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TechX Awards: CES2021’s Most Innovative Products and Technologies




CES 2021 gave PCMag editors the first opportunity to scrutinize candidates for the new Technical Excellence Awards (aka TechX). This award is given to products, concepts and services that are likely to be game changers in their respective markets. CES has always been a place to prove new concepts, and this year we’ve found a lot of innovation, even without the trade fair floor. The number of official exhibitors was lower than usual, less than half for some accounts, but now (although in fact) the vendors that have emerged are joining.

To name just a few, we found desktops with a new form factor, slim and powerful laptops with clever external GPUs, and refrigerators that use UV light to purify water. AMD continued to attack Intel chip supremacy, and Nvidia strengthened its position in the graphics market. Of course, there were many cool new variations in display technology. Especially in the form of LG’s rollable smartphone. We don’t know when (or if) some of these innovations will actually hit the market, but they are definitely moving the industry forward.

PCMag’s TechX Awards may start at CES, but will continue to be offered throughout the year. After all, innovation doesn’t stop when the show is over. When submitting a product for TechX consideration, please nominate an editor in the following ways: — Dan Costa

AMD Ryzen 5000 “Cezanne” mobile CPU

High-performance CPUs for laptops have long been the almost exclusive stepping stones for chip giant Intel, but that has changed over the past year. At CES 2021, AMD joined the Ryzen 5000 series this year with a total of 13 new chip variants that power all types of laptops. U series chips, HX, HS, H for thin and lightweight laptops. -Series chips for more power-oriented models.

Among them is the Ryzen 7 5800 U, a new flagship processor for thin laptops. It has 8 cores and 16 threads, making it the first 8-core chip for slim machines. AMD says it will provide a 7% to 44% performance improvement over Intel’s competing “Tiger Lake” core i7-1185 G7 chip. Meanwhile, the new Ryzen 9 5980HX has a boost clock speed of 4.8GHz and is aimed at rugged and powerful gaming laptops. AMD expects more than 150 laptop models to feature the Ryzen 5000 chip, a 50% increase over the previous generation Ryzen 4000 family. This new line puts Intel’s dominance of mobile CPU space in jeopardy. —Tom Brant

Asus ROG Flow X13 and XG Mobile

The concept of pairing an external graphics enclosure (eGPU) with a super portable laptop isn’t new, but the ROG Flow X13 laptop and XG Mobile eGPU take that concept a step further. Since eGPUs are traditionally much larger than laptops (usually the same size as a desktop-style graphics card you hold), you can place your eGPU on your desk and laptop to improve graphics performance at home. You only need to connect. Conversely, the XG Mobile is itself a 1.1 x 6.1 x 8.1 inch (HWD) superportable, but can carry up to a GeForce RTX 3080 GPU.

The Flow X13 laptop, on the other hand, is a 13-inch 2-in-1 convertible, unprecedented in the gaming arena, the largest on entry-level GeForce GTX 1650 GPUs, and lacks top-level gaming power. To do. However, when combined with such a portable eGPU, the system becomes a full-powered mobile gaming setup that enhances FlowX 13’s gaming capabilities while maintaining a portable and flexible laptop for travel and other uses.

Next, there is a special cable connection between the eGPU and your laptop. We hope that Asus’s unique ports and connectors will reduce poor connection performance and maximize frame rate compared to Thunderbolt eGPU solutions. This one-two punch could change the way we think about eGPU, and this pioneer could take the lead and make a lighter laptop truly game-ready. — Matthew Buzzi

Asus ZenBook Duo 14 (2021)

The ZenBook Duo 14 is neither the first dual-screen laptop nor the first 14-inch ZenBook Duo. But it’s still not very impressive. Asus is building the twin display foundation for this futuristic laptop with new components, improved features, and a slimmer chassis than ever before. There is no denying that this machine is simply cool. Very compact at 0.7×12.7×8.7 inches and 3.5 lbs.

Compared to the original, the 2021 model is a trimmer, the screen is brighter and the second (ScreenPad Plus) display is more advanced. The small touchscreen launcher includes customizable hotkeys for easy access, including shortcuts, quick settings, screen swapping, and handwriting mode. The main one included here is the Customizable Software ScreenPad Control Panel for the most popular Adobe software, which helps you improve your workflow and tap quickly with persistent menus of shortcuts and tools. I will.

A second screen isn’t required, but it can be as productive as a second desktop monitor. This is certainly the best twin-screen implementation I’ve seen on such a small laptop, both functional and aesthetic, and a model that others should follow. — MB

Kingston “Ghost Tree” NVMe M.2 SSD

We’re still not sure about Kingston’s upcoming “ghost tree” SSDs, but what we’ve seen is a killer. This promises a new peak raw speed limit in the world of consumer PCI Express NVMe drives. According to Kingston, ghost trees can reach up to 7,000 MBps in real-world read and write scenarios, a record high (if the tests are successful, of course). Ghost Tree is an M.2 drive that runs on the PCI Express 4.0 bus. This means that you need a very latest model AMD AM4 or spanking new Intel LGA1200 motherboard that supports the 4.0 specification to take advantage of peak speeds.

Kingston says ghost tree SSDs need to boot from 1TB to 4TB capacity to meet the different needs of boot or secondary drives. Now, the actual test of SSD in the minds of many productivity-conscious users and gamers is not the theoretical maximum sequential speed, but a random read / write speed of 4K, but how does GhostTree get it? You need to see if it works. A chance to test the pace at PC Labs. However, early claims look like a pacemaker. —Chris Stobing

Lenovo Yoga AIO7

Content creator, please be careful. Lenovo’s latest all-in-one desktop PC has a pivot point behind the display that rotates the display into portrait mode. According to Lenovo, the new Yoga AIO 7’s 27-inch display can be “easily rotated” with the push of a finger. When the monitor changes vertically, the desktop screen automatically adjusts to the new display format.

The display has a crisp 4K resolution and can display 99% of the DCI-P3’s color gamut. Internally, the desktop can be configured with up to AMD’s Ryzen 7 4800H processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU. Lenovo plans to sell the all-in-one in the US later this year, starting at $ 1,599. In a category rarely seen in the way of innovation, Yoga AIO 7 has been the first rethink of the AIO desktop for some time. — TB

LGInstaView Door Indoor Side by Side Refrigerator (with UVnano)

Floods of UV disinfectants have been on the market since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and LG is now using technology to keep the water from the refrigerator’s built-in dispenser free of bacteria. The company’s InstaView Door-in-Door Side-by-Side Refrigerator With UVnano uses UV LED lights to “substantially eliminate” bacteria on nozzles. According to LG, UVnano technology is used once an hour to remove “up to 99.9% of bacteria” such as E. coli, staphylococci, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (which can cause pneumonia) in a refrigerator dispenser tap. It works.

It is unclear if this technology is effective against COVID-19, but there is still a sense of security that the water from the refrigerator can be safely drunk. LG said it plans to release price and inventory details in the coming months. — Angela Moscaritolo

LG Rollable

Folding phones are clearly 2020. At this year’s CES, LG briefly unveiled its next rotatable phone, named LG Rollable. No, it can’t be rolled up into a tube. Rather, it starts out as a standard-sized phone and then the screen appears to stretch out to become a tablet.

The TCL shows a similar concept, but I’ve heard that LG is much closer to the market and could appear on the shelves as soon as March. LG is still the third most popular phone maker in the United States, so the battle between Rollable and Samsung’s various folding models begins. — Sascha Segan


Hearing aids are so expensive that audio accessibility technology using existing gadgets can be a godsend. Even without overall hearing loss, it can be difficult to distinguish sounds in a noisy environment.

Noopl is a directional microphone with software that works with iPhone and AirPods Pro to provide directional hearing, cut background noise, and people and crowds sitting across a noisy restaurant table. Provides a clearer sound from friends inside. For $ 199, this can significantly reduce the number of “what did you say?” Instances. If we get together again. —SS

Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 series

Nvidia is definitely in the banner year, with four new discrete desktop GPUs released in 2020 (almost all winning the Editor’s Choice Award). And 2021 begins powerfully with the announcement of the $ 329 GeForce RTX 3060 in desktop card format.

The company is now in the mobile segment, launching more than 70 laptops with mobile GPUs in the GeForce RTX 30 series “Ampere” architecture. According to Nvidia, the mobile version of the RTX 3060 is up to 1.3 times faster than the PlayStation 5, but given that models with the RTX 3060 start at $ 999, the PS5’s $ 499 price may seem a bit more affordable. not.

Nvidia will launch the mobile series in three different tiers, RTX 3060, RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, starting January 26th in both Max-Q and non-Max-Q configurations. Like its predecessor, the mobile version is about the same as the desktop version, with the exception of gaming laptops, which standardize on high frame rate, high refresh games. —CS

Razer’Project Hazel’ N95 Mask

The Razer prototype Project Hazel mask may be the most technical concept of 2021. It sounds better because it’s a face cover with 16.8 million RGB lights, a built-in microphone, and speakers. It also has a clear plastic surface that allows people to see your smile or laugh when covered. Inside the mask, there is also room lighting that works automatically in the dark.

However, masks don’t just look cool. Project Hazel is also equipped with an N95 medical grade respirator and a special smart pod designed to regulate air flow and eliminate bacteria in the air. The mask ventilator can also be pulled out and “recharged” by placing it inside the bundled wireless quick charging box. This also provides ventilation with UV light. The only question is whether to prevent the glasses from fogging. —Michael Kan


Color dreams of E-ink-like screens could finally be realized this year with TCL’s new translucent NXT Paper tablet. Semi-transmissive screens are more eye-friendly than standard LCDs and OLEDs, but attempts to convert to color at the right frame rate, cost, and scale have been difficult.

TCL’s NXT Paper may be the answer. It’s an 8.8-inch tablet with a 60Hz refresh rate and a truly eye-pleasing color screen, which is expected to be relatively affordable. You wouldn’t be surprised if TCL had already received a call from Amazon about screen technology. —SS

Toto wellness toilet

You may already be tracking your activity, food intake, and sleep, but what about your digestion? If you are struggling in the bathroom, a toto wellness toilet may be able to help. Sit on this smart throne and scan your body and stools to determine if you are healthy. After analyzing your poop, it provides recommendations to help improve digestion, such as dietary changes, via the companion mobile app.

This health tracking approach is unconventional, but useful because you don’t have to wear anything or change your daily routine. The Toto Wellness Toilet is just a concept product at the moment, but it could hurt the consumer market in the coming years. —AM


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