The IT Leader’s Guide to the Best of CES 2023
This list may change or grow slightly over the next couple of weeks as I continue to read through the press releases and review my notes. Keep in mind that most of these items are not yet shipping and that I had less than 30 minutes with most of them—and no time at all with others. CES is a show about the future. In the case of IT technology, it’s a future that reveals itself over the next several months, not years.
I have put in pricing and availability estimates where they have been shared.
- The IT Leader’s Guide to the Best of CES 2023
- Best Windows Laptop
- Best Chromebook
- Best Tablet
- Best Notetaker
- Best Collaboration Solution
- Best Headphones for Work
- Best Monitor
- Best Keyboard
- Best Mouse
- Best Phone Case Innovation
- Best Mobile Charging Solution
Best Windows Laptop
Lenovo Yoga Book 9i
The Yoga Book 9i, the first dual-screen OLED laptop impresses immediately. It is at the top of my list, and that top placement isn’t unique among CES list makers.
The dual screens create an opportunity for some unique use cases for creators and consumers. The 9i isn’t aimed at business, but I would not be surprised to see them showing up with the creative colleagues who always have the latest thing. Not as easy to show off in work-from-home situations, but this is a laptop that people will go out of their way not to use on a video conference so they can show it to people on a video conference.
The Yoga Book 9i leverages the Intel® Evo™, up to i713-gen Intel core processors, and 16GB of LPDDR5X memory. The dual 13.3” panels are joined by a full HD webcam with IR for Microsoft Hello, 3 USB-C ports with Thunderbolt™ 4.0 support, Wi-Fi ^E and Bluetooth™ 5.2. Starting weight begins at a little over 3 pounds. An 80WHr battery powers the show when not connected to the USB-C power.
Multitaskers, from writers to artists to developers, will find the dual screens a flexible and powerful option for their personal productivity.
The Bluetooth™ keyboard can mount on the bottom of the lower screen and be used with a mouse for input, or pushed higher on the display, which turns the exposed lower part of the keyboard covered display into a trackpad and wrist rest.
Two cautions. First, Windows isn’t often finicky about non-standard configurations and secondly, you’re going to need to invest in microfiber cloths because owners of the 9i will create a lot of fingerprints on these beautiful displays.
HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook
For those who wondered if Chromebooks would ever become productivity contenders sitting alongside Mac and PCs, the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook answers that question with a resounding “yes!”
The 3.3 pound, 0.7-inch-thick device includes an 8-megapixel webcam, a 14-inch, multi-touch display with 2560 x 1600 resolution and up to 1,200 nits of brightness and 100% sRGB. Tech specs also include 16GB of LPDDR5 memory, a 256GB SSD, all driven by a 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1235U processor with Intel UHD graphics. The unit also includes the H1 secure microcontroller to max out the Chromebook’s built-in security features.
Sound arrives from four speakers, two up and two down, tuned by Bang and Olufsen. A pair of Thunderbolt USB-C ports provide connectivity and power. The 96W power supply will take the Dragonfly Chromebook from zero to 50% in about 30 minutes.
Connectivity includes Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6E.
And as you know, I like to cross the boundary between gaming and work, and this Chromebook does that by design. It is the first non-gaming Chromebook to include RGB backlighting on the keyboard. But rather than offer up fanciful blinking and breathing, this RGB backlighting, by default, matches the Chromebook’s primary background color.
And even though the Dragonfly line now points more toward consumers than business, the pricey laptops still come with 24/7 concierge services.
Also, HP incorporates its environmental commitments throughout the device, using 70% recycled metal and 20% recycled plastic.
Price and ship date is not yet set.
Lenovo Tab Extreme
The 14.5-inch Lenovo Tab Extreme says, “Hi, I’m here to challenge the Apple iPad Pro.” Not only is it larger, but it also plays into the Lenovo ecosystem much as the iPad does with Apple’s. The Tab Extreme can act as a second monitor via a USB-C connection or as a touchpad. Many data elements cross the boundaries between Android and Windows, not as elegantly as Apple’s various forms of handoff and synchronization, but it does offer integration that reduces friction between the two platforms.
The Tab Extreme’s 3K OLED display, DCI-P3 color gamut and up to 120Hz refresh rate, the Android™ 13 OS and a JBL® 4-channel speaker system makes for a great content consumption device.
The Dimensity 9000 Octa-core processor is powerful and efficient, offering up to 12 hours of battery life.
All that power will also support pen-based input for notetaking and drawing. A 4-microphone system and software helps make call and video conference audio sharp while capturing audio from around a room.
Lenovo adopted Apple’s cantilever design for its optional keyboard, floating the tablet and allowing for many display angles.
The magnetic stand includes a cutout that helps with weight, but also offers flexibility for horizontal and vertical display orientations, even without the keyboard.
The Lenovo Tab Extreme is made of 100% recycled aluminum, and its packaging is 100% plastic-free.
Lenovo Smart Paper
Lenovo was on a roll at CES 2023, showcasing dozens of new products. One of the ones closest to my workstyle (and lifestyle) is the Lenovo Smart Paper note-taking and reading device.
It looks like a large Kindle and sports similar eInk technology—and it’s meant to compete with the Kindle Scribe. At 10.3 inches, Smart Paper feels more expansive, with the 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt detection in the pen delivering a natural input experience. Initially, Smart Paper will ship with 74 notepad templates. Stereo microphones turn Smart Paper into a voice recorder. Voice recording syncs to notes, so selecting a note will provide context for sound recorded at the same time.
The device includes 50GB, or roughly 50,000 note pages, which can be organized using the included Lenovo-design user interface. Handwritten notes easily convert to text and can be translated into 15 languages. Those who want to read will have access to content from eBooks.com, as well as PDFs and Office documents.
Files can be synchronized across Android, Windows, and iOS/iPad OS devices.
I found drawing on the Smart Paper tablet natural. I sketched and crosshatched, flipped through a book without eyestrain, and captured notes without too much thought. The real question will be software integration going forward. The more connected and easier to sync the content from the Smart Paper, the more likely buyers will be to adopt it.
Limited quantities will be available in the Spring of 2023.
Runner-up: NUWA Pen
For those who don’t want a device to capture notes, then the NUWA pen from Nuwa Innovation B.V. in The Netherlands may be an option in the future, as it captures content directly from ordinary paper and makes it available digitally.
Best Collaboration Solution
Best Headphones for Work
Poly Voyager Free 60 Series
The Poly Voyager Free 60 Series provides up to five hours of talk time with adaptive active noise canceling (ANC). WindSmart technology blocks out distracting background noises.
The standard version arrives with a charging case that delivers up to 10 additional hours of talk time. The Poly Voyager Free 60+ includes smart charging with an OLED touchscreen display for easy access to volume and mute functions without touching the earbuds. The display will also provide insight into battery life and call status. The 60 and 60+ versions will ship with a pre-paired Bluetooth dongle for improved connectivity. The earbuds will be rated IP54 splashes and dust exposure.
Runner-up: Jabra Evolve 2 Buds
Earbuds made for meetings. 62,000 ear scans contributed to this design. The earbuds are certified for all of the major video conferencing platforms. Qi-certified charging keeps the case and buds powered for up to 33 hours. Those running out of juice will see an hour’s worth of performance from 5 minutes of charging.
Noise isolating design with Active Noise Cancelation combined with the MyFit feature in the Jabra Sound+ app to optimize for noise reduction. The earbuds switch to hear through with a tap for social situations.
Already shipping from $269 on Amazon.
LG OLED Flex
LG OLED Flex monitor is not designed for work; it’s a gaming monitor. But, well, you know, unless you make your money on twitch, the only way to write off an LG OLED Flex will be to use it for work—so it’s a productivity display.
Because of its gaming origins, there are a lot of things this monitor does that might feel like overkill, but the one feature that isn’t overkill is the ability to transform the backlight-free, self-lit OLED display from a 42-inch curved monitor to a flat one at the touch of a button. I watched it several times.
The 100-percent color fidelity certified monitor offers .1 millisecond response raters from its α (Alpha) 9 Gen 5 intelligent processor and LG proprietary picture algorithms. LG’s super anti-reflection (SAR) coating reduces visual distractions.
If 42-inches is too much, the display can also limit itself to 32 or 27-inch displays. Again, a gaming feature that might prove useful for advertising, web design and other business applications. It can also display content from two sources simultaneously.
A built-in microphone supports video conferencing or in-game chat. While Dolby Atmos-rated 40W speakers provide sound when headsets aren’t in use.
Runner-up: the Lenovo ThinkVision P27pz-30 and P32pz-30
The new ThinkVision mini LED monitors are simply gorgeous displays very much focused on the work environment with their convenient built-in hubs. The new monitors will come in 27 and 32-inch 4K versions. The displays will support 1,152 dimming zones, with normal brightness at around 600 nits, and a peak brightness of 1,200 nits reached in HDR mode. They will support up to 140W of power delivery.
Runner-up: Samsung Odyssey Neo 9 Mini LED
For those tempted to extremes, the 16.6 million pixel Samsung Odyssey Neo 9 Mini LED monster should fill the bill. Built for gaming but also a pretty strong offering for people who work in horizontal workflows.
Targus Energy Harvesting EcoSmart™ Keyboard
Made entirely of recycled materials, the Energy Harvesting EcoSmart™ Keyboard takes a leadership role in not only its construction but in its use of energy. It comes complete with a solar array made of amorphous silicon photovoltaic cells. Between the solar array and the low power Atmosic™ ATM3 series Bluetooth® SoC, the EcoSmart™ should never require a charge unless its owner wants to run with a backlight on all of the time. The full-sized, 104-key keyboard also comes with Targus DefenseGuard™ Antimicrobial Protection.
The Targus keyboard was also the best overall sustainability story I heard at CES 2023.
HyperX Pulsefire Haste 2 Wireless Gaming Mouse
The Pulsefire Haste 2 Wireless Gaming Mouse connects via Bluetooth® and 2.4GHz gaming-grade wireless. The mouse weighs in at only 62 grams and offers up to 100 hours of battery life. Pulsefire HyperX 26K Sensor with native DPI settings up to 26K DPI delivers smooth cursor movements. For those who want to make their work environment more fun, HyperX NGENUITY software personalizes DPI settings, RGB lighting, button assignments, sensor performance, and macros. The Pulsefire Haste 2 Wireless Gaming Mouse will be available in black or white and retails for $79.99 starting in April 2023.
Best Phone Case Innovation
ESR Classic™ Kickstand case with HoloLock™
There were a number of Apple MagSafe innovations, including the STM’s MagLoop (reviewed here) and the Clckr, which I used through the show. My favorite innovation was not a MagSafe product however, because no matter how good the magnets, in moving environments, the magnets can fail to hold when bumped or jostled. The first day of the show, before I received the Clckr eval unit, I spent much of the Samsung press conference looking at the floor for my detached MagLoop that had bounced one row behind me after becoming detached.
ESR was showing their new iPhone 14 case that integrated its stand in the ring around the camera. I thought the ESR Classic™ Kickstand case with HoloLock™ stand was clever. MagSafe accessories must be removed to wirelessly charge the phone. This ring stand folds out from around the lenses while in use, and folds back to become part of the protective solution during normal phone use.
The little ring isn’t a huge innovation, but it demonstrates that another innovation, like MagSafe, doesn’t necessarily frame all responses to a problem. Sometimes a simpler solution is the more elegant answer.
Best Mobile Charging Solution
Ampere Horizon is a portable MiFi and MagSafe 3-in-1 wireless charger engineered for travel. It incorporates two patent-pending hinges, allowing it to transform into eight charging positions. The unit leverages Apple’s latest charging specification for faster Watch charging. Available for pre-sale now and available for purchase in April 2023. (See their Indigogo page here).
For more serious insights on CES 2023, click here.
All photos are courtesy of the respective manufacturer associated with our choice unless otherwise noted.
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