CES 2017: A few tech vendors jump the gun

While the Las Vegas trade show CES used to begin with a press event called CES Unveiled, some vendors are pulling tech journalists in with earlier views of their new products.

Huawei Honor 6X
Credit: IDG

CES, the former Consumer Electronics Show (although reporters have been told firmly that the name of the Las Vegas trade show is now CES and just CES) seems to be starting earlier and earlier. Once upon a time, most reporters marked the official beginning of the show by an event called CES Unveiled, a free-for-all where a multitude of vendors show their wares to a variety of reporters who, having nothing else to do that afternoon, crowd into a single large room like lemmings onto a cliff (although lemmings really don’t do that, but the imagery is apt, I think).

These days, however, a few companies are jumping the gun and offering previews of some of the products they are planning to introduce during CES. For example, Huawei today had an early afternoon press conference at which they introduced their mid-level Honor 6X phone, an update to the Honor 5X that they offered last year. One of the big draws of the 6X, besides its extremely reasonable $250 price, is the fact that it has two rear-facing cameras, a 12-megapixel and a 2-megapixel, one directly under the other.

The advantage to that? A “wide-aperture” mode that allows you to have the subject of your photo in sharp contrast, while the background is softer and less obvious. The phone also offers a 5.5-in. full-HD IPS display, a fingerprint sensor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage (with a microSD slot for additional storage), and, perhaps unfortunately, Huawei’s EMUI overlay on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The phone goes on sale January 4th; we will have a long-term review within the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, another company that was vying for attention was LG, which among other new products is introducing a couple of interesting-looking new neckband audio devices. The LG Tone Free offers wireless stereo sound with two small earbuds that nest within the neckband (there is also a separate charger case). The neckband vibrates if you’ve got a call coming, and both the neckband and carrying case have separate batteries to extend the life of the buds. No price was set yet, but the Tone Free is expected to cost about $200.

If you’re not an earbud fan but want some real (and directional) sound for your gaming or music listening, the LG Tone Studio (shown above) seems like it might be an interesting way to go. The wide, silver neckband does include a couple of wired earbuds, but its main attraction is the sound that it delivers from around your neck -- giving you a feeling of surround-sound. I tried it out for a few minutes and it did indeed deliver an impressive amount of audio, although the sensation of the neckband vibrating against my collarbone was a bit strange. The Tone Studio is equipped with a microphone for phone calls, a volume control and a mute button (a necessity, since the audio can overpower any other sounds in the room).

The Tone Studio is expected to cost anywhere from $230 to $250; both it and the Tone Free are due to ship in February.

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