It’s fair to say that CES 2021 was a tech show of firsts: no huge Las Vegas bonanza of gadgets and vast booths, but still plenty of news delivered up virtually instead. As always, the TVs were big, the laptops potent, and the oddball gizmos, well, odd. Read on for SlashGear’s best of this year’s show.
Best IoT/Smart Home Device: Philips Hue Wall Switch Module
Filling a gap that Hue fans have long been requesting, the Hue Wall Switch Module slips inside a regular light switch and gives it a connected upgrade. No more inadvertently cutting your smart bulbs off from the network, and better still it can be programmed to launch a specific scene. The smart home never felt so unobtrusive.
Best Ultraportable Notebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 514
Sleek, tough, and ideal for our new working-from-home and homeschooling lifestyles, the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 also has the advantage of being affordable. $480 gets you a brand new Chrome OS notebook, complete with support for Android apps and a 360-degree hinge.
Best Laptop: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
Following in the footsteps of the expensive-but-lovely Galaxy Chromebook 2020, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 has plenty to live up to. It hits the mark with a more affordable price tag, the same head-turning style, and a new QLED display.
Best Tablet: Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable
Lenovo’s ThinkPad range might not be the first place you’d expect to find a tablet, but then the ThinkPad X12 Detachable is no ordinary slate. Resolutely focused on getting things done, it doesn’t stint on hardware and usefully includes integrated LTE, still a rarity on Windows PCs.
Best Gaming: OtterBox Xbox Gaming Portfolio
CES 2021 wasn’t short on potent gaming PCs, but it was OtterBox’s Xbox Gaming Portfolio that caught our eye. Intended to help make the most of Xbox game streaming, the range helps connect your phone to your Xbox Wireless Controller, as well as protecting it all in your bag. With next-gen consoles focusing significantly on game streaming, these are the sort of accessories no gamer on the go should be without.
Best Content Creation Tool: Sony Airpeak
Drone, meet pro-grade photography. The Sony Airpeak isn’t the first time we’ve seen high-level camera tech loaded up onto a drone, but it promises to bring it out of the realm of big-budget movie and into the hands of a wider range of content creators. Given Sony’s well-deserved reputation in Alpha camera image quality, it’s no surprise that filmmakers and photographers alike are excited.
Best Medical Device: Razer Project Hazel
Only after 2020 could a smart face mask cause such a splash. Razer’s Project Hazel is – for the moment – a concept, but given the reception the color-changing, modular face mask received, we’d be very surprised if it didn’t graduate to a full product in the company’s range.
Best TV: Samsung Neo QLED 4K
Bigger isn’t enough any more in TVs: picture quality is where it’s at, along with sleek design. Samsung’s Neo QLED 8K line-up isn’t quite as lavish as the company’s MicroLED sets, but that should make them much more attainable in 2021. They also come with the company’s clever solar-powered remote, doing away with disposable batteries.
Best Accessory: Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD Monitor
If you’re working from home, suddenly the screen on your laptop just may not be cutting it any more. Dell’s UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD Monitor isn’t small, but its 5k2k resolution is certainly a luxury most of us would like to sit in front of.
Best Smartphone: TCL Rollable/Scrollable Concept Phones
TCL may not be a household name in smartphones yet, but the company is aiming to change that. Its rollable and scrollable concepts look like science-fiction, but the company says it’s aiming to commercialize at least one of them, for those who demand a big-screen but in a more portable form-factor.
Best Wearable: Lenovo ThinkReality A3 smart glasses
Want a big monitor, but stuck in a tiny apartment? Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3 smart glasses focus on adding functionality where it’s most useful, plugging into a Windows PC and allowing for up to five virtual displays to expand your desktop, regardless of the size of the desk itself.
Best Audio: V-MODA M-200 ANC headphones
Active noise cancelling headphones are a big deal right now, a bubble of peace amid busy homes. V-MODA’s M-200 ANC headphones may not be the cheapest example out there, but the company’s commitment to great audio quality and its flexible ANC system help them stand out of the crowd.
Best Automotive: Mercedes-Benz MBUX Hyperscreen
Car tech has come to dominate CES in recent years, and little catches the eye like Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX Hyperscreen. Replacing the whole dashboard with a series of sleek displays and touchscreens, it’s no glossy concept but a preview of what drivers of the upcoming EQS luxury all-electric sedan will get to enjoy.
Best of CES 2021: Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i
In a year where our homes suddenly had to double as offices, schoolrooms, and movie theaters – among other things – the idea of a device that’s similarly flexible is mighty appealing. Lenovo’s ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i takes the unusual idea of its predecessor, an e-paper touchscreen on the lid of a convertible notebook with stylus support and lengthy battery life, and refines it. The result is not only one of the most striking notebooks at CES 2021, but also one which epitomizes the multitasking, multipurpose world we currently live in.
Google just added an insanely useful desktop search shortcut
Google has quietly rolled out a new search shortcut for desktop users that is deceptively useful during the workday. As of now, users can press a single key on Google’s search results page to pull back open the search field, updating the search term without ever lifting a hand to use the mouse or trackpad.
The new feature was ‘announced’ by a small message box desktop users see in the bottom corner of their search results page, as first spied by 9to5Google; it reads, ‘Press / to jump to the search box.’
When you press the ‘/’ button, your cursor moves to the text field at the end of your search query, enabling you to quickly remove and add terms or scroll down through the suggested search queries. The shortcut key only works when you’re on the search results page, not the home page.
This is ultimately a very small change, but one that proves insanely useful when you’re often using Google for work or school. The amount of time saved by avoiding the mouse entirely adds up over time, not to mention getting you to the search results you want faster.
It’s unclear whether the feature is now available for all Google Search users on desktop or if it is rolling out more slowly. Our own test of the new shortcut found that it worked, though we never saw the shortcut notification on the search results page.
Amazon may start asking even more of its delivery drivers
Amazon is reportedly set to trial a new home assembly service for larger items, where delivery drivers would also put together furniture, appliances, or other larger items. The move, which is said to be planned for just a handful of markets as the online retail behemoth gauges popularity and feasibility, could make home shopping even easier, though there are concerns that delivery drivers themselves may face impractical expectations.
Online shopping has surged during the pandemic, and Amazon has seen a considerable share of that extra business. Its subscription plan Amazon Prime, for example, surged by 50 million members in the space of a year, bringing the total to 200 million.
The retailer’s ambitions, however, go beyond dropping items off at the doorstep. While you can currently schedule the delivery of a particularly large item, and even have it left in a specific room, Amazon is said to be preparing an even more hands-on service. The assembly option would see the delivery person actually put the item together in the home, Bloomberg reports.
According to people familiar with the plans, they say, Amazon is looking to trial the premium service in Virginia and two other unnamed markets. Unlike Amazon Home Services – which offers recommended local contractors booked through Amazon’s system – assembly and installation of the purchases would be handled by the company’s own delivery staff.
Still, there’d be a limit to what could be offered. Amazon Home Services, for example, includes options for tasks like installing electric car chargers, something which would be beyond the remit of a delivery driver. Instead, it’s suggested, Amazon sees it more around doing basics like putting together sofas and living room furniture, or installing a straightforward appliance like a washing machine or dishwasher.
Amazon has declined to comment on the leak, but according to Bloomberg there’s some consternation among the company’s delivery drivers about just what might be expected of them. The retailer has already faced criticism about working conditions for delivery staff, with accusations of grueling workloads that leave them little time for bathroom breaks. Among the concerns were just how long Amazon managers might allot for assembly and installation, and the safety of spending extended periods inside customers’ homes during the pandemic which has helped make online shopping so popular.
Dogecoin goes up and Robinhood goes down
Some things in life you can count on, and it seems like Robinhood crashing just when the finance market is getting interesting is one of them. The popular finance service – which has seen particular success with first-time and novice investors – has been suffering several periods of downtime during volatility in crypto trading, particularly Elon Musk’s favored Dogecoin.
The cryptocurrency has certainly had a bizarre week – and, for that matter, an equally bizarre few months. Initially begun as a joke, the so-called “meme currency” gained traction when Tesla founder Elon Musk began pumping it on his Twitter account.
This past week, meanwhile, DOGE has surged in price. Although individual coins are still worth just a handful of cents, their value has shot up by almost 200-percent. Combined with the ease of entry, it’s left some holders with a huge return on their initial purchases, which were often made when Dogecoin was only a cent or two.
Problem is, you only see those returns when you sell, and that’s been tricky if you opted to purchase via Robinhood. The service has been encountering periods of downtime which just so happened to coincide with some of DOGE’s peaks over the past day or two.
“We’re experiencing intermittent issues with crypto trading due to heightened volumes,” Robinhood has warned on its support site at several points over the past 24 hours. “Because of this, some crypto trades may not execute right now.”
Within the past hour, Robinhood said that it had restored crypto trading “for most customers.” As for those who aren’t in that group, there’s only an apology to tide them over. “To anyone still affected, we’re sorry for the interruption,” the company added. “We’re working to restore service for everyone as soon as possible.
It’s not the first time Robinhood has left investors floundering. During the GameStop stock surge earlier this year, users suddenly found that they were unable to buy the volatile $GME stock. The limits were subsequently extended to other shares, including AMC. Robinhood defended its decision with an explanation of the mechanisms behind trading, but not before the moves caught the attention of lawmakers who have called for an investigation into whether it acted appropriately.
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