Best of CES 2014
CES has been known as the big-TV trade show, but that changed this year. Despite amazing 4K TVs with curved screens and smart interfaces, wearable technology stole the show, with so many innovative offerings that we needed four categories. CES also gave us plenty of 3D printers and smart-home devices to select for our highest honors. Add a cloud-gaming service that turns HDTVs into consoles and a leaping robot, and it's easy to see why we love our jobs. These are the best innovations of CES 2014.
Best TV: Sharp Aquos Quattron+
CES 2014 was awash in monstrous, curved, bending OLED and 4K TVs more extravagant than we could even imagine. But for a TV you could actually buy (starting at $1,600), the Sharp Quattron+ beats all of its rivals. Sharp doubles the resolution of this 1080p TV by reconfiguring each pixel to create something between HD and 4K. (See our detailed explanation.) This lets the TV accept a 4K, or Ultra HD, signal and retain the additional detail. Even better, the Quattron+ can upscale HD video to provide noticeably better detail and sharpness.
Best Camera: Samsung NX30
Samsung's NX30 mirrorless camera is a radical upgrade from its predecessor. Its 20.3-megapixel sensor incorporates phase-detection technology for a claimed auto-focus speed of 80 milliseconds, plausible based on our informal tests. The NX30 has an electronic viewfinder that rivals an optical DSLR eyepiece and also tilts upward, letting you look down to shoot subjects such as toddlers without having to crouch. Its swiveling, 3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen lets you eyeball shots with the camera held down low, up high or even facing you.
Best Gaming: PlayStation Now
How would you like to start playing a game on your PS4, then continue the action on your bedroom TV (where there's no console) and then pick up where you left off on a mobile device? That's the beauty of PlayStation Now, a cloud-based service that streams PS3 games directly to PS4s, PS3s and, soon, PlayStation Vitas. Initial titles include hits like "God of War: Ascension" and "The Last of Us," and Sony will be adding more — all for a single subscription cost. Up next? Support for Sony Bravia TVs, as well as smartphones and tablets.
Best Smartwatch: Pebble Steel
Proving smartwatches don't have to look like geek wear, the new Pebble Steel sports an elegant stainless-steel design that you won't be afraid to wear to an important meeting or out on a date. The $249 device boasts a tough Gorilla Glass screen and comes with both metal and leather bands. Just as importantly, Pebble has the competition beat with its growing ecosystem. An official app store launches at the end of January, and partnerships with ESPN, Yelp, Pandora, Foursquare and Mercedes will bring even more functionality to your wrist.
Best Heads-Up Display: Meta Pro
Google Glass brings notifications to your face, but the Meta Pro offers full-blown augmented reality and lets you interact with the world in a new way. During a hands-on demo, we drew 3D models by extending our hands and manipulating projected images. The Meta Pro is a wearable computer and can be used in its most literal sense; the Intel Core i5-powered headset can project Windows as an overlay in front of a user's eyes. It will cost a hefty $3,000 when it goes on sale in June, but the Meta Pro literally changes the way you view the world.
Best Fitness Tech: Razer Nabu
The Razer Nabu is among new fitness bands that integrate smartwatch features, such as displaying texts, phone calls and social media alerts. The Nabu truly shines when it interacts with other Nabus to share data. You can exchange LinkedIn information or follow someone on Twitter by simply shaking another Nabu wearer's hand. We love the dual screens: the Public Display on top, and the Private Messages Screen underneath. The Nabu launches in the first half of 2014 and will cost developers $49; we hope Razer keeps that price for consumers.
Best 3D Printer: 3DSystems Cube 3
For its value and power, the sub-$1,000 Cube 3 from 3DSystems is the best new 3D printer at CES 2014. With a body of just 1 cubic foot, the Cube 3 fits anywhere in the home and prints objects in PLA and ABS up to 6 x 6 x 6 inches in size. Two extruders let it print two colors at once. An impressive print resolution and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity are just some of the features the Cube 3 boasts. The Cube 3 also benefits from 3DSystems' online store, library and community called Cubify. The Cube 3 will go on sale this spring.
Best Smart Home Tech: Sleep Number x12
Smart home devices at CES ranged from security cameras to ovens. Many were useful and innovative, but most people don't spend hours monitoring their homes or cooking meals. Enter the Sleep Number x12 smart bed, which monitors sleep habits over time, learns nocturnal patterns and can even stop someone from snoring. The Sleep Number x12, which starts at $8,000, also lets sleepers adjust firmness and elevation on each side of the bed. A smartphone app keeps track of how restful your sleep is, helping you figure out how to get a good night's rest.
Best Robot: Parrot Jumping Sumo
CES 2014 had more robots than "Star Wars," but one leaped above the rest. The Parrot Jumping Sumo is a two-wheeled robot half a foot high and less than a foot across. Using an iPhone or Android app, users guide the robot from up to 160 feet away. An internal gyroscope and accelerometer let the Sumo execute precision turns and spin on the spot, and an onboard camera captures the whole dizzying ride, but Sumo's star feature is its ability to jump nearly 3 feet in the air. The Sumo will be available this spring; its price has yet to be announced.
Best Smartphone: Hisense X1
Hisense is making its first foray into the smartphone market — and it's going big. The Hisense X1 has a massive 6.8-inch, 1080p display, making it one of the largest phones we've had the pleasure of handling. The device is outfitted with a 2.3-GHz Snapdragon Qualcomm processor and 2GB of RAM, making for a particularly speedy phone. When the X1 arrives in the States, it will be running Android 4.4 Kit Kat. There's no word on pricing or carrier, but we're expecting that the X1 will make its debut in the U.S. at a competitive price.
Best Tablet: Fuhu Nabi DreamTab
The Intel-powered Nabi DreamTab helps Junior get excited about learning with DreamWorks' help. This premium tablet, coming in 8- and 12-inch sizes, uses the "Madagascar" penguins to keep kids on track, telling them when it's study time and when it's time to exercise. Video tips from expert animators teach kids to draw. The DreamTab offers the Wings Learning System of colorful games and challenges to help kids get ahead in math, reading and writing. This slate can also ease children into social networking in a completely safe environment.
Best of Show: Yei Technology PrioVR
Get into the game on a whole new level -- Yei Technology's PrioVR full-body motion-tracking suit turns the player's body into the controller with strategically placed motion-capture sensors and Velcro straps. Yei Technology says the virtual reality system has less than 10 milliseconds of latency and zero drift. That held up when we were connected to a PC, but there was some lag on a TV. Best of all, PrioVR can be used with the Oculus Rift virtual-reality goggles. Get ready to suit up and game on.