This was a year of incremental change at the 2012 International CES. The most prominent products didn’t wow people with their novelty; they’re mostly bigger, better and Web-connected versions of familiar technologies. But consumers who love hot new gadgets, and have money to burn, will still be intrigued by some of the devices that manufacturers displayed. Here are a few of the stand-outs to watch for this year — at least until Apple announces some of its own new products. But remember: Consumer electronics makers are notorious for showing off products at CES that never actually make it to retail shelves, or take far longer to do so than companies envision:
Samsung’s 55-inch Super OLED TV: If you’re thinking about buying a TV set, look for one with an OLED screen. The technology (it stands for Organic Light Emitting Diodes) produces amazingly sharp images and since the screens don’t require back lights the sets are incredibly light and about a half-inch thick. Until this year, OLED was only available on screens smaller than 20 inches. But Samsung and LG led the pack in bringing the technology to large sets. Samsung’s model handles 3D and includes a camera and microphone – it can recognize the viewer and respond to voice and motion commands.
HP ENVY Spectre Ultrabook. Speaking of light and thin, you could hardly move on the CES show floor without seeing an ultrabook. And HP’s flagship model received the most positive buzz, especially after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer singled it out in his Monday presentation. Built mostly with sturdy Gorilla Glass, the Spectre with a 14-inch screen and an Intel Core i5 processor weighs less than four pounds, and supposedly can run nine hours before the battery needs to be recharged. HP says it will be available next month and cost about $1,400.
Samsung Galaxy Note. This blend of smartphone and tablet was possibly the most heavily hyped gadget at CES. It has a lot of fans – Samsung has sold 1M units overseas since October — although it struck me as clumsy. The phone, which will start here on AT&T’s 4G LTE network, has a 5.3-inch screen, 1.4 GHz dual core processor, and 16 GB of memory. You don’t need to use the included stylus to handle the tablet functions, but it helps.
Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone. This model, for AT&T’s 4G LTE network, is the best argument for going with a phone that runs Windows Phone 7.5. It has a bright 4.3-inch display, and an 8 megapixel camera. Our colleagues at BGR call the build “outstanding” and say that the software is “beyond smooth.”
Smart Devices. One message from CES is that just about anything can, and will, connect to the Web. For example, Whirlpool showed a washing machine that can email you when the cycle is done. You can track your weight on the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale; it transmits weight, body fat, body mass and other data for up to eight people to a private Web site. And the Tagg Pet Tracker uses GPS and the Web to help you find your four-legged friends when they have the urge to wander.