2021 is the first year that CES went fully virtual, after last year's edition slipped in just before the novel coronavirus went truly worldwide. That freed journalists from traipsing the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but it won't stop us from picking out the best things we've seen this year - even if we only saw them over our computer screens anyway.
This year was dominated by major chip announcements from AMD, Nvidia, and Intel that together ushered in a new generation of laptops, but there was plenty of news on the TV side to keep us busy too, as almost every manufacturer went all in on mini-LED.
It was a mostly quiet year for wearables and phones - though LG's blink-and-you'll-miss-it teaser for this year's LG Rollable phone certainly caught our attention, even if we didn't quite see enough of the phone to grant it an actual award. And of course, someone had to come along and tech up the face mask - full credit to Razer for managing to churn fresh gaming merch out of a global pandemic.
So without further ado and in no particular order, here are the 10 Best in Show Award winners for CES 2021.
Nvidia RTX 30 laptop GPUs
Nvidia’s reveal of its latest laptop-focused RTX 30 Series GPU range is another of our top CES 2021 picks. Much like with the desktop RTX 30 Series, Nvidia’s laptop equivalent is set to offer significant gains in performance, even at the entry level.
Nvidia claims that the RTX 3060 is not only more powerful than the previous-gen RTX 2080 Super, but 30 percent faster than Sony’s PS5 too, and it’s capable of running games at a solid [email protected] with ultra-level graphics enabled.
That’s impressive enough, but it gets even better with the RTX 2070, offering [email protected] gameplay, and for those that need a true mobile powerhouse, the 12GB of memory of the top-end RTX 3080 is more than enough for [email protected] with ray-tracing effects enabled.
With an impressive jump in power, it should come as no shock that OEMs have jumped on the new card range, with Nvidia claiming that OEMs have over 70 new RTX laptops in the work for the release in 2021.
The boost in power, along with new features like Nvidia Reflex and the resizable BAR for better access to the GPU, makes the Nvidia mobile GPU announcement one of the most important and far-reaching of this year’s virtual trade show.
AMD Ryzen 5000 laptop CPUs
The Ryzen 5000 series was widely expected to be announced at CES, and AMD certainly didn’t disappoint. The majority of the company’s new range of laptop chips move to the Zen 3 architecture announced last October, which uses a 7nm process to deliver a higher frequency, more instructions per clock (IPC) and a lower latency.
With its new mobile chips, AMD builds on that strong foundation. The Ryzen 5000 is “the only 8-core CPU for ultrathin laptops”, claiming to provide a big leap forward in both performance and power efficiency, the latter leading to improvements in battery life.
There are four processor tiers once again (Ryzen 3, 5, 7 and 9), with high-end chips offering up to 8 cores, 16 threads and a maximum boost speed of 4.4GHz.
A host of new Ryzen 5000-powered devices have already been announced, including laptops from the likes of Acer, Asus and XMG. There’s plenty more coming too, with AMD saying there will be 150 new devices released before the end of 2021.
LG QNED TVs
There’s no doubt that LG’s OLED range of TVs for 2021 look impressive but we think the new QNED models are going to be best sellers this year.
QNED is the firm’s range of MiniLED panels and represents a “giant leap for LCD quality” in what is similar to the jump from Full HD to 4K. Up to 30,000 LEDs and approximately 2,500 dimming zones improves contrast and colour accuracy while reducing blooming.
Asus ROG Flow X13
Asus’ ROG line continually strives to provide a great gaming experience within a lightweight and portable design, and the new ROG Flow X13 might be its best effort yet.
At just 15.7mm thick and weighing 1.3kg, it’s the company’s first ultrathin 2-in-1 that’s designed specifically for gamers. There’s also a gorgeous 13.3in, 16:10 display, sporting tiny bezels and a choice between [email protected] or [email protected]
It certainly doesn’t make sacrifices in the performance department though, with the Flow X13 powered by AMD’s new Ryzen 5000 processors and a discrete GPU from Nvidia’s latest RTX 30 range. There’s also a new eGPU, which is designed to be hooked up to the Flow X13 for next-level performance.
The 360-degree hinge means it can be effective as an everyday productivity device, but the angular design and RGB keyboard remind you that this device is for gamers first and foremost.
Pricing and availability are yet to be revealed, but Asus has reiterated on a number of occasions that this is an ultra-premium device.
Samsung MicroLED TVs
Although MiniLED is the big talking point of 2021 when it comes to TV tech, MicroLED is also making important strides.
Previously seen on Samsung’s iconic The Wall – essentially a concept product sold to a few people rich enough – the 110in and 99in MicroLED models announced at the show are a clear sign that the technology is slowly trickling down to more normal TV sets.
They’ll still be too pricey for most but this MicroLED panel is self-illuminating with 24 million individually controlled LEDs offering a ridiculously lifelike image as well as a 99% screen-to-body ratio.
MSI Stealth 15M
There's a lot to like about the MSI Stealth 15M, but let's start with the size. At 16mm thick this isn't just thin for a gaming laptop, or thin for a 17in laptop - it's thin full stop. In fact, it's even thinner (and lighter, at 1.68kg) than Dell's XPS 15 - a non-gaming laptop with a smaller display.
That's not for a lack of specs though, as the 15M still packs in an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor and the brand-new Nvidia RTX 3060 Max-Q, alongside oodles of ports, a 144Hz display, and even future-proofed support for Wi-Fi 6E. Prices start from $1,700, so it's not cheap, but for those specs at that size it's still good value.
And the coup de grace? A 1080p webcam, in a year where we need them more than ever, and even Apple still settles for 720p.
LG CordZeroThinQ A9 Kompressor+
The key feature of LG’s CordZeroThinQ A9 Kompressor+ (aside from that never-ending name) is that it’s self-emptying. When iplaced back in its dock, not only does it begin charging automatically but it empties itself into a bag inside the dock, which just has to be changed every one to two months.
We’ve seen something similar with Samsung’s Clean Station, which is a suction bin used in conjunction with the Powerstick cordless cleaner. But this is a joined-up, one-stop solution. It’ll particularly benefit people with asthma, respiratory problems or dust sensitivity, for whom the boom in bagless cleaners hasn’t been such a great thing. It’s also good news for anyone tired of getting hit in the face with a dust cloud every time they empty their vacuum cleaner bin.
The CordZeroThinQ A9 has 140AW of suction and a telescopic wand. It comes with a Power Mop attachment for hard floors (as well as the usual complement of nozzles) and two quick-release lithium ion batteries, so you’ll never run out of charge halfway around a room. The stand itself has a touchscreen display and storage space for accessories, which is a nice touch.
Honor Band 6
The Honor Band 6 is the standout wearable of CES 2021. It’s an extremely affordable fitness tracker, coming in at an estimated price of US$35 (around £25) and available in a choice of three colours (black, grey and pink). What makes it unusual is that it boasts a large 1.47in AMOLED touchscreen display with a resolution of 194x364.
Wearables of this price usually have much smaller and lower quality screens - including the previous Honor Band - so the display alone makes this competitive. It’s also packed with various tracking tech, including heartrate monitoring, SpO2 monitoring, sleep monitoring and stress monitoring.
The Honor Band 6 has ten different workout modes, including running, cycling, swimming, and various gym machines. There's no GPS, but that’s pretty standard for a device within this price range.
We don't yet know when the Honor Band 6 will launch in the West, just that it will be hitting shelves ‘soon’. The device has already been available in China since late 2020.
Razer Project Hazel
When it comes to crazy concept products that we actually want to buy, Razer’s Project Hazel is top of the list – and there’s method behind the apparent madness too. Razer has been manufacturing and distributing single-use facemasks during the pandemic, but these are quite obviously bad for the environment, so it got to work on creating a reusable option using some of its own technology.
The headline is that Project Hazel is essentially the world’s smartest face mask, offering full N95 protection with active ventilation to keep you safe and comfortable wherever you need to don a mask. It’s also transparent, which not only makes it easier to non-verbally communicate, but it should make a massive difference to those helping the most vulnerable in society.
The mask sports a built-in LED light to automatically illuminate your mouth in darker environments, and a mic utilising Razer’s Voiceamp technology removes the ventilation effect you get when speaking while wearing a mask.
That’ll require battery power, but Razer thought of that too, planning on potentially releasing the mask with a case that’ll not only wirelessly charge the mask but sanitise it using UV light too. And, being a Razer product, there are customisable RGB rings around the ventilators on the mask itself.
No word on if or when Project Hazel might come to market as a real product, but there are a few working prototypes according to Razer…
Lenovo Yoga AIO 7
We rarely get excited about an all-in-one (AIO) PC but Lenovo’s latest effort caught our eye. The Yoga AIO 7 isn’t just good looking, either.
The firm has brought the Yoga convertible laptop brand to a desktop PC because the display can rotate 90-degrees into portrait mode. The 27in IPS 4K screen covers 99% of DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB, so designers will be drooling over the machine too.
It’s also got powerful components such as an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, plus a built-in JBL speaker meaning you don’t need to plug anything in for big sound.
This looks like it could be the best Windows AIO on the market and might even be better than Apple’s iMac.