Continuing the topsy-turvy tradition of CES 2021, this year’s CES ran as a hybrid trade show that included both in-person events in Las Vegas and virtual sessions. Although we didn’t attend this year in light of spiking new COVID-19 cases (and neither, it seems, did many people), we were able to catch news from the event as it unfolded online. For many reasons (whether supply-chain issues or a shortage of labor), CES felt lower-key this week than in years past, but following are the things we’re most looking forward to.
Magic kitchen faucet
Moen Smart Faucet with Motion Control, April 2022, $675 (depending on style)
Although the kitchen is often the most popular room in a home, it hasn’t been a focal point for smart-home tech. That’s changing this year, with Moen’s Smart Faucet promising to be one of the more interesting applications. Aside from the usual manual control, you have three additional methods to control the faucet: voice (via Alexa or Google Assistant), Moen’s app, and a touchless motion sensor. The touchless technology will also allow you to control the temperature and water flow using hand motions. The app allows you to set a default water temperature and a gesture scheme that works best for you, too. The Smart Faucet could make washing and cooking a little easier, but it could also offer a huge benefit for people who have accessibility needs and may have difficulty operating a sink.
—Rachel Cericola, senior staff writer
Modern speaker with a retro twist
Victrola ME2, spring 2022, $200
Victrola’s first Bluetooth speakers echo the retro look of its turntables, but one of them includes a surprisingly modern feature: a built-in Qi charging pad, which can top off your smartphone’s power while it’s streaming to the speaker. Available in three colors, the Qi-equipped ME2 ($200) is intended for tabletop use, but it incorporates a rechargeable battery, so it should be practical to carry around to other rooms or outside. The smaller ME1 ($100) looks similar but is designed more specifically for handheld use; it’s available in five colors. Both models are IP67-rated for water and dust resistance, so they’re hardly precious, and if you’re interested in protecting them further, both models offer the option of a formfitting leather case.
—Brent Butterworth, senior staff writer
Never lose your wallet again
Chipolo Card Spot, available for preorder, $35
It was a very quiet CES for mobile accessories. The most interesting announcement, at least for iPhone owners, introduced the Chipolo Card Spot, which uses the same Apple tracking network and Find My app as Apple’s AirTags but in a different format.
Chipolo’s 2.4-millimeter-thick, card-shaped tracker is designed to fit in your wallet, and it promises a two-year battery life and IPX5 water resistance. Because it uses Apple’s tracking network, every iPhone, iPad, and Mac will be able to find a lost Chipolo Card Spot—and the wallet it’s in—using its Bluetooth connection, but there’s no ultra-wideband (UWB) support, so it can’t match the highly precise finding feature that makes AirTags really shine. With Apple not (yet) making its own wallet tracker, this Chipolo model looks like it’ll be the best solution if you want it, but not necessarily a great solution. The Chipolo Card Spot is available for preorder now and is scheduled to ship in February.
—Nick Guy, senior staff writer
An upgrade to our upgrade-pick dash cam
Nextbase iQ, fall 2022, price TBD
A dash cam can catch all kinds of useful information when things go awry, whether you’re involved in a car crash, a hit-and-run, or some other vehicular-misconduct incident. Nextbase, the company that makes our current upgrade pick, announced at CES that it will release a new model this fall called the Nextbase iQ. Although we won’t be able to test the as-yet-unreleased iQ for the next round of updates to our guide, what we know about it shows promise: The iQ has three cameras showing the front, interior, and rear of the vehicle, with impressive resolutions of 4K, 1440p, and 1440p, respectively. It’s equipped with features we prize in many of our current picks—including night vision, parked-car monitoring, GPS tracking, wireless connectivity, and an emergency alert system—plus a few we haven’t seen before, such as Witness Mode (which lets you record and share live video with a voice prompt), Driver Aware (which detects when your eyelids start to droop or stray from the road), and Valet Mode (which allows you to keep tabs on your vehicle when it’s being valet parked, undergoing work at a body shop, or out on loan to another driver).
—Sarah Witman, staff writer
A mini projector with a twist
Samsung Freestyle Portable Projector, available for preorder, $900
Samsung is getting into the portable mini projector game with the new $900 Freestyle 1080p DLP projector. The unique 1.8-pound design sets the small (it’s about the size of a 32-ounce jar of mayonnaise) cylindrical projector in a 180-degree rotatable cradle that you can aim at the wall, floor, or ceiling—and the automatic focus, level, and keystoning functions will make sure the image looks correct. The Freestyle will include some form of Samsung’s Tizen smart-TV platform, as well as support for Alexa voice control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 360-degree speaker design that allows you to use the projector as a portable speaker. This projector is unlike any portable model we’ve seen, and we’re excited to test it.
—Adrienne Maxwell, supervising editor
The evolution of OLED
Sony Bravia XR A95K 4K OLED TV, release date and price TBD
Sony announced several new OLED TVs at CES (including its first 42-inch model), but the real head-turner was the premium A95K, the first OLED TV to use a QD-OLED panel, which combines the color performance of quantum dots (popularly used in LCD TVs) with the exceptional contrast and black-level performance of OLED (read more about the tech in this article from The Verge). All other OLED TVs sold in the US use panels by LG Display, but this new QD-OLED panel is presumably made by Samsung (which has been developing the technology for years—and just so happened to earn a CES 2022 Innovation Award for a yet-to-be-announced QD-OLED TV). As one of Sony’s flagship TVs, the A95K will be loaded with the company’s best technologies and features (the list is long, but it comprises Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ screen, which turns the screen into a speaker, an included webcam, Google TV, HDMI 2.1 support, and more). The A95K will be available in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes, but pricing and release dates have not been announced. You can bet this one will be very expensive.
—Adrienne Maxwell, supervising editor
A soundbar you can barely see
Samsung HW-S800B, spring/summer 2022, price TBD
Samsung’s new HW-S800B Ultra-Slim Soundbar is shockingly slim—measuring just 1.4 inches tall and 1.6 inches deep, its height and depth are shorter than the diameter of a golf ball—but it easily filled the company’s CES demo room with full, clear sound. The soundbar features Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technology, using upward-firing immersive-sound drivers that create a surround-sound experience. Complementing the slim bar is a compact yet powerful mini subwoofer with a 6½-inch active woofer and an 8-inch passive radiator to reinforce the deep bass. Samsung plans a full line of Ultra-Slim Soundbars; they’ll vary mostly in length and cost, but all will feature the same slim profile as the HW-S800B and include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support.
—Brent Butterworth, senior staff writer
Wi-Fi 6E: Maybe this year?
TP-Link Archer AXE200 Omni, release date and price TBD
Last year, Wi-Fi 6E was just emerging in a few routers and only a few phones, while plain Wi-Fi 6 was starting to become mainstream. Wi-Fi 6E opens up new radio channels in the 6 GHz frequencies, bypassing congestion on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies that older Wi-Fi routers and mesh networks use. (It’s called “6E” because it employs the technologies and standards established by Wi-Fi 6 but extends them to the 6 GHz frequencies.)
What’s newsworthy this year is that business, midrange, and high-end laptops will be available with Wi-Fi 6E, while Wi-Fi 6 will become common in midrange and more affordable laptops and phones. With more devices supporting the new standards, we’re more likely to start recommending routers that do, as well.
One of the new tri-band Wi-Fi 6E (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and the new 6 GHz bands) routers at CES was the TP-Link Archer AXE200 Omni. The AXE200 Omni is notable for its motorized antennas, which TP-Link claims will automatically adjust to give you the best signals for your mobile devices, like a cat pivoting its ears to pick up minuscule sound cues around your home. The AXE200 Omni is surely show-stopping, but we’ll hold our opinions until it ships and is available for our full review.
Other high-end (but more mainstream) routers announced at CES include the Wi-Fi 6–equipped Linksys Hydra Pro 6 ($300); the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE 300 is a bit more expensive at $400 but supports Wi-Fi 6E. We’ll be testing these routers and mesh kits as soon as we can, along with more affordable models from networking manufacturers.
—Joel Santo Domingo, senior staff writer
At CES 2022 and in the months leading up to the event, we’ve seen a string of announcements from laptop manufacturers about new models and initiatives that claim to be more environmentally friendly—but how many of these announcements will have a real positive impact, and how much of it is just greenwashing?
Many laptop makers have introduced new machines boasting eco-friendly materials such as recycled plastics, recycled aluminum, and recycled vegan leather—though some designs use a larger proportion of recycled materials than others. We’ve also seen claims about different manufacturing processes that companies claim are better for the environment. More noticeably, companies are redesigning their packaging across more of their products to use less plastic and to be more recyclable and compostable. And Lenovo announced that it will be expanding its carbon-offsets program to include individual buyers, though it’s an open question whether carbon-offset programs significantly offset the environmental costs of manufacturing and shipping a laptop. (And whether such things should be the responsibility of individual laptop buyers at all.)
Although these changes are potentially steps in the right direction, we’re skeptical of their long-term effectiveness, especially in laptops that cannot be easily repaired or upgraded by their owners. And while we’re excited about the prospect of more repairable, longer-lasting devices like the Framework Laptop or Dell’s Project Luna, such models also require long-term support from companies—something that has not historically happened. The big takeaway is that, as we update our guides this year, we’ll need to dig into these individual environmental claims and sort out the important advances from the marketing fluff.
—Kimber Streams, senior staff writer
More powerful gaming graphics
AMD Ryzen 6000, February 2022, price varies
Both Intel and AMD used CES to announce new lines of processors for 2022, but we’re especially looking forward to testing AMD’s new Ryzen 6000 Mobile laptop CPUs.
For the first time, AMD is taking the same kind of hardware it uses to power its graphics cards and putting that into laptop processors. This graphics technology, called RDNA 2, is also incorporated into game consoles like the Xbox Series X. With this update, AMD is touting up to twice the gaming performance in comparison with its previous laptop chips.
In other words, if you’re shopping for a new laptop later this year, you might be able to get one that can handle casual 1080p video games without having to pay for a model with a dedicated graphics card. Of course, we’ll have to test AMD’s claims ourselves to verify whether that’s really the case.
—Dave Gershgorn, senior staff writer
Even better kids headphones
Puro BT3300, Q1 2022, $90 to $130
Puro’s kids headphones have been favorites of ours since 2016, so we’re happy to hear that the company plans to expand the line and address some minor flaws. The BT3300 is the newer iteration of our long-standing kids headphones pick, the BT2200. The new model will have longer battery life and a more universal USB-C charging port (rather than Micro-USB), and it will include both over-ear and on-ear pads so that kids can swap to the size that suits them best as they grow. Puro also announced Plus versions of its JuniorJams and PuroQuiet headphones: The new versions will be over-ear designs that charge via USB-C and have slightly bigger headbands, which are better for larger noggins and tweens. These two won’t have swappable on-ear and over-ear pads, but they will have replaceable earpads, which can help prolong the headphones’ lifespan. Puro says the BT3300 will be available this summer for $120, the PuroQuiet Plus will arrive later this winter and cost $130, and the JuniorJams Plus will arrive at the end of the year, priced at $90.
—Lauren Dragan, senior staff writer
OTC hearing aids make progress
Jabra Enhance Plus, late winter, price TBD (but likely under $1,000)
It seems as though the long-awaited regulation that will allow for over-the-counter hearing aids is in the final stages, and it’s an exciting time for hearing health. First, many models are far less expensive now, costing $500 to $1,000 rather than the thousands of dollars that traditional hearing aids can set you back. Second, thanks to the new over-the-counter regulations, we’ll see more devices that perform and look like earbuds but also help folks with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Jabra’s Enhance Plus set essentially works as a self-fitting hearing aid (you take the hearing test yourself, using an app and the device) that also has beamforming microphones for clear phone calls and the music-playback functionality that you might expect from true wireless earbuds. Unlike many hearing aids, the Enhance Plus pair provides IP56 water resistance, a serious wishlist item for active folks who need hearing support.
The only bummer is that, as of now, this pair works only with iPhones, as the earbuds use MFi to connect rather than Bluetooth. This means you won’t be able to use them to connect directly to a laptop or TV. There’s no official price yet, but Jabra promises the Enhance Plus set will cost less than $1,000. To stay within the law, Jabra will initially sell the Enhance Plus set through audiologists and include a free 30-minute consultation, with the plan to offer it at retail via the web once the hearing-aid rules have passed. The Enhance Plus earbuds may not be perfect, but the design represents serious progress.
—Lauren Dragan, senior staff writer
An all-seeing smart garage-door opener
Eufy Garage-Control Cam, March 2022, $100 to $130
Eufy is adding a little something extra to the typical smart garage-door opener: a camera and a door sensor. In addition to remotely opening and closing the door, the Garage-Control Cam, with its built-in camera and AI, allows you to see who is coming and going and more confidently use the garage to remotely allow entrance to visitors. It also has a sensor that can detect the status of the door and will alert you when you forget to close it. In addition, you can control the door with voice commands (via Alexa or Google Assistant, the Eufy app, or geofencing detection), and the camera supports 24/7 continuous recording, too. Two versions will be available this March: one with a 1080p resolution for single-door control ($100) and a 2K, two-door model ($130).
—Rachel Cericola, senior staff writer
The smart lock gets smarter
Schlage Encode Plus smart lock with Apple Home Key, spring 2022, $300
The defining traits of a good smart lock are that it’s both reliably secure and also more convenient to use than a regular deadbolt or door lock. Schlage’s update to its Encode smart lock, our also-great pick, adds compatibility with Apple HomeKit, but more enticingly it will also be the first lock to work with Apple Home Key, an NFC-based wireless system that lets you unlock your door simply by holding out your iPhone or Apple Watch. That means you can forgo tapping in a code to unlock the door, or bothering to fiddle with a Bluetooth-based auto-unlock mode, which in our experience tends to be balky and may present potential security risks. Besides being a streamlined way to unlock the door, Home Key may benefit anyone who has physical difficulty inputting a PIN code, which we think is a great step toward wider accessibility.
—Jon Chase, editor