Leaving Las Vegas: the best tech take-aways from CES 2014

Big tablets, tiny PCs, wonderful wearables and super-smart cars

CES 2014

It's time to look back on the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas - CES 2014!

The annual show is where electronics firms show off their most exciting new stuff, and while bendy TVs and Bluetooth toothbrushes have hogged the headlines, we saw plenty of things to get really excited about.

If you're a gamer, there's good reason to get excited about Steam Machines, Valve's PC-powered alternative to consoles. We reckon its Steam Controller is the best gaming peripheral at this year's CES, and we're pretty impressed by Gigabyte's Brix Pro Steam Box too, provided the price is right.

CES 2014
The Steam Controller: pretty good

We're certainly excited by Sony's latest gaming goodie: PlayStation Now could be the Netflix of videogames, streaming top titles to the device of your choice - even if that device isn't a gaming console. It's coming to the Vita and Sony's Bravia TVs first, but the plan is to bring it to iOS and Android too. The Last Of Us on a tablet? Count us in.

Did someone say tablet? As you might expect, CES had more tablets than a pharmacist, and our favourite was the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2. As the numbers suggest it's a 12-incher, and while that's probably overkill for Angry Birds it's great for Google Docs and multiple windows. There's no S-Pen, but if that matters Samsung has an alternative, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.

CES 2014
The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 with S-Pen

Tablets may be the cool kids in today's tech playground, but that doesn't mean PCs have given up: Lenovo's gorgeous ThinkPad X1 Carbon "looks like it belongs in the lookout van of a crime drama" and promises to be the lightest ultrabook around. It's no ordinary ultrabook, either: its Adaptive Keyboard features a strip of capacitive buttons etched in electroluminescent ink - so the buttons can change according to the program you're using. It's clever stuff, provided you use the apps Lenovo supports: the ink can't be changed, so you're limited to the software Lenovo thinks you're likely to use.

There were some nice all-in-one PCs at CES too, including LG's Chrome-powered Chromebase, and our pick would be Samsung's ATIV Book One 7. While it "might look like a gigantic Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 on a stand… [it's] the iMac of Windows PCs". It's a wee bit heavy on the Samsung software side of things - if you're not a fan of Samsung's various services and other devices, this might not be the PC for you - but it's a fascinating and potentially brilliant bit of kit.

CES 2014
LG's Chromebase runs Chrome OS

As you might expect from a consumer electronics show, every kind of consumer electronics was represented; we saw nice cameras from the likes of Nikon, cracking TVs from the likes of Sony and interesting kit such as an intelligent smoke alarm from Nest and a bunch of stuff from Monster including headphones and a portable sound mixer. It's all cool stuff, but what the world really wanted was wearables.

Wearable tech is really gathering momentum, with firms designing everything from fitness monitors to smart socks. We really liked LG's Lifeband Touch in the fitness category, and if you're interested in smartwatches we reckon you should take a look at the Pebble Steel: it's everything we like about the Pebble in a more traditional case.

CES 2014
Audi's Sport Quattro concept

Our very favourite thing about CES wasn't a smartwatch, though, and it wasn't a big TV, a tablet or a games console. It was a car - but it was no ordinary car. In a show populated by firms such as Volvo and Audi offering tech-enhanced versions of the internal combustion engine, Toyota promised to bring fuel cell motoring to the world in just two years. If Toyota can do to hydrogen cars what it did with hybrids, we might just have seen the future of transport.