Every year, thousands of people head to Las Vegas during the first week of the year for a global trade show. It’s the Consumer Electronics Show, a week-long stretch of announcements, showcases, and previews of the future. If you’re into technology of all kinds, it’s the one event you don’t want to miss.
The team at Talk Android saw incredible things this year at CES 2017, and so we selected the best of everything shown.
Because the number of products and services introduced were immense, it was actually pretty tough getting the list down to ten choices. But we did it, and the choices span multiple categories. Phones, home automation, digital assistants, laptops, and speakers are represented here.
Without further ado, these are our picks for the Talk Android Best of CES 2017 Awards.
Prior to CES 2017, Amazon’s Alexa technology wasn’t being used by big-name companies. It was mostly random companies trying to jump onto the platform’s hype. Now, with this year’s CES behind us, we can see everyone big and small is getting serious about Alexa. You’re going to see phones, speakers, and even refrigerators powered by Alexa over the course of 2017.
The Smart Assistant from Lenovo, however, stands out right away despite being a direct competitor to the successful Amazon Echo and Google Home. Lenovo’s home-based digital assistant is the most attractive member of its class, and the price is better than Amazon’s offering and equal to Google’s. And, yes, it does have all of the bells and whistles you’re familiar with from the Echo.
On its first attempt, Lenovo is positioning the Smart Assistant to be an easy way to get consumers into a well-built ecosystem that grows every week, completing tasks ranging from playing music to ordering pizza to answering trivia questions.
In 2016, the Honor 5X stole every bit of spotlight in the budget segment. You couldn’t get a better unlocked phone for $199. Who knew mid-range specifications in an aluminum body could be so affordable? Now Honor is sticking with what worked and giving consumers a little extra.
Refinement. The Honor 6X is exactly what you thought it would be. Honor only changed areas that could make this phone even more premium-like. Its back is no longer brushed or glossy, allowing the Honor 6X to be mature. The Qualcomm-made processor is gone in favor of Honor using an in-house component from Huawei, which should performance is going to be much better and software updates will arrive quicker. Oh, there are two rear cameras as well. The winning formula from the Honor 8 has been replicated, albeit tweaked for cost purposes, to add speed and clarity to photos.
While priced $50 higher than last year’s model, the Honor 6X is a tremendous value at $249. Other phones at that price get you a cheap plastic exterior, low-end processor, and camera recycled from years ago. The Honor 6X isn’t letting its price dictate what you should expect.
We have a feeling the Honor 6X will repeat the Honor 5X’s success or maybe even surpass it, earning itself the crown as 2017’s best budget phone.
Sure, we’ve known about the Huawei Mate 9 for months. It was originally announced in November. Huawei still brought the phone to CES 2017 as the United States release approached. The reintroduction worked because a special addition was detailed in Las Vegas.
Later this year, Huawei’s Mate 9 will become the world’s first phone to feature Amazon’s Alexa. The two companies, who quietly made an agreement to collaborate on additional devices, are making it possible for the Mate 9 to do things we’ve only ever seen done by the Echo and a few other devices. Never before, though, have we seen Alexa in a mobile device. This is the type of innovative risk we like seeing. Huawei could’ve easily defaulted voice commands to Google Assistant, but it wants to see what Amazon’s platform is capable of and let consumers make a decision on if it’s ready for primetime or not.
If Amazon helps push this phone and its Alexa integration, the Mate 9 might be Huawei’s spark that catches fire in the U.S. (finally).
It may be simple, but that’s why the WeMo Dimmer from Belkin gets a spot on our list.
The purpose of the WeMo Dimmer is obvious: it’s a light switch that can dim your lights. Throw in WeMo’s home automation prowess and you get a smart light switch that can also calibrate all light bulbs, prevent nighttime blinding by gently illuminating a room, and communicate with Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot for voice control.
Belkin’s WeMo brand will continue its dominance in home automation through the Dimmer and its simple-yet-brilliant products.
There’s a new laptop for every school district to consider right away. It’s the Acer Chromebook 11 N7 (C731). Everything a student needs in a laptop for the classroom is right here. This laptop is compact, durable, and affordable. School districts and their students win.
Based on the military-grade testing Acer explained to us, we believe nothing in a classroom will break this laptop. First, the exterior is made of an anti-slip texture. So no one is dropping the Chromebook 11 N7 (C731) accidentally. If it is dropped, the laptop will probably survive as drops up to 48 inches were tested with success. Next, it’s capable of withstanding up to 132lbs of downward force on the cover. As you can understand now, Acer made this laptop ready for whatever can happen in a classroom.
The keyboard wasn’t overlooked either. It can handle spills of up to 11oz of fluid, and the individual keys are recessed to prevent students from removing them.
Did Acer skip anything? No, they did not.
When it begins shipping this month, expect Acer’s Chromebook 11 N7 (C731) to be the go-to replacement for expensive and confusing equipment currently taking up space in schools nationwide. Even if you’re not a school administrator or a student, this laptop makes sense for anyone wanting a small, on-the-go productivity machine that doesn’t mind a drop or a spill every now and then.
Mattel’s Aristotle is the kid-friendly digital assistant your child has always wanted. Alright, fine. Maybe they’ve never asked for an Amazon Echo or Google Home. But the Aristotle is really cool and parents will want to put one in their child’s bedroom after knowing what it does. It features Microsoft’s cloud services to handle the kiddie part and Amazon’s when moms and dads want to use the Aristotle for themselves.
A wireless camera is included with the Aristotle, too, for traditional monitoring. That’s not where the interesting stuff is, though. The Aristotle’s ability to recognize what’s going on around it and adapting its behavior is fascinating.
This home-based digital assistant from Mattel can do the following: play lullabies, white noise, and songs to put a baby or child to sleep; act as a soft nightlight; order supplies from retailers like Target and Babies R Us after spotting coupons and promotions; respond to a child’s voice after a brief round of training; answer questions and play games; read books aloud; and teach a child to say “Please” when asking for something.
There’s more, but the list would go on longer than we’d like. That’s a good thing for parents who are planning to buy the Mattel Aristotle when it comes on sale in June. Your money will be spent wisely.
It’s not packing Alexa or Google Assistant, but B&O’s Beoplay M5 is a beautiful smart speaker with Google Cast integration. No mistaking that this comes from the Danish company since the design is retro-modern and the covers are made of wool, a signature easily indicating who made the product.
There’s nothing extravagant about this smart speaker, although the $599 price suggests otherwise. It’s an attractively thick cylinder that fires send at 360 degrees. Waiting for more on the design? Well, we don’t have a lot more to say. The top of the cylinder can be pressed to play or pause audio, and you can rotate it for volume adjustment.
Aside from Google Cast, a bunch of other platforms work with the Beoplay M5. Spotify Connect, AirPlay, and Beolink are all supported courtesy of Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity. You can sync with a Google Home unit, too, to utter voice commands for your smart speaker.
B&O will add additional colors for the wool covers down the road. Until then, the black and silver options are perfect for any room you decide put the Beoplay M5 in. Like most products from B&O, the Beoplay M5 looks and sounds amazing.
In 2017, NVIDIA is going to offer a way to put Google Assistant in every room of your home without forcing you to spend a fortune. The SPOT, which will be priced at $49, works on Google’s platform to listen at all times for voices making requests and asking questions. You’ll need a SHIELD or SHIELD TV to use the SPOT, but that’s an easy recommendation since they’re the best Android TV set-top boxes around.
With Google Assistant heading to Android TV soon, the SPOT will act as an extension for an NVIDIA set-top box. Get a couple of SPOTs, plug them into wall outlets throughout your home, and they’ll communicate to pick up on your voice from wherever you are. So you can say “Turn off the living room lights” when you’re in your bedroom since NVIDIA’s hardware will support outside platforms like Samsung’s SmartThings.
The NVIDIA SPOT is a small-and-affordable way to get every room connected.
Photography and longevity. Those are the two most important areas for the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom we saw at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. To our surprise, everything else about this phone is pretty good as well. ASUS, who rarely gets enough attention in the mobile industry, deserves it here because the ZenFone 3 Zoom isn’t all about the camera. Other spots shine, too.
Following the trend from 2016, ASUS implemented a dual-camera setup. The ZenFone 3 Zoom has two 12MP cameras, each with its own twist. One has a 25mm wide-angle lens while the other has a 56mm lens with 2.3x optical zoom. Both are Sony IMX362 sensors to manage low light situations with ease, too. Whatever the environment is like, the ZenFone 3 Zoom is going to put the focus on selected subjects.
Before you even dread battery life, know that this phone has a 5000mAh battery. During 4K video recording, you’ll still get up to 6.4 hours of battery life. That’s insane. Good on ASUS for thinking about the repercussions of a strong camera and combating them with a massive battery. The ZenFone 3 Zoom will last as long as your photoshoots and recording sessions do.
Not only is the phone versatile, but ASUS’ ZenFone 3 Zoom is actually beautiful as well. It’s metal body comes in Navy Black, Glacier Silver, and Rose Gold. Each color gives an elegant look to the sleek design.
Remember the Lenovo PHAB2 Pro? Yeah, it wasn’t released too long ago. Everyone forgot about it because the initial hype of augmented reality within a consumer-ready phone wasn’t enough to overcome the oversized body. Lenovo’s offering looked pretty cool, but few people are going to buy a phone that has a 6.4-inch display.
The ZenFone AR is approachable. It has a 5.7-inch display, likely the largest size most people would consider. And it’s actually a stacked phone beyond just doing AR-related activities. The display has Quad HD resolution, the processor is top-of-the-line from Qualcomm, and the latest version of Android is already live. You can quickly go from exploring the solar system from your living room to doing common tasks on a high-end phone that isn’t the size and weight of a brick.