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Razer, a self-proclaimed “lifestyle brand for gamers,” routinely wows CES patrons with its innovative PC and console gaming concepts. CES 2021 was no exception — Razer debuted the gaming chair concept ‘Project Brooklyn’ that immerses the player in their game with a wraparound panoramic display, while utilizing an ultra-ergonomic seat and keyboard configuration for comfortable long-term play.
Perhaps even more impressive than ‘Project Brooklyn,’ however, was Razer’s smart mask concept ‘Project Hazel.’ This surgical-grade N95 facial covering is loaded with high-tech features, like optimized airflow ventilators, RGB lights, and even Razer’s patent-pending Voiceamp technology, which utilizes an interior microphone and exterior speaker to eliminate the common problem of muffled sound when using a face cover.
The concept mask is shown in black and white, complete with a matching charger case that includes a disinfecting UV light to sanitize the mask while it is not in use. The ‘Project Hazel’ mask is transparent around the mouth area, and features a silicone liner that forms a tight seal to the face and prevents unfiltered airflow. There are two battery-powered ventilators that recharge while the mask is stored, which contain easily replaceable filters in order to maintain the mask’s BFE (bacterial filtration efficiency) rating.
Razer Chroma™ RGB lights encircle both the left and right ventilators, offering both filter- and power-status indicator lights and customizable style settings with 16.8 million colors and a suite of iconic effects. The mask also features interior lights that automatically activate in low-light settings, illuminating the user’s face. This feature, combined with Razer’s Voiceamp technology, allows for easy communication when using a face covering, and even improves accessibility for those with disabilities.
Razer has yet to announce a release date or price point for this concept, though some speculate that it could be available as early as the end of this year.
Samsung Releases Galaxy S21 Series With S Pen Compatibility, Hinting End Of Note Series
Along with many other exciting reveals at the 2021 CES trade show, Samsung introduced its new Galaxy S21 phone series, set to release on January 29th. Like the Galaxy S20 series, the new lineup includes three models: the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The new Galaxy S21 line includes new Snapdragon 888 processors, a significant step up from the Snapdragon 875 processors in the S20 models. The updated Snapdragon chipset promises better 5G capabilities, improved AI performance, and up to a 35% increase in image processing speed. Samsung also upgraded the camera housing design, introducing what they call a metal “Contour Cut” module to replace the glass housing. The new rear camera module is made of color-coordinated metal, not glass, and blends into the corner of the phone body itself. Samsung made few changes to the camera itself, but the increased image processing power and sleek new design definitely spell an upgrade in the S21 series.
Perhaps one of the most ‘notable’ changes, however, came in the Galaxy S21 Ultra model: Samsung S Pen compatibility. The consumer electronic company’s smartphone stylus has traditionally only worked with their Note series of phones, which comes included with the phone in a slot on the side of the body. Samsung added S Pen compatibility to its premium Galaxy S21 model, the Ultra, leading some to speculate that the Note series could be on its way out.
Truth be told, the only real difference between the Galaxy series and Note series was the stylus. While the Note gave Samsung the opportunity to test out some more innovative features without disrupting its flagship line, that ship may have sailed with the release of the Galaxy Z Flip and Z Fold series. Many believe that Samsung may be shifting away from its production of the Note in lieu of its robust Galaxy S21 and Z series lineups.
The S21 Ultra also comes with a lower introductory price point than the S20 Ultra, possibly with the intention of offsetting the additional cost of the new S Pen and matching stylus slot case. The S21 Ultra can be purchased for $1,199 for the 128GB model, with the S Pen coming in at $39.99. The S Pen and matching silicone phone case with the stylus slot can also be purchased as a set for $69.99 from Samsung’s website.
LG Teases New Addition To ‘Explorer Project’ Expandable Phone Lineup As Foldable Phones Gain Traction
For years, it has seemed like only one smartphone feature matters: the camera. Social media users’ desire to capture and share photos in an instant quickly resulted in making the phone camera one of the main focuses of design upgrades. Over a decade since the explosion of smartphones’ popularity, the formerly-dubbed ‘camera phone’ has been nearly perfected, with an industry standard of multiple 12MP rear cameras that feature image stabilization, optical zoom, and 4K (and increasingly, 8K) video capabilities. Now that smartphone cameras have little room to improve, with some even rivalling those in the arsenal of a professional photographer, what can the phone industry do to keep consumers engaged?
Expandable phones could be one answer. Along with the drastic improvements to their cameras, smartphones have grown significantly in size since their initial descent into our everyday lives. The original iPhone (c. 2007) display was a mere 3.5-inch screen with 320 x 480 pixel resolution. Now, the iPhone 12 comes in a variety of sizes, from a 5.4-inch screen with 2,532 x 1,170 pixel resolution on their Mini model, to a 6.7-inch screen with 2,778 x 1,284 pixel resolution on their Pro Max model. Other smartphone manufacturers have made similar changes to the dimensions of their phones.
The foldable phone is a recent manifestation of consumers’ desire for larger screens. Phones that fold out from their side, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 and LG ThinQ™ series, offer a large, versatile screen in a compact package that resembles the rectangular smartphones we’re used to. LG has also been exploring other ways to shake up the traditional rectangular smartphone design.
The consumer electronics company debuted their ‘Explorer Project’ line, intended to denote deviation from the typical metal-box phone design, when it released the LG Wing in October 2020. The Wing features two stacked screens, where the 6.8-inch main display swivels 90º to reveal a second 3.9-inch panel underneath. LG’s new phone concept yielded mixed reception of the non-traditional phone configuration, with a review from The Verge aptly summarizing the collective experience: “it’s weird, but it works.”
During CES 2021, LG hinted at the release of yet another expanded-phone concept design. The LG Rollable appeared twice in the company’s promotional videos, however received no mention from LG executives during the tradeshow. Some sources indicate that the rollable phone, which appears to expand from the side into a tablet-like display, could be available for purchase by the end of the year.