The best mobile products at CES 2013 have much to tell us about the year ahead in tech. Based on what we've seen in Las Vegas, 2013 will see many new players enter the mobile gaming space hoping to make Windows gaming portable or Android achieve gaming parity with PCs and consoles. Your smartphone may even end up parking your car.
Now that you can get a watch that measures your heart rate, the market for fitness-enabled wearable technology will continue to explode, while both standalone cameras and hard drives become even more tightly integrated with your smartphone and the Web. LAPTOP's Best of CES 2013 winners also demonstrate that the most exciting innovations can come from both the largest companies and the scrappiest of startups. Here are our top picks.
Best Laptop/Convertible: Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
If you’re going to make a detachable Windows 8 convertible for business users, it had better offer more than Live Tiles when you pop the screen off its base. The ThinkPad Helix (coming this spring) does just that with a versatile design that enables users to flip the 11.6-inch touch screen around easily for giving presentations and a built-in digitizer pen for converting your notes to text. We also love the brightness and sharpness of the Helix’s 400-nit, full HD display. When you combine the slate and keyboard dock, this hybrid promises up to 10 hours of battery life. Despite its slim profile, the Helix’s keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience along with a roomy and responsive glass touchpad. While we wish Lenovo included an SD Card slot, the ThinkPad Helix has all the makings of being the dream notebook-tablet combo for road warriors.
Best Smartphone: Sony Xperia Z
Sony made a big statement at CES with a flagship phone that delivers all of the best technologies the company has to offer--plus a very pleasant surprise. The Xperia Z sports a 5-inch 1080p display powered by Sony’s Bravia Engine 2 (for lifelike colors) and a 13-megapixel camera with Sony’s Exmor RS sensor that captures HDR video (for evenly lit footage). The real kicker is that the Xperia Z can withstand being dunked in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes and even stream your favorite tunes to a nearby Bluetooth speaker while submerged. Add in a quad-core processor, a new stamina mode for improved standby time and easy one-touch sharing with NFC devices, and you have a winner.
Best PC Accessory: Lenovo Thinkvision LT1423
You can never be too rich, too thin or have too many screens. In the past, we've touted the benefits of bus-powered USB monitors that you can take on the road, but the 13.3-inch ThinkVision LT1423 is so much more than a portable second display. With its 10-point touch screen, active stylus and high-res 1600 x 900-pixel panel, this 1.6-pound monitor lets you add the full Windows 8 touch experience to a traditional notebook. Even better, the LT1423 connects to your computer via Wi-Fi, allowing you to use it in the backyard while your PC sits in the upstairs bedroom.
More:Lenovo ThinkVision LT1423 Adds a Wireless Touch Screen to Your Laptop
Best Tablet: Razer Edge
The true mark of a successful product is its ability to evolve. From the promising beginnings of last year’s conceptual Project Fiona comes the Razer Edge, the world’s most powerful tablet. The base model of the 10.1-inch, Windows 8 slate features a 1366 x 768-pixel display, an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce 640 LE GPU. These healthy specs enable the Edge to play demanding PC games like "Civilization V" and "Dirt: Showdown." The Edge also expands upon the original design, adding an optional keyboard, media dock and detachable gamepad. The end result is an adaptable mobile device that surpasses most products on the market.
Best Tablet/Smartphone Accessory: Moga Pro Controller
CES 2013 offered a cornucopia of smartphone accessories, but the most impressive device is PowerA’s Moga Pro. Building on the trend of smartphone gaming, the Moga Pro is a full-size Bluetooth-connected controller built specifically for Android games. Instead of forcing users to smudge up their screens, the Moga Pro draws on the tried-and-true design of console-style controllers--complete with rear bumpers and joysticks--to give users a more intuitive and responsive experience. An included miniHDMI port between the bumpers even lets users stream content to their TVs. An extendable arm located on the rear of the Pro can hold smartphones as large as the massive Galaxy Note II. So no matter what Android phone you have, you’ll be able to maximize its gaming fun.
Best Gaming Device: Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset
Some devices let you control your games with motion or touch, but only one lets you step into the game itself. Oculus Rift won over the hearts of gamers everywhere during its successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $2.4 million to bring fully immersive virtual reality to consumers. We're excited to say that Oculus Rift is delivering on the young company’s lofty promises. The wide viewing angles offered by this headset and the ability to control your character’s direction just by looking where you want to go transports you into the world of the game better than any big-screen TV or motion sensing input. Oculus Rift is an evolution of gaming itself, and we love where it’s heading.
Best Camera/Camcorder: Samsung NX300
A lot of cameras now have built-in Wi-Fi, and some even run full versions of Android, but the Samsung NX300 is the most complete when it comes to achieving the ideal of a connected camera. With just the press of a button, you can link the NX300 via Wi-Fi to an Android or iOS app, upload photos to the Web and even use your phone as a remote viewfinder. But at its core, the NX300 is just a good camera, period. It has a solid build, a 20.3-megapixel sensor and a 3-inch AMOLED touch screen, and it can use a wide range of lenses, including one that lets you take 3D photos. It’s a real snapshot of the future.
Best Storage: Seagate Wireless Plus
It’s not so much the hard drive itself, but what you can do with it. Once you get the 1TB Seagate Wireless Plus loaded with your movies and music, you can stream the content to up to eight devices simultaneously, whether they're Android, iOS or the Kindle Fire. Since last year, Seagate not only made its mobile app more intuitive, but added a ton of features. Now you can also save all those photos and videos from your smartphone to the drive. And when you get home, an app on Samsung Smart TV lets you watch whatever is on the Seagate Wireless Plus on your big screen. Best of all, its battery will last for up to 10 hours. Not bad for $199.
Best Audio Gear: SOL Republic Master Tracks
An ultra-durable design, crisp, clear audio and an affordable price tag--these are the things award-winning headphones are made of. Making use of new X3 Sound Engines, Sol Republic’s Master Tracks offer deep lows, as well as impressively clean highs and mids. However, Sol Republic has kept the nearly indestructible headband made from the company’s proprietary FlexTech Sound Tech handband. In fact, the company offers a 1,000-day guarantee that would replace the headband should it actually break. Similar to the original Tracks, the Master Tracks offer a variety of colors (both for the headphones themselves and the headbands) for a reasonable $199.
Best Fitness Tech: Mio Alpha Sports Watch
Getting the most out of your workout means getting your heart pumping at just the right rate. Unfortunately, most pulse-monitoring gadgets require a chest strap, which isn’t the most conducive for those who just want to get out there and run. The Mio Alpha wristband gets around this obstacle by implanting two optical sensors in the underside of the watch, which then see how much blood is flowing. A quick glance down at your wrist not only tells you your time, but also your heart rate and if you’re in the zone. The watch can also pair via Bluetooth with a number of fitness apps already on the market, so you can track your progress. The Alpha looks pretty good on your wrist, too.
Best Car Tech: Audi Pilot Parking for Audi Connect
Audi rolled into CES 2013 and immediately stole the show with its Pilot Parking for AudiConnect. While other automakers are concentrating on infotainment systems, Audi is reinventing the way people drive. The autonomous vehicle system, which Audi demonstrated in a parking garage, allows users to remotely park and retrieve their car via an iPhone app. The idea is to allow drivers to exit their vehicles at a hotel or mall, tap the Park button on their smartphone and watch their car drive off and find its own space. When you’re ready to be picked up, simply tap the Pick Up button on the app, at which point the Audi will pull out of its space and meet you at the appropriate location. The fact that Pilot Parking uses existing vehicle sensors means that Audi could conceivably begin offering the system to users within the decade. The future is indeed here.
Best Innovation: Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC
While most gadgets make it all too easy for us to bury our faces in our screens, Lenovo's IdeaCenter Horizon will bring people together. What makes the 27-inch Horizon different is its table-top friendly Aurora UI, which pops over Windows 8 as soon as you fold the system flat. With Aurora running, several members of a family will be able to sit around the large slate and treat it like a high-tech coffee table, with each person interacting with a different part of the screen. What can you do with this Tablet PC? Users will be able to play card games, challenge each other in air hockey or arrange photos and videos as if they were Polaroids on a desk, all by using the 10-point touch display. At its CES press conference, Intel demonstrated this system as an example of how the chip-maker is trying to "bring back" family game night. Expect Lenovo’s competitors to drive toward this Horizon.
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