20 Coolest Products From CES 2011

Another CES In The Books

Attendance was up at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, and so was the excitement and optimism. From new notebooks and tablets to "super phones" and new 3D "printers," CES 2011 had plenty of cool gadgets, prototypes and products to show off. Here's a look at 20 of the coolest items CRN editors saw in Las Vegas.

Microsoft Surface 2.0

Microsoft's biggest news at the show came by way of the software giant announcing that the next version of Windows would support ARM's microprocessors, but the company had some attractive products to show off, including the new and improved Surface 2.0. The multi-touch platform, coupled with display hardware from Samsung and embedded processors from AMD, was re-introduced at Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote. The "gesture recognition" product now uses PixelSense Technology, which gives LCD displays the ability to see users without relying on cameras.

Motorola Xoom

CES 2011 may well be remembered for the deluge of tablets that populated the Las Vegas Convention Center. Among the suddenly crowded field were a few strong potential iPad challengers, including the impressive Motorola Xoom. The new 10.1-inch tablet boasts the "Honeycomb" version of Google Android and Nvidia's Tegra 2 mobile processor, giving the Xoom the title of the first dual-core powered Android 3.0 tablet. Sounds like the perfect product to use on Verizon's new LTE 4G wireless network.

Toshiba Tablets

Toshiba actually showed a couple different tablets at CES this year, including an Android-based tablet running on Android Honeycomb and Nvidia's Tegra 2 platform and a Windows 7-based model that features Intel's new Atom processor for tablets. The 10-inch tablets have a sleek design and rubberized back that make them easier to handle, plus a user-replaceable battery.

BlackBerry PlayBook

Research In Motion has its own 4G tablet coming to market via the BlackBerry PlayBook, a 7.6-inch device running on a 1-GHz dual core processor. But unlike other tablets, which are running either Android or Windows, the PlayBook uses BlackBerry's new tablet operating system, which is designed for business class applications and tasks. The PlayBook will be able to wirelessly connect to and synchronize with users' BlackBerry smartphones, too.

Samsung Series 7 Tablet

While tablets at CES 2011 may have started to all blend together after a few days, Samsung had a trick up its sleeve with the new "sliding" Series 7 tablet, which comes with an easy-to-use slide-out QWERTY keyboard that makes the device look like an extremely think netbook. Unlike Samsung's Galaxy Tab series, which run on Android, this 10-inch tablet runs on Windows 7 and also comes with Intel's next-generation Atom processor.

LG Optimus 2X

In another "first" at CES 2011, LG and Nvidia introduced the world's first dual core smartphone, or a "superphone." The Android phone is powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor and comes with a 4-inch WVGA display and 8 GB of internal memory, as well as full 1080p HD video playback and recording, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a front-facing 1.3-MP camera for video chats. The Optimus 2X was arguably the most impressive smartphone in Las Vegas.

Seagate GloFlex Thin

Billed as the world's slimmest portable 2.5-inch hard drive, Seagate's newest version of its GoFlex series measures 9mm and is about the size of a slender smartphone. The GoFlex Thin model comes with USB 3.0 and 7200 RPM drive speed, an upgradeable interface, and 320 GB of storage. Oh, and the drive is light, thin and easy to carry about in your shirt breast pocket.

Razer SwitchBlade

While Razer's Switchblade is currently just a concept design, it's a promising one. The gaming peripheral company introduced a new portable computer for PC gaming that's extremely small (172mm x 115mm x 25 mm) and runs on Windows 7 and Intel's Atom platform. The Switchblade has a 7-inch multi-touch display, a tactile keyboard, an HDMI port and USB 3.0 support. Could the Switchblade challenge the likes of Nintendo's popular DS mobile gaming devices? Stay tuned…

Polaroid GL10

Polaroid may have been left for dead after the advent of the digital camera made its instant photography obsolete, but the company stormed back at CES 2011 with a handful of new products. The most notable item is the GL10 instant mobile printer, which is about the size of an SD card reader. The GL10 can be connected to just about any digital camera, Polaroid or other, and print full-color 3x4-inch photos in less than a minute. The device uses embedded dye-crystal ZINK Zero Ink technology from ZINK Imaging, and users can buy ZINK paper cartridges for the GL10 so they can print photos on the go.

Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid with LePad Tablet

Last year's CES darling returned to Las Vegas with a few changes. The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 still comes with Windows 7 and Qualcomm's 1.3 GHz-Spandragon processor. But the detachable display tablet, now known as the LePad slate, comes with Android instead of Lenovo's Skylight Linux flavor. So users can now get a netbook and a tablet in one product and use both Windows and Android. While the IdeaPad U1 is available only in China, we're hoping to see a North American version soon.

AMD Fusion

The era of parallel computing, or CPU-GPU integration, began in earnest in Las Vegas, and AMD led the way with the unveiling of its Fusion processors, which integrate AMD's CPU technology with its Radeon 6800 series graphics capabilities. The chip maker's accelerated processor units, or APUs, include the low-power 1.6-GHz dual-core E Series for laptops and small desktopsd and the 1 GHZ dual-core C Series for netbooks and possibly tablets. Fusion chips were featured in a number of laptops from at the show from manufacturers such as Toshiba and HP.

Intel Sandy Bridge

AMD wasn't the only company getting into the CPU-GPU integration game. The world's largest chip maker introduced its long-awaited Sandy Bridge architecture in Las Vegas, and Intel CEO Paul Otellini called Sandy Bridge the best product his company has ever made. It's a bold statement, but one that has merit: the second generation of Intel's Core processor family sports major performance gains, not to mention a host of proprietary features like Intel Quick Sync Video and Wireless Display 2.0

Motorola Atrix 4G

Now that smartphones are coming out with dual-core processor power, who needs to carry around a big, heavy laptop? Motorola's Atrix 4G comes with a lot of the alluring features of other top smartphones such as Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor, Google Android, and a 5-megapixel camera. But the accessories for the Atrix are really what sets this phone apart; users can attach the device to Motorola's Laptop Dock and use the Atrix just like a notebook, thanks to an 11.6-inch screen and keyboard.

Samsung 9 Series

There were a lot of new notebooks and laptops at CES 2011, but few were as alluring as Samsung's 9 Series ultra-slim premium notebook, which could be a serious challenger to Apple's new MacBook Air. The 13.3 inch 9 Series packs a powerful punch with Intel's Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor and up to 128-GB worth solid-state drive storage and 4 GB of RAM. The sleek case design features Duralumin, which is twice as durable as aluminum, and weighs under 3 pounds while measuring just 0.64 inch.

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E220s/E420s

Lenovo's popular ThinkPad notebook series got another addition at CES 2011 with brand new Edge models: the E220s (12.5 inches) and E420s (14 inches). Both versions comes with the signature ThinkPad features as well as a few new tricks such a keyboard noise suppression and a lighter yet sturdier case design. The new Edge models come with Intel's Sandy Bridge Core i7 processor, full HD video support with an integrated Webcam, an HDMI port, up to 8 GB of RAM and a 320-GB hard drive.

Toshiba Satellite E305

Toshiba's newest version of the Satellite series is a strong contender, thanks to a number of features that make this mainstream notebook feel like a high-end model. The E305 comes with Intel's Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor, a hybrid hard drive, USB 3.0 support, built-in 4G WiMax, and Intel's Wireless Display 2.0 technology. Oh, and there's also a standard Blu-ray drive, an Led-backlit keyboard and more than 7 hours of battery life. Not bad for a laptop that will reportedly sell for a little over $1,000.

MakerBot Thing-O-Matic

It may look like something out of a mad scientist's lab and it sure has a strange name. But MakerBot's Thing-O-Matic could be scribed as a thing of beauty; it's a 3D printer that can be easily hooked up to your Windows, Mac or Linux system via USB. The device creates 3D plastic models using MakerBot's open source software, and according to the company the Thing-O-Matic can "print" objects as large as 6 x 6 x7 inches. Oh, and the 3D printing machine glows, too.

Samsung D8000/D7000 LED TV

It wouldn't be CES without some stunning display technology. Samsung at CES 2011 rolled out its new 3D enabled D7000 and D8000 flat panel televisions, which come in an attractive metallic design with a nearly invisible bezel. These beauties feature LED backlighting, 240-Hz refresh rate, and built in Wi-Fi. Samsung's new Smart Hub technology, which provides users with an easily navigable menu for finding video content, is also part of the package. Best of all, these televisions include a 3-inch video screen on the remote control. No word on pricing or availability, although Samsung says they’re coming this year.

Sharp Aquos Quattron 3D TV

Sharp used the CES 2011 stage to unveiled its new 70-inch Aquos Quattron flat panel 3D television, which offers 62 percent more viewing area than the company’s 55-inch models and delivers full 1080p HD. This monster features a 120-Hz refresh rate, full array LED backlighting and Sharp's proprietary Quattron Quad Pixel technology, which enables the processing of images with higher resolution and less jags in diagonal lines. It'll be available in May, but Sharp's not talking about pricing yet.

Toshiba Glasses-Free 3D TV

CES 2010 was all about 3D displays, and sure enough 3D technology returned to Las Vegas again this year. But some manufacturers, including Toshiba, are now pushing 3D displays that don't require those sometimes clunky and uncomfortable glasses. Toshiba showed off 56-inch and 65-inch 3D HDTV prototypes that project 3D images. While the images can at times be blurry and not as eye-popping as the 3D experience with glasses, Toshiba's technology was still impressive. No word yet on when the company plans to release glasses-free 3D displays, but it looks like this is a sign of things to come.