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Tablets at CES 2013: Packing in those pixels

What's in store for tablets in 2013? Keep a close eye on CES 2013 to find out.

Will we see new, powerful Android tablets like the Nexus 10 at CES? I sure hope so. Josh Miller/CNET

This year was most assuredly the most successful and interesting year for tablets yet. But, as exciting as it was, 2013 has the potential to be even better.

In the consumer technology space, CES is still the very best harbinger of what's to come, and January's show will be no different. Though there are plenty of juicy rumors flying around, I don't yet know which tablets will debut at 2013's CES, and even if I did, I'd probably feel obligated to kill you if I told you. However, looking closely at recent trends and reports, it's not too difficult to piece together a solid picture of the possibilities.

Same sizes, but cheaper
By gobbling up the $199 Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire in droves, consumers sent a clear message to manufacturers: cheap, powerful hardware dropped into a well-designed chassis will sell. Manufacturers are thankfully beginning to realize that they can no longer release underpowered $500 tablets and expect to sell them. With great products like the $269 Nook HD+ and the even more powerful $399 Nexus 10 now in the wild, selling an overpriced, underpowered piece of hardware will be much more challenging.

Ah, Nexus 7: champion of little guys that could everywhere. Expect to see many more 7-inch tablets debut at CES 2013. Eric Franklin/CNET

I expect most of the sizes to remain in the 7- and 10-inch range; anything larger than that could prove too risky. Earlier this year, Toshiba took a chance releasing a 13-inch tablet, the Excite 13. I've yet to see what final sales figures were like, but I doubt Toshiba was happy with them. According to a Toshiba sales rep, the device has been discontinued.

More pixels!
The Nexus 10, iPad, and Nook HD represent significant high-water marks in screen resolution and pixel density. Expect this trend to continue. Unless it's under a 100 bucks, you likely won't see a 7-inch tablet with a resolution under 1,280x800 pixels and expect most mainstream full-size tablets to hit 1,920x1,200 pixels (or more) and never look back.

Faster processors (please!)
The fastest (at least on paper) Android processor yet is the Samsung Exynos 5250, currently residing inside the Nexus 10. It's a powerful CPU and indeed outclasses all other Android tablet processors. However, as fast as the Exynos is, based on my own personal experience, it can't compete in real-world performance with Apple's A6X in the fourth-generation iPad.

So here's hoping that whatever new CPUs debut at CES (the Tegra 4 has been rumored for a while) they'll come closer to matching the power of Apple's latest.

Expect this post to be updated with more predictions as we get closer to CES.