LAS VEGAS--It's a rare CES for which most of the digital ink spilled is about computers and hardware, rather than giant televisions. But 2012 was just such a year, thanks to the never-ending drumbeat of Intel's ultrabook platform.
Yes, ultrabooks again
It seems like you couldn't walk more than a hundred steps across the velvety carpet of the CES show floor without running into a giant ULTRABOOK or WINDOWS 8 sign. The first official ultrabook-designated laptops (it's an Intel marketing term) arrived during the 2011 holiday season, but CES 2012 was a coming-out party for a host of new designs from nearly all manufacturers.
The laptops ranged from the diminutive (the) to the large and bold (the ), and to the copycat (the MacBook-Air-alike ). And , some with optical drives, dedicated graphics, and hybrid solid-state/hard drives, have begun to blur a category only in its nascency, leading us to ask if the category will suffer from unnecessary mission creep.
Will that mean that consumers will have a hard time, or even feel the category has by the end of this year? Ultrabooks may be the industry's next great hope, judging by Intel's ultrabook-obsessed keynote presentation, but that doesn't mean consumers are never going to want anything different.
But not just ultrabooks
Only a handful of other, non-ultrabook laptops really stood out.
Further blurring the line were are-they-or-aren't-they systems such as the, which looked and felt like ultrabooks, but didn't technically meet Intel's internal standards for that category. It's probably a good bet that we'll see a lot more almost-ultrabooks (fauxtrabooks?) in the near future. , which folds over into a tablet, was another hard-to-categorize product--so much so that we nominated it for an award in our tablets category.
Largely missing from the show were the workhorse systems that most price-conscious shoppers end up with. Lenovo with theand Samsung with the , for example, at least showed up with something other than razor-thin laptops.
Fortunately, we also got to see a handful of interesting new desktop PCs. Samsung impressed us most with its. After a couple of years of nonstop iMac knockoffs, it's refreshing to see PC makers take a divergent approach to design. On top of that, this system is indicative that the 27-inch screen is quickly becoming the new norm.
Waiting for Ivy Bridge
By the end of the show, despite a handful (a big handful, but still a handful) of interesting-looking new products, everyone in Las Vegas knew that CES 2012 was a bit of a tease. Windows 8 and Intel's next-gen CPUs (code-named Ivy Bridge) won't be commercially available until later in the year, bringing with them everything from a touch-friendly PC interface to native Thunderbolt support.
We saw a handful of Windows 8 systems floating around (many behind closed doors), and heard a lot of hushed talk about Ivy Bridge, but all that makes us think next year's CES will be the real game-changer.