ICYMI: More gadget highlights from CES 2021
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While CES was a bit different this year, we still managed to check out a number of inspiring new devices, apps and services. While we acknowledged the most promising tech in Engadget’s Best of CES awards, there remain a bunch of gadgets that didn’t make the list that will be worth checking out when they actually hit shelves later this year. Things like HP’s new Dragonfly laptops, TCL’s 8K TVs and Cowin’s two-piece soundbar are all things to look forward to as 2021 progresses (and some are even available already). Here are some of the CES 2021 gadgets you may have missed this week.
Cherlynn Low found a lot to like about last year’s HP Dragonfly laptop: it was lightweight at 2.2 pounds, had a great battery life and an attractive design. This year, the company added two new Dragonfly laptops to the family. Available this month, the Dragonfly Max and Dragonfly G2 still boast the “lighter than air” claims at 2.49 and 2.2 pounds, respectively. However, the new laptops feature HP’s premium backlit and spill-resistant keyboard and they have more powerful processors — the G2 in particular can be configured with 11th-generation Intel chips and up to 32GB of RAM.
Both of the new Dragonfly laptops also feature new tools like on-lap detection, Intrusion Detection, which will alert you if your device has been opened or compromised, and dynamic audio that optimizes sound depending on whether you’re listening to music or on a conference call. They can be configured with 4G or 5G connectivity and have Tile trackers integrated into the WLAN module, too. Both should be available sometime this month, though HP hasn’t provided details on pricing yet.
TCL has produced some of our favorite TVs over the past few years with features like Dolby Vision and Roku OS integration. At last year’s CES, the company announced an 8K TV and this year they announced that all the new sets in the midrange 6-Series lineup will also have 8K. In addition, TCL announced the third generation of its OD Zero backlighting technology, so named because the distance between its backlight layer and LCD panel is now 0mm, resulting in an even thinner display.
The company is also releasing an 85-inch 4K TV which will retail for $1,599, as well as a whole XL lineup of displays that will also have an 85-inch size option. This includes a lower-end, 4-Series XL model for $1,599 coming in Q1, a QLED TV with 120Hz HDMI input support, and a top of the line mini-LED edition that should arrive later this year.
Anker has a reputation for affordable, true wireless earbuds and it just added another pair to the Soundcore family. The $130 Liberty Air 2 Pro offer multi-mode ANC, Qi wireless charging, an IPX4 waterproof design and a six-hour battery life. The ANC is available in three settings — transport, indoor and outdoor — with each adjusting frequencies blocked depending on your environment. And the quick-charge technology Anker uses in the case will give you two hours of use after just ten minutes of charging.
Billy Steele was impressed by the sound quality when he reviewed Anker’s Spirit Dot 2 and Spirit X2 last year and expects similar quality from these buds. The Liberty Air 2 Pro’s are available now in black, white, blue or pink for $130.
Soundbars don’t always produce the same immersive experience that a surround sound system can. Cowin wants to remedy that with their new wireless 25W unit that can be placed either under a TV like a standard speaker, or broken into two pieces that can sit vertically on either side of an entertainment system. Alternatively, the segments can be mounted horizontally on opposite walls as well.
Because the Soundbar isn’t tied to a central unit, there’s a lot of flexibility in how it can be used. It’s wireless via the Bluetooth 4.2 support, but it can also use a wired connection over AUX, optical or HDMI ports. At $80 this provides an easy and affordable surround sound option for a variety of uses, and will be available sometime in the first quarter of the year.
Smart toothbrushes aren’t new — Oral-B and Colgate have a few — but this year, Philips’ Sonicare 9900 Prestige is angling for a spot on your bathroom counter. The flagship toothbrush purports to use AI to monitor oral health and your personal brushing style in order to get you cleaner teeth. The 9900 Prestige also features a new brush head with angled bristles that Philips says will remove 20 times more plaque than existing models. The “SenseIQ” AI works with the smart brush to sense how hard you brush and will adjust the intensity of its vibrations accordingly.
Philips claims that the more you use the software, the more it can personalize your recommendations and provide accurate progress reports weekly, monthly and annually. While there’s no pricing information yet, we know that the 9900 Prestige will also come with a new leatherette travel case that has an integrated USB-C port for easy charging.
Though Otterbox has long been known for making sturdy, rugged smartphone cases, the company went in a slightly different direction this year with its new range of gaming accessories. Intended for Xbox players, the company came out with an Easy Grip Shell to protect controllers; a Mobile Gaming Clip to attach your phone to an Xbox controller; a dedicated case to hold your mobile set up; an additional, bacteria-resistant gaming case and a privacy guard screen protector.
The accessories all look like Otterbox products: most have grey or black color schemes, are thick and chunky and have thoughtful inclusions like the pockets and passthrough on the Gaming Carry Case. The Easy Grip Gaming Case features Otterbox’s standard Drop+ protection and will be available for any current iPhone and select Android devices. While prices range from $30 to $55, they may be worth it if you want serious protection for your devices. Pre-orders open on January 25th and shipping will begin in mid-February.
Razer’s new Blade notebooks have some impressive upgrades — not only do the Blade 15 and Blade 17 feature NVIDIA’s new RTX 30 GPUs, but they also have high refresh rate 1440p screens to give gamers a high-res choice that won’t make the same demands as 4K screens do. These QHD displays feature NVIDIA G-SYNC and Advanced Optimus, which should make gameplay smoother and will help switch between integrated and dedicated GPUs.
Both laptops will also ship with 10th-gen, H-series processors from Intel, maxed out with the 8-core i7 chip. The Blade 15 will be limited to the RTX 3060 or 3070 while the Advanced 15-inch version and Pro 17 can work with the more powerful RTX 3080. Devindra Hardawar says it’ll be interesting to see how well the laptops will handle ray-tracing using NVIDIA’s Ampere architecture.
The new notebooks still feature the same sleek unibody cases as their predecessors, with plenty of ports including USB-A, USB-C 3.2, Thunderbolt, HDMI 2.1 and Gigabit Ethernet. The 15 Advanced and the Pro 17 will also have a built in SD card reader, a rare feature these days. The Blade 15, our People’s Choice Award winner, will start at $1,700 while the Pro 17 will go for $2,300. Both are already available for preorder on Razer’s site. The Blade 15 will hit retailers later this month and the Blade 17 will be available in stores later in the first quarter.
Hatch’s previous products have focused on offering minimalist, feature-rich sound machines with night light features. Their newest product, the Mini, scales things back even further. Like the other devices in Hatch’s lineup — the Rest, Rest+ and Restore — the Mini is subtle and white and will blend in nicely to a variety of decors. It has a speaker on top with physical buttons to play, stop, skip and adjust volume, but you can still control the Mini from your phone via the companion smartphone app.
Unlike the other devices, it only plays audio so there is no night light component. In addition to playing the standard variety of white noise sounds, the Mini will also work with a subscription service that provides stories and music with which your kids can grow. At $39, the Mini is now the cheapest device Hatch offers, making it a good option for parents looking for an affordable music player for a nursery.
TP-Link extended its Kasa smart home line by announcing several new devices at CES, including a video doorbell, smart switches and plugs. The company, well-known as a router manufacturer, will now also produce a smart doorbell with a 1080p camera and AI-based person detection, a pan-and-tilt smart camera that has a starlight sensor for dark scenes and motion tracking, and an outdoor camera that supports 2K recording and full-color, night-vision video.
TP-Link also has Kasa Care, which provides a rolling 30 days of cloud storage for collected footage, but the devices will also support microSD cards with up to 128GB of storage if you’d rather keep your data local. Additionally, the company introduced a Smart Dimmer Switch that uses motion detection and an ambient light sensor to turn off lights in vacant rooms, a WiFi Light Switch with 3-Way Dimmer kit that gives you voice-controlled illumination and the Smart WiFi Outdoor Plug that controls outdoor lighting. We’re still awaiting details about release dates and pricing, but if you’re already using the Kasa ecosystem, you’ll have more ways to add to it soon.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 gets an upgrade for business and education customers
Though not technically a CES announcement, we can’t forget Microsoft, which released an updated Surface Pro 7+ this week. There are some key upgrades here, notably a bigger battery, LTE connectivity and removable SSD storage. That latter is a unique feature that Microsoft added because this new Surface is intended for business customers, and they will have “specific data retention standards” that are a bit more demanding than those of regular consumers. A nice side effect is it should make life easier for IT admins in the case of any drive failures. The LTE addition is limited to the fanless Core i5 configuration, but will work with both physical SIM cards as well as eSIM in more than 180 countries. And that battery upgrade makes this the biggest battery in a Surface to date.
There are additional improvements too, like the processor upgrade to Intel’s 11th-generation Tiger Lake CPUs and the redesigned thermal system that sports larger vents. We don’t have any official word yet, but have heard that pricing will start at $899 for a Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. At the top of the scale, enterprise customers can get 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage on the i7 Surface Pro 7+, but that’ll cost significantly more at $2,799.