CES 2013 preview: Computers and accessories

What to expect from Windows 8 laptops, desktops, hybrids, and convertible PCs.

If it feels like you've already gotten a full helping of new laptop, desktop, and tablet PC news very recently, you're right. That's because Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system launched at the end of October, and with it, dozens of new and updated computers from every major PC maker.

While it's great that we've seen so many new systems, including inventive hybrids and convertibles, very recently, it also means there may not be much left for CES 2013, especially compared with last year's ultrabook-heavy lineup. That said, there are still some major trends we expect to see, even if through only a handful of announced examples.

Touch screens on everything
The biggest surprise of the Windows 8 launch was the number of laptops of all shapes and sizes that included touch screens. This wasn't just hybrid or convertible systems that are designed to spend part of the time as a slate-style tablet, but also traditional clamshell laptops.The reason is Windows 8 and its tile-based UI -- it just works better with touch added as a secondary input method.

Just as importantly, we saw touch screens on laptops under $550 , meaning that just about any system above the lowest-end budget laptops can afford to add this feature, and for 2013, that's exactly what we expect -- almost every new midprice-or-better laptop will either feature a touch screen, or at least offer it as an option, making it the new mainstream.

The folding Lenovo Yoga laptop doubles as a tablet.

More twisting, flipping, and folding laptops
After many years of occasional, and rarely successful, experiments with rotating or detachable screens in Windows laptops, the concept finally came into its own during the final months of 2012, thanks to Windows 8 and the large lineup of launch laptops that went along with it.

We've already seen the nearly 360-degree folding Lenovo Yoga (itself a CES 2012 debuting product), as well as slider-style convertibles from Toshiba, Samsung, and others. For CES 2013, the pace may slow a bit, as many in-development products were rushed out to hit the Windows 8 launch, and a new PC announcement and release calendar no longer matches up as well with a January trade show as it has in past years.

The battery-powered Sony Vaio Tab 20, a tablet/all-in-one hybrid.

Cutting the power cord on all-in-one desktops
Most all-in-one desktop makers played it safe with their Windows 8 debut designs. Sony's Vaio Tap 20 was the major exception. A 20-inch all-in-one with a 3- to 4-hour laptop battery, the Vaio Tap 20 was like a supertablet, offering big-screen computing in a portable, truly wireless design.

Lenovo has hinted about its own plans for a battery-powered all-in-one. We wouldn't be surprised to see that PC or a similar design from another vendor show up at CES.

Intel presses its case in mobile devices
Intel is eager to see its CPUs cross over from traditional PCs to the growing smartphone and tablet market. What better time than CES to show a new batch of Ivy Bridge CPUs with improved power efficiency ? Whether it debuts those 10-watt chips in Vegas or not, expect any showing from Intel to focus heavily on mobile computing in all its many varieties.

A new push from AMD
Falling farther behind the Intel juggernaut, and facing pressure on the lower end from ARM processors, we expect to see some new announcements from CPU/GPU maker AMD. Its last several generations of processors have failed to impress with either better performance or lower prices for consumers, so there's a lot of opportunity for growth here.

 

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