CES 2014 Wrap-up

What a show, #CESlive. The 2014 edition of the International CES was just as wild and crazy as we'd expected, and our coverage was more wild and crazy than we'd ever done before. From curved UHD TVs and OLED displays to smartwatches and smartphones, the millions of square feet that comprised the show floor of CES 2014 was full of the insane, the amazing, and the just plain cool. Up here you'll find our CES wrap-up video, and down below you'll find the very best of all our coverage from #CESlive!

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Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the CEA

Gary Shapiro, the head honcho of the Consumer Electronics Association and the guy that leads CES, came by the #CESlive broadcast stage for the final segment of our live streaming coverage from the show floor. Naturally, there was champagne on hand to toast a successful trade show and our non-stop coverage of #CESlive.

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Android at #CESlive

Android rising

Unlike CESes past, there weren't a whole lot of huuuge Android announcements from the big players. But LG did bring the G Flex to AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. HTC stopped by #CESlive with a shiny gooooold HTC One. Samsung unveiled their new Pro series of tablets with the Galaxy Tab Pro and Galaxy Note Pro. Huawei announced the Ascend Mate 2 4G, a follow-up to the big and long-lasting Ascend Mate with enough battery to charge other devices, an updated UI, and an LTE radio. ZTE was on hand to show off the Grand S II LTE as well as the Nubia 5S and 5S Mini. It's not quite the Android spectacle of years past, but Android was still at CES 2014 in force.

CES, the auto show

Does the "C" in "CES" stand for "Cars"?

The presence of automakers at CES has exploded in recent years, and CES 2014 was no exception. Audi held not just a keynote address the night before the show opened where they talked about automated driving and lighting the road with laser headlights, the next day they also unveiled a new Smart Display tablet powered by Android for use in your car. Not to be outdone, German rival Audi was also at CES, showing off their own automated driving chops and offering test drives of the electric i3 mini car to all comers. GM was just one of the several American manufacturers on the ground, with their big announcements including a new app shop for in-car apps and a partnership with AT&T for in-car LTE. On the software front, QNX was back with another forward-looking concept of how we'll interact with our cars in the future.

BlackBerry at CES, but not at CES

How to be at the show without a booth

BlackBerry hasn't had an official show floor presence at CES for a few years now, but that doesn't meant that BlackBerry wasn't there at all. On the contrary, BlackBerry CEO John Chen sat down with CrackBerry's Kevin Michaluk for a lunch in which they talked about the future of the company. Additionally, the Typo keyboard for iPhone made its big debut, and we finally got to go hands-on and see just how much like a BlackBerry Q10 that keyboard really is (a lot, for the record). And Kevin bought a $2000 BlackBerry.

Walk a mile with CES's fitness wearables

Strap it on

When it comes to wrist-wearables, there were two major categories at CES 2014: smartwatches (more on those later) and fitness trackers (more on those right now). The category has exploded since last year, with what seemed like every other company introducing their own new motion-tracking data-quantifying electronic wrist band. Fitbit dropped by the #CESlive booth to show off the latest in their fitness trackers, and FitBug (a different company, we swear) popped over with the Orb. Casio, better known for their watches and calculators, introduced the new STB-1000 sport watch with Bluetooth — it still looks a lot like a Casio. LG also got into the fitness wearables game with the Lifeband Touch wristband and Heart Rate Earphones. The Nabu band was introduced by Razer, with not just one, but two screens to display your fitness data and notifications.

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    Notifications, activity tracking, and making a game of it with the Razer Nabu Smartband

Face-first gaming

Oculus has a new headset

There was another type of wearable at CES 2014: the kind you put on your head. Oculus was back, this time with an updated prototype of their much-lauded virtual reality headset dubbed Crystal Cove. But if the Oculus Rift is too rich for your blood, Dive's headset will strap your own smartphone to your head instead. And it wasn't all gaming hardware news either — Gameloft dropped by #CESlive to show off their upcoming gaming title, Brothers in Arms 3: Sons of War.

Apple not-at-CES

All things Apple

Apple has never been to CES, at least officially. While their competitors may have or have had booths and presentations and everything else that goes with CES, Apple has never bothered. But that doesn't mean that Apple's presence hasn't been felt. Indeed, there were hundreds of companies at CES 2014 hawking products for iOS and Mac. From cases to Bluetooth fitness monitors to add-ons to sensors, everywhere you turned you found something designed to work with an iPhone or iPad. Assuming it wasn't a smartwatch (more on those later).

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Smartwatches GALORE

smartwatches, Smartwatches, SMARTWATCHES!

The big product category for CES 2014 was smartwatches. Everywhere you turned, there was a new smartwatch. Archos brought not one, not two, but three to the show. The HOT smartwatch works as a handset on its own — just hold your wrist up to your head like you're a secret agent. There was the Kreyos Meteor, and the Martian Notifier, and the Sonostar. Plus a new Pebble made of steel, ZTE's first smartwatches, and the Android-powered Omate Truesmart. Smartwatches everywhere.

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    Hands-on with the Pebble Steel and new partner apps
    Sonostar at #CESlive
    Hands-on with the ZTE BlueWatch at #CESlive

Breaking the Windows mold

Bigger, smaller, faster, slimmer

Lest you think that Microsoft is suffering for not having a massive multi-million-dollar booth at CES, their hardware partners were out in force on the show floor with all sorts of new devices running Windows software. Gigabyte showed off the ridiculous Aorus X7 gaming laptop with dual Nvidia GPUs and HP stopped by #CESlive to discuss their new Z1 G2 all-in-one computer. Lenovo, LG, Panasonic, and Sony all had new tablets on display, though they were all radically different. Lenovo's ThinkPad 8 was powerful and slim where Panasonic's Toughpad FZ-M1 was ruggedized for the toughest slog you can think to throw at it. LG's Tab-Book 2 includes a sliding keyboard and Sony's Vaio Tap 21 was, as you might expect, a massive 21 inches corner-to-corner. Toshiba even had a crazy 5-in-1 concept on hand to show off. And while Microsoft may not have been on the show floor, they were still in Vegas.

Our best of CES

What we found to be the best of CES 2014

Adam: Heading to CES this year after launching our new site, Smartwatch Fans, I was obviously on the lookout for the newest and best smartwatches. I always look for that one thing from CES that blows me away and makes me say "I want it", but oddly I didn't find that this year at CES. There was no amazing tech toy that I said I simply have to buy. That being said, for me the Pebble Steel was the biggest announcement of CES. It wasn't announced so much at CES as during CES but it was still by far the tops for me.

Derek: You might think I'd say webOS TV, and that's exciting and all, but I think the big news was actually the WWE Network. And I don't care about the WWE. What they're doing — creating a 24/7 online channel with a comprehensive on-demand catalog for a reasonable subscription rate — is both a huge deal for fans and could be the catalyst that leads to real and substantial change in the television landscape. I hope that some day I can look back and say that it's because of Vince McMahon and company that I can watch the shows I want when, where, and how I want.

James: While perhaps not the biggest story, the biggest trend this year would have to be wearables. Everything from smartwatches to fitness trackers to brain sensing headbands made their way onto our #CESlive stage. The market is exploding for this stuff, and I expect creativity and innovation to follow suit. Should be real interesting to see what we can strap to our wrist, clip on our belt, or wear on our head at next years CES.

Mark: The Lenovo ThinkPad 8 is the first Windows tablet I'm seriously considering. I've played with the Surface and the Lumia 2520, but none of them excites me as much as the ThinkPad 8. It feels like an iPad mini in the hand and it has a super-cool cover. The cover folds in the corner which automatically turns on the camera. That feature alone got me hooked. I'm looking forward to its release later this month.

Phil: I don't need a new TV. But I want one. 4K is coming. OK, it's already here. But for me, it's coming. Eventually. And it's starting to become more affordable. Sure, we're a few years away from having a decent amount of proper 4K content, and you have to be careful about which hardware you buy at the moment, but that'll all sort itself out. And it'll be beautiful. Mobile-wise, it's obvious that everyone — and I do mean everyone — is jumping into the "wearable" space, and that's good. At some point someone will make something worth buying.

Rene: It's impossible for me to pick one announcement as being the most important. Apple never showed up; Google, Microsoft, and even BlackBerry no bother either. Those left are either desperately searching for what's next, or just as desperately pushing our what's not quite ready. 4K TVs, connected cars, automated kitchens, health bands, smartwatches… and the list goes on and on. There was no one thing that clearly demonstrated that the past was over and the future had begun. Instead it was a year of adding pixels and chips and radios. But that's okay, it just means there's sculpting left to be done. There are problems left to be solved. Rather than one big announcement, we're left with a mountain of small ones that, taken together, is still something to behold.

Richard: CES was the usual wall-to-wall devices, but as is so often the case, many come, few emerge. A couple of things in particular stood out too me, though. The first is the connected automobile. With Google announcing the Open Automotive Alliance before the show even officially began being just a part, the likes of Audi, BMW, Chevrolet and Ford were all on hand to show what they're doing inside your car (or giant truck.) The next big playground? Maybe, but it's going to be fun watching it evolve. And the other was the WWE Network announcement. Love it or hate it, what they're doing is a cord cutter's dream. A subscription-based, content-driven service completely free of the TV providers is what many of us dream of. We can only hope it inspires others to follow.

Simon: The Oculus Crystal Cove prototype blew me away. Being able to track subtle head movements adds a ton of immersion to the experience, and eliminating motion blur was a key refinement. At the very least, this virtual reality headset is going to dramatically change the way we enjoy video games, but I would be surprised if it didn't impact other media as well. I suspect we'll have at least one more iteration of Oculus with hand gesture recognition before we can start looking forward to retail availability, and yet even with that prolonged timeline, I'm still really, really excited about this product.