Some of the best of what we saw at CES 2015!
We're in the home stretch of CES 2015. We've see quite a good bit of Android on the show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Some good. Some not so good. But some stood out above all others as we made our way through the week.
And it was a diverse class this year. We've got phones. We've got tablets. We've got a high-end camera with a phone. We've got a watch. A TV box. And even some of the new guts that are going to be powering our devices in the future.
It's a strong list, indeed. But perhaps it's even more exciting that it's still a limited look at what we've got in store this year. There's so much good stuff coming. But for now, it's time to announce this year's winners. And they are ...
1. CES Top pick: The LG G Flex 2
The new LG G Flex 2 was one of the first announcements of this year's show, and it indeed made quite the splash. It's a solid improvement over last year's model. And like the original, it's a flexible phone, so it'll better withstand falls and the occasional meeting with a chair while in your back pocket. It's also got improved self-healing capability. So those annoying little scratches disappear even quicker than before — often within 10 seconds.
The G Flex 2 also sports an updated camera and is the first running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 64-bit processor. So there's a lot to look forward to in it as it reaches consumers in the coming months. And for that reason it's made our list of the top picks of CES 2015.
- Read our complete preview of the LG G Flex 2
2. ASUS Zenfone 2
LG isn't the only company that unveiled a hot new device this week, as ASUS took the wraps off of the Zenfone 2 at its CES press conference. ASUS interestingly moved to a 64-bit Intel processor with the new Zenfone, as well as an option to have 4GB of RAM in some models. The rest of the specs round out with a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 13MP camera that should be capable and its all running on Android 5.0 with a fresh software experience.
Taking a page out of LG's book, ASUS also chose to move the volume keys on the Zenfone 2 to the back of the phone, though it chose to leave the power button the top. The keys let ASUS trim down the bezels, and with a nicely curved back it fits in the hand well. Add all this up and you have a nice improvement over the original Zenfone, and that's before we mention that models will start at $199 without a contract.
And for that, it's one of our top picks of CES 2015.
3. Panasonic Lumix CM1
We've seen other manufacturers try their hand at melding together a smartphone and a camera, and we haven't gotten as close to an "ideal" combination as with the Lumix CM1 from Panasonic. The CM1 packs a 1-inch 20.1MP sensor behind an f/2.8 Leica lens, and backs it up with an insanely powerful camera app that lets you shoot in full manual mode and even capture in RAW. But at the same time, from a phone perspective you have nearly stock Android 4.4, a relatively compact 4.7-inch 1080p display and a Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM to keep everything moving quick.
There's still compromise to be had when you bring together this much hardware and blur the line between camera and phone, but we think Panasonic is walking the line just right with this one. Even though it has already launched it Europe, CES 2015 was really a coming out party for the device and we're sure it's picked up some due attention at the show.
- Read our hands-on with the Lumix CM1
4. Android Auto — Pioneer
It's going to take more than built-in support in new cars to bring Android Auto to the masses. That's where manufacturers like Pioneer come in, with a range of aftermarket head units to bring voice controls, in-car calls and texts and other useful features to your current vehicles. Pioneer's Android Auto head units come in at a range of price points from $700 to $1,400 with capacitive and resistive touch screen options.
And just like built-in Android Auto options, Pioneer's aftermarket head units let you control music playback, use Google Maps' navigation services and take full control over calls and text messages using your voice. It's a great way to bring the convenience and safety of Android Auto to the vehicle you already own.
- See our first look at Pioneer's Android Auto head unit from the CES show floor
5. NVIDIA Tegra X1
Even as it struggles to snag significant market share in the mobile processor market, NVIDIA is moving right along with its processor roadmap with the Tegra X1. A follow-up to its previous leading processor the Tegra K1, the X1 is an 8-core 64-bit "mobile superchip" with a 256-core GPU that uses the same Maxwell architecture as its leading desktop GPUs. The processor is capable of some serious computation, including 4K video a 60 fps and 10-bit video in h.265 and VP9. NVIDIA pitted its Tegra X1 against the Apple A8X chip in benchmarks and it smoked the competition, and provided this chip can actually make it into future devices it's going to be a sight to be seen.
The only question is how quickly the Tegra X1 could actually make it into a consumer device, and what sort of device that would be. With a peak power draw of about 15 watts — normal power draw for Tegra X1 is between 4 and 5 watts — it's going to need some extra engineering to be ready for mobile devices, but NVIDIA is already using the Tegra X1 in its new automotive applications. The DRIVE PX is an autonomous car system powered by dual Tegra X1 chips, and the DRIVE CX is a car UI controller system powered by a single X1.
6. Samsung Galaxy A5 and A3
Samsung's new Galaxy A5 and A3 aren't necessarily exciting in the grand scheme of smartphones, as they aren't high-end devices meant to rival flagships from other manufacturers. These two budget-minded models are important and worthy of an award because they bring high-quality materials and construction for the first time in Samsung's low-end lineup. Samsung brought the metal construction and attention to detail from its Galaxy Alpha and Note 4 down to the Galaxy A5 and A3, at the same time trimming features and specs in just the right places to make these compelling devices even at their lower prices.
The Galaxy A5 and A3 aren't likely headed to a U.S. carrier (postpaid ones, at least) any time soon, but for Samsung these two new models mark an important step in the direction of paying attention to the lower-end market and not leaving those consumers with cheap, flimsy phones. If this is the new down-market strategy for Samsung going forward, we're excited to see where it leads.
- Read our Galaxy A5 and A3 hands-on
7. Sony SmartWatch 3 steel
The Sony SmartWatch 3 is one of a half-dozen Android Wear smartwatches available today. Or, perhaps it's now one of seven, as this one's really a close cousin to the original. Sony has taken its base SW3 and swapped out the functional rubber strapping for a more stylish stainless steel finish. And it's striking, turning what we previously considered to be watch for the active set into something you could wear with a suit much more easily.
And because it's a SmartWatch 3, you'll still get that standalone GPS functionality, so you can take it jogging without having to lug around a phone to track your location.
It's a cosmetic change, sure, but it's a big deal for Sony's first Android Wear watch.
- For more, see our first look at the steel SmartWatch 3 from CES
8. Razer Forge Android TV box
We admittedly haven't seen a ton of Android TV devices at this point, but compared to what's available now the Razer Forge TV is looking to be one of the leaders once it's released in Q1 of this year. This little $99 box packs a Snapdragon 805 processor in a compact size, but it really separates itself from the Nexus Player by offering 2GB of RAM, a full-sized USB port and a Gigabit ethernet port. Those internals should be able to handle some gaming, and Razer is offering a bundle with its nice Bluetooth wireless controller for $149 as well.
But this isn't just a standard Android TV box, as Razer is also getting ready to sell a neat wireless keyboard and mouse combo to use with the Forge TV. They connect over either Bluetooth or 2.4GHz wireless, and combine with an upcoming Razer application called Cortex to let you stream games from a PC on your home network to the big screen. When not in use the keyboard and mouse charge in an attractive dock, letting you keep them accessible and on display.
The Android TV space is going to get quite interesting with little boxes like this and even TV sets with the software baked in, and right now Razer is getting a jump on everyone.
CES is rarely a huge show for Android hardware, but 2015 shaped up to be a great show that brought us new and innovative products across a variety of different devices. Between phones, cameras, watches, processors, set top boxes and car head units, CES brought us brand new lust-worthy products that have us excited for the full year ahead.