Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2022 Awards – Digital Trends
Despite a last-minute surge of omicron that sent many companies scurrying from the physical show floor, the annual gadget bacchanal largely proceeded as planned: We got our goliath (and diminutive) TVs, futuristic vehicles, and bizarre robots. Many of them just arrived via livestreams, instead of bombastic live events that rip a page from Cirque Du Soleil.
Big themes this year include a slew of EVs, a major upgrade to laptop webcams, and – you guessed it – NFTs shoehorned into random gadgets without reason. While we largely covered it from afar, a few intrepid DT reporters ventured, masked and vaxxed, to Las Vegas to play with the real deal.
Naturally, we had to round up the best of the best. Here are the products that dominated the headlines this year, and will shape the way we play, communicate, and live in the year to come.
For more of our top picks from CES 2022, be sure to check out our Tech for Change Award winners!
Best of Show Winner: Samsung Odyssey ARK monitor
Computing Winner: HP Omen 45L
In a year when GPUs will remain nearly impossible to buy, what the world needs right now is more excellent prebuilt gaming desktops. Unfortunately, those are severely lacking right now.
And that’s why the HP Omen 45L is our pick for best computing product of CES 2022. That’s right, a desktop PC winning our award for best computing tech of CES. It feels old school, but it represents a real need in the industry right now.
We got to fully test and review this one – and not only is it a beautifully designed gaming PC, it performs remarkably well, too. That’s thanks to the new Cryo Chamber cooling module HP has added to the design, which keeps this system surprisingly cool and quiet.
More than that, the Omen 45L is built more like a DIY PC than any other prebuilt desktop, letting you upgrade and swap out parts as if it was a computer you built yourself. That means the Omen 45L has a lot of the benefits of a DIY PC, without the jacked-up prices. Let’s just hope they are able to keep this one in stock.
Computing Finalist: Asus Zenbook Fold 17
We chose the Asus Zenbook Fold 17 as a finalist for our Top Tech of CES 2022 because it’s the kind of gadget that makes CES what it is. It’s pure conceptual fun in a package that’s probably less polished than what it should be.
At its basics, the Zenbook Fold 17 is an oversized tablet with a foldable screen and detachable keyboard. It’s not the first of these designs, mind you — but certainly the most promising so far. That extra size goes a long way toward making it feel like a proper laptop replacement since when it folds in half, you still have a 3:2 12 and a half-inch screen to work with.
It’s kind of genius in that regard, even if it’s burdened with many of the same concerns and rough edges that foldable screens still come with.
Gaming Winner: Samsung Odyssey Neo G8
Last year, our top gaming pick of CES was Acer’s first PC monitor capable of running 4K visuals at 120Hz. That seemed like the top of the mountain for gamers at the time, but this year’s pick shows just how quickly technology evolves these days. Our top piece of gaming tech from CES 2022 is Samsung’s Odyssey Neo G8.
When it comes to refresh rate, this monitor smashes the record for what’s possible on a 4K display. It can output games at 240Hz. That’s a world’s first and one that other monitor manufacturers might not have seen coming. Samsung actually stole Acer’s thunder this year, as he latter was proudly showing off 165Hz in its Predator X32 FP monitor.
That’s not all. It features Quantum HDR 2000 technology, making it an intensely bright display. Plus, it sports a 1ms response time, which is great news for competitive players who can’t afford the slightest bit of lag. And of course, there’s the curve. The Odyssey Neo G8’s 32-inch, 16:9 display features a 1000R curvature, which is bold, to say the least. But for those who want a truly immersive gaming experience, this goes above and beyond most curved monitors on the market.
This monitor might be a little over the top for most players’ needs, but it represents why this is such an exciting time for gamers. Technology is evolving at lightning speed these days. And at 240Hz, the Odyssey Neo G8 is fast enough to keep up.
Gaming Finalist: Asus ROG Flow Z13
Portability has been top of mind for gaming manufacturers over the past few years, which is a little ironic considering that people have been leaving their homes much less since March 2020. Nonetheless, there’s a big competition going on for who can create the most efficient portable gaming device. And after this year’s show, Asus might be leading the charge.
The Asus ROG Flow Z13 is a dedicated gaming tablet that packs a powerful punch. The device features a 13.4-inch screen and comes equipped with an Intel Core i9-12900H CPU and an RTX 3050 Ti. That’s pretty impressive for a device that clocks in just over two pounds. The Z13 can even connect to Asus’s XG Mobile eGPU, allowing players to game with the power of a GeForce RTX 3080.
The tablet has a ton of potential for those who want to take their PC games on the go. With its kickstand and detachable RGB keyboard, the Z13 seems like a viable alternative to a traditional gaming laptop. I can easily see someone grabbing one of these and pairing it with an Xbox Game Pass subscription to create a lighter, more versatile gaming setup.
Mobile Winner: HTC Vive VR Wrist Tracker
One of the coolest things we’ve seen at CES is the Vive VR Wrist Tracker from HTC. One of the big problems in the VR space is that most tracking requires a mix of controllers and a headset, but moving your hands behind your head generally makes you lose tracking unless you have a full room-scale setup.
That’s the big problem the Vive VR Wrist Tracker is designed to solve. Wearing the tracker on each wrist allows for accurate hand tracking even when it’s out of sight of the headset cameras.
All the processing happens on the Vive Focus 3 headset, but the Wrist Tracker offers three degrees of freedom with full wrist and hand tracking. It’s more accurate than just relying on the time-of-flight cameras on the headset.
Aside from the obvious gaming uses and arcade setups, HTC envisions using the Wrist Tracker in professional environments like firefighter training. Aside from wearing them on your wrists, the sensors can be attached to other devices like the hose of a fire extinguisher, letting them be used for training scenarios.
Right now, the Vive VR Wrist Tracker is only compatible with the $1,300 Vive Focus 3, which does limit its potential to more professional use cases, but the promise of more accurate wrist and hand tracking is compelling.
Mobile Finalist: Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
While the new phones announced at CES 2022 weren’t a big surprise, the Galaxy S21 FE is one that’s been anticipated for a long time. For those who aren’t in the loop, the S21 FE has been delayed for months because of chip shortages. Despite the delay, there’s been tons of enthusiasm for it. The big selling point of Samsung’s Fan Edition devices is that they offer flagship specs at an affordable price.
The design is similar to the S21, and for $700 without any trade-in or discounts, you get a phone with a 6.4-inch 120Hz Quad HD display and Snapdragon 888 processor. Camera performance is expected to be great, with a triple rear camera array that includes an ultrawide lens and 30x optical zoom. It also has most other bells and whistles you’d expect from a flagship phone like 5G connectivity, including support for mmWave and sub-6.
It comes with a 4,500mAh battery, supports fast wired and wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging of compatible accessories like the Buds 2. Again, the S21 FE doesn’t come with any surprises, but for the price and hardware, it’s a phone that offers tons to like.
TV and Audio Winner: Samsung Display QD Display panels
Normally, we’d give this award to a single product, but Samsung Display’s QD Display technology — which merges self-illuminating OLED pixels with quantum dots — is so innovative that it gets the nod as our TV and audio winner. What makes QD Displays (also known as QD-OLED, which we’ll discuss when we get to our finalist) so special is that they take the already superb picture quality we associate with OLED panels — all of those beautifully inky blacks and glorious colors — and makes it even better, in three key ways.
Because QD Displays are made up of red, green, and blue subpixels, each self-lit pixel can generate 100% of its own color, thereby eliminating the need for a separate color filter. Color filters are brightness eaters, so a QD Display is automatically able to get brighter than a traditional OLED panel. With all of that extra brightness coming through, there’s no need to add an extra white subpixel — a workaround traditional OLED panels have used to overcome the brightness restrictions of color filters — so not only does QD Display tech get brighter, it does so without the possibility of washing out colors.
A fringe benefit is that text and other fine details can be displayed with far better crispness. Finally, QD Displays are able to maintain color saturation and accuracy when viewed at off-angles even better than traditional OLED, which was already pretty damned good.
Since Samsung Display is a separate division from Samsung Electronics, its QD Display panels will show up on more than just Samsung’s own TVs. In fact, at CES, we saw it in an Alienware gaming monitor and Sony’s A95K TV (see below). And that’s a very good thing as it gives TV makers (and ultimately TV buyers like us) another excellent display technology.
TV and Audio Finalist: Sony Master Series A95K Bravia XR QD-OLED TV
It’s still early days, but it’s looking like the first QD Display (QD-OLED) TV to hit store shelves will be the Sony Master Series A95K Bravia XR. And even though we have yet to see it with our own eyes (Sony pulled out of CES at the last minute due to COVID concerns), we’re extremely confident it will look amazing. Not only have Sony’s traditional OLED TVs offered the very best picture quality we’ve ever seen in a TV (until now), but the company also has an enviable track record when it comes to its image processing, which is something that Sony claims will be even better on the A95K.
Setting aside our excitement for QD-OLED for the moment, the A95K also features an array of the latest and greatest features, including — wait for it — variable refresh rate (VRR), something Sony has been promising for a very long time. In fact, the A95K boasts the full complement of HDMI 2.1 specifications, like 4K gaming at 120Hz, auto low-latency mode (ALLM), 48Gbps of bandwidth, VRR, and HDMI eARC. It sounds like Sony has finally caught up with LG in the HDMI department.
But Sony isn’t stopping with the current state of the art — it has also equipped the A95K with a Sony Bravia Cam. The magnetically attached webcam with a built-in physical privacy switch will enable a raft of new functions. At launch, it will let you do video calling via supported Google TV apps. But with planned firmware updates, you’ll also get gesture-based controls, plus picture and sound optimizations based on where viewers are located in the room. A proximity alert can warn you when you’re standing too close to the TV, and the screen can be sent into an energy-saving mode when the camera senses that no one is still watching TV.
For the full rundown on everything this TV has to offer, including a new remote and a clever, two-position stand, check out our in-depth coverage of the Sony A95K.
Smart Home Winner: Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra Robot Cleaner
Robot vacuums are among the most useful of all smart home devices, but they still require quite a bit of intervention from the user. This is doubly true for robot mops that require pads to be swapped on or off and reservoirs to be refilled. The Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra avoids all of this to provide true hands-free cleaning for up to seven weeks.
This isn’t a mop and vacuum combo system like Roomba offers, but a true two-in-one device. When the S7 MaxV Ultra moves onto carpet, it raises the mopping pad so that it doesn’t drag along the floor. It lowers it when it’s back on a hard surface like wood or tile. In combination with the patented VibraRise system, the S7 MaxV Ultra uses sonic mopping to scrub and dislodge even the most ground-in dirt. Throw in a maximum suction power of 5,100 Pa (more than double that of previous models) and you have a cleaning machine like nothing you’ve seen before.
Auto-docking and self-cleaning systems are nothing new, but the way the S7 MaxV Ultra tackles this sure is. Three reservoirs atop the dock hold clean water, dirty water, and fill water. It will automatically clean the mop pad and store the dirty water, then refill the S7 MaxV Ultra when it’s low. The dock also scrubs and wipes the mop after every cycle. The intelligence doesn’t stop at self-cleaning, though. The ReactiveAI 2.0 obstacle avoidance technology allows the S7 MaxV to better navigate around objects on the floor, recording their positions on the map. After a few cycles, it will automatically suggest optimum cleaning patterns.
One final note is that it also comes with its own cleaning solution. The majority of robot mops simply use water, but the OMO-branded cleaner can clean and disinfect your floor — plus, it’s safe for pets and kids. These additions and innovations make the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra one of the best robot vacuum and mop combos to ever hit the market, and makes it our top pick for best smart home tech at CES.
Smart Home Finalist: Homey Bridge
This year, Matter has taken center stage at CES. The protocol aims to tear down the walls between smart home systems and allow them to all work together in a seamless, easy way — but it’s not here yet, and some devices will need to be launched with entirely different receivers and transmitters before they can work with Matter. In the meantime, the Homey Bridge promises to connect a variety of disparate systems together. In fact, it says it can connect more than 50,000 different smart home devices from more than 1,000 brands through Zigbee, Z-Wave Plus, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, infrared, and 433MHz connections.
Homey is a new name to the U.S., but the company is well-established in Europe. This isn’t some unknown coming onto the market, but a proven company that could dramatically simplify the way you operate your smart home. Rather than relying on a half-dozen different apps to control your devices, everything would work through Homey. It has integrated functions similar to IFTTT that can be triggered through your voice assistant of choice, or through widgets on mobile devices and smart watches. Homey has a lot of promise, and though a smart home hub may not seem like the most exciting device, this one could be the greatest simplification of an ever-more-complicated smart home that we’ve seen in years.
Automotive Winner: Mercedes Vision EQXX Concept
Eight in-car screens are eye-popping, and color-changing paint is frankly long overdue, but right now the number one thing keeping more drivers from going electric is range. EVs simply don’t go far enough on a charge to prevent us from worrying. That’s why we’re excited by the Mercedes Vision EQXX concept, which promises more range than any production EV has ever been able to touch: 620 miles.
That’s more miles than most sane people would want to drive in a day, and Mercedes didn’t just pull that number out of its trunk. The model shown is drivable, and Mercedes intends to put it to a real-life test in a drive across Europe within the next few months.
How does it pull it off? Mercedes didn’t just cram a giant battery inside. The EQXX actually boasts a rather ordinary 100kWh capacity, just like the production 2022 EQS, but refines many existing technologies to wring every last mile from the same charge. That means making everything smaller and lighter, carving a more aerodynamic profile, and even harvesting waste energy from the drivetrain to keep the batteries warm in winter.
While you won’t see this model at a dealership anytime soon, you very likely will see many of the technologies in future models – with increasing ranges to match. What’s your excuse for not getting an EV now?
Automotive Finalist: Chevrolet Silverado EV
The race to electrify pickup trucks is on, and GM plowed into the competition grille-first at CES 2022. The Silverado EV borrows styling cues from the Avalanche of yore, but rides on GM’s new Ultium platform, which will also underpin the new electric Hummer. Besides an enticing 400 miles of range and $39,900 starting price tag, the Silverado EV offers all sorts of jaw-dropping perks, like four-wheel steering, an all-glass roof, and up to 10 outlets for powering everything from tools to other trucks. Yes, you can recharge another EV from this one.
While Ford, Rivian and Tesla all teased electric trucks earlier, GM’s sheer clout among truck buyers means this won’t be a model to ignore.