This year’s Consumer Electronics Show revealed some exciting technologies and devices whose release is just around the corner. We’ve witnessed the emergence of the Ultrabook, the re-emergence of Nokia and watched how wireless technology is connecting everything from hard drives to cars to the cloud. We also were very excited to see both new and established companies truly push the envelope at this year's show, which made our job selecting the most innovative products that much more enjoyable. Check out who made the cut.
Best Ultrabook: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga Notebook
Here's a Windows 8 Ultrabook that literally bends over backwards to get your attention. The IdeaPad Yoga breaks the mold for convertibles with an innovative dual-hinge flip design that lets you use this device in four different modes. You can prop the Yoga up in stand or tent mode for viewing content on the 13-inch display, fold the keyboard all the way back for tablet mode or use it as a traditional notebook. Even with all this versatility, the Yoga weighs only 3.1 pounds and measures 0.7 inches thick. Better still, the 400-nit, 1600 x 900-pixel capacitive touchscreen supports 10-finger input. Expect this slick hybrid to launch at the same time as Windows 8.
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Best Laptop: Samsung Series 7 Gamer Notebook
A gaming notebook that delivers a lot more than sheer muscle, the Samsung Series 7 Gamer sports a unique dial that lets you switch into a special gaming mode that kicks the next-generation Core i7 processor into full turbo and disables the touchpad and Windows key to keep your eyes on the prize. Plus, the gaming keys light up in red for easy access. When it comes time to start kicking you-know-what, you’ll love the 400-nit full SuperBright display, smokin’ Nvidia GeForce GTX670 GPU, and booming 2.1 Dolby audio system complete with down-firing subwoofer. Look for this beast to arrive in April.
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Best Smartphone: Nokia Lumia 900 (AT&T)
This long-awaited Windows Phone flagship device will supercharge Microsoft’s compelling OS in multiple ways. The Nokia Lumia 900 boasts a gorgeous Super AMOLED ClearBlack display to make those Live Tiles pop, ultra-fast 4G LTE speeds on AT&T’s network, and a solid unibody design that comes in two colors: cyan and black. An 8-MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics promises sharp photos, while the front-facing camera is among the brightest we’ve seen for video chats. Add in Nokia Drive for turn-by-turn directions--along with all sorts of exclusive content--and there will be a lot of reasons for people to think twice about buying an Android or iOS device.
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Best Tablet: Razer Project Fiona Tablet
Despite its status as a concept, Razer's Project Fiona Windows gaming tablet blew our minds. This slate easily separated itself from the sea of other tablets announced at CES 2012 because of its two handle-like joysticks and its ability to play full PC games such as “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations”. The 10.1-inch tablet will reportedly feature a Core i7 processor and run Windows 8 with a hybrid user interface for gaming. During our hands-on time, we enjoyed vivid, highly-detailed graphics, fast frame rates, and plenty of potential.
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Best Storage Device: Verizon Wireless Seagate Mobile Wireless Storage Device with 4G LTE
Combine a portable wireless hard drive with a blazing fast 4G LTE hotspot and you have a mobile file and media server like no other. A prototype update to Seagate’s Satellite GoFlex wireless hard drive, this device allows up to three simultaneous users to stream its music, photos, or videos to any Wi-Fi-enabled device. With the addition of Verizon’s 4G LTE network, users can also download music or stream movies from the Internet and have them stored or buffered on the hard drive. Even better, the drive can be used as an Internet file server, accessible all over the world. Though the device has no firm model name or ship date, Seagate seems confident we’ll see it for sale in the not-too-distant future, and we can’t wait.
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Best Mobile App: Splashtop Remote Desktop THD App
Play “Skyrim” on your tablet with Splashtop Remote Desktop THD, with no lag. After watching the app work for a few moments, its potential is immediately clear. Through THD, you can interact with your Windows PC on Android tablets seamlessly, and even configure buttons to fit your personal preferences. Optimized for quad-core Tegra 3 Android tablets, you'll be able to do everything from play the latest games and watch videos to access documents and stream music. This is the next generation of what remote access feels like.
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Best Camera: Nikon D4 DSLR
Nikon’s new flagship DSLR, the D4, makes every other camera feel inadequate. It features a full-format 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor with a 91,000-pixel 3D matrix for precisely reading the lighting and color of your subject. Whether you’re the photographer at a fancy dinner or your child’s soccer game, you’re going to get crisp pics thanks to a 51-point autofocus with 15 cross-type sensors. Plus, you can shoot full 1080p video with uncompressed HDMI streaming for directly recording your videos to an external device. This much technology doesn’t come cheap--$5,999.95 to be exact--but for prosumers and aspiring auteurs, the D4 is the pinnacle.
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Best Camcorder: Sony Bloggie Live
Proving pocket camcorders aren’t dead, the new Sony Bloggie Live is ready to catch every second of the action and stream it instantaneously to the Web with no fuss. Create an account with Qik and you’re ready to live stream, as long as you have access to a Wi-Fi signal. If not, never fear, the $249 Bloggie Live can use your smartphone’s mobile connection to send your videos out to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, DailyMotion, and Sony’s PlayMemories Online service. Plus, the Bloggie Live takes 12-MP still pictures--even while you’re recording.
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Best PC Accessory: Mobile Monitor Technologies Monitor2Go
A second monitor is essential, whether you’re in the office or on the road, and that doesn’t just mean for a laptop. The new Mobile Monitor Technologies Monitor2Go works via USB, but also connects to the iPhone, iPad or any Android device. This sub-$300 gadget folds flat into a 1-inch thick form factor, which conceals a roomy and crystal-clear 1600 x 900-pixel 15.6-inch display. The whole device weighs just 3 lbs. (thanks to a lighter aluminum than the previous generation), which will help lighten your load no matter where your travels take you.
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Best Tablet/Phone Accessory: Satarii Swivl
Somebody’s watching you--or at least your iPhone is. The innovative Satarii Swivl base attaches to your iPhone or pocket camcorder and then follows wherever the remote goes. Use it to be the star of your own YouTube videos or to stay in touch with family and friends on FaceTime. This accessory is dead simple to use, too. Just attach your iPhone to the base, turn on the remote, and you’ll be ready to go. The Swivl is such a simple, genius idea that we can’t believe we haven’t seen it before. It’s available for pre-order for $159 and will be released in the first quarter of this year.
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Best Car Tech: Mercedes Dynamic and Intuitive Control Experience
Mercedes Benz stormed into this year’s CES and turned heads with its incredible prototype Dynamic and Intuitive Control Experience. While most automakers were busy integrating apps into their vehicles, Mercedes managed to re-imagine the entire driver experience with its augmented reality-based DICE system. This in-car tech allows you to manipulate the interface with hand gestures similar to those used with Microsoft’s Kinect. The system also recognizes other drivers, projecting on the windshield an interactive icon with a status update when another DICE device is recognized. You'll also see interactive icons for points of interest nearby right on the windshield.
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Best Audio Device: Sonomax Technologies Sculpted Eers SD-150 headphones
You don’t need to fork over a small fortune to get earbuds custom molded to your ear canal. Sonomax Technologies Sculpted Eers SD-150 lets you do it yourself. The package contains a piece of headgear containing the unmolded silicone buds. Then, music lovers follow simple directions to create a great-sounding, custom fit in less than 10 minutes. In the end, for just $199, the SD-150s deliver quality audio with dual drivers and enhanced bass that’s meant for you and you alone.
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Best New Tech: Tobii Technology Gaze UI
Forget the mouse. Tobii Technology’s Gaze UI eye-tracking technology detects exactly where you're looking and treats it like the pointer on your display. We tried it out on a Windows 8 system, and, after fixing our gaze at any point on the spacious Metro live tiles, we launched apps. We could also sweep the screen to the left or right, or zoom using a combination of eye movements and touch gestures. We were even able to play a simple game of “Asteroids,” zapping flying space rocks just by looking at them. Though still a few years away from mainstream implementation, it's one of the thrilling innovation that leaves us wanting more.
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