We took a hybrid approach to covering CES this year. Our west-coast editor, Michael Brown, made the relatively short flight from Portland, OR to Las Vegas and walked the show floor. Given that COVID remains a stubbornly persistent health threat, we elected to have our east-coast editor, Ben Patterson, cover the show virtually to avoid long-distance travel. Between virtual briefings and in-person meetings, each of us saw lots of very exciting new home entertainment and smart home products.
In alphabetical order, here are the ones that impressed us the most:
Davis Instruments WeatherLink Console
Go ahead, call us weather weenies. Davis Instruments has long made some of the most accurate, highest quality weather stations on the market. The one element that’s been missing is an equally great console to display all the readings and data those stations collect. It looks as though the new WeatherLink Console will at long last be the missing link we’ve been looking for.
The Displace TV pitch kicked our BS detectors into overdrive: A 55-inch OLED TV devoid of wires—it doesn’t even have a power cord because it runs on rechargeable batteries—that hangs on the wall without mounting hardware and that can be scaled up to 8K resolution by tiling four panels so their bezels touch—again, without wires. Well, seeing is believing, as they say, and the Displace TV demo went a long way to allaying our doubts. While we personally wouldn’t pre-order one quite yet, the visit did leave us slack-jawed.
This fascinating system could be the next best thing to hiring Dr. Doolittle to talk to your animals. The idea is to train your pet to associate objects (“bone,” “toy,” “water”) and activities (“outside,” play”) with buttons placed on interlocking colored tiles. Each time your pet presses a button with its paw, they’ll hear your voice announcing the object or activity associated with that tile. Once trained, your pet will then touch the appropriate button to let you know what it wants or needs. FluentPet Connect’s inventor tells us that some customers have reported pets combining button presses to express more complex messages. A dog, for example, learned to push the button for “water” followed by the one for “bone” to communicate its desire for an ice cube to chew.
LG M3-series OLED TV
While not quite as ambitious as Displace TV’s effort, LG is developing a wireless—well, mostly wireless—OLED TV of its own. The 97-inch LG M3 depends on an electrical cord for power, but you plug all our entertainment sources—Blu-ray player, gaming console, etc.—into a cube-shaped box that can be placed up to 30 feet from the TV. The box beams audio and video to the TV using a proprietary wireless protocol. The only cord you need to hide at the TV itself is that power code.
Moen Smart Sprinkler Controller
We’ve tested some pretty great smart sprinkler controllers, but Moen’s product has a couple of features the competition doesn’t. First, wireless soil sensors (you can place up to one per zone) monitor your soil’s temperature and moisture content at several depths. Where a controller that takes the weather into account might postpone an irrigation session if rain is forecast, the Moen Smart Sprinkler Controller will determine if the soil is dry enough to need supplemental water in addition to rainfall. Second, Moen’s device can communicate with the company’s Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff Valve, so that the latter product doesn’t mistake an irrigation session for a leak and shut off your home’s water supply.
Nakamichi Dragon soundbar
The legendary Nakamichi audio brand is going big—really big—with its latest soundbar. The 58-inch-wide Nakamichi Dragon will arrive later this year with a whopping 31 drivers delivering 21 channels of audio in a room-filling 11.4.6 configuration, complete with two subwoofer cabinets packing two woofers each. The Dragon’s upfiring drivers can be adjusted to match the physical characteristics of the room it’s in, and the soundbar is the first of its kind to offer DTS:X Pro, an enhanced version of the object-based DTS:X immersive audio format that supports up to 32 connected speakers.
Nanoleaf Sense+ Controls
Nanoleaf has long complained that existing smart bulbs and light switches aren’t all that smart, and now the company is putting its money where its mouth is with its new Sense+ Controls line. Powered by its Nanoleaf Automations Learning Assistant (Nala), Nanoleaf’s Matter-compatible Sense+ Controls sensors can monitor your habits and create personalized automations that promise to bring smart lighting to the next level. Will the Nanoleaf Sense+ Controls line deliver? We’ll find out this fall.
Ring Car Cam
If you’ve deployed Ring security cameras all around your home, putting one inside your car is the next logical step. Once you’ve mounted the dual-facing Ring Car Cam on your vehicle’s dashboard and windshield and plugged it into the car’s OBD port, it will record what’s going on both inside the cabin and in front of the car while the vehicle is in motion. Say “Alexa, record,” and the camera will capture what’s going on even when the car is still, which could be very reassuring if you’re pulled over or get in a fender bender and need to exchange information with the other driver. If your car is parked and someone bumps or breaks into it, the camera will wake up and record that activity and then send a video clip to the Ring app on your phone. At that point, you can initiate a live stream to see just what’s going on.
Roborock S8 Pro Ultra
Roborock frequently impresses us with the power and sophistication of its robot vacuum cleaners, but the Roborock S8 Pro Ultra takes the cake. This mop/vacuum hybrid comes with a base station that empties the vacuum’s dustbin, refills the water reservoir for its mop, and cleans the mop pad while it’s docked and charging its batteries. The vacuum can distinguish between hard flooring and rugs and carpets, and it will automatically lift its mop pad to prevent wetting the latter. The vacuum can even navigate around obstacles on the floor—shoes, electrical cords, children’s toys, and the like—and it boasts an amazing 6,000Pa of suction power. Last but not least, it’s outfitted with twin silicone rollers that won’t get tangled with pet hair.
Samsung CX-series micro-LED TV
Samsung knocked our socks off in 2019 with demonstrations of its ginormous The Wall TV. The micro-LED technology that TV uses is capable of achieving perfect black levels because it can turn off individual pixels, just like an OLED. But micro-LED technology can achieve brightness levels OLED panels can only dream of. Everything is hunky dory until you start talking about prices, and that’s when the nosebleeds start. And who really needs a 219-inch TV anyway? At CES this year, Samsung took the wraps off its CX series of micro-LED TVs, starting with the stunning 76-inch model pictured above. And while Samsung hasn’t announced pricing, logic dictates that this much smaller TV will be a whole lot less expensive.