Every year, hundreds of thousands of people swarm the sweaty Las Vegas Convention Center to see absurd new technology, from $60,000 rollable TVs to robots that teach you how to love, much of which isn’t even be available for public purchase.
This article is not about those things.
Instead, we at The Inventory go to CES every year to see what you, the normal person whose pockets aren’t stuffed with thousand dollar bills, can actually expect to see on shelves in the coming year. And while most of the cool tech we saw was slated for later in 2020, there are a few new gadgets that you can get right now.
TVs have made huge leaps forward in the past few years, thanks to developments like 4K, HDR, and—arguably most important of all—full-array local dimming. For those unaware, local dimming allows certain portions of the screen to dim down, so dark scenes look darker next to the bright objects in them.
Unfortunately, with most LED TVs, this creates a “blooming” effect around some objects. Enter Mini-LED, which is exactly what it sounds like: smaller LEDs, allowing for more precise local dimming without as much of a glow around things like subtitles, or X-Wings flying through the vast blackness of space. While other brands are sure to bring Mini-LED TVs to market soon, TCL is the first to actually do so with their 8-series.
The 8-series actually came out in October, but it was one of TCL’s flagship products during the show, and you can grab 65” and 75” versions at Best Buy right now starting at $1,600. If you’re on a bit more of a budget, keep an eye out for a more affordable 6-series with Mini-LED later this year.
CES is overflowing with less flashy tech, too, like Bluetooth speakers and portable battery packs. Most of these are easy to pass by without a second look, but two of the latter caught my eye as I walked the floor. If you’re in the market for a new power bank, they might be worth considering.
First is the MyCharge Hub 6700 Turbo, a 6700mAh charger that aims to be portable and (mostly) universal. It has both a Lightning and USB-C cable built right in, so you don’t have to remember your cables or buy a version specific to your phone. It supports quick charging for each, too—PD on the Lightning cable, and Qualcomm QuickCharge on the USB-C side (sadly, PD is not supported on the USB-C cable for us Pixel users). If you still have some microUSB devices, there’s a USB-A port in the top for you to plug in anything else. Best of all, it has fold-down prongs so you can plug the battery pack right into the wall—again, no extra cables needed. If you need more juice, there’s a 10050mAh version as well.
For something even more powerful, Mophie just released its $160 PowerStation Go. It’s big and clunky, but can charge just about anything—even your regular AC devices thanks to its standard three-prong outlet on the side. It also has USB ports, a wireless charging pad on top, and—believe it or not—jumper cables, so you can jump start your car if the battery dies. Sadly, they didn’t have a car on the show floor to demonstrate, but if it works as well as they say, it could be one of the most useful battery packs to have in your glove box.
We’ve gotten a bit spoiled by today’s video game graphics. PS3-era games could use a little sprucing, and even the Switch is a bit hampered by its hardware in certain games. Retro gamers have long used devices like the Framemeister or OSSC to make old school consoles look better on modern TVs, and the $100 MClassic fills a similar void for 3D consoles—particularly those with HDMI like the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or even GameCube, if you have an HDMI adapter for it. The MClassic was actually an Indiegogo project last year, but it’s now available for wider purchase on Amazon.
Not only will it upscale your games to 1440p or 4K, but it does some anti-aliasing and depth-of-field post-processing to improve the image, and from what I saw in the side-by-side demo on the show floor, I was pretty impressed. I tend to be a bit skeptical about these things, so I’d love to get my hands on one and put it through its paces myself, but color me intrigued for now. (Let me know in the comments if you want a review of this one!)
Just when I thought I’d reached my keyboard endgame, CES has to go and tempt me with new, shiny alternatives. This year, Fujitsu has finally updated the cult-favorite Happy Hacking Keyboard (or HHKB, as it’s affectionately known), with three new models: the HHKB Pro Classic, which updates the classic model with USB-C; the HHKB Pro Hybrid, which has both USB-C and Bluetooth; and the HHKB Pro Hybrid Type-S, which uses silent variants of the don’t-call-them-rubber-dome Topre switches. They’re pricey, ranging from $190 to $280 for the Type-S, but for true Topre fans—a group I might be a part of now—they’re worth it.
For ergonomic enthusiasts, Matias released a new version of its Ergo Pro keyboard, this time with programmable shortcuts. You can customize the cut, copy, or paste keys to invoke any shortcut you want, as well as all the F keys—all without any extra software. It keeps the same layout and split, tentable design as its predecessor, with its quiet mechanical switches. You can grab a PC or Mac version for $220.
Finally, Whirlwind FX has a keyboard called the Element, which has “reactive” lighting effects that syncs with whatever’s on screen. Think of it like an Ambilight, but for your computer, and on your keyboard. Of course, you can use typical RGB lighting on the keys when you aren’t playing a game, but it’s a pretty cool effect—and it comes with Kailh Red switches (with Blue and Brown coming soon). It’s a bit more affordable than the others mentioned above, coming in at $100 on Whirlwind’s site.
Beyerdynamic makes some of my favorite headphones around, and while I usually gravitate toward open cans like the DT880, their new $600 Amiton Wireless Copper is pretty interesting in its own right. Not only does it look baller with its copper accents, but it sounds great, in no small part thanks to its support for high-quality Bluetooth codecs like AptX HD (and AptX Low Latency, which is great for watching movies without lip sync issues). It also comes with MIY sound personalization, where you take a listening test and it generates an EQ curve to compensate for the gaps we all have in our hearing. It’s not quite as quick or precise as the Nuraphone I reviewed last year, but it’s also a more comfortable headphone overall, so I’d be a bit more likely to actually use it.
If the Amiron is too bit pricey for you, Sennheiser announced new versions of its own noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones at $120 and $200, though they won’t be available for purchase until next month. In fact, we saw a ton of other stuff coming out later this year, so keep your eyes peeled—because I’ll be getting my hands on as much as possible for reviews later this year.