CES 2017: The final word

Autonomous vehicles. Superthin TVs. Triple-screened laptops. And Alexa everywhere. Welcome to another year in tech from Las Vegas.

John Falcone Senior Editorial Director, Shopping
John P. Falcone is the senior director of commerce content at CNET, where he coordinates coverage of the site's buying recommendations alongside the CNET Advice team (where he previously headed the consumer electronics reviews section). He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
Expertise Over 20 years experience in electronics and gadget reviews and analysis, and consumer shopping advice Credentials
  • Self-taught tinkerer, informal IT and gadget consultant to friends and family (with several self-built gaming PCs under his belt)
John Falcone
5 min read
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Watch this: The best of CES 2017: Our final countdown

Fifty years from now, the CES show floor may be some hybrid of the real and virtual world, as telepresence minidrones hover and swoop through the aisles, beaming the scene back to our VR contact lenses. But in 2017, the 50th anniversary show was something that would've been an equally unrealistic sci-fi vision to attendees of the first electronics exhibition in 1967: wall-sized TVs as thin as a house key. Electric cars that can drive themselves. Tiny robots that stand guard in your home. And an entire house that you can control with your voice. All of them real, touchable and available to home consumers soon, if not already.

Boring, you say? Stop being cynical, and start appreciating the fact that you're already living in the future: Take a look back at everything we saw on the show floor of the world's premier technology show, from the jaw-dropping to the groan-inducing to the just plain fun.

The voice-controlled smart home gets real, and Alexa is dominating

Watch this: Let Alexa handle your laundry for you

For at least the past 2 5 7 10 years, we've been saying the "real" smart home is just around the corner. But at CES 2017, it finally felt more tangible than ever before. That's because a flood of products are now offering compatibility with systems like Google Home, Apple HomeKit and (most of all) Amazon Alexa. Whether it's lighting, DVRs, refrigerators , robot vacuums, home security systems, phones or cars -- to name just a few -- the list of stuff you'll be able to interact with by saying Alexa's name is set to explode in the coming months. And with such networked integration now becoming the rule rather than the exception in major appliances from the likes of Whirlpool, Samsung and LG , there's no turning back.

TVs are thinner, brighter and better than ever

CES was, is and presumably always will be "the big TV show." And while some of the players may have changed -- China's TCL and Hisense have replaced the likes of old-line Japan manufacturers such as Panasonic and Sharp -- the screens get better every year. Samsung is offering a fresh alternative with its QLED sets, but LG's OLED technology is so good that rivals like Sony are now licensing it. LG itself, meanwhile, created its most stunning OLED TV showpiece yet: the W7 "wallpaper" TV. And this is no pie-in-the-sky prototype: You can preorder the W7 (albeit for $8,000 -- a rough conversion to £6526 or AU$10,964) now, for delivery in just a few months. Prefer a big-screen alternative? Plenty of tantalizing new short-throw projectors were on display, too.

Don't need a new TV? There were more promising add-on boxes at the show, too, from over-the-air TV options (Mohu Airwave and new Tablo products) to streaming boxes (a hot new Nvidia Shield) -- to the new AirTV, which aims to combine the best of both worlds.

CES = "Car Electronics Show"

The North American International Auto Show is starting this week in Detroit -- and CNET's Roadshow is already there cranking up coverage. But in recent years, Las Vegas has taken more and more of the auto industry spotlight. We got to see some impressive autonomous driving tech from Nvidia and Delphi, and a full-on "holographic" heads-up display from BMW. Chrysler, Honda, Bosch and Toyota delivered some gorgeous concept vehicles. Meanwhile, troubled Faraday Future went the other way: Its new FF91, designed to be the company's debut production model in 2018, is an electric vehicle that's said to have a 350-mile range and the ability to hit 60 mph from a standing start in under three seconds. And CES's voice control theme didn't stop at the garage door: BMW and Ford demoed in-car integration with Cortana and Alexa, respectively, for which Hyundai and Chrysler showed off Google Assistant integration.

Laptops are more powerful, flexible and affordable

The hybrid laptops we flipped for at CES 2017

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Anyone who says "PCs are dead" needs to come to Las Vegas during CES. Though most of them don't actually have a booth on the show floor, the world's premier PC vendors -- the likes of Dell, HP, Asus, Acer and Samsung -- use the show as a launchpad for their latest and greatest machines. Yes, Intel's latest generation of chips may not be a big leap forward in performance, but that's not stopping vendors from creating increasingly impressive 2-in-1 hybrid laptops, ever more affordable gaming laptops and new Chromebooks that can run Android apps. And with the exception of Razer's crazy-amazing triple-screen laptop prototype, you'll be able to buy most of these new PCs within a matter of weeks -- if not right now.

Here come the robots

Watch this: Hands on with Kuri -- an adorable wandering security cam

The CES show floor has always had its share of robots, but most of them were gimmicks. But no more: Robots at CES 2017 were transitioning to real consumer products. Pepper, Kuri and LG's Hub Robot are designed for consumers or businesses in the real world, and -- if all goes as planned -- you'll be able to buy them soon, in some cases for less than $1,000. Just manage your expectations: Don't expect C-3PO -- and don't expect them to climb stairs, let alone traverse shag carpets.

Wearable tech is growing up


The Willow Breast Pump is slated to hit later in 2017.

Claire Reilly/CNET

As expected, we didn't see a lot of fitness trackers or smartwatches on the show floor this year. But we did see wearable tech continue its evolution far beyond mere step counters. Products like the Aira (which allows remote viewers to guide blind people in real-time) and the FDA-cleared Willow Breast Pump show how the field is tilting toward full-on medical and assistive devices. And the Doppler Labs Here One headphones show that Apple's AirPods are merely the beginning of the market for "hearables" -- and the beginning of a whole new era that goes far beyond traditional headphones.

The sad trombones of CES 2017


Even VR porn seemed boring at CES 2017.

James Martin/CNET

Traditional wearables wasn't the only product category that had an off year at CES. By and large, it was a weak show for phones, cameras , new virtual reality and augmented/mixed reality products and drones. That doesn't mean those genres are dead: far from it. It just means that the new year's really big products (think Samsung's inevitable Galaxy S8) will get company-specific product launches. You can thank the original iPhone -- which launched exactly 10 years ago, far away from the CES 2007 show floor -- for that.

First up for 2017: the Nintendo Switch and a mystery HTC product, both of which are being unveiled later this week.

Stay tuned.