What's coming in laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets
Apple Mac Pro
Availability: Fall 2013
The outlook: The updated model has pro-level Xeon processors and dual GPUs, making it a hot workhorse for high-end multitasking. But it's the design of this new Mac Pro that became a conversation topic; instead of a big square box, the new Pro is a shiny black cylinder that looks like it fell off the engine of a starship, allowing the pro-level power as the current boxy Mac Pro to fit into a much smaller space.
The outlook: The Flip attacks the hybrid engineering challenge by adding a hinge to the center of the upper lid, forming a horizontal line from left to right. The lid folds back along that line, allowing the screen to tilt back. First, it flips back to form a kiosk mode, with the screen pointing out from the back of the system (away from the keyboard and touch pad). Then the lid can be pushed shut to form a slate-style tablet, and unlike with the Yoga, the keyboard is on the inside.
The outlook: A standalone superthin Windows 8 tablet that connects to a flat keyboard, the Vaio Tap 11 is something between a slate and a full hybrid. The two parts clip together via magnets for a reasonably secure closed unit to carry, and when separated, the tablet half sits up on a built-in kickstand. It's the thinnest Windows 8 tablet you can get with a full Intel Core i-series CPU.
The outlook: How do you top the much-loved original? In the case of the just-announced Yoga 2 Pro, the star of the show is an ultrahigh-res 13.3-inch display, with a native resolution of 3,200x1,800 pixels. That puts the Yoga 2 in similar territory to the Toshiba Kirabook, Retina MacBook Pro, Chromebook Pixel, Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus, and a handful of others.
The outlook: Lenovo has a new take on the Yoga that should make a lot of people very happy. This new ThinkPad-branded model has a seriously engineered keyboard and chassis design that pulls the keys into the body as you fold it over backward into tablet mode. Genius idea, and great for making the tablet mode more backpack-friendly.
The outlook: The upcoming Mac OS remains familiar, but gives apps a cleaner look, fixes old bugs, and improves core technologies for power efficiency and responsiveness. On top of that, it brings iOS features into the fold, including new versions of iBooks, Apple Maps, Finder Tabs, and a number of other time-saving enhancements.
The outlook: The $329 Encore has a 1,280x800-pixel IPS multitouch display, and inside, it has one of Intel's upcoming new Bay Trail Atom processors, which may improve performance over current Atom models, plus 32GB of internal storage, and a microSD slot for adding up to an additional 32GB of storage.
Read our impressions here.
Photo by: Rich Trenholm/CNET UK
Microsoft Windows 8.1
Availability: October 18
The outlook: One of the biggest complaints for Windows 8 was the removal of the Start (or Windows) button in the lower-left corner of the desktop. As a compromise of sorts, Microsoft has reintroduced the Start button in Windows 8.1 in the lower-left corner of the screen. Clicking on it brings up the Start screen, where you can type a few letters to find and open apps, just like in Windows 8. You'll also be able to boot to the desktop, get a revamped Windows app store interface, and many other tweaks, small and large.