CES 2012 recap: New TV tech excites, tablets are toast

CES

The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the biggest technology trade shows in the world, and this year’s CES was as big as it has ever been. It was estimated that between 140,000 and 150,000 people attended the show in Las Vegas this week — CES’s record stands at 149,529, achieved last year — and the show was as busy as we’ve ever seen it. Hundreds of companies touted thousands of gadgets and all of the big names were there showing off their upcoming wares. As is always the case, however, a few products managed to outshine the rest. Here, we provide a quick rundown of our favorite tech from CES 2012.

As is common here at CES, TVs took center stage. Big-name brands come to the show in full force every year, each trying to push boundaries and innovate in one of the most crowded spaces in consumer electronics. This year was bigger than ever for ultra-thin HDTVs that were slimmer and brighter than ever before, and we saw a renewed vigor surrounding “smart TVs,” which provide integrated connectivity and app support. While it was a great show all around for TVs, two companies in particular really wowed us this year.

Samsung came to the show packing plenty of new TV tech, but the gorgeous panels on its Super OLED HDTVs blew us away. The South Korea-based vendor’s new displays are remarkably bright, the colors are incredibly vivid and designs are beautiful. Samsung has helped make HDTVs something of an art, and anyone would be proud to display one of the company’s new Super OLED TVs at the center of his or her living room.

The other company that came out swinging this year was LG. Its 55-inch OLED TV was the only unit we came across that could possibly give Samsung’s new models a run for their money, offering a slender borderless design and an infinite contrast ratio. It also uses LG’s Color Refiner technology to produce a picture that is beyond stunning. In an effort to get the jump on a potential new competitor, Samsung, LG and others also showed off voice controls, face recognition and other new features. It was interesting to see how these companies plan to cut Apple off at the pass, especially considering its Siri-fueled HDTV is nothing more than a rumor at this point, but we’re looking forward to seeing motion and voice-based controls become commonplace in the living room.

While the most exciting smartphone-related announcements of the year typically happen at Mobile World Congress and the CTIA Wireless show, there were a handful announcements made at CES 2012. HTC, outed the Windows Phone-powered Titan II, Motorola had two new smartphones on hand — the DROID 4 and DROID RAZR MAXX for Verizon Wireless — and Sony Ericsson unveiled the Xperia ion and Xperia S, among others. When all the dust settled however, the smartphone we found ourselves most excited about at this year’s show was Nokia’s Lumia 900 for AT&T.

Nokia’s first flagship Windows Phone for the U.S. market is a stunner, offering the same unique design as the Lumia 800 but on a larger scale. The sleek smartphone will hit AT&T in March featuring a 4.3-inch ClearBlack display, a 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor, 4G LTE and Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. We took a hands-on look at the Lumia 900 and suffice it to say we can’t wait for Nokia to begin shipping review units.

The ultrabook was also a hot item this year, with a number of vendors looking at the high-margin slim notebook as a far more appealing alternative to netbooks of old. But it wasn’t just netbooks being replaced by these slender Wintel laptops, tablets took a huge hit this year as well.

At last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, more than 100 new tablet models were unveiled as vendors from around the world looked to capitalize on a new market created by Apple’s iPad. Only, that didn’t happen. Android was the king of the slate during CES 2011 but at this year’s show, Android tablets felt like a distant memory. Only a handful of new Google-powered tablets were unveiled by companies like Toshiba and ViewSonic, and Samsung had a new version of its 7-inch Galaxy Tab for Verizon Wireless on display.

Despite Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich now being available to vendors, many look to be focused on Windows 8 as the more promising tablet platform. Microsoft has made it quite clear that tablets and convertible, touchscreen-equipped notebooks are a huge part of the strategy with its next-generation operating system. With big chip makers like Intel and Qualcomm confirming that Windows 8 will be a major focus, a number of tablet makers appear to be looking forward to Windows 8 as opposed to backward at Android when it comes to future tablet efforts.

In the end, CES 2012 got us excited about the tech we’ll see rolled out over the next six months, and even more excited about what we’ll see emerge further down the line. Always on, always connected, ultra-thin, ultra-portable, slim, sleek and stylish… this is the future of consumer electronics. Thanks to all of our great readers for tuning in this past week, and thanks to Verizon Wireless and Novatel for creating the only 4G LTE Mi-Fi portable hotspots that could manage to keep us connected reliably, the CEA for putting together another amazing show, Sprint, Nokia and others for hosting great events, and LensRentals.com for providing BGR with the cameras and gear that made our coverage possible.

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