Appliances always get plenty of time in the spotlight at CES -- but this year felt like more of an encore than a debut performance.
Call it appliance déjà vu or just good, old-fashioned me-too-ism, but manufacturers seemed more concerned with keeping up with the booth next door than with showing us ideas we hadn't seen previously. Touchscreen fridges, door-in-a-door compartments, washers capable of washing two loads at once -- all of it echoed products of CES past.
That's not to say the appliances of CES 2017 weren't interesting, but if you were expecting surprising new features and distinctive designs, you might have come away disappointed. Here's the full rundown:
LG one-ups the Family Hub
Samsung's touchscreen and camera-equipped Family Hub refrigerator was one of the stars of last year's show. It almost completely overshadowed the debut of LG's InstaView feature, which lets you knock on the front of the fridge to turn the door translucent and reveal what's inside. This year, it seemed like LG was out for vengeance.
Its means of attack: A new, smart version of that InstaView refrigerator that seemed designed with the specific purpose of stealing Samsung's thunder. And, in a lot of ways, it did. Samsung's fridges have 21.5" touchscreens, but the touchscreen on the LG fridge punches in at 29", and still goes clear when you knock on it. Samsung added in proprietary voice controls for the fridge, but LG debuted with Alexa voice controls, an unquestionably more exciting choice.
All of it should make for a fascinating showdown this year. Can Samsung's new and presumably less expensive Family Hub models connect with consumers, or will those consumers instead hold out to see what LG's smart fridge brings to the table -- and will they even care about either one at all? Time will tell.
Inception for your laundry room
On the laundry side of things, Samsung made a splash with its new FlexWash and FlexDry laundry system. Both the washer and the dryer are two-in-one appliances, each one boasting a second, small-sized top-load compartment up above the main drums. That'll let you wash and dry two loads at the same time.
That's basically the same pitch we heard last year from LG's Twin Wash, a washing machine with a second mini-washer hidden in a pedestal accessory beneath the machine. That appliance surprised everyone when it stole the show at CES 2016, but Samsung's might have one-upped it by building the extra cleaning compartments directly into the appliances themselves, rather than requiring you to buy an extra accessory. We'll look forward to testing it out first chance we get.
Whirlpool's best defense: A good offense
Whirlpool is a behemoth in the American appliances market, but for the past few years, it's slowly been ceding ground to South Korean insurgents Samsung and LG. Both have found success with high-end feature-focused appliances like Samsung's Flex Duo ranges and LG's Door-in-Door fridges. At CES 2017, Whirlpool finally seemed to concede that it was time to stop the bleeding.
Whirlpool's answer started with its own spin on the "Door-in-Door" fridge that LG first introduced years ago. It's called the "Door-Within-Door" fridge, and it does little to hide the fact that it's trying to beat LG at its own game. It might find some success, too, thanks to its dedicated cooling power for the in-door compartment. That could potentially solve one of my biggest qualms with door-in-door refrigerators. I can't wait to test it out this year.
On top of that, Whirlpool unveiled a new Alexa skill that'll let you control its web-connected appliances using voice commands. That includes the new smart all-in-one washer-dryer hybrid that Whirlpool also announced this week.
We also got a preview of Whirlpool's new Scan-to-Cook feature, which lets you use your phone to scan the barcode on the packaging of whatever you're cooking. From there, you can send ingredient-specific cooking instructions straight to your connected Whirlpool appliances. All of it added up to a busy show for Whirlpool, and signaled that the venerable brand is determined not to get outsmarted.
Other notable announcements from the world of appliances include:
- Chinese manufacturer Haier starting its move into the US market with a line of small-sized, gadgety appliances
- The debut of a less expensive sous vide circulator from Anova
- Griffin Technology announcing the release of... a Bluetooth toaster
With CES coming to a close, we'll continue to keep our eyes on all of it, complete with full testing and in-depth reviews throughout the year. Should make for an interesting (and busy) 2017 -- stay tuned.
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