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Our Top Picks of CES 2016

No slowing down for the world’s largest technology expo — one week and more than 170,000 people later, CES 2016 has passed leaving far more tech than anyone could possibly cover in its wake. We did our best, and good thing, because like always, there were loads of terrific new products on the way in 2016. While the show was heavy on value, VR, and the smart home this year, we’re happy to report there was at least a little something for everyone to get excited about from this year’s show.

Top Pick: Laptop/2-in-1 PC

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Lenovo came to CES with loads of new PCs and peripherals this year, but for us, none stood out more than the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. There’s really not much in the way of sacrifice here — this 360-degree 2-in-1 has all the expected ThinkPad features like TrackPoint and physical touchpad buttons, plus the latest laptop-grade specs. It’s also one of the few laptops at this year’s show that can be configured with an OLED display, giving it color contrast and fidelity that handily trounces traditional LED-backlit LCD displays. Battery life will be the big question mark here, but we’re pretty confident that even with a lower-than-average battery life, the X1 Yoga is going to be a tough value to beat. It’ll start at $1,450, but you’ll have to climb northward if you want that OLED display.

Top Pick: TV

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This was a lean year for televisions, and for good reason — with 4k already maxing out the power of the human eye and technologies like OLED and Quantum Dot already on the market to boost color contrast, it’s getting a lot harder to justify bringing new television models to market year after year. 2016 saw more changes made to smart TV interfaces, and we most liked what we saw from the 4k TCL Roku TVs. Roku is still the best way to get still somewhat elusive 4k content, providing content from major players like Netflix and Hulu plus a number of lesser known channels. The TCL TVs will come in 43″, 50″, 55″ and 65″ models, all of which should come in well under $1,000. They’re affordable 4k TVs coming with Roku’s service and interface, which has been honed plenty well over the last few years. These TVs are looking like terrific value buys this year.

Top Pick: Best Future Tech Concept

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We’ll leave 2016 just a second and barrel into the future, where we can see LG’s 18″ rollable screen being used in all kinds of cool ways. It’s an OLED display, which makes the whole trick possible — without the need for an LED backlight, the display can be made of flexible materials. LG took that idea to the extreme with their concept display, a paper-thin working display with no interruption in performance when being rolled up. It’s not quite HD yet, but we know this is something that LG will be working hard on. Could we see this in wristband computers or (almost certainly) mall billboard ads? We’ll find out at another CES.

Top Pick: Best Smartphone

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Granted, the Huawei Mate 8 didn’t have much competition at CES 2016, but don’t let that make you think this isn’t an awesome device. Despite being a high-end 6″ phone with a 1080p display and camera quality that far exceeds what we’ve seen on Huawei phones to date (thanks to Sony’s camera tech). Pair premium components with two-day battery life that, in early testing, appears to be true, and you have a contender for best Android phone of the year — pending the performance of Huawei’s new Kirin 950 SoC, something that has held previous high-end Huawei phones back. Unfortunately, the Mate 8 won’t be coming to the U.S., but many international markets will see it for an unsurprisingly high price — €600 or €700, depending on how much RAM and internal storage you want.

Top Pick: Best Wearable

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Quite a few new or updated wearables at the show, but our favorite came from an established player — Fitbit. The new Fitbit Blaze follows the Fitbit Surge into smartwatch territory and features Fitbit’s first color touchscreen. Like the Flex, you can pop out the gadget itself and put it in any number of bands that Fitbit will sell at launch and down the road. While it does have notifications and other smartwatch features, it hasn’t forgotten its fitness roots, with a heart rate tracker and the ability to use your phone’s GPS to map routes and accurately track distance traveled. It’s also available right now for $200.

Top Pick: Best Smart Home Product

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Don’t take this as a knock on all smart home products being revealed at CES 2016 — there were many we liked. But, our top pick for this year is something we first saw at IFA in September of last year. Our love of vacuums, particularly of the robot variety, is well documented, so it’s no surprise that we’re honoring the Neato Botvac Connected. Besides having suction, mapping, and obstacle avoidance technology, the thing we love about this robot vacuum is that it can be controlled from a smartphone thanks to Wi-Fi connectivity. That means you can be away from home, get an impromptu party set up, and have the place cleaned before everyone comes over without setting foot in the house. This is the future we were promised. The Botvac Connected launched last year for $700.

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