Our picks for the best of the show.
Another whirlwind CES has come to a close, and that means it's time to round up the products from the show that caught our eyes. CES isn't always the biggest show for Android and mobile news, but there's still plenty to discuss and get excited about from the 2016 edition. A few phones, a Chromebook, virtual reality and wearables galore highlighted the show from an Android Central perspective.
If you want to see all of our coverage from the show (and we bet you do), be sure to check out our CES 2016 page — and then read on to see our top picks!
1. ASUS ZenFone Zoom
A year (as in, literally 365 days) after first being revealed, ASUS is finally ready to start selling the ZenFone Zoom with its crazy camera system in February for $399. That's a pretty penny for a phone that's getting a bit long in the tooth before it has even been released, but the novelty of this optically-zooming camera will be enough to drive many to give it a try.
Beyond the draw of the camera, you're getting a plenty capable phone in the Zoom, with specs that are similar to that of its cousin, the ZenFone 2. You'll get an Intel Atom processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB base storage and a 5.5-inch 1080p display. When you take into consideration the engineering work that went into the camera as well, it's a pretty impressive package.
2. Huawei Mate 8
Though Huawei formally announced the Mate 8 back in December, albeit with a sparse amount of details, the phone was unveiled for all to see and touch here at CES 2016. The 6-inch behemoth shares more than a little resemblance to the Mate S and Nexus 6P of last year, with a solid metal build and rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. Huawei's own Kirin 950 processor runs the show with 4GB of RAM in support, but there are a few odd shortcomings like a 1080p resolution on that big screen. The standard Huawei pain point of software issues still exists, but there's still a lot to like about this phone.
Though those of us in the U.S. know the Huawei name from a variety of products, the most topical of which being the Nexus 6P, we haven't really seen the Mate line here before. But remember, this is an international show, and the Mate 8 is ready to go on sale internationally — though the price may scare a few potential buyers away.
3. Lenovo 13 ThinkPad Chromebook
After offering Chromebook models that either target the education market or super low-end consumer market, Lenovo is finally making a solid mid-range ThinkPad-branded Chromebook. Bringing in the ThinkPad name is important for brand recognition, but also for what it means for the actual quality of the product. The ThinkPad 13 Chromebook is built well and made to live through a bit of a beating, even if that means it isn't the sleekest or lightest thing out there.
Importantly for those who intend to use a Chromebook a lot the ThinkPad 13 offers solid processor options — up to an Intel Core i5 — as well as a choice of up to 8GB of RAM to together power a 1080p display. Lenovo has also included a USB-C port, which means it's ready for future use with new peripherals (or maybe just your new Nexus). The ThinkPad 13 Chromebook unfortunately won't be on sale for a few months, but if you're in the market for a mid-range Chromebook and aren't in a rush to buy, it's definitely worth giving this one a look.
4. HTC Vive Pre
If it feels like there's a lot of talk about HTC Vive, you'd be right — and for good reason, it's one of the leading (if not the leading) virtual reality kit being shown off right now. At CES HTC unveiled its second generation of the Vive, called the Vive Pre, which made several important changes that are aimed at improving the user experience.
The visor itself is now smaller and a bit sleeker to look at, but most importantly now integrates a front-facing camera that can help you interact with the world around you while using Vive. The wireless controllers you use with the Vive have received a dramatic redesign to be simpler and also more functional (and better looking, to boot), and importantly the controllers are now simply rechargeable over MicroUSB.
We're still multiple months away from a commercial launch of Vive, these improvements to the experience of using Vive on a regular basis are very important to its eventual launch plans.
5. Under Armour HealthBox
It's been nearly six months since HTC chose to shelve its Grip wearable, and the fruits of that continued labor are here with the HTC and Under Armour HealthBox. Under Armour is now the one taking the lead here, with this suite of connected fitness devices that better suits its marketing prowess and customer base. HTC is really taking a step back to be a design and manufacturing partner here.
The HealthBox encompasses three products — the UA Band, a wearable fitness tracker, the UA Scale, a Wi-Fi enabled home scale, and the UA Heart Rate, a super-accurate chest heart rate monitor. The three together report back to the UA Record app, which can track every aspect of your body, fitness and activity for a comprehensive look at things.
The brand, positioning and $400 price should give you a good indication of who the HealthBox is for — those who want high-quality fitness tracking and data aggregation they can get from consumer products. These devices offer more than your average one-off connected fitness items, but of course you'll have to pay for it — but with Under Armour now at the helm, it has a shot.
6. Honor 5X
Though the Huawei Mate 8 won't be making an appearance in the U.S., the Honor 5X will be. After a brief introduction of sales in China, the 5X is headed stateside for a smooth $199 unlocked. That's a great deal for a metal phone with a fingerprint sensor, a good screen and capable internals. But though the software is actually an improvement over what's on the Mate 8 in some areas, it still comes up short of what most people would consider top-tier.
Still, the Honor 5X coming to the U.S. at $199 just shows how much the market of mid-range unlocked Android phones has grown, and how much the quality for the dollar has improved. We're looking forward to spending more time with this phone going forward.
7. ZTE Grand X 3
Most of us strive to buy the nicest phone we can get, and are willing to pay a bit extra for it. But that doesn't mean we should turn our attention completely away from the less-expensive market, where tens millions of phones sell annually. ZTE is known for its ability to crank out solid, inexpensive devices for prepaid carriers in the U.S., and the Grand X 3 is a great example of that.
For a phone that costs just $129 off-contract from Cricket (that's AT&T's MVNO), you get a heck of a lot of device in the Grand X 3. Its 5.5-inch display looks great, and while the Snapdragon 210 processor won't amaze you it'll get the job done when paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The hardware is what you'd expect of a phone costing closer to $200, and the fact that it includes a USB-C port shows that ZTE is paying attention to the market.
Sure it isn't the flashy phone that everyone lusts after, but anyone picking up a cheap prepaid phone should consider this Grand X 3.
8. Casio WSD-F10
CES 2016 turned into quite the smartwatch show, with Casio coming out of the gate with its first Android Wear offering, adding in the expertise you expect from this tenured watchmaker. One look at the WSD-F10 (oh, and that name ...) will tell you all you need to know, really — this is a rugged watch for rugged people who do rugged things.
Not only can it take more punishment than you'd want to put your own arm through that the watch is attached to, it also has some extra sensors and know-how (how about a barometer for your watch?) that you just don't find on an average Android Wear watch. There isn't going to be a huge market for the WSD-F10, and the $500 price reflects that as well. But those who need the features now have an option, and it's always a positive to see the Android Wear market grow.
9. Fossil Q54 Pilot and Q Grant
We've already seen Fossil's Android Wear smartwatch, the Q Founder, and now we had an opportunity to see its "non-display" smartwatches, the Q54 Pilot and Q Grant. Fossil is using these two models to bridge the gap between its traditional watch lines and the all-electronic Q Founder, and is doing so in a really interesting way.
When you glance at the Q54 Pilot and Q Grant you wouldn't think twice about them being traditional watches, but underneath the back plate is a basic smartwatch setup. The watches connect to your phone to pull in notifications, which alert you with LEDs on the sides and a vibration motor, as well as sensors to track your movements and record that data back to your phone where you can send it over to your favorite fitness tracking app.
Best of all, these watches look really nice for the price, which ranges from $175 to $215 for these models. That's not a whole to pay — about $50 more than the "dumb" models of these same watches — for fitness band-like functionality baked right into a nice-looking watch, and in all is likely cheaper than whatever full-on smartwatch you may be considering.
10. Fitbit Blaze
After making quite a name for itself with standard fitness trackers, Fitbit is stepping up its game into the smartwatch arena. The $199 Blaze is definitely priced more than your average fitness band, pushing into the smartwatch market, and the feature set seems to match the price. You get all of the great Fitbit fitness tracking, including personal training recommendations and great heart rate monitoring, but it's now put in a more watch-like frame.
The watch still looks a bit like a gadget, even more so than some smartwatches out there, but with its stainless steel frame and choice of rubber and leather bands it can masquerade quite nicely as a watch you can wear all day and not stand out much. It's important for Fitbit to expand up into this arena, and be able to do a bit more with a larger screen, which it seems to be making a solid first step at with the Blaze.