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12 Best and Worst Things We Saw at CES 2015

From groundbreaking audio gear to a creepy robot servant, these were the things that thrilled us and chilled us at the world’s biggest tech trade show

CES

The CES trade show, which runs until January 10th, 2015, is the world's largest annual innovation event that offers an array of entrepreneur focused exhibits, events, and conference sessions for technology entrepreneurs

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty

Today marks the end of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the biggest trade show on the planet, and a sprawling preview of the most exciting tech slated for release throughout the coming year. It's an event too big for one convention center (it barely fits into three, plus countless hotel suites), and too diverse to be summed up in a single trend piece (though journalists are never afraid to try). For all the attention garnered by 4K TVs, the show floors were packed with more sensor-embedded gadgets than ever before. And from computer vision systems for driverless cars to the first-ever production hydrogen car — Toyota's $50,000 Mirai — some of the biggest announcements at CES 2015 were automotive. Putting the entire event into context is a fool's game.

So let's talk about the stuff that stood out at CES, the individual gadgets that deserve the most praise — and the most scorn. Of all the products we saw first-hand, here are the ones we either instantly wanted to take home, or couldn't resist taking down. (For more news, analysis, and product roundups, check out Men's Journal's full coverage of CES 2015.)

Vert

WORST: Vert Wearable Jump Rate Monitor

Of all the fitness trackers that collectively spammed this year's CES, this waist-worn device managed to stand out from the crowd. Or jump out, to be more accurate — the $125 Vert gauges the vertical height of a user's leaps, and sends those measurements to a nearby smartphone or tablet. What might be an exciting tool for data-obsessed volleyball and basketball coaches is, for the rest of us, the world's most single-minded fitness tracker, and the first sign that this product category may have quite literally jumped the shark.

Brookstone Big Blue

Brookstone

BEST: Brookstone Big Blue Button

Daisy-chaining multiple speakers to create an ad hoc stereo setup is nothing new, but mixing and matching brands with this sort of Bluetooth bridge is unheard of. The Big Blue Button uses two antennae: one to connect to your phone, tablet or other source; and another to reach both speakers. If you can overlook the admittedly terrible name and design (Brookstone actually pulled its physical mockup from the show floor, because it was so ugly), it's easily one of the most surprisingly technical breakthroughs at the show. It will be out later this year for $70.

Tao Chair

WORST: Tao Chair

Here's an idea: A chair that measures how many calories you're burning, while you forcefully relax in it. The Tao Chair encourages you to grip its armrests, and strain against its firm embrace. Sensors record your exertions and display the negative calorie count on an embedded screen, or beam the data to another device via Bluetooth. Tao Wellness presented the device as a prototype, so hopefully the final version will come with sensors that also measure how many calories you're ingesting while simultaneously relax-ercising.

Sharp Aquos Beyond 4k Ultra HD television

Jim Sanduski, president of Sharp Electronics Marketing Corp. of America (SEMCA), reveals the Sharp Aquos Beyond 4k Ultra HD television during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. This year's CES will be packed with a wide array of gadgets such as drones, connected cars, a range of smart home technology designed to make everyday life more convenient and quantum dot televisions, which promise better color and lower electricity use in giant screens. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg/Getty

BEST: Sharp Beyond 4K TV

While other manufacturers are still trying to sell the buying public on 4K TVs —models with quadruple the resolution of HD — Sharp has already moved on to brighter, and more detailed pastures. The company's 80-inch Beyond 4K TV is true to its name, using a smart bit of image display sleight of hand to divide standard pixels into subpixels, which bumps up the effective resolution. The effect is astonishing, making hyper-detailed 4K video even more lifelike, and giving some scenes a sense of depth that approaches 3D. The Beyond 4K hasn't been priced, but it will be available later this year.

Logbar Ring

WORST: Logbar Ring

What if, instead of tapping and swiping your phone or tablet's touch screen, you could control the device from a distance with hand gestures? Other connected products, like smart bulbs and TVs, could also all under your spell. Sounds pretty mondo sci-fi, right? Never mind that most activities would require you to be close enough to the screen to simply touch it, or to memorize and deploy a sorcerer's list of distinct gestures. Who cares about that, when you also get to display your jazz-hand skills around the house with a huge, rechargeable zinc ring on your finger? The Ring will be available this March for all you Minority Report superfans out there.

Sony Symphonic Light

Sony

BEST: Sony Symphonic Light

On paper, Sony's Symphonic Light sounds like a gimmick wrapped in a doodad. But this combined LED light and built-in speaker is easily one of the most beautiful products at CES, and proof of what Sony is capable of when it takes its designers off the leash. The light’s vertical-firing speaker tech sends audio into the glass, and then outward to fill your living space. Of the two models planned, the ceiling-mounted pendant sounded better during a demonstration, particularly when grouped in a cluster of synched light-speakers. Sony won't say when it will be released, or for how much, but the company insists that the Symphonic Light isn't a PR stunt — it's a real product.

Gibson Les Paul GSLP Reference Monitor

Erik Sofge

WORST: Gibson Les Paul GSLP Reference Monitor

If a Les Paul guitar mated with a reference monitor, this is the monstrous brood that might result. Gibson showcased three monitors at CES, all of them intended to honor the guitar legend, and all of them destined for cautionary design school lectures. Photographs don’t do proper justice to these speakers, whose glossy finish and misfired styling makes them more appropriate for a Spencer Gifts than a recording studio. They're out this February for $599 to $999.

Devialet Phantom

BEST: Devialet Phantom

Looking more like a starship's escape pod than high-end audio gear, this Bluetooth speaker has the clean, distortion-free output of a model 10 times its size. Its "imposive heart bass" design, which the French company says is inspired by ventricles in the human heart, generates outsize low-end by building up enormous pressure inside its compact frame. And this isn't mere marketing-speak. Whenever the bass kicks in, the vibrating panels on either side of the speaker extrude to an alarming, and completely awesome extent. The Phantom will be available in the U.S. this summer for $2000 to $2400.

Tonino Lamborghini 88 Tauri

Tonino

WORST: Tonino Lamborghini 88 Tauri

In a perfect world, the 88 Tauri would be a stunt, a wealthy activist's elaborate indictment of his of her fellow one-percenters. But Tonino Lamborghin has disgorged ludicrously-priced phones before, and this limited edition calfskin-and-stainless-steel smartphone is all too real, for a price of $6300. Its components are impressive — 20-megapixel camera, 3400 mAh battery, etc. — but not industry-leading, and the phone itself is surprisingly heavy. It's the smartphone equivalent of a Trump building, with just as much class.

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