With CES 2015 now well underway, the Stuff team has been mainlining coffee, Red Bull, energy tablets and more in an attempt to keep up with all the developments in Las Vegas.
The Consumer Electronics Show is, after all, the world’s biggest tech and gadget expo, and from 6th-9th January Sin City (and the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center) becomes the venue for most of the world’s electronics giants – as well as a host of startup hopefuls – to tease their finest upcoming products and services.
We’re assembling all the highlights right here in this hub (scroll down to see the various sections), and also have a live blog (it's sitting right below this paragraph) which we’ll be updating regularly. So don’t forget to keep checking back in!
CES Unveiled is the opening press event of the show where brands big and small showcase a few key launches on trestle tables in a packed-out hotel function room.
Traditionally, it's where you'll find some of the quirkiest gadgets of the show, and this year was no different.
We braved the crowds in search of the most interesting new products - you can see what we found in the video above.
Television announcements and CES go hand-in-hand, and this year is no exception. Make no mistake: there are some exciting goggle-boxes being launched in Las Vegas right now.
Sony, for instance, has unveiled a trio of ultra-thin (4.9mm at their thinnest points), near-frameless 4K televisions: the XBR X900C (55in and 65in in size) and the XBR X910C (75in). These new models all come with the Android TV operating system, voice search via the remote and PlayStation Now, Sony’s pretty astounding game-streaming service that lets you play PS3 games from the cloud. Sony also launched a handful of other, slightly less interesting 4K TVs, which you can read about in our full story.
LG has plenty to shout about too. The Korean company announced that it will introduce no fewer than seven OLED TVs (all 4K resolution, and ranging in size from 55in to 77in) in the coming year. Expect incredible detail and colour reproduction.
LG also spoke of partnerships with Netflix and GoPro: the former will stream 4K HDR content to LG smart TVs, while the latter is setting up a channel that will see 4K videos shot with the GoPro Hero4 Black available to stream. LG’s webOS smart TV platform is also getting a major upgrade that’ll see boot-up times reduced and new content channels appearing. Read our full story here.
LG’s great Korean rival Samsung has, as usual, come out of the gates with a strong televisual showing at CES 2015. The company has introduced a new range of curved 4K TVs that it calls “SUHD”, and claims that its contrast, brightness and colour performance will knock existing Samsung sets out of the park. SUHD TVs will offer a re-mastering engine that automatically adjusts brightness depending on the scene; nothing new there, we know – but Samsung claims it’ll deliver darker blacks and 2.5 times the brightness of a conventional screen.
The TVs (of which there are nine models in total ranging from 48in to 88in) will be powered by Samsung’s own Tizen operating system. Tizen is open source, meaning developers will be able to make their own smart TV apps. Read our full story on Samsung’s new sets here.
All these 4K TV sets are very exciting, of course, but the problem of content remains: there just isn’t enough 4K stuff around to watch. Panasonic is trying to remedy this, however: the company has taken the wraps off a prototype 4K Blu-ray player at CES and, while it’s keeping its card close to its chest regarding specs, it has revealed that (like the LG sets mentioned above) it will support High Dynamic Range video quality. One issue Panasonic is facing – and perhaps this explains why the player is still a prototype – is that the Blu-ray Disc Association is yet to finalise the specifications of a 4K Blu-ray format.
One thing that should hopefully be finalised soon is what actually constitutes 4K or Ultra HD. The UHD Alliance, a collective of companies including LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Disney, Netflix, Dolby and more, is set to generate a set of standards in the months to come, so that consumers will know that what they’re buying actually constitutes a “real” 4K product.
And it's not a TV per se, but HP's new 1080p Zvr Virtual Reality Display is one smart screen. Like any 3D screen, it lets you view stereoscopic 3D content through a pair of glasses, but here you can interact with on-screen objects using a stylus. HP also launched a range of 4K and 5K displays, intended for use as PC monitors.
Update 07/01/2015: Sharp clearly doesn't think 4K offers enough detail. The Japanese company has unveiled an 80in monster screen (due to go on sale later in 2015) that it claims is closer to "8K" quality – despite having the same resolution as most 4K TVs. The secret is in the sub-pixels, which Sharp says boosts the detail levels massively. Not impressed? Well, the company also showed off a prototype 85in TV with an actual native 8K resolution of 7680 x 4320. It says it's the first TV maker to comply with 8K test broadcasts, and hopes to sell its screen by 2016. Full story here.
With Mobile World Congress 2015 mere weeks away, it seems many smartphone makers are keeping their mobile powder dry during CES. However, there have been a few noteworthy announcements...
LG has officially launched the successor to its bendy G Flex smartphone. Yes, the company is bringing flexy back in the form of the G Flex 2, a curved phone with a 5.5in Plastic OLED screen. The G Flex 2’s screen is sharper (1080p as opposed to 720p) and stronger than its predecessor’s, and its self-healing rear has been improved so that minor scratches disappear in 10 seconds as opposed to three minutes.
Other improvements include a 13MP camera with LG’s laser autofocus system and dual LED flash, as well as the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 64-bit processor, which sits alongside 3GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of storage. The battery has a capacity of 3000mAh and is non-removable. Check out our hands-on review of the LG G Flex 2 here.
Asus, meanwhile, has launched two new smartphones. First up, the Asus Zenfone Zoom which, as its name suggests, is a photography-focussed (no pun intended) mobile with a 3x optical zoom (extremely rare on a phone) laser autofocus and optical image stabilisation. The rear camera has a 13MP sensor, the front-facer a 5MP sensor. There’s a 5.5in full HD screen, Intel Atom processor and 3000mAh battery on board, and the Zenfone Zoom is expected in the second quarter of 2015, priced at around US$349 (£230).
The Asus Zenfone 2, meanwhile, runs a little cheaper at US$199 (£130), but despite its affordable price tag it’s no slouch in the specs department: 5.5in full HD display, 64-bit Atom quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 13MP rear camera and 5MP front camera. Oh, and we’ve had hands-on time with it: check out our initial thoughts here.
READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy S6 preview
Stuff will be at CES in full force as usual, along with its all-new Wearable Tech Awards which will see ten winners showered with accolades on Stuff’s International News Stage on 7 January.
Most – but not all – of the new wearable tech unveiled at CES 2015 thus far has been wrist-worn. We’ll look at smartwatches and their ilk below, but one company to buck the wristy trend is Sony, which allowed us to get our eyes on its SmartEyeglass augmented reality specs. Are they just a rip-off of (the apparently moribund) Google Glass? Find out what we thought in our hands-on.
Sony also revealed its stainless steel SmartWatch 3 – not an entirely new device, but a timely (again, no pun intended) update of the already available model with a nicer strap, essentially. If you already own a SmartWatch 3, you can just buy the new housing and pop your device in. Instant upgrade.
Sticking with smartwatches, Alcatel has introduced its promised Watch at CES, and at US$149 (£100) it’s temptingly affordable. But the low price isn’t its only boon: it’s also a cross-platform device that’ll work with both Android and iOS devices. Read our full story here.
Moving onto fitness-centric wearables, there’s the crystalline Swarovski/Misfit mashup dubbed the Swarovski Shine. Made from aircraft-grade aluminium, it features a watch function as well as the ability to track your activity and sleep. There are two versions of the device: one that carries a six-month battery and one that doesn’t need manual charging at all, thanks to a solar charger. The Shine collection starts at US$170 (£110) and will go on sale in the spring.
Garmin has gone gaga when it comes to fitness wearables, launching no fewer than four wristbands: the Vivofit 2 (due March 2015, £100) is a minor update of the current Vivofit; the Vivoactive (£200, also due March) is an entry-level GPS watch that also tracks calories and steps taken (and it’s waterproof to 50m); the Fenix 3 (out January, £370) is a multisport GPS watch compatible with heart-rate sensors; and the high-end Epix (due February, £410) is a sports watch with a colour screen and 8GB of memory for installing third-party apps.
Taking fitness wearables in a slightly different direction is the AmpStrip, which is essentially a sticking plaster designed to be worn all day and all night on your torso – where your heartbeat is usually strongest. This waterproof sensor gathers all sorts of data, which it can feed to its accompanying AmpInsights iOS or Android app (it’s also compatible with third-party services like Strava and Runkeeper). It doesn’t have GPS, but it tracks heart-rate, cadence, calories burned, sleep and skin temperature – and it only requires taking off for charging once a week.
The Withings Activité Pop is a lot like the current Activité (which we have called the “most gorgeous fitness tracker”) but is cheaper – thanks to its materials and build, it’s £120 as opposed to £320. It’ll be available from February.
We also have a round-up of other fitness-related wearables unveiled at CES right here, including models from InBody, HealBe and Zensorium.
READ MORE: LG G Watch R review
Headphones and speakers
Samsung has confirmed it'll be launching a new range of curved soundbar speakers at CES 2015, alongside an all-new type of speaker that the company says "fills entire rooms with sound" no matter its placement. The WAM7500 and WAM6500 speakers use "Ring Radiator" technology that projects sound in a 360-degree arc. The WAM7500 is a "stand-type" model designed to be placed permanently, while the WAM6500 (pictured) is portable and battery-powered.
British hi-fi company Meridian Audio has announced that lossless streaming service Tidal, which features CD-quality music, is coming to the Meridian Sooloos system “from early 2015”. The company also announced that anyone who buys the Meridian Explorer 2 USB DAC will enjoy a three-month free trial of Tidal. During CES 2015, Tidal will be used to demonstrate Meridian’s MQA lossless streaming format.
Speaking of MQA, Imagination Technologies has just announced that its Caskeid wireless audio streaming service will support the format. That means lossless streaming on a variety of Caskeid-enabled products from the likes of Pure Digital, Onkyo and, yes, Meridian.
Chord Electronics, meanwhile, has loosed a brace of new hi-fi products at CES. First up is the Hugo TT DAC/headphone amp (a snip at £2,995), a large “desktop-oriented” device that’ll turn your computer into an audiophile powerhouse. The Hugo TT features twin headphone outputs, XLR outputs and USB-B inputs. Chord’s second product is smaller and more affordable: the 2Qute DAC (£995) combines two existing products in one box: the original Hugo DAC/headphone amp and the Qute EX standalone DAC.
Good news for streaming fans: Google Cast for audio is set to launch later in 2015. Working in a similar way to the company’s video casting ability, it’ll allow you to fling music from your phone or tablet (Android, iOS and web apps are all supported) to a range of supported TVs, hi-fis, soundbars and speakers. Google Play Music, Deezer, Rdio, Pandora and TuneIn will be among the apps supported at launch this spring – but interestingly there’s no mention yet of Spotify.
Sony, meanwhile, has launched a new Walkman – and it’s aimed squarely at audiophiles. The Sony Walkman ZX2 supports Hi-Res and lossless formats, features 128GB of expandable storage and will cost a whopping US$1,000 (£660) when it arrives this spring.
Audio-Technica has also gone down the Hi-Res route, launching a high-end new set of headphones called the MSR7 (£200) alongside the AT-PHA100 Portable Headphone Amplifier (£490). When combined (and paired with a source such as a PC, Mac or smartphone) they’re designed to offer high-end hi-fi performance without the need for a huge, hulking hi-fi.
Here in the UK, the weather outside may be grim as anything, but Monster has a new speaker that’ll have you looking forward to warmer times: the SuperStar BackFloat. Connecting wirelessly with your phone, it can float away in your pool pumping out stereo sounds – and doubles as a speakerphone. No UK price or release date has been announced yet, but it’ll cost US$170 (£110) in the States.
Nvidia has announced a new mobile processor. It's called the Tegra X1 and it's the first mobile chip that offers a teraflop of power (15 years ago, you'd have needed a 500,000W supercomputer the size of a suburban house to deliver a teraflop – the X1 is thumbnail-sized and consumes 15W of power). Expect to see the X1 used in tablets, smartphones and self-driving cars soon.
READ MORE: Nvidia Shield table review
Nest, maker of the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke/CO2 detector, has announced that a raft of third-party products now offer compatibility with their own. Imagine: a washing machine that knows when you're home and automatically switches to quiet mode. Well, that's now a reality. Welcome to your future smart home.
And hey, creative types: there's a brand new 3Doodler – dubbed the 3Doodler 2.0 – that's just been announced and wants to tackle all your 3D drawing needs. Smaller, lighter and more flexible than its predecessor, it's available for Kickstarter backing right now.
Update 07/01/2015: The Misfit Bolt is a smart bulb that reminds us a lot of the Philips Hue smart lighting system – but unlike Hue it doesn't require a central hub to work. Each Bolt bulb works as a standalone product, controllable from your Android or iOS tablet or smartphone. The bulbs can display millions of colours and are available for pre-order in the US now for US$50 (around £33).
BMW has shown off its new tech-laden i3. It features four laser sensors which let it have a 360 degree view of its surroundings. This lets it navigate around pillars, pedestrians and trolleys when you're parking - all without requiring any input from you. Even better, when you're returning to the car park with bags of shopping, just give your smartwatch a verbal command and it'll drive itself right up to you. Ghost chauffeur? We like the sound of that. Read our full story here.
Parrot has unveiled the RNB6, an in-car infotainment system that'll fit in most vehicles. It runs on Android 5.0 and is compatible with both the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay platforms. It also integrates with your car's diagnostic systems and works with a safety dashcam that constantly records the road ahead.
Toyota is being all altruistic at CES. In an effort to increase the proliferation of hydrogen-fuel cars on the roads, the company is to grant royalty-free use of 5,680 global patents related to the technology from now until 2020. That means other car manufacturers have an easier route to getting in on the efficient gassy car act. And that’s good news.
If you don’t like the idea of several competing and non-compatible VR systems (at present we have Oculus, Sony, Samsung and Google among the companies developing different systems), OSVR might appeal to you. Standing for Open Source Virtual Reality, it’s a platform (and an alliance of companies including Razer, Sensics, LeapMotion and Gearbox Software) designed to work with multiple headset designs and systems. It’s already compatible with the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 and Vrvana’s Totem headset, but the alliance is also delivering its own headset, due to launch in June for US$199 (around £130). You’ll even be able to make a custom version by 3D printing some components and purchasing others.
But Razer isn’t just concerning itself with VR. The company has also announced the Forge TV, an Android TV-based micro-console that can play not only Google Play-downloaded titles but also stream 1080p gameplay from PCs (connected via Wi-Fi or Ethernet). It’ll be available before the end of the first quarter of 2015, priced at €99.99 alone or €149.99 with a dual-analogue stick Serval controller.