Our Best of CES 2014
As is increasingly becoming the trend, CES may not have featured any high-profile smartphone launches. Nevertheless, this year’s event featured some great pieces of technology. CES 2014 had it all, but there was a large focus on wearable technology, ranging from fitness bands with great new features and associated apps, to a slew of smart watches, and even a few augmented reality smart glasses.
Add to the mix smartphones, tablets, all-in-one dual-boot tablet PCs, AR gaming tech, chipset announcements, and Android-powered connected cars, there was a lot to take in over the course of the event.
Here’s a look back at some of what we loved at CES 2014!
For the first time ever, Android Authority handed out awards at CES 2014, which is something we will do at all major trade shows (MWC, IFA). At CES 2014, the categories included were – Best Android Phone, Best Android Tablet, and Best Android Accessory. Here’s our winners!
Best Android Phone – ASUS Zenfone series
ASUS has been making waves in the Android world, and has made a name for itself after being given the opportunity to manufacture the Nexus 7. Surprisingly, ASUS didn’t receive this award for the (still amazing) Padfone X, but for it’s new lineup of low cost smartphones. At $99 for their excellent Zenfone 4, $149 for their Zenfone 5, and $199 for their Zenfone 6, these devices bring exceptional build quality, great specs, and customization at extremely aggressive price points. The entire Zenfone line is our recipient of the Best Android Smartphone(s) at CES 2014.
Best Android Accessory – LG Lifeband Touch
The LG Lifeband Touch is the company’s first foray into the wearable fitness device market, and needless to say, we were impressed. The Lifeband communicates with Android devices via Bluetooth. But if you don’t like needing to pull out your device every time you want to check your stats, the Lifeband Touch features an OLED display that allows you to scroll through various fitness details. This includes total calories burnt, targets set, and number of steps taken. Apart from fitness tracking, you can also check the time, see call and text notifications, and control your music directly from the device. The LG Lifeband Touch features a battery life of 2-5 days. The LG Lifeband Touch received Android Authority’s Best Android Accessory award.
Best Android Tablet – Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4
Packing industry leading specs across the board, the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 features a remarkable 2560 x 1600 8.4-inch display, a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, all in a svelte 331 gram package, and also features an improved TouchWiz interface called Magazine UX. Samsung certainly brought their A-game to CES, bringing to the market some of the best Android tablets thus far. The Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 is our Best Android Tablet of CES 2014.
The LG Chromebase runs Chrome OS, and features a 21.5-inch Full HD display which unfortunately isn’t a touchscreen, a Haswell Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 16GB SSD. The lack of storage shouldn’t be too much of a cause for worry, as Chrome OS is built for cloud computing. Other than that, what you can store in the Chromebase is about the same as what you can on a smartphone.
As far as connectivity goes, the Chromebase includes an HDMI port, a single USB 3.0 port, and three USB 2.0 ports. There is also the usual headphone jack and a 1.3MP webcam, with a keyboard and mouse included in the package as well. Color options for the Chromebase include glossy white and matte black.
ASUS Transformer Book Duet
The ASUS Transformer Book Duet boasts 4-in-1 functionality, operating as either a Windows or Android laptop and tablet. This is achieved by support for Intel’s Dual OS Instant Switch technology, which is used to move between operating systems with the simple touch of a button, with the changeover time taking just 4 seconds.
The Transformer Book Duet is also a powerhouse in the hardware department, featuring a range of Intel processor options housed in the dock companion, including an i3, i5, or i7 processors. The Transformer Duet also comes with Intel HD graphics and 4GB DDR3L 1600 MHz RAM.
Storage isn’t a problem either, with a 64 or 128GB solid state drive in the tablet itself, and up to 1TB of storage in the docking station. The tablet features a 13.3-inch IPS touchscreen, with a full HD display resolution of 1920 x 1080. The docking station and tablet weigh a combined 1.9 kg, but is still quite portable. Connectivity options include 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + EDR, a headphone jack, 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 10/100Mbit/s LAN, an HDMI 1.4 output, and support for MicroSD cards.
VUZIX is a relatively unknown name in the mainstream market, but the company has been around for a while (since 1997), and showcased some great augmented reality wearable tech at CES this year, deservedly receiving an Innovations Award as well. The VUZIX M100 is a visual display for your smartphone, but also features its own processor, which will allow you to load and run applications right from the device itself. Apart from a mainstream audience, the VUZIX M100 is also geared towards industrial and medical applications.
EPSON MOVERIO BT-200 Smart Glasses
Unlike other AR glasses, the EPSON Moverio BT-200 smart glasses features two displays, that are centered in our field of vision, effectively giving you a large floating image in front of you. Also included are motion sensors and a front facing camera, along with a battery life of 6 hours. The device runs Android 4.0 and can be controlled using a touch pad interface. These smart glasses were showcased at the event with a demo of a few augmented reality games, and any Android application can also be side-loaded on the device.
While we were unable to get some hands-on time with the Pebble Steel, the latest smart watch from the company was one of the highlights of the show and deserves a mention in a list of featured wearable tech from CES 2014. Moving towards design aesthetics that are based on conventional watches, the new Pebble smartwatch lineup is made of forged and CNC-machined stainless steel, and is great to look at. While the Steel offers the same features as its predecessor, the latest smart watch comes with a display that is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass, with a lens that includes an anti-fingerprint coating. Pebble is a company to watch, and it’ll be interesting to see what they have in store for the rest of the year.
Sony made the jump in to fitness tracking with the Sony Smartband. Using a small device called the Sony Core that fits into a band, available in small and large sizes, Sony aims to make the Smartband more than just a step counter or calories burned tracker, with an app called Lifelog. The Smartband communicates with the Android devices using the Lifelog app, and apart from recording fitness-related data, can also provide information on what kind of music you were listening to that helped motivate you during a workout, allowing you to create a playlist of these songs. Apart from fitness tracking, you can also control your music directly from the Smartband as well.
Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+
With the OneTouch Idol X+, Alcatel wanted to deliver a solid Android experience without the price tag that’s usually associated with it. That starts with a 2 Ghz octa-core Mediatek processor, paired with 2 GB of RAM. The device also features a beautiful 5-inch 1080p display, along with a 13.1 MP rear camera. At 7.9 millimeters, it’s also one of the thinner smartphones available. The Idol X+ is powered by a 2,500 mAh battery, and runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, with a customized skin on top.
Alcatel OneTouch Hero
The Alcatel OneTouch Hero features a beautiful 6-inch 1080p display which is really impressive. Other specifications include a 1.5 Ghz quad-core Mediatek processor, 2GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a 13MP rear camera and 2MP front camera, with everything powered by a large 3,400 mAh battery, and like the Idol X+, running Android 4.2. While the specs may not be amazing, it definitely is worth its price tag that is expected to be less than $350. Unfortunately, the handset is currently only aimed at Asian markets, with possible expansion to others in the future.
Sony Xperia Z1S
Launched with the Xperia Z1 Compact, the Z1S is coming later this month to T-Mobile. For the most part, the device is an Xperia Z1 rebranded for T-Mobile, but there are a few notable differences, with the biggest change being the replacement of the aluminium frame with a plastic one. Other changes include the relocation of the headphone jack, and the T-Mobile logo on the back. The specifications of the Xperia Z1S remained mostly unchanged, with the exception of an upgrade in storage, which is now 32GB, instead of 16GB. Other specs include a Snapdragon 800 processor, 2 GB RAM, a 5-inch TFT LCD display, and a 3,000 mAh battery, along with the same 20.7MP rear camera. Sony made it easier to use with the dual-detente camera button, that you can press halfway for focusing before shooting. Another addition is the Background Defocusing option, which tries to simulate the out-of-focus effect, something that is difficult to do with a smartphone camera.
The Sony Xperia Z1S will be available from T-Mobile on January 22.
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Sony finally introduced the highly-anticipated miniature version of the Xperia Z1, officially known as the Xperia Z1 Compact. With the Xperia Z1 Compact, Sony proved that a Mini or Compact version of a device doesn’t have to mean an associated drop in the specifications. Aside from the 4.3-inch 720p Triluminous display and smaller battery, just about everything from the Z1 remains intact. There’s still a Snapdragon 800 CPU, the 20.7MP camera from the Z1 and the water/dust proof design from the original flagship device, and is powered by a 2,300 mAh battery, with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean onboard. If you’ve been looking for a high-end mobile device but you are not looking for a large display size that you’ll get with most flagship devices, the Xperia Z1 Compact is exactly what you need.
ASUS Padfone Mini
The ASUS Padfone Mini features a 1.6 Ghz Intel Atom Z2560 processor, 1 GB RAM, and a modest 8 GB of internal storage, which is expandable, an 8 MP rear camera and 2 MP front camera, is powered by a 1170 mAh or 3270 mAh battery (tablet mode), and runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, with the Zen UI on top, along with ASUS dynamic display technology, that automatically resizes apps according to what mode you’re in.
The specifications aren’t the best you’d find in the market, but considering the $249 price tag, for the smartphone and the dock, the less-than-stellar specs can certainly be forgiven.
Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 10.1
As the name suggests, the Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 10.1 is a 10.1-inch device with a impressive super clear LCD display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600. Released as a part of a series of tablets in different sizes, the design aesthetics of all the tablets in the TabPRO series are the same.
The Galaxy TabPRO 10.1 features either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU (4G LTE) or an Exynos 5 Octa (Wi-Fi/3G), 2 GB RAM, 32/64GB storage with microSD expansion, an 8MP rear camera and 2MP front camera, along with a large 8,220 mAh battery.
Not only is Android 4.4 KitKat available right out of the box, the TabPRO series also features a new Magazine UX, which is a big improvement over the TouchWiz UI. There’s also over $700 worth of bundled software and subscriptions that are designed to give you a more “pro” experience, compared to other Android tablets.
Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 12.2
The Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 12.2 features a huge 12.2-inch display , but there’s more to this tablet than just a large screen, featuring high-end specifications that are similar to other TabPRO tablets including a Snapdragon 800 processor or Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor (depending on version), 3 GB of RAM, an 8 MP rear camera and a 9,500 mAh battery. Like the rest of the tablets announced by Samsung, the TabPRO 12.2 also features the new Magazine UX, along with the $700 worth of subscriptions and software.
Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2
The Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 stands out as the top model of the Pro series of tablets announced by Samsung at CES. The specifications of the NotePRO 12.2 and the TabPRO 12.2 are almost identical, featuring the same large screen high-resolution display, 3 GB of RAM, 32/64 GB storage, and a 9,500 mAh battery.
The major difference between the two is available of the S-Pen stylus with the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2, which definitely a good addition with a tablet that is so big. Like the rest of the tablets, the NotePRO 12.2 also features the new Magazine UX, and also includes additional software features associated with S-Pen functionality.
And so, there you have it. CES 2014 is over, but several big shows and events are coming throughout the year. We’ll be there!