Every year, iLounge’s editors work extended hours—starting weeks before major trade shows—trying out new products that are debuting for Apple’s iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac. After visiting literally hundreds of booths at the 2012 International CES and surveying thousands of products, our editors discuss and debate the merits of new releases, selecting only the very best ones for our awards: full Best of Show Winners offer the rare combination of great design, features, and pricing, while Best of Show Finalists demonstrate excellence in two of those categories but fall a little short in the third.
Our 2012 Best of Show Awards are below, this year recognizing a total of 22 top products out of the thousands we’ve seen, with 12 full Winners and 10 Finalists, as well as several additional awards for Best Booth within the iLounge Pavilion, Innovation, Design, and Overall Best of Show. Congratulations to all of the companies whose products were selected below, and we strongly encourage readers who happen to be at CES to check them out for themselves.
Overall Best of Show 2012 Winner
Soundfreaq Sound Kick: Soundfreaq has spent the last year shaking up speaker categories with sharp designs and aggressive pricing, and the $99 Sound Kick is the latest example. Optimized for portability with a pop-out rear bass chamber, rechargeable 5-hour battery, and solid sound, it directly challenges Jawbone’s Jambox at half the price. It’s the best overall accessory at CES.
Best of Show 2012 Winners
Adonit Writer 2.0: Though it has a lot in common with last year’s model, Adonit’s new $100 iPad 2 case and Bluetooth keyboard combination has made major improvements, adding color choices, a rechargeable battery, and an improved detachable keyboard to the slim case design. If you’re looking to type with your iPad, start here.
Griffin Technology Booth: While there are many eye-catching booths in the iLounge Pavilion at CES, the most impressive is Griffin’s, which uses a homey, rustic design that feels true to the company’s Tennessee roots while thoughtfully spotlighting its wide array of new products. Refinished antiques contrast with the modern devices, a look that works wonderfully here.
Griffin Technology StudioConnect: Thanks to Apple’s GarageBand, the iPad is a viable professional audio recording device, and the $150 StudioConnect expands it dramatically. MIDI in and out ports, mic, headphone, and stereo audio-out ports, plus an iPad dock and wall charger, all in a gorgeous, blue-glowing design.
Hex Cross-Body Bag: Created to address the growing crowd of iPad and MacBook Air 11” users, this $60 vertical messenger bag uses great materials, and has a flap that covers its key feature—a playthrough iPad compartment that enables people to quickly access their tablets for quick tasks.
iHome iDM5 Executive Workstation: Professionals with iPads know that the device’s integrated keyboard, speakers, and microphone aren’t ideal, gaps that iHome has filled with the $130 iDM5.
With stereo Bluetooth speakers, an mic for FaceTime/VoIP, charging outlets, and a chiclet-style keyboard, iDM5 neatly turns an iPad into a viable desktop computer.
IK Multimedia iRig MIX: Developed to hit an attractive $100 price point, this tiny portable mixing console is targeted at regular consumers rather than DJs, yet works with a wide variety of DJ and audio apps for iOS devices. A crossfader, cues, EQ and volume controls are all built in, along with stereo inputs and outputs; four free apps are included.
Incipio OffGrid Pro: Cosmetically similar to last year’s sleek iPhone 4 battery pack, Incipio’s $100 OffGrid Pro offers a killer value for battery-challenged iPhone 4/4S users. The set includes a svelte, protective case with two easily swapped 1700mAh batteries, a second charger, and micro-USB cable, giving you enough power for even the roughest day.
Incipio Resistance: Billed as the world’s first active suspension case, the $40 Resistance uses special foam to compress its core in the event you drop your iPhone 4/4S, absorbing the shock in the same protective way as a pair of sneakers. With distinctive styling and a mix of hard and soft plastics, Resistance offers unique protection for glass devices.
Just Mobile AluPen Pro: While we were originally skeptical that an iPad stylus could be worthy of a full Best of Show Award, feeling was believing for the $40 AluPen Pro. With a replaceable, high-quality Pelikan ballpoint pen inside – activated with a clean twist – and a grippy, stylish exterior, this stylus comes with a swappable touch tip and leather case.
Just Mobile Highway Pro $40: As Apple’s devices become more ubiquitous and useful in cars, the need to keep them running increases, and Just Mobile’s $40 Highway Pro does that in style. A gorgeous aluminum ring with an Apple-style green light looks worthy of nice cars, holding two USB ports – one with 2.1-Amp iPad power, the other for iPhone and iPod use. A coiled cable is included.
Logic3 Ferrari by Logic3 Headphones + Speakers: As the recipient of our special Design Award, the Ferrari by Logic3 series embodies the best practices of licensed product design. From the $125 in-ear canalphones to $375 over-ear headphones and $750 Apple speakers, this entire lineup shines with the beauty of Ferrari styling, dividing into equally compelling Cavallino and Scuderia families.
Mobee Power Bar: Apple’s Magic Trackpad is an amazing Mac input device, but its dependence on batteries forces users to swap AA cells every month or two.
This $30 accessory instantly fixes that problem, adding a rechargeable battery and Micro USB port: keep it plugged in all the time, or run it off battery power. Awesome.
Scosche RH656M/MD On-Ear Headphones: We rarely select headphones for Best of Show Awards, but Scosche’s latest Realm series model shocked us. Beautiful, comfortable on our ears, and wonderfully balanced sonically, this $130 model gives Monster’s Beats a run for their money at a fraction of the price and features a great integrated 3-button remote and mic. It’s the best Realm model yet.
XtremeMac InCharge X3/X5: Multi-iPad homes and businesses are becoming more common, as are messes of charging cables. InCharge X3 ($100) and X5 ($150) offer the industry’s cleanest-looking 3- or 5-iPad charging bases with support for bare or encased tablets; each Dock Connector can also be used to refuel iPhones or iPods, too.
Best of Show 2012 Finalists
Geneva Labs GenevaSound XXL 2012: Also known as “HTL,” this smaller $3000 version of Geneva’s massive $4000 Home Theater unit combines furniture and AV equipment – it’s a gorgeous lacquered wood cabinet housing six powerful forward-firing speakers, an 8” downward-firing subwoofer, HDMI connections to your TV, and shelves to hold AV components.
id America Spark: Designed to mimic the look of spark plugs, id America’s nice-sounding $60 Spark brings fancy fashionable metal housing designs to relatively inexpensive canalphones, complete with a remote control and microphone. Available in nine color combinations, Spark lets users pick solid, two-color, or alternating-color designs, some unique to this company.
iHome iD55: Conceptually similar to slide-open portable speakers we loved years ago, iHome’s AA battery-powered $79 iD55 ups the ante with a combination of iPad support and unique color/finish options. Compelling in a purely plastic version, additional variations on display included artificial leather/fabric tops that could wow fashionistas in 2012.
iHome iD99: Only one company’s name is synonymous with clock radios, and that’s iHome, which has created a $129 dual alarm clock with iPad, iPhone, and USB charging ports. Compatible with the company’s iOS apps, iD99 features a particularly nice industrial design and EQ-adjustable speakers, plus its sharp-looking black and white front clock.
Incipio Bentley: Designed to glam up the iPad 2 for professional users, this folding $70 case features a fancy integrated metal stand, carbon fiber leather, and automatic screen locking.