The annual CES (Consumer Electronics Show) marks the start of the new tech year. As marketers, experts and designers mingle to chat about what they see will be the most exciting new trends to hit the market, consumers are often left scratching their heads about some of the choices dubbed "hottest" or "must-have." While the novel and new age can be fun to dream about, the best gadgets are those that can be easily implemented into our everyday lives. We've taken some time to speak to tech lovers and everyday consumers alike to compile this best hits list for the coming year. (For more, read Top Tech For Your Buck.)
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It's a hand-down winner every year. Whether it's the newest iPhone or iPad, it's going to cause shopper panic and eager anticipation. This is the no-brainer of every year's list.
Already causing a stir in late 2011, the "ultrabook," or wafer-thin laptop designed to work with Windows 7, is hoping to be a worthy alternative to the MacBook Air. Weighing no more than three pounds, the ultrabook is expected to provide a super-portable option for those who demand higher computing abilities. Louis Ramirez, senior features editor for DealNews agrees.
"Every major computer manufacturer from Samsung to Asus is expected to have an ultrabook series in its repertoire for 2012," said Ramirez.
Ramirez also supports the popular verdict that Nintendo's Wii U gaming console will be the most asked-for in the new year. The U, which is described as having a "revolutionary touch screen controller" by the Nintendo official website, resembles a cross between a tablet and typical console and supports full HD graphics. While the new Wii U will support the original remotes and nunchuk controllers, as well have backward compatibility for all official Wii games, we wonder if the touchscreen component may prove to be awkward for younger players and costly for those wishing to upgrade. (To learn more about video games, see The Best-Selling Video Games Of All Time.)
For those of us who have finally adjusted to the splendor that is Windows 7, we can anticipate a whole new world of computing with the upgrades that Windows version 8 boasts to master. Louis reasons that the touch-sensitive capabilities will spur the launch of new touch-screen desktops that can take advantage of this feature. He also reminds us that the system will rely on the new mosaic-like Metro UI interface, which will "radically change the look of the current Windows desktop - trading Windows 7's desktop icons for a wall of widgets."
As far as digital cameras go, the Lytro (listed as one of the 50 best inventions of 2011 by TIME magazine), may be a game-changer. Andrew Schrage, editor of Money Crashers, looks forward to this quirky camera with a base price of around $399.
"I think it'll revolutionize what people expect in a pocket camera or even a more advanced digital SLR," said Schrage.
Part of the appeal is the ability to change the focus of any snapshot you take, after the fact - which means no more blurry images you wish you could change.
Roku Streaming Stick
The streaming entertainment desk-top boxes, made most popular by Roku, may soon be a thing of the past. The second part of 2012 will bring a slimmer, smaller version of the technology used to wirelessly bring movies, television, and games to our TV, as the Streaming Stick is introduced. Looking much like a typical USB thumb drive, but offering a more compact solution to those dust-collecting boxes, Roku hopes to give consumers a better option for software upgrades that are necessary to keep the entertainment flowing. The unit cost, around $50 – 100 for the new device, isn't the only thing you may be paying for. The Streaming Stick will connect via the MHL socket – something most TVs aren't yet equipped with.
The Bottom Line
It's best to do some research before you go "ga-ga" about any new piece of gear. As with most things, prices of new tech will come down, and bugs will be worked out the longer new gadgets are on the market. If you are concerned about blowing your budget on something that still has a few kinks, leave the risk-taking to the early adopters. (For related reading, check out Why You Shouldn't Buy New Tech Toys.)