The Verge Awards at CES 2022: the best stuff we saw

The Verge Awards at CES 2022: the best stuff we saw

CES was supposed to be in person this year. The Verge and countless other outlets had hotel rooms confirmed and airlines booked. Companies teased cool gadgets that would have made CES feel exciting again after the muted all-digital affair of 2021. But COVID surged and CES saw massive cancellations. Some companies pivoted to digital booths, others canceled keynotes, and a few just withdrew altogether. CES even announced it would end a day early. The return to normal CES might have heralded never materialized.

But something else happened: the news that came out of CES actually got us excited. For the last two years we’ve ruminated on what the point of CES even is. In 2020 we said CES was “a lot of show with not much very substance,” and in 2021 that statement was still on our minds.

But after a very muted CES 2020, followed by the very weird all-digital CES 2021, we were surprised to find the show was still capable of surprising and sometimes even delighting us. We can’t be sure what CES will look like in 2023.

But this year we can celebrate the very cool, and the very weird, and sometimes the just plain goofy gadgets that had us nostalgic for former Januaries in the Nevada desert.

The Odyssey Ark can be used in portrait orientation, which curves the screen above your head.
Image: Samsung

Best in Show:

Samsung Odyssey Ark

It goes without saying that over the past two years, the humble computer monitor has gained a new appreciation in many people’s eyes. It’s what makes working from home comfortable and productive; it allows us to play games from either our preferred consoles or a high-powered PC. It’s often the centerpiece of a home office setup.

So it’s no surprise that a monitor is what captured our attention at CES the most this year. Samsung’s Odyssey Ark is not just any monitor, though. It’s the combination of a number of trends in one package unlike any we’ve ever seen before.

For starters, it’s huge: 55-inch screens may be commonplace on TVs, but they’re still rare for monitors. Second, it’s high res — its 4K resolution is enough for sharp text (at reasonable distances) and highly detailed imagery. And perhaps most importantly, it’s aggressively curved, wrapping the screen around (or, if you use it in the portrait orientation, above) you.

It’s not Samsung’s first curved monitor — we’ve already seen multiple generations of the Odyssey G9 and its wraparound view — but it is the largest, by a significant margin. The 16:9 aspect ratio makes it less ultrawide and more ultra large compared to monitors like the G9. Samsung’s demos of it in portrait orientation show it arcing above the viewer’s head, reminding me of how a Tesla’s windshield extends far beyond your line of sight.

Though we don’t yet know the price (don’t expect cheap) or when Samsung will deliver this, it’s easy to envision the immersive experience you can obtain with it, without having to deal with fussy VR goggles. I’ll take two of them, side by side in vertical orientation, please. — Dan Seifert, deputy editor

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Image: Asus

Best Laptop:

ROG Zephyrus G14

Asus did it. It did everything we asked it to do. We in the laptop sphere have been giving the Zephyrus G14 crap for years about its lack of a webcam (and, therefore, its relative uselessness as a daily driver for many remote and hybrid workers), and Asus finally, finally heard our pleas and stuck a webcam on the dang thing.

Asus also swapped out its RTX 3060 GPU for AMD’s Radeon 6800S. Armed with that chip and AMD’s new Ryzen 9 6900HS processor, it would not be at all shocking if this device was the top-performing 14-inch gaming laptop on the market this year with the best battery life to boot (the last all-AMD gaming laptop from Asus that I reviewed had unbelievable battery life and delivered the best battery gaming experience I’ve ever seen). Oh, and would you look at that — it even has a 16:10 aspect ratio, fixing basically the only other complaint I’ve ever had about the Zephyrus G14.

I know, I know — we’ve given Best Laptop of CES to a freaking Zephyrus G14 for two out of the past three years (and the third one was the Zephyrus G15, which is basically the same thing but slightly bigger). I fully understand if you are frustrated by how terribly predictable we’ve become. But I’m dead serious here — this has the potential to be the best gaming laptop that has ever hit the market. Previous Zephyrus G14 models have spent months at the top of our Best Gaming Laptop list, and that’s with a 16:9 aspect ratio and no webcam.

Now, there are still a couple ways Asus and AMD could break my heart. Most notably, they could put some absurdly high price tag on this device. (Please, Asus and AMD, please do not do me like that.) Alternatively, these new chips could just be bad. I hope they’re not bad, and I don’t expect them to be bad. If they’re good — if they’re even remotely good — this is the laptop of the year. — Monica Chin, reviewer

Image: Sony

Best TV:

Sony A95K QD-OLED 4K TV

It’s not often that we see the debut of a new TV technology at CES that will find its way into actual products that same year, but that’s part of the excitement around Samsung Display’s QD-OLED displays: they’re coming to TVs and PC monitors in 2022. But oddly it’s not Samsung Electronics that’s leading the charge for a QD-OLED TV. Not yet, anyway.

At CES, Sony announced a flagship A95K QD-OLED 4K TV that’ll be available in both 65- and 55-inch sizes. It’ll combine the brand-new displays with Sony’s terrific image processing and best-in-class TV speaker system. And if QD-OLED delivers on its promise, the new TVs could outperform those from LG (and Sony’s own existing sets) at overall brightness, color consistency, and even viewing angles. And considering how phenomenal OLEDs already look, that’s no small feat.

But flashy new tech is always accompanied by a very high price tag. While QD-OLED won’t demand nearly the same premium as something truly next level like Micro LED, it’s still guaranteed to cost significantly more than any 4K OLED TV on the market right now.

Will it be worth it? We’ll have to wait to see the A95K in person to know for sure. — Chris Welch, reviewer

A top-down view of the Ark monitor in landscape orientation lets you really see how aggressive the curve is.
Image: Samsung

Best Monitor:

Samsung Odyssey Ark

I was ready to write off the Samsung Odyssey Ark as just another jaw-droppingly curved screen whose additional gimmick was a swivel so you could turn it on its side. I blame Samsung for that — the company provided only two pictures of this monitor to journalists covering the show remotely, and neither of them actually showed the damned screen. They only revealed how the monitor curves like a scythe, which would be awesome if that were new.

Then, the pictures started coming in from the CES 2022 show floor, and I realized how wrong I was to lump it in with Samsung’s super-ultrawide monitors like the Odyssey G9. The reality looks more akin to a cockpit, or a curved wall of surveillance monitors, that can also turn into a single 55-inch curved 4K TV — one that can run games and many films at their preferred 16:9 aspect ratio instead of uncomfortably stretching them across an atypical 32:9 expanse of pixels. The hardware dial to rotate your array of virtual monitors across that wall of screen looks awesome, too, reducing the need to rely on special windowing software to get work done.

I’m deathly afraid of the price tag, given how even Samsung’s $2,499 Neo G9 turned out to be something of a dud, but the Odyssey Ark looks destined to take the title of “ultimate monitor” if Samsung doesn’t screw it up. — Sean Hollister, tech reports editor

A BMW concept using e-ink to automatically change the paint color on a car from white to black and back again
BMW’s big reveal was a car that can change its paint to various shades of gray using E Ink.
Image: BMW

Best Concept:

E Ink paint found on BWM iX concept car

A concept, by definition, is just a sketching of a cool future idea. What makes a concept the “best” is an execution. There needs to be more than 3D renders. Even if its just a one-off that’s more smoke and mirrors than reality, a concept needs to be at least a little tangible to get us excited. BMW’s “color changing paint” powered by the same E Ink technology found in the Kindle and Pebble, is tangible. There was a BMW at CES driving around and switching from “black” to “white” with ease. It looked so good you half wonder when you’ll be able to get a car painted in E Ink. That doesn’t mean it will ever actually come to fruition. E Ink is still a display relying on pigment suspended in liquid. One bad hail storm or a ding in the Walmart parking lot and the very stunning effect produced by this paint is toast. There’s no word on how it would handle the color or the heat. Heck, the stuff is still monochromatic! But imagine a world where E Ink gets good at color. Imagine being able to customize the paint job of your car with your phone instead of going to a guy with a special garage and a whole lot of pigment. That’s undoubtedly cool. It may never be a reasonable reality, but I don’t mind being a little fanciful once and a while. — Alex Cranz, managing editor

The Labrador was the rare robot that stood out at CES this year.
Image: Labrador

Best Robot:

Robot Shelf

Normally, CES is awash with robot concepts, from dogs to bipedal humanoid vaporware to weird little balls with cameras attached. This year — with so few people attending — there’s less reason for companies to trot out their ideas for robots. Instead, there was just one robot that stood out and though it is not shipping anytime soon, it’s so simple and practical it has a better shot at becoming real than most of the concepts we see at CES.

It’s called the Labrador Retriever, and it’s simply a shelf on wheels that’s able to navigate around your house. It moves a little slowly, it doesn’t have lidar, but it can open a fridge and get you a beer (though only if you’ve added motors to the fridge door and put the beer on an accessible shelf). It does all this using off-the-shelf technology to solve a real problem: helping people with limited mobility move stuff around their house. Instead of shooting for the stars and landing on its face, Labrador has set an achievable goal to solve a real human need with technology that exists right now. — Dieter Bohn, executive editor

The Vivomove Sport screen with smart notifications showing
Garmin’s Vivomove Sport looks good and doesn’t cost a fortune.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

Best Wearable:

Garmin Vivomove Sport

In recent years, Garmin’s done a lot to expand its wearable lineup beyond hardcore athletes. However, its Vivomove line of hybrid analog watches has generally been a weird mishmash of stylish watches that were too expensive for casual users and too casual for serious athletes. It was disappointing, considering how Garmin’s hidden display is among the coolest for hybrid analogs. That’s why the entry-level Vivomove Sport is great. It’s a cute watch, affordably priced at $179.99, and still gets you the bulk of Garmin’s in-depth health and fitness tracking. It’s best suited for casual users, but it finally feels like Garmin’s got the right mix of features, style, and durability. — Victoria Song, reviewer

The Masonite door combines multiple smart home gadgets into one front door.
Image: Masonite

Best Gadget for a Smart Home:

Masonite Smart Door

What I love about the Masonite M-Pwr smart door is that it’s not a gadget, it’s all the gadgets. This smart door puts every device you need to control the main access point to your home in one. A video doorbell, a smart lock, motion-activated smart lighting, even door sense capability to warn you when it’s left open. And it’s powered by your home, not hundreds of disposable batteries you have to change every six months.

While it’s not perfect (who wants to use three apps to control their front door?), it has what CES is all about: a lot of potential. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much to imagine can be done from here and that’s largely because the M-Pwr is a collaboration between three companies to create a genuinely useful solution for the smart home. Collaboration and interoperability are key to creating the smart homes in which we might one day all live. You could even say they really Matter.

Currently, the M-Pwr is only available for new homes, so you won’t be able to pop down to Home Depot and buy this anytime soon. Even without the smarts, front doors are expensive (like thousands of dollars expensive). But this type of integrated solution is where the smart home is headed. Sensors, connectivity, and power built into our walls and doors, that’s the home of the future. — Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, reviewer

Chevrolet Equinox EV
Image: Chevrolet

Best Electric Car:

Chevy Equinox

There were a surprising number of new EVs announced this year: the ultra-lux, ultra-long-range Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX; the very angry-looking BMW iX M60; the aerodynamic Chrysler Airflow; and, of course, the Chevy Silverado EV.

But I’m giving the award for best new EV to a car that not only was announced months before CES but didn’t even physically appear at the show: the Chevy Equinox.

There’s a perception that electric vehicles are luxury items, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that most of the new EVs announced over the past few years retail for well over $50,000. So when General Motors CEO Mary Barra said the Equinox, due out in 2023, would come with a $30,000 sticker price, it’s something worth noting.

The Tesla Model 3 was supposed to be the game-changer, and in many ways it was. But the much-hyped $35,000 version only made a brief appearance before vanishing into the good night. Now the cheapest Model 3 starts at $44,990.

It will take more than one company to turn all 280 million cars and trucks in the US today into EVs. They can’t all be $105,000 trucks or $180,000 sports cars. We need electric Toyota Camrys, electric Kia Rios, and electric Mitsubishi Mirages. We need beaters, jalopies, and clunkers to go along with our sports cars and crab-walking Hummers.

The Chevy Equinox is a good start. Let’s just hope GM doesn’t pull some shit and try to sell a $50,000 premium trim before eventually rolling out the base model. — Andrew J. Hawkins, transportation editor

Samsung is doing NFTs now because of course it is.
Image: Samsung

Most Samsung:

NFT Support on Samsung TVs

Samsung’s 2022 TV lineup has a lot of good additions (like the Frame’s new matte coating), some weird additions (like its Wi-Fi harvesting remotes), and some strangely missing additions (like a Samsung-branded set using the company’s new QD-OLED technology). And then there were the NFTs, which Samsung — for reasons known only to the company — is touting as a key part of its 2022 sets.

Samsung’s NFT support would have been an odd addition if it was just enabling the ability to view an NFT (which, in virtually all the cases that would make sense here, are still images or GIFs). But it’s the sort of thing that almost makes sense, if you squint at it hard enough. Its Frame TVs offer the feature of displaying art as a way to blend into the background, and what are NFTs if not very aesthetically awful and largely algorithmically generated art? But Samsung didn’t stop there. It added the ability to browse and buy NFTs, too. Nothing says a lovely evening on the couch like dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on a pixelated JPEG using a TV remote.

The addition of NFTs to its 2022 CES announcements is quintessentially Samsung: big, flashy, weird, months late to a trend, and likely doomed to end up in the Bixby-sized trash bin of other hype-chasing CES additions. — Chaim Gartenberg, senior reporter

The Schlage Encode Plus is the first smart lock to support Apple Home Key on the iPhone and Apple Watch.
Image: Schlage

Best Thing We’d Actually Buy:

Schlage Encode Plus Wifi Door Lock

In Apple’s iPhone XS event in 2018, it had a Mission Impossible-style opening show to deliver a secret case to CEO Tim Cook… and at the end of the sequence there was a locked door that the agent could not access. Then up comes Apple VP of technology Kevin Lynch, who opens the door with an Apple Watch tap. Since then, the ability to actually unlock a door with just an Apple Watch has been close to impossible, but with the Schlage Encode Plus door lock it could be finally easy to live that dream. It’s the first deadbolt that supports Apple’s Home Key door access feature. It’s also good looking with various finishes and has an integrated keypad for more unlock options. — Umar Shakir, Verge fellow

An OLED TV for smaller rooms, finally.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Best Thing We’ve Always Wanted and Was Finally Announced:

LG C Series 42-inch OLED

LG finally gave us the smaller flagship OLED that we’ve wanted since it released the not too big but not terribly compact 48-inch TV in 2020.

There are plenty of reasons for wanting a smaller, yet still high-end TV. At The Verge, a lot of us dream about using it as a gaming monitor, and who could blame us? OLED looks stunning, and its fast pixel response times stack with the TV’s 120Hz refresh rate to make a gaming experience that feels buttery smooth (if you’ve got the hardware to run it). But that dream has always been slightly out of reach.

Of course, gaming isn’t the only thing you’d want a 42-inch TV for. Some of us have pined for one because we want a high-end TV that can fit in a small space or that won’t dominate a living room. Forty-eight inches felt close but not quiiite there (kind of like the iPhone 11 Pro did before the 12 Mini came out). Will 42 inches fit that sweet spot? Only time will tell, but there are a lot of people here who are at least considering finding out for themselves. — Mitchell Clark, news writer

The TP-Link router that moves its antennas is most definitely a gimmick, but a cool gimmick.
GIF: TP-Link

Best Gimmick:

TP-Link Archer AXE200 Omni

Does it actually matter which way you point the antennas on your router? After years of fiddling and even relying on expert advice, I’m not sure, but a router that does the work on its own might be the best choice. The Archer AXE200 has four motorized blades that seek out the best signal possible, and even if that never adds a single megabit to download speeds, it looks cool.

Beyond the motorized party trick, the router is also ready for Wi-Fi 6E with a 6GHz radio on board, so there’s at least one legitimate reason to make the upgrade. Still, it’s probably better if I skip this one — I’ll burn those motors out within a week at the maximum. — Richard Lawler, senior news editor

The ColorSonic resting on a bathroom counter
The ColorSonic promises to make dying your hair less of a mess.
Image: L’Oreal

Best Thing We’d Buy If the Price Was Right:

L’Oreal ColorSonic

Against the advice of my hair dressers, I bleached and dyed my own hair several times during quarantine. It left my sparkling white bathroom a poor imitation of a purple-and-pink Jackson Pollock painting. That’d have been fine if the result was nice. Reader, it was patchy.

That’s why I’m stoked about the L’Oreal ColorSonic. Even color application by brushing a gadget through your hair? Even a dingus like me can do that. Replaceable cartridges that can be used multiple times and wastes a lot less plastic? Sign me up.

Sure, I could go to a professional at a salon. But the last time I went I was quoted $600 and it wasn’t even at a super fancy place. Doing it at home is a pain, but it’s also under $100, and under $50 for touchups. I would, however, happily pay more for a gadget to make the process easier. We don’t know how much the ColorSonic will cost, but L’Oreal told me it’s set to launch under the L’Oreal Paris brand and is supposed to be the sort of hair care gadget you can buy at Target. I would 100 percent plunk down my hard-earned moolah if the price was right (aka, less than $600). — Victoria Song, reviewer

Samsung’s Freestyle projector might actually make using a small, portable projector less annoying.

Best Thing We’d Actually Buy, Part 2:

Samsung Freestyle Projector

Portable projectors aren’t anything new, but Samsung’s new Freestyle looks so fun and easy that it’s an immediate standout at CES 2022. It’s small enough that you can take it anywhere, making the potential use cases seem endless. Whether you want to stream Netflix on your ceiling, bring it on a camping trip, or use the Freestyle as a projector for your PC or laptop, it’s all doable.

You can set the picture size anywhere between 30 and 100 inches. And the device automatically makes sure you’re getting the best image with auto-focus and auto-leveling. It comes with what Samsung claims is a “powerful” 360-degree speaker, and since it runs the same platform as the company’s smart TVs, you should be able to install a ton of apps on it.

Samsung seems determined to make the Freestyle more than a mere projector; it’s also launching accessories that convert it into a moody smart light, as well as an adapter for plugging it right into a light socket for easy power.

The Freestyle has all the makings of a fun-as-hell gadget. But the hurdle it’s facing is its price. At $899, it might be positioned in an awkward spot: too expensive for a fun toy and too cheap to cut it as a truly solid projector. — Chris Welch, reviewer


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