Even though crowds couldn’t gather in person this year, that didn’t stop the annual Consumer Electronics Show from finding and presenting the hottest items and newest trends in the tech world. Not surprisingly, featured items reflected the impact of the pandemic on our lives and there were fewer gimmicky gizmos than normal. Instead, there were lots of health-oriented items…home-computing tech…and kitchen and household goods—all categories targeting a world that’s still stuck at home and concerned about coronavirus.
As always, some of the most eye-catching products won’t reach stores any time soon, if at all, including a laundry-collecting robot that looked impressive but was just a prototype (you’re going to have to continue picking up your own socks from the floor for now). Still, there were plenty of interesting and useful items currently available or coming your way in the near future.
Voice-controlled kitchen faucet: U by Moen Smart Faucet takes voice control much further than other “touchless” faucets. There are plenty of faucets on the market that can be activated by waving a hand nearby or via voice commands, which keeps dirty hands from contaminating faucet controls. U by Moen doesn’t only turn on and off upon request—it delivers the precise amount and temperature of water requested, with the help of Moen’s smartphone app or an Alexa- or Google Assistant–enabled device. You could request three cups of hot water to fill a kettle…or two tablespoons of cold water for a recipe. Or if there’s a bottle you refill frequently, you could program in the amount and desired temperature and simply say, “Fill water bottle.” The faucet has conventional controls as well. Starts at $430.
Oven with a built-in air-fryer and sous vide modes: LG InstaView Range with Air Sous Vide. Air-frying has become popular with home cooks because it delivers the crispiness of frying without the mess or health consequences of traditional frying. Sous vide cooking—slow-cooking food by sealing it in a bag and immersing it in hot water—has become popular as well because it produces consistent, flavorful food with relative ease. This LG oven offers both of these cooking options so that you don’t have to clutter your counter with additional devices. And because this is a full-size 6.3-cubic-foot oven, not a countertop cooking device, you can air-fry or sous vide in large quantities. This oven’s sous vide system is unconventional—it cooks with hot air rather than by immersing food in hot water. According to LG, the results are similar because this oven’s ability to maintain a very constant temperature of 100°F to 205°F for up to 48 hours replicates sous vide’s low-and-slow cooking. One more cool feature: Tapping twice on the glass turns on the interior light so that you can check on what’s inside without fumbling for the light button or opening the door and letting heat escape. Launch date and pricing had not been released as of press time.
Countertop frozen drink and soft-serve ice cream maker: ColdSnap makes soft-serve ice cream in just 90 seconds from “pods” about the size of a small soda can. Other at-home ice-cream makers require chilling ingredients for many hours. If ice cream isn’t your treat of choice, the company says that it will offer pods for smoothies, protein shakes, nondairy ice cream and frozen cocktails such as daiquiris. But don’t expect ColdSnap to help you beat the heat this summer—the company doesn’t expect it to be available until early 2022. Pricing has not yet been announced.
Laptops, Tablets and TVs
Best laptop/tablet for video calling: HP Elite Dragonfly Max is a 13.3-inch laptop/tablet combo that can help you look and sound your best during video calls. Its five-megapixel camera provides far sharper images than the one-to-two-megapixel cameras of most laptops. The Dragonfly Max’s four wide-array microphones work together to deliver wonderful sound quality to the people you call, while an artificial intelligence system filters out background noises such as shuffling papers. This laptop also features a fast 11th-generation Intel processor, a spill-resistant keyboard and even tech that lowers its temperature when it senses that it is resting on your lap or legs to avoid discomfort. HP makes this laptop in part from recycled materials. Pricing has yet to be announced.
Most durable and versatile laptop/tablet: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga has a 360-degree hinge that lets you rotate it from a 13.5-inch laptop computer into a flat tablet or a handy inverted-V “tent” shape making it into a tablet with a built-in stand. Its titanium case provides tremendous durability, a big plus with portable tech. What’s truly remarkable about the Titanium Yoga is that it packs all this durability and versatility into a package that’s just 2.5 pounds and barely 0.4 inches thick—but don’t worry, it still has plenty of storage and power for the average user. $1,899.99.
Best new TV for buyers on a budget: LG QNED MiniLED TV offers stellar contrast and brightness for a reasonable price. LED stands for “light-emitting diode” and as the term “MiniLED” implies, these new LG TVs use much smaller and much more numerous LEDs than other sets. Those extremely tiny lights allow these TVs to illuminate only the sections of the screen that are supposed to be bright while leaving the rest dark, which means that the picture quality is amazing. There are other modern HDTV technologies that offer similarly precise lighting, such as OLED, but they tend to have higher price tags. LG will offer this MiniLED TV in 65-, 75- and 86-inch sizes and in both 4K and 8K resolution. There’s no need to pay up for 8K—there’s still very little 8K content available. These TVs are expected to reach the market by midyear, with prices likely starting around $1,000.
Face mask that monitors air quality: AirPop Active Plusmask has a built-in sensor that monitors your breathing rate and the air quality so it can alert you via an app when the mask’s disposable filter should be replaced. The mask itself is washable, comfortable and capable of filtering out 99% of particulate matter. $149.99 for the mask and four filters, which each should provide around 40 hours of use. A four-pack of replacement filters costs $25.
Sticker that monitors your health: BioButton is an FDA-cleared silver-dollar–size sticker that continuously monitors your temperature, heart rate and respiration when adhered to your chest. It sends a warning through an app if it identifies potential early symptoms of certain health issues such as COVID-19 or influenza. It’s a single-use device designed to last 90 days. The BioButton already is being used to monitor health in order to hopefully control COVID outbreaks—for instance, Oakland University recently offered BioButton to its faculty, staff and students. The device also could potentially be used by assisted-living facilities, retirement communities and other at-risk groups. Cost and insurance coverage have not yet been announced.
Toothbrush that corrects brushing mistakes: Philips Sonicare 9900 Prestige is an electric toothbrush that uses artificial intelligence to overcome iffy brushing. Sensors monitor the amount of pressure you apply and automatically reduce the intensity if you brush too hard, as most people do at times. This brush also monitors when you miss spots and reports this to you through a smartphone app. If you don’t have the app open when you brush, you can review a report later to identify areas that you chronically fail to brush sufficiently. It’s expected to reach stores in April. $399.99.