08/10/2020

CES 2020 was a return to form, but not in a good way. The main theme of the show was “you won’t be able to buy this thing, ever” simply because so few of the things that took the spotlight were real, shipping products. Still, we’ve rounded up our favorite thi…

Oh, what a difference 12 months makes. At last years CES, we found fewer concepts and more tangible products than ever before. Apparently this year, the exhibitors saw our reaction and felt they had to work overtime to correct it because if there was a theme to 2020s CES, it was that CES is the land of the concept.
This year, the things that stole attention at the show were not early looks at products that you and I will be able to actually use and buy over the next 12 months. Sure, theres the occasional laptop and meat substitute that will be available for purchase in 2020. But for every one of those, theres a rolling ball robot, virtual personal attendant, or entire vehicle that is never likely to ship.
You will see that repeated over and over as you peruse our list of award winners. Its everything that we think is the most interesting, important, or just amusing that we saw this year. Choosing a best in show at CES 2020 was especially difficult; while Lenovos ThinkPad X1 Fold still has to answer many questions, at least the company has committed to shipping it later this spring.
Perhaps well get into a tick-tock cycle of CES years, with every other one being full of manufacturer fantasies and the next year bringing everything back down to reality. But for this year, it was a lot of show with not very much substance.
Best in Show:
This was a complicated award to bestow. Some Verge editors were not entirely sold on the pick, considering that were all in agreement that Lenovos ThinkPad X1 Fold is unlikely to be a particularly sleek product when it ships this summer.
But thats exactly the point its shipping this summer. At a CES, where foldable screens have emerged as a major hardware trend, Lenovo is virtually the only company willing to actually give a spec sheet, a shipping window, and a price for its version of the technology. Even if that price is $2,499.
Lenovo says its been working with LG Display on the X1 Fold for more than four years. Its wise to be skeptical about any folding product at this point, with the rocky launches of 2019 still in recent memory. But given that we used a near-identical X1 Fold prototype last May, its plausible that Lenovo has been able to spend enough time refining its design and durability before announcing the official release.
If any aspect of the X1 Fold appears to be rushed, its the software. Windows 10X looms over the entire product category at CES, and Lenovo says itll release an X1 Fold variant with Microsofts new dual-screen operating system later on. It also makes the point that its business customers are likely to prefer the standard version of Windows. The primary advantage of a folding screen a much bigger display than youd normally get at that size is pretty simple. But without a UI designed for this form factor at the system level, the X1 Fold is never going to be ideal.
We believe that foldable computers will be a thing if not this year, then next. Both Microsoft and Intel are actively developing software and hardware designed for these new PCs, and its only a matter of time before more PC manufacturers take a shot. But even though Dell showed off concepts at CES 2020, it doesnt have plans to sell them. Intel had a reference design at the show, but it wouldnt let us bend it ourselves.
Lenovo introduced a PC in a completely new and appealing form factor, let us use it however we liked, and told us when wed be able to buy one and for how much. In a year full of CES concepts, thats enough to get the Best in Show. Sam Byford
GIF by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge
Best Laptop:
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 isnt the most powerful gaming laptop at CES 2020, but its a combination of a smaller 14-inch design and AMDs newly introduced Ryzen 4000 H-series chips. The Zephyrus G14 promises to be the perfect balance of a laptop: high-end gaming specs with a top-notch RTX 2060 GPU and plenty of RAM for when you want to game. But it also has a design that looks normal enough to use at an office, promises 10-plus hours of battery life, and can charge off a standard 60W USB-C PD brick when youre on the go. The icing on the cake? A retro-cool dot-matrix display built into the lid that you can use to display the time, animated GIFs, or whatever else you can think of. Chaim Gartenberg
Best Gaming Thing:
The Nintendo Switchs massive success has proven that a console / portable hybrid can be a really great way to let you play games at home and on the go. This year at CES, Alienware showed off the Concept UFO, a prototype gaming PC / portable hybrid that looks to capture that same magic. It is a full-fledged Windows 10 PC packed into a handheld form factor that takes a lot of cues from the Nintendo Switch, such as an included display, a dock to connect to a PC or monitor, detachable Joy-Con-like controllers, and even a kickstand.
Right now, though, the Concept UFO is just a concept. Alienware hasnt shared anything about the actual hardware powering the Concept UFO, and we dont even know if it will become a real product. But it looks a lot easier to lug around than most gaming laptops, and that alone could make the Concept UFO the best way to play PC games when youre out and about. That is, if it (or something like it) ever comes out. Jay Peters
Most Interesting PC:
Typically, you upgrade a computer in one of three ways: you can quickly slot in a new graphics card, memory, or storage. You can painstakingly replace the CPU, motherboard, ports, and cooling system (though, generally, you do those at the same time). Or you say screw it and just buy a new PC. At CES, Intel introduced a new paradigm: a swappable cartridge called the NUC Element that contains all of the tougher components to replace. Its so small that companies can now effortlessly build full gaming PCs smaller than theyve ever been able to before.
It was tempting enough that Razer adopted the platform to introduce its first gaming desktop in the sleek Tomahawk, and PC part company Cooler Master will soon have one as well. Intel will even sell its own incredibly small 5-liter NUC 9 Extreme to PC enthusiasts, smaller than all but the smallest fully upgradeable desktops you could build yourself. Sean Hollister
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
Best Monitor / Display:
There are those who would say that the 49-inch Samsung Odyssey G9 monitor is too much screen for any one person. Those people are wrong.
Not only is the Odyssey G9 one of the biggest monitors you can buy for your desk, but with a 1000R curve, its the most curved screen you can get, matching the human eye. It doesnt so much sit in front of your face as envelop you with a soaring expanse of screen. And with a 5120 x 1440 resolution, 240Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and both FreeSync 2 and G-Sync compatibility, itll check all of the spec boxes for gamers, too. Chaim Gartenberg
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
Best TV
Samsungs 8K Q950 has a stunning design with bezels so small they disappear to your eyes as soon as the screen turns on. The black space surrounding the displays on our smartphones is almost gone, so why shouldnt TVs get the same treatment? Samsung has pulled that off. This should be the future of TV design but it shouldve been available in a 4K TV since buying 8K remains just as preposterous now as it was at CES 2019. Chris Welch
Image: Sony
Best Headfake
2020 is a unique year for Sony, which is poised to launch its first brand-new PlayStation in nearly a decade before the years out. That made the Japanese electronics giants big CES press conference unusually exciting, with fans tuning in to see if Sony would reveal any new information about the upcoming PS5, perhaps even a first look at the hardware after Microsoft unveiled its new Xbox Series X last month at The Game Awards.
For the first few minutes of the event, it looked like Sony was preparing to drop some new PlayStation-related news as it cycled through the consoles history that is, until we arrived at the big reveal: a new logo thats nearly identical to the existing PS4 one. It was a huge letdown, and you could feel the collective sigh of anguish from the internet as soon as Sony moved on from the logo reveal to the rest of its CES material. Perhaps well see the PS5 soon, maybe at the Game Developers Conference and almost certainly at E3 in Los Angeles this June. But until then, all we have is the same old logo with the number at the end moved up by a unit. Nick Statt
Photo by Ashley Carman / The Verge
Most Triumphant Comeback:
After having its innovation award revoked last year, Lora DiCarlo is back at CES with its Osé personal massager and two new products: the Onda and Baci. For years, sex tech companies have been relegated to press events off the show floor, but after Lora DiCarlo publicized the fact that the CTA, which puts on the show every year, rescinded its award last year, the internet went wild, demanding that the CTA allow sexual wellness products to show off their wares. The CTA relented. So this year, multiple companies are now on the show floor. Lora DiCarlo didnt only return to CES with news of its own but with an army, too. Ashley Carman
Image: GE Lighting
Best Smart Home Thing:
Building a smart home is still such a minefield of traps and pitfalls that many might even quit before they get started. If youve ever been interested in a smart switch for your lightbulbs and excitedly bought one only to find out your home lacks the necessary wiring, it would make you want to give up, too.
Thats why GEs new C by GE smart light switches and dimmers are so compelling. Yes, they are just another smart switch that you install in your wall to give you app and voice assistant control over your lighting fixtures. But they dont require a neutral wire, which means they can be installed in almost any home with just a few minutes of simple wiring. On top of that, they dont require a hub; these just connect directly to your Wi-Fi network. With so many smart home gadgets introduced at CES every year, it can be hard to find the ones that are actually practical. GEs smart switches get the award this year simply because they are just that: practical. Dan Seifert
Image: Netgear
Best Router:
Wi-Fi 6 is here, built into the latest iPhones and already in the pockets of millions of people. Except, its been held back by one critical missing component: affordable Wi-Fi 6 routers, with the initial mesh options costing an outlandish $400 to $700. At CES 2020, Netgear changed that. The Nighthawk Mesh, available in March, includes two Wi-Fi 6 routers for $230. Its by no means the fastest combination out there, but it brings Wi-Fi 6 to a far more typical price, supports up to 1.8 Gbps of throughput, and offers 1,500 square feet of coverage per node. This is the kind of package Wi-Fi 6 needs to actually be put to use. Jake Kastrenakes
Most Concept:
Concept products are a fraught gambit. Theyre often overstuffed with too many ambitious ideas, sometimes to the point that its clear the company has lost the plot. But Sony showed up at this years CES with an example of how to do a concept right with the Vision-S electric sedan. The company wants to be more involved in the worlds of electric and autonomous vehicles, and to signal that, it built what is basically a fully functioning electric sedan. The Vision-S is decked out with Sony sensors, runs Sony software, and prominently features Sony entertainment products and technologies. Sony could have thrown these ideas in a hunk of plastic, said it was a concept car, and called it a day. Instead, the company chose to spend the time and money creating a one-off that works, thereby signaling to potential partners and customers just how willing it is to commit to the bit. Too bad the company insists the Vision-S wont ever be anything other than a one-off concept. Sean OKane
Most CES:
Mercedes-Benz Avatar-themed car
You really have to hand it to Mercedes-Benz. The German automakers Avatar-inspired concept car, the Vision AVTR, is pretty much the quintessential modern CES announcement. Outlandish design? Check. Futuristic tech that doesnt actually work right now? Check. Striking a partnership with a popular entertainment company in order to use its intellectual property to help prop up the messaging behind a concept car? Check and check. On top of all that, Mercedes-Benz spent a whole hour talking about the Vision AVTR and nothing else. It even brought James Cameron onstage to boot, and the director confidently stated that we humans will merge with technology. He then showed off some concept art for Avatar 2. *Breathes in deeply, then exhales* Ah, yes. A very fine CES, indeed. Sean OKane
Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge
Most Overhyped:
In the lead-up to CES, nothing was hyped more than Neon, a somewhat mysterious project from Samsung. We finally confirmed what it is during the show: its digital avatars with speech and facial gestures created by computers. Thats intriguing, and Neon has some interesting ideas about what they could be used for, but neither the technology nor the business model is anywhere near ready. So, ironically, we still think Neon is mysterious, but its a different mystery now. After Neons CEO spoke to us and revealed slightly more information about what hes trying to do and how his technology actually works, the mystery were struggling with is: why did Samsung let this thing make such a splashy CES debut? Dieter Bohn
Image: Samsung
Best AI Gimmick:
Compared to all of the unsettling technology that AI is currently enabling ubiquitous facial recognition, autonomous weaponry, etc. checking the contents of your fridge is comfortingly benign. This year at CES, appliance makers, including LG and Samsung, promised their new fridges would use machine vision to track how much milk and cheese owners have left, with additional promises of automatic recipe suggestions and auto-populating grocery lists. Im skeptical about the performance of this tech (after all, how well can in-fridge cameras handle confusing data like torn labels and mysterious Tupperware?), but at least the end product could be useful. And hey, its not like it could lead to anything malicious, like appliance makers collecting detailed information about your diet and shopping habits. Oh, hang on a second James Vincent
Best Vaporware:
The demo video for Samsungs Ballie had all the hallmarks of a Kickstarter pitch: a contrived tale meant to sell a dream that technology doesnt support yet. In the video (titled, incredibly, A Waltz For Ballie) Samsungs companion robot is seen organizing a users life like a tiny spherical butler: opening curtains, checking yoga poses, and cleaning up after the dog. In the actual demonstrations, however, Ballie seems merely capable of rolling back and forth a bit and going bleep bloop in an endearing fashion. Samsung hasnt announced a price or release date for the bot. And although its certainly well-designed, dont expect to see this thing in stores anytime soon. Oh, and as proof that while history doesnt necessarily repeat itself, it does rhyme: you might have forgotten that back in 2016, LG announced its own spherical companion robot. That one rolled out of sight pretty quickly, too. James Vincent
Photo illustration by William Joel / The Verge | Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
Biggest Streaming News:
We expected mobile streaming service Quibis big launch keynote to come with a preview of its app. The team behind it, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, have already made tons of noise about their content deals. Plus, CES seems like an ideal time to show off, well, new tech. But Quibi didnt come to Las Vegas with an app to demo. Instead, it used its time in the spotlight to show off its Turnstyle technology, which allows viewers to seamlessly switch between portrait and landscape modes for access to a different point of view. Quibis supposed to launch on April 6th, so itll presumably have an app to show the world before then. But either way, everyone at CES has been talking about the $1 billion streaming service and whether well really be rotating our phones around to watch 10-minute-or-less quick bites of content. Ashley Carman
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge
Biggest News Not at CES:
Sonos stole the spotlight from CES earlier this week by very publicly letting it be known that the company is suing Google. The lawsuit accuses Google of infringing on Sonos patents, and it also paints Google and Amazon, for that matter as big tech bullies dead set on lifting their own smart speakers to success at the expense of mid-sized players like Sonos. Its a feeling that many companies showcasing their wares at CES can probably relate to. And with Google indicating it has no reluctance to square off against Sonos in court, the case could be a fascinating look into the prickly relationship between gadget maker and an internet giant. Chris Welch
Honorable Mentions:
Reddest Gadget:
Orangest Gadget:
Most Egg-cellent:
Tastiest Fake Pork Substitute: