The Stand-Out Laptops of CES 2021

Illustration for article titled The Stand-Out Laptops of CES 2021

Image: Joanna Neliu/Gizmodo, MSI, Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, Razer

It was definitely strange not being able to hold, type on, or touch the brand new laptop screens at CES as we would have in pre-covid times. There’s only so much you can tell about a product you only see or read about online, so that tangibility is an absolute necessity to figuring out what a laptop is all about. (Some benchmarking would be nice, too.) Yet as we saw, it’s entirely possible to stand out with just a hardware spec list, new features, or an interesting design.

All the below laptops did just that. While this is not an exhaustive list of every laptop announced at CES 2021, these are a few that piqued our interest. Plenty of other gadgets caught our eyes, too, from wearables to TVs, and everything cool and just plain weird in between.

Asus ROG Flow X13 Ultra Slim

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Asus hit us with a bit of a surprise this year: None of its new or refreshed gaming laptops will come with an Intel processor, save for one. Every other model will have one of the new processors in AMD’s 5000-series.

But in the spirit of last year’s CES, and its success with the Zephyrus G14 from its ROG lineup of gaming laptops (which also had an AMD processor), this year Asus merged two different laptop worlds together to create the unique 2-in-1 ROG Flow X13 Ultra Slim.

The 360-degree hinges let the touchscreen display fold completely backward to use the gaming laptop in tablet mode, yet you still get the combined power of AMD’s new Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU alongside Nvidia’s GTX 1650 GPU regardless of what mode you use it in. Currently, the laptop comes bundled with the impressive RTX 3080 inside Asus’ XG Mobile eGPU too.

It seems like Asus has designed this laptop for both the frequent and infrequent gamers who use their gaming laptops for other tasks, too. Gamers are artists, bookworms, students, teachers, etc., and a laptop that can literally morph itself to suit any working scenario is appealing.

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But while this laptop is definitely a stand-out that I would love to get my hands on, I hope Asus decides to at least sell it separately from the XG Mobile. The two together cost a whopping $3,000.

Acer Predator Triton 300 SE

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I can’t get enough of the Predator Triton 300 SE’s new design. It’s all grown up now, decked out in a gray-silver that is both subdued and professional while also being bright and inviting. But it’s packed with power underneath the hood. This is Acer’s flagship gaming laptop, and it did not go light on the specs.

Sporting a new 11th-gen Intel Core i7 H35-series Special Edition processor and an Nvidia RTX 3060, Acer did much more than stuff this laptop with new components. The all-metal chassis is thinner and lighter, just 0.7 inches thin and weighing 3.75 pounds. The battery life is substantially better, according to Acer, and there’s a 14-inch FHD IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate, which is a solid choice for someone who’s looking for a laptop for work that can also handle a variety of games.

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It starts at $1,400, which makes me nod my head slowly and say, “Not bad, not bad.”

Dell Alienware m17 R4

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Power and a stupid-fast fresh rate are basically synonymous with Dell’s refreshed Alienware m17 R4. It’s the first Alienware gaming laptop with a 360 Hz, 17.3-inch, 1080p display, HDMI 2.1 support, and Nvidia’s new RTX 30-series cards.

To support the new GPUs, Dell has opted for Intel’s Core i7-10870H, and the Core i9-10980HK is also an option. They’ve got the core count and the performance that gamers would expect from a beastly laptop like this. (Although I would like to see one with a new AMD Ryzen 5000-series chip, too.)

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The m17 R4 is also getting slightly faster DRAM at 2933 MHz, and up to 4TB of storage so you can upload lots of games the size of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

HP Envy 14

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HP has given its popular Envy laptop series a welcome refresh, making it even more suitable for those looking for a machine for work or school—something reliable that will get the job done quickly. Not only is the Envy 14 getting Intel’s new 11th-gen Core i5 processor, but HP has also made other tweaks to the overall specs to make it better suited for some creative tasks as well.

The Envy 14 now has a 14-inch, 16:10 (1920 x 1290) display instead of a 13-inch, 16:9 (1920 x 1080) IPS touchscreen. There are dedicated keys to mute your mic or open/close the physical webcam shutter, and an AI Noise removal feature for those times you’re on a Zoom call and someone with a leaf blower walks up right next to your window. (This happens to me at least once a week.)

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The machine also claims to last an impressive 16.5 hours on a charge—if true, that means you can leave your laptop charger at home. There’s also an optional GTX 1650 Ti for those who need a little more GPU compute power than Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics.

The price isn’t too bad, either—$1,000 for the whole kit—if you’re looking for something with a more robust operating system and more oomph than a Chromebook.

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Lenovo Yoga AIO 7

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The Yoga AIO 7 is technically an all-in-one desktop PC, but I’m including it here because it has a mobile processor as its brains. And it looks really, really neat. (It’s so much more pleasing to look at than Lenovo’s Yoga A940 AIO.) It’s basically a mid-range gaming laptop disguised as an all-in-one desktop with a display that can rotate vertically, and it supports wireless casting from phones and tablets while the PC is off.

Specs-wise, the Yoga AIO 7 comes with either a Ryzen 7 4800H or Ryzen 5 4600H CPU and an RTX 2060 GPU—a step down from Asus’ Zephyrus G14, yet it should deliver similar performance. The display itself should catch the eye of some creators, too. If you opt for the higher-end version, it’s a 27-inch 4K IPS display with a DCI-P3 99% color gamut, but there is also a cheaper option with a 100% sRGB color gamut. Both are flicker-free and low blue light certified from TÜV Rheinland.

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The only downside is Lenovo has no plans at this time to release it to the North American market, which is a major bummer. I hope it reconsiders.

MSI Stealth 15M

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It’s no small thing to boast your company now makes the thinnest and lightest gaming laptop in the world, but it would seem that MSI has done it. At 0.62 inches thick and just 3.7 pounds, the Stealth 15M is lighter and thinner than both the Dell XPS 15 and Lenovo’s newest Legion Slim 7. (Both weigh more than 4 pounds and are thicker than 0.70 inches.)

MSI has found a way to fit some serious hardware into its newest Stealth 15M, too: an Intel Core i7-11375H CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3060 Max-Q GPU, along with Wi-Fi 6 support, two USB-C ports (one with Thunderbolt 3), and a full-size HDMI port.

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Compared to Razer’s newest Blade 15 (down below), the Stealth 15M is $300 cheaper and has a newer processor than the Blade’s 10th-gen chip, so it might be a more enticing option to some people. The rest of the specs are pretty much the same.

NEC LaVie Mini Concept

Illustration for article titled The Stand-Out Laptops of CES 2021

Image: Lenovo

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OK, so this isn’t a thing that you can go out and buy, nor is there even a promise of it ever launching, but my gosh is it cool! It’s way cooler than Dell’s Concept UFO from CES 2020. Lenovo teamed up with NEC to create this interesting, laptop-to-handheld gaming device concept, the LaVie Mini.

Depending on the price, I would buy this in a heartbeat. Laptop mode would be great for firing off a quick email or doomscrolling through Twitter, and when you’ve had enough bad news for one day, you can transform your mini laptop into a handheld console. It’s got the specs for it: an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU with Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, Wi-Fi 6, and a 26 WHr battery. At least, that’s how it’s designed to be configured at the moment.

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I’m assuming Windows 10 would run on it, too. So make it LTE (or even 5G) compatible along with Wi-Fi 6 and you could play games on it almost anywhere via the cloud on GeForce Now, Stadia, Luna, Xbox, Shadow—whatever!

It’s hard to tell if the controllers will fold in/out from the laptop itself, or if they will be separate. If the controllers fold in/out, that would make the LaVie Mini enticing. But for now it’s just a concept, so dreaming is going to be a lot easier than willing this sucker into reality.

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Razer Blade 15 (Base Model)

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Last but not least is Razer’s refreshed Blade 15. Keeping its signature look, the newest Blade 15 comes with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7, up to an RTX 3070, a 512GB PCIe SSD (plus one empty M.2 PCIe slot), 16GB of RAM, and a FHD 144 Hz or QHD 165 Hz display. The chassis is also about 4% smaller than the previous model, and there’s an Ethernet port.

Unlike many other gaming laptops, though, the new Blade 15 focuses on storage capacity. Razer has added a new storage module that stacks two M.2 PCIe SSDs together, which means if you wanted to put up to 4TB of storage in this laptop, you could. Both the Base and Advanced models have this feature, actually!

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If you have some more cash to burn, the Blade 15 Advanced model has a 10th-gen Intel Core i7, up to an RTX 3080, 1TB PCIe SSD with an extra M.2 PCIe slot, 16GB or 32GB of RAM, and a FHD 360 Hz, QHD 240 Hz or 4K OLED Touch display. It does swap the Ethernet port for an SD card reader, though.

These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Graphic: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo, Image: Skagen, Fossil, AirPop, Morari Medical

Usually, when people think of wearables, their mind conjures an image of a smartwatch. Fair! But at CES, wearables are a much, much broader category. They include everything from “hearables” and smart rings, to futuristic proof of concept devices that may never actually see the light of day.

While CES 2021 was an all-digital experience, that doesn’t mean we didn’t scour the digital booths for the wearable tech you should definitely know about. On top of smartwatches, this year we saw some cool smart glasses concepts, tons of weird smart masks, and, uh, even a patch meant to be worn in an extremely delicate area. In any case, here are our picks for the wearable tech you should know about from CES 2021.

Fossil Gen 5 LTE

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Photo: Fossil

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Finally, a cellular Wear OS smartwatch that people might actually use! (RIP LG Watch Sport.) While we’re disappointed that this latest Fossil watch isn’t sporting the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip, this is still a big step forward for Fossil and by proxy, Wear OS. True, it’s limited to Android users on Verizon, but if Wear OS is going to make any strides in catching up to Samsung and Apple, cellular capability is a must.

Skagen Jorn

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Image: Fossil

Hybrid smartwatches aren’t new. Hell, hybrid watches from a Fossil brand aren’t even new. That said, the Skagen Jorn is just a gorgeous watch and its e-ink display gives us some nostalgic Pebble vibes. Fossil has also added some new features, including competitions and challenges and a do-not-disturb mode.

Mudra Band

Gif: Wearable Devices Ltd.

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This $180 Apple Watch strap has a unique thing going for it: It lets you control the watch just by making hand gestures. On the inside, there are a series of sensors that can detect electrochemical signals from your brain. Those signals are then run through an algorithm that can detect your individual finger movements. So, for instance, you could pinch your fingers to answer a call from the wrist, or fold your thumb to skip a music track. There are some simple use cases for everyday life, but this tech has plenty of accessibility applications too.

JLab JBuds

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Image: JLab Audio

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We’ve seen open-ear headphones built into eyeglass frames before. (Hello, Bose Frames!) But the cool thing about these JLab JBuds is that they’re not actually built into the frames themselves. They’re $50 clip-ons that let you turn an existing pair of sunglasses (or regular glasses) into a pair of “smart” glasses. We love an affordable, accessible option for some fancy-pants tech!

AirPop Active+ with Halo Sensor

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Image: AirPop

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So maybe Razer’s RGB smart mask is flashier, but it’s also a concept device. This thing is an actual product that exists and is pretty smart to boot. The mask itself has a Halo sensor in the mask that then connects over Bluetooth with your phone. The mask can track breathing data, as well as give you real-time insights about air quality and location. It can even tell you what types of air pollutants the mask has blocked via an app. It’ll also remind you when to change your filter, and can be used in an “Active Mode” to track breaths per minute, per pace, etc. while you’re exercising. It uses a coin cell battery, so you don’t actually have to charge it either, and works with iOS and Android. The device comes with four filters and is expected to be available in January for $150.

Vuzix Next Generation Smart Glasses

Vuzix has been in the smart glasses game for a while now. These particular glasses, however, are notable because they don’t look like something that came out of a sci-fi flick—but still contain some neat tech. The glasses incorporate “waveguides with holographic optics,” laser and micro-LED display that can be used indoors and outdoors, open ear audio, and noise-canceling microphones. Vuzix says they’ll be capable of combining “most smartphone and smartwatch capabilities” and expects the glasses to be available later this year.

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Lenovo ThinkReality A3

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Image: Lenovo

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On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, this AR Lenovo headset is leaning in on the whole “glasses of the future” vibe. Are they stylish? Hell no. Are they meant for regular consumers? Absolutely not, this is more for enterprise customers. But it’s impressive that it can handle up to five stereoscopic 1080p displays, sports an eight-megapixel RGB camera, and dual fish-eye cameras for room-scale tracking. It can also plug into your PC or certain Motorola smartphones. These will be available in mid-2021.

Quantum Operation Inc’s Non-invasive Glucose Monitor

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Image: Quantum Operations

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This Tokyo-based startup says it’s created the world’s first non-invasive glucose monitor that’s capable of continuous, real-time measurement. The company says it uses “patented spectrum sensing technology” to measure a person’s blood sugar via the wrist. That’s huge for diabetic patients, who traditionally have to prick their skin with needles to get accurate blood sugar readings. It also has major implications for doctors, as it might help them monitor patients remotely—especially if they live in rural areas or aren’t able to travel often. While this isn’t a device that’ll be on the market in the next few weeks or months, it’s cool to see this kind of tech is in the works.

The Taint Bandaid

Gif: Morari Medical/Gizmodo

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I have written many words about the taint bandaid, but here I am, writing a few more. It’s technically a wearable patch designed by Morari Medical that’s meant to zap your netherbits with some gentle electroneurostimulation. To help with premature ejaculation. We saw this last year, but back then it was literally a bandaid on a smooth Ken doll mannequin. This year it is real, the design has been updated, Bluetooth has been added, and real people have used it. Morari Medical is aggressively aiming to bring this to market by the end of this year. Count this as one of the more memorable devices to ever come out of CES.

We’re live from our couches covering CES 2021! Click here to read our complete coverage.

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Intel Just Quietly Launched Its New Phantom Canyon NUC 11 Lineup

Illustration for article titled Intel Just Quietly Launched Its New Phantom Canyon NUC 11 Lineup

Screenshot: Intel

Intel focused much of its time at this year’s virtual CES on its new desktop and mobile processors, as well as spotlighting the laptops that will feature its new hardware debuting in the next few months. But what didn’t get much attention was Intel’s line of mini PCs, or NUCs, and NUC kits. Intel’s giving those a Tiger Lake-refresh at a more reasonable price this time around, depending on the configuration and where you buy a unit.

First up is Intel’s enthusiast model, or the NUC 11 Enthusiast, which comes as either a full mini PC or as a kit. The full PC includes an 11th-gen Core i7-1165G7 processor with Iris Xe integrated graphics, RTX 2060 graphics card, 16 GB DDR4-3200 memory, Intel Optane Memory H10 (32GB + 512GB) storage, and even a geo-specific power cord option for the U.S., Europe, and China. Windows 10 Home comes pre-loaded, too.

There’s a variety of ports, as well: HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, Intel 2.5 GB Ethernet port, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 support, plus six USB 3.1 Gen2 ports.

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The kit includes the same CPU and GPU, plus the same type and amount of ports, but the memory, storage, and operating system are all a BYOB-situation—though it will support up to 64 GB of memory. Also note that if you’re interested in going this route, the board supports PCIe 3.0 NVMe M.2 SSDs, not PCIe 4.0. There’s also additional power cord options for the UK, Australia, and India.

The NUC 11 Performance model comes with the choice of either a Core i7-1165G7, Core i5-1135G7, or Core i3-1115G4, with the i7 and i5 options including Iris Xe graphics and the i3 with regular ol’ UHD. None of the pre-built mini PCs comes with a discrete GPU. They also all come with 8GB DDR4-3200 memory, 500GB NVMe SSD PCIe 4.0 storage (odd since the enthusiast model does not have Gen4, but maybe the Intel Optane Memory has something to do with that), Windows 10 Home pre-loaded, and the same amount of ports, minus three USB ports.

The final model, the NUC 11 Pro Mini, comes with either a Core i7-1165G7 or Core i5-1145G7 with Iris Xe graphics, a 500GB Gen 4 NVMe SSD (again, odd), 8GB DDR4-3200 memory, and Windows 10 Home pre-loaded. Like the Enthusiast kit, both the Performance and Pro kits are BYO memory, storage, and operation system. And if you look at the support pages for both the Pro Mini PCs, Intel already has an expected discontinuance date sometime in the first half of 2024. The other NUC PCs do not.

Unfortunately, all of these models come with a soldered-down BGA socket, which means the processor can’t be easily taken out and upgraded in the future. What CPU you get is the CPU you get.

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But there is sort of a saving grace: the price. A fully configured enthusiast model from SimplyNUC starts at $1,350—but with 8GB of memory and only a 128GB NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD. If you start speccing the NUC 11 Enthusiast out with the same components that Intel advertises, the price jumps up fast, though it’s still better than the NUC 9 Extreme Kit we reviewed last year.

[TechRadar]

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All the Best New TVs Announced at CES 2021

Illustration for article titled All the Best New TVs Announced at CES 2021

Graphic: Gizmodo, Image: TCL, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, LG

CES was very different this year. Show floors in Vegas hotels were swapped for an entirely virtual event and back-to-back Zoom presentations. That can make demoing the technology powering new OLED or 8K TVs a little tough. But from what we did get to see coming out of this year’s CES, there’s plenty to be excited about.

Sony kicked off CES 2021 by announcing new OLED, 4K, and 8K TVs in its Bravia XR family of displays, all of which will feature its new Cognitive Processor XR. The big thing to know about this powerful new chip is the way it enhances audio and video in an attempt to create an overall more immersive experience. The primary way the chip does this is by zeroing in on the natural focal point of an image and improving the quality of that object or person to make it look more realistic. The chip is also supposed to improve upscaling from formats like 4K to 8K by reducing noise and blur. That should perk the ears of anyone entertaining buying an 8K set this year, as there’s still very little 8K content of which to speak.

Illustration for article titled All the Best New TVs Announced at CES 2021

Image: Sony

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In addition to its fancy new chip, some of Sony’s TVs this year will feature ambient light sensors to adjust the brightness of the screen to better match the light in a given viewing environment. This certainly sounds like a neat feature, but we’re eager to try it in person and with a number of different entertainment setups, including with Hue lighting. Beyond that, this year’s Sony TVs will be powered by Google TV, an exciting upgrade from Android TV. And all of its Bravia XR displays will have HDMI 2.1 support for 4K 120fps, Variable Refresh Rate, Auto Low Latency Mode, and e-ARC—a pretty big leap from its paltry inclusion in last year’s TVs.

The Bravia XR lineup of TVs will include the X95J and X90J 4K LED TVs, Master Series Z9J 8K LED, and the Master Series A90J and A80J OLEDs, as well as a slightly differently spec’d 100-inch version of the X90J called the X92. Pricing will be announced later down the line.

Illustration for article titled All the Best New TVs Announced at CES 2021

Image: Samsung

Samsung announced new microLED TVs in 99-inch, 88-inch, and 110-inch display sizes—all of which will borrow their technology from Samsung’s existing modular super-screen The Wall, a product that was pretty neat but not especially suited to consumers who just want to unbox a TV the normal way rather than it needing to be installed by a professional. These new TVs will check that box.

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Additionally, Samsung is introducing more customization options for its The Frame display, the company’s most popular TV for its ability to camouflage into a room’s decor by looking more like a framed artwork than an imposing black mirror in the middle of your space. Samsung’s Neo QLED TVs, meanwhile, use more and smaller LED lights to deliver better and more controlled brightness while also minimizing blooming. Lastly, Samsung is rolling out a new remote for all of its 2021 QLED 4K and 8K TV—and it charges on solar. Samsung says this remote can charge on both indoor and outdoor light, as well as through a USB-C port. That’s exciting! But we’d love to see this remote in action before getting too hype. In the meantime, we’re cautiously optimistic.

Let’s chat about TCL for a moment because this company really wowed me this year with the promise of massive screens at an affordable price point and the introduction of 8K on its popular 6-Series display (we’re big fans of it here at Gizmodo). At least three screens will ship in 85-inch variations this year, including a 4K QLED with Roku, an 8K QLED TV, and a 4-Series that will retail for $1,600. That’s a steal! While the other two will definitely still be pretty pricey, TCL will likely undercut many TV makers in the space for similarly spec’d 85-inch displays. Also an 8K 6-Series? I’m looking forward to seeing that upscaling in action, but TCL’s got a lot of competition on this front. And to be clear: Just because you can buy an 8K TV doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

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Illustration for article titled All the Best New TVs Announced at CES 2021

Image: Panasonic

Panasonic is taking a decidedly more modest approach—size-wise, at least—to its marquee OLED for 2021. The JZ2000 will be available in both 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, which is definitely enough TV for most people in my opinion. Panasonic says this OLED will be brighter and feature better on-unit sound, and the TV will get support for features like eARC, auto low latency mode (ALLM), and variable refresh rate (VRR). That might make it a pretty attractive pick for gamers, but we’ll have to see how it performs first. Its My Home Screen will also be getting a refresh—though that may be less important to folks who already cut the cord and use a streaming device.

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And last but not least, LG, which is finally doing miniLED. The OLED king will introduce both 4K and 8K miniLED displays this year, as well as new C1 OLEDs starting at 48-inch screens and G1 OLEDs in 55-inch displays and up. Like Panasonic, LG is also redesigning its native WebOS operating system. I’m a little on the fence about this one. Nothing about LG’s previous OS was necessarily bad, and this one looks a lot like, well, just about everything else. But we’re looking forward to a hands-on demo with this new OS version later this year.

We’re live from our couches covering CES 2021! Click here to read our complete coverage.

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Fender’s Tiny Personal Amp Could Recreate Classic Tones

Illustration for article titled Fenders Tiny Personal Amp Could Recreate Classic Tones

Photo: Fender

Portable or practice amps are a guitarist’s best friend. These tiny devices usually plug right into your guitar and let you listen to the audio without waking the neighbors or the baby in the next room. Fender, for its part, has made it easier to get great tone out of a box the size of a few packs of gum.

The Mustang Micro is a $100 amplifier with a standard 1/4-inch jack on one end. It charges via USB and outputs to a 3.5mm headphone jack. You can stream Bluetooth audio to the device so you can play along to what’s playing in your headphones and it includes an on-board sound processor to add amplifier tones from the Mustang GTX. You can also connect the device to a USB cable and record audio to your computer, turning this into an interesting way to sketch out songs.

The Mustang GTX amp is Fender’s electronic amplifier with 200 presets that range from rock to blues to country. These amps, which became a popular alternative to single-use foot pedal effects, let you sound like anyone from BB King to Nine Inch Nails, guitar talent permitting.

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It lasts for four hours on one charge and will ship this April.

The MagSafe PopSocket May Have Convinced Me That MagSafe Is Good (Maybe)

Illustration for article titled The MagSafe PopSocket May Have Convinced Me That MagSafe Is Good (Maybe)

Image: PopSocket

Apple introduced a new version of its classic MagSafe charging technology, previously used in MacBooks, with the iPhone 12. It works a little differently in the iPhone than it does in a laptop: a circular array of magnets embedded in back of the phone enables it to snap to a compatible accessory. It could be a charger, like Apple’s own MagSafe wireless charging puck, or it could be anything else you want to keep close to your phone, like a wallet. But I found the MagSafe charger to be just fine—it’s no easier or faster than using a Lightning charger and fast-charging brick—and I have no interest in snapping my credit cards and driver’s license to my phone. Yet at this year’s CES, third-party accessory makers showed off a handful of MagSafe gadgets that may have convinced me.

Specifically, I am intrigued by PopSockets’ MagSafe PopGrip. I have, until now, had an aversion to PopSockets. I get why people like them—they make it easier to use your phone one-handed, particularly when taking photos—but the process of applying a PopSocket base to my phone or phone case has always been unappealing to me. I simply don’t want to deal with applying the PopGrip’s gel-based adhesive to my phone or its case, or ever have to think about repositioning it. I also don’t want to have a PopSocket on my phone at all times, and the grip’s gel-based adhesive dries out when exposed to air. But the MagSafe version simply snaps to the back of an iPhone 12 or an iPhone 12 phone case, no application required, and you can leave it behind whenever you want to. This might just be the accessory that convinces me that PopSockets are good—depending on how much it costs when it launches this spring.

But we also saw a handful of MagSafe charging stands that seem incredibly useful. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, Belkin’s new $100 2-in-1 MagSafe charger for AirPods is a more affordable option than its $150 3-in-1. Anker’s offerings, which include a 2-in-1 stand for charging an Apple Watch and an iPhone and a 3-in-1 for charging your AirPods, too, could be the most compelling price-wise, as Anker products are usually on the cheaper end for accessories.

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But what I’d like to see is Mophie step up here. Mophie’s 3-in-1 charging stand, while expensive, has been my absolute favorite charging solution for a while, but it’s a little finicky with an iPhone 12. Sometimes the phone will stop charging when it’s barely juiced up and needs to be repositioned to start charging again. A Mophie MagSafe 3-in-1 would be the dream.

But what I’m actually waiting for is a MagSafe tripod grip for shooting photos and videos. Spring-loaded smartphone grips are atrocious, and I’ve pinched my fingers many a time trying to position them properly. A MagSafe PopSocket can only go so far—let’s see some pro-level MagSafe accessories.

What are you hoping to see accessory makers do with MagSafe? Brainstorm in the comments.

Turtle Beach Acquires Wacky Microphone Maker In Bid to Enter Podcasting Market

Illustration for article titled Turtle Beach Acquires Wacky Microphone Maker In Bid to Enter Podcasting Market

Photo: Neat Microphones

Turtle Beach, a maker of popular gaming headsets, has acquired Neat Microphones, a company that made waves with its unique-looking microphones for broadcasters and podcasters.

Originally launched by musical instrument manufacturer Gibson, Neat’s Widget microphone line looked like something Jessica Rabbit would sing into in Toontown. Founded by the co-founder of Blue Microphones Skipper Wise, the company recently released the Bee Line, a collection of desktop and portable microphones in bold yellow and black. The engineer behind Blue Microphones, Martins Sulespurens, is also moving to Turtle Beach in the acquisition.

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“We are entering the growing global streaming and microphone market with two significant advantages – the visionary leadership and engineering expertise behind some of the most renowned mics of the past 30-plus years, and Neat‘s impressive 2021 product lineup,” said Juergen Stark, Turtle Beach CEO. “We’re thrilled to welcome Skipper Wise, Martins Saulespurens, and the rest of the Neat Microphones team to the Turtle Beach family.”

The microphones are priced in the $140 range and are aimed at digital broadcasters who are looking for a unique, visually-arresting microphone with USB capabilities. With podcasting seemingly more popular than ever there’s a big demand for an easy to use and good sounding microphone. That these also look interesting feels almost like a bonus.

The companies did not reveal the terms of the acquisition.

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This Nifty Strap Lets You Control the Apple Watch With Gestures

Illustration for article titled This Nifty Strap Lets You Control the Apple Watch With Gestures

Image: Mudra Band

Controlling an object with a hand gesture sounds more like Jedi wizardry than a real-life possibility. But after watching a CES 2021 demo of the Mudra Brand, I have to admit that perhaps this tech isn’t as far-fetched or gimmicky as I previously thought.

The Mudra Band looks pretty much like any smartwatch band would, except that the inside lining has several square-shaped Surface Nerve Conductance (SNC) sensors. These sensors measure something the company refers to as “biopotentials”—basically, the electrochemical activity produced by your nervous system. Fundamentally, this is the same concept used by more familiar tech like ECGs, albeit for a much different purpose.

Gif: Mudra Band

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This definitely sounds cool, but so far gesture tech has been a bit wonky. Normally, it involves waving at a camera or IR sensors, much like Google’s Project Soli (which powers the gesture features on Pixel phones) or the LG G8 ThinQ. Gizmodo got to compare both, and while the Pixel was much more reliable, neither were really game-changers. Likewise, Samsung quietly introduced control gestures on its Galaxy Watch 3 but in practice, I found them hard to use and gimmicky.

Given all this, I was skeptical going into the Mudra Band demo. The pitch is if you move your fingers in a specific way—say, pinching your thumb and forefinger together—you can single-handedly control the Apple Watch. The band supposedly picks up your neurological signals and then relays that to the smartwatch over Bluetooth. There are a lot of ways this could go sideways, and I had questions. Like, how sensitive were the sensors? Could it differentiate between intentional commands and accidental movements? How long did you have to wait between doing a gesture and it registering on the watch? What sort of applications and use cases would work with this thing?

Guy Wagner, the president and chief scientist at Wearable Devices Ltd (the company behind Mudra), demoed the device to me over video (due to the pandemic, of course), and it was actually impressive. On the Mudra app, I could see how the band was able to identify specific gestures, as well as detect in real-time when those gestures were made. More astonishing was the fact that if Wagner used his other hand to move a finger, nothing registered at all.

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Illustration for article titled This Nifty Strap Lets You Control the Apple Watch With Gestures

Image: Mudra Band

“I have to do it intentionally,” Wagner explained. “If I move it mechanically, nothing will happen. It’s the intention to do a movement. It’s not me thinking about making a phone call to someone or answering or dismissing that call.”

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So it’s not mind-reading in the way we normally think of it, but watching it, it seemed pretty damn close.

Obviously, this kind of gesture tech would be very useful in a pandemic, where touching things willy nilly is not the best idea. It could also be helpful from a hands-free perspective. Personally, I would love it if I could skip to the next music track while running by simply curling a finger instead of having to slow down, view my surroundings, and then swipe through a screen. In the demo, I watched Wagner use the gesture tech to scroll through several movies in a streaming app, and even select one. He also used the band and some finger waggles to draw a picture within an art app. Right now, however, that sort of functionality is a bit further down the line. Wagner says that the focus is first on answering and dismissing phone calls, followed by media controls, and then whatever the customer base thinks is most relevant.

Wagner also thinks this tech could be useful for AR and VR. The problem right now is that there isn’t a particularly elegant way to navigate within a virtual space. You generally need a type of control, be it sticks, gloves, or ring-like cursors. The Mudra Band, or devices like it, could be a more intuitive way to interact with smart glasses or VR headsets.

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At the moment, the Mudra Band isn’t available just yet, though the company has raised more than $200,000 on IndieGogo. You can also preorder the Mudra Band for $180 on the company’s website. Wagner says the first round of straps is currently in production, and that he expects to ship to backers sometime in March this year.

We’re live from our couches covering CES 2021! Click here to read our complete coverage.

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GoPro Just Dropped a Crap-Ton of Experimental Features for Its Cameras

Illustration for article titled GoPro Just Dropped a Crap-Ton of Experimental Features for Its Cameras

Photo: Brent Rose/Gizmodo

Usually when a company introduces new features or updates for an existing gadget, they tend to be a bit…lacking. You may get one small update, two or three if you’re lucky. Well, buckle up GoPro fans: Today, the company is launching seven new experimental features, because why the hell not?

The new features are available for download today at the GoPro Labs website, which is where the company drops beta features that may never actually become “official.” This firmware update supports the Hero9 Black, Hero8 Black, Hero7 Black, and the GoPro Max. Some are updates to previously introduced features, like QR-code controls, while others seem to be aimed at letting users use their GoPros in more experimental ways. In any case, here’s a quick rundown of what’s launching today.

  • Camera motion triggers
  • USB Power triggers
  • Motion detection enhancements
  • Simplified live-streaming QR codes
  • Single-setting/one-button modes
  • New exposure modes
  • New QR code controls

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The camera motion triggers use a GoPro’s accelerometer and/or gyroscope to start or stop capture only when it detects you’re in motion. The idea behind this is to maximize battery life and storage, as you won’t be recording footage of you just…standing somewhere figuring out what to record next. The USB Power triggers do the same, except the trigger is whenever the camera detects you’re plugged into a USB power source. According to the company, this should enable folks to use their GoPros as makeshift dashcams, which frankly sounds like a neat and economical way to repurpose an older GoPro.

Some of the updates are more passive. For example, the motion detection enhancements are basically extending that particular feature to all video modes, including the 360-degree motion detection in the GoPro Max. Likewise, the simplified live-streaming QR code just makes it faster to start a stream whenever you’re connected to wifi. As for the new QR code controls, GoPro is now adding support for 5K and the Hero9 Black’s HindSight capture feature. The new exposure modes also now allow you to set a timed exposure lock, as well as minimum shutter speeds.

Lastly, the single-setting/one-button mode essentially makes it so that all you can do on the camera is start or stop a capture. As for why you might want to do that, GoPro says it’s meant to help newbies from accidentally switching camera settings and modes while they learn how to use their devices.

In any case, in lieu of any new hardware, we love a meaty, backwards-compatible software update.

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We’re live from our couches covering CES 2021! Click here to read our complete coverage.

The Lasso Robot Wants to Make Recycling at Home Easier

Illustration for article titled The Lasso Robot Wants to Make Recycling at Home Easier

Photo: Lasso

Recycling is important but it’s also a pain. Separating glass from plastic from paper isn’t a terrible task but what wouldn’t it be nicer if a robot did it instead? That’s why one inventor built the Lasso, a robot that claims to accept, indentify, and prepare recycling for proper reuse.

Creator Aldous Hicks built the lasso to automatically recycle things like glass and plastic. You drop an item into the machine, the machine analyses it, and then if it’s recyclable it grinds it up and prepares it for disposal.

Hicks, a mechanical engineer and programmer, saw recycling as a “materials corruption problem.”

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“He believes that when you mix up different items all together at the beginning – whether it is data or used-materials – they are difficult to separate later,” said Lasso representative Kieran White. “Everything then ends up being wasted. Within a month he wrote down his first ‘used-materials in/valuable products out’ solution for his home recycling system. He has since spent part of his life working to fix this vital problem.”

The company has raised capital to build the products and will ship in September 2022. It’s launching its pickup service in the San Francisco Bay Area between San Mateo and San Jose first and will then expand out into the United States. However, don’t get too excited about it finding a place next to your trashcan right away. It should cost about $3,500 when it finally ships.

The company sees its system for pre-sorting as a way to ensure high-quality materials re-enter the recycling chain and it will work to pick up material in the machine whenever the device gets full. Because all the sorting is done properly at home, recycling centers shouldn’t have to spend money on workers to separate various materials. The Lasso should clean all of the materials as well, ensuring it’s ready to recycle.

If it works as intended it will be a nice little solution for recycling. But for now, just get used to crushing your fans and rinsing out the glassware you’re aiming to toss.