’s demonstration was limited to say the least. The biggest story, then, was instead one of software, with both GM and Ford announcing developer programs. It is Ford’s developer program that shows the most potential, however, enabling developers to easily upgrade their existing smartphone apps to interact with the company’s SYNC AppLink. Most important: it’s totally free.
BEST IN WEARABLES: PEBBLE SMART WATCH
CES has seen its fair share of smart watches in the past, as just about every manufacturer has offered at least one design in an attempt to make the genre popular. However, the Pebble might be the first such device to make consumers stand up and take notice — heck our own Myriam Joire pegged the Pebble as hands down her favorite gadget at the show. The sealed polycarbonate face and bezel, plain English time and stellar build quality are part of what makes it really compelling. Other standouts include the MagSafe-like adapter and waterproofing up to some five atmospheres of pressure (that’s about 160 feet.) The Pebble appeared on Kickstarter early last year and quickly raised $10 million dollars; it’s now set to ship January 23rd, after multiple delays.
BEST IN UTENSILS: HAPILABS HAPIFORK (AND SPOON)
At first glance the HAPILABS HAPIfork seems more novelty than tech — and may well prove to be — but it definitely stepped away from the norm and garnered a pile of attention. The idea is you use the fork as you normally would, but it keeps track of how long you eat, how quickly and how many bites you take. It then shares these metrics with a Runtastic-like site. Eat too quickly and the fork or spoon — the end is detachable — will vibrate to let you know to slow down a touch. The $99 HAPIfork ships in Q2 this year.
BEST OF THE REST: TACTUS MORPHING TOUCHSCREEN
Tactus’ morphing touchscreen was quite likely our all-around favorite device at the show. It combines a great idea with interesting potential and that full-on science fiction wow when you first see the “keyboard” inflate. Tactus hopes to see products shipping with its tactile touchscreen this year in devices ranging from phones to devices for the visually impaired. We wish them well and look forward to checking out what may eventually come of this technology.