The International Consumer Electronics Show ( CES ) in Las Vegas is like the white whale in Moby Dick: Every time you hear about it, it’s getting bigger; you have to travel through oceans of information to grasp it, and if you don’t pay close attention it will upend everything before you even know what happened.
This year’s convention, which took place Jan. 6-9, hosted some 170,000 attendees and about 3,600 exhibitors, with themed areas (i.e. fitness, wearables, privacy, home security) and branded aisles showcasing French, Israeli, Korean and Chinese tech with more exhibition space than ever. My iPhone6 health app registered an average of 18,000 steps a day at CES (by contrast on the Sunday after I returned home, I tracked a much more modest 2,000). But enough about my aching feet, let me tell you about CES 2015:
Some broad strokes: Don’t buy a 4K (ultra high-def) TV yet; prices are coming down and will continue to do so (and actual 4K content is still limited). The laptop is back stronger than ever; Lenovo continues to dominate quality windows laptops at reasonable prices (for 2015 there is a gorgeous Lenovo X1 Carbon Ultrabook (3rd Gen), new T models Thinkpads with redesigned keyboards and a Thinkpad Yoga line with an ingenious retractable keyboard). 3-D Printing may prove its mettle in a surprising area: Food. 3-D printed deserts and chocolates were awesome! On the technology front, wireless power and charging seems to be on the horizon, although it is not clear which standard (Qi or other inductive systems) will predominate.
Finally, high-definition or high-resolution sound is a growing phenomenon (apparently, it took until now to realize that compressed mp3s music files played on a phone or streamed sound awful). Several new music players capable of handling large music files (up to 24bit/192kHz) debuted at CES, promising improved sound, such as HIFIMan‘s HM-700 player ($179); Sony’s Walkman-like NWZ-A17SLV player ($299); and Neil Young’s category-defining Pono music player ($399), whose sound is clear and, actually, really good. At the higher end, Bang & Olufsen introduced their version of Sonos: BeoSound Moment, a $4,000 intelligent music-streaming device that features the first-ever wooden touch screen as well as a programming “Moodwheel.” Listening to these devices, you may never want to leave the “Hotel California.”
As for price-is-no-object high-end home audiophile systems, although I spent some very pleasurable moments with McIntosh and Wadia, my serotonin receptors were most ablaze listening to systems from Metronome Technologie, a French company that makes even a mundane CD sound deeply personal and SOtM, a South Korean company, that made me feel I could hear each guitar or violin string being plucked.
Although Apple does not show at…