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CES 2013: Best Technology Products and Innovations

CES las vegas 2013

David Becker/Getty Images

Kicking off what promises to be a year of incremental versus revolutionary innovation for the $195 billion high-tech business, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 was heavy on spectacle, light on substance. But look beyond the event's nearly two million square feet's worth of the weird (electronic forks), wacky (robotic spider walkers) and wild (110-inch, ultra high-def 4K TVs by Samsung and Westinghouse), and you'd notice something even cooler. Specifically, the future of technology – hyper-intuitive, always connected and increasingly built to provide convenience and value designed to fit your everyday lifestyle – quickly taking shape.

The big theme this year: "Smart" everything, as devices increasingly sport Internet connectivity, the ability to extend capabilities through apps, and options to create, share or download media to, with and amongst one another. Not that you'd know from highlight reels: a three-ring circus of splashy high-tech advancements from skyscraper-like screens to tabletop-sized tablets and accessories designed to solve every problem you never knew you had, continued industry excess was reflected in nearly every aspect of the occasion. With even chipmakers and so-called "ingredient brands" such as Qualcomm, AMD, Intel and NVIDIA suddenly vying for household recognition, marketers clearly arrived with megaphones blazing. Which of course, heralds a huge win for today's shopper: In a field long-dominated by engineers, the fact that insiders are suddenly rabid to court everyday end-users that have more choices and options than ever means we'll soon be privy to better gadgets that deliver more for the money – and do more to prove their worth right out of the box.

Following are just a few of the most eye-catching highlights. Inside tip: whether or not they'll actually find their way into your home or truly transform the market matters less than the fact manufacturers are trying to spoil us rotten. Expect greater power and performance, and a growing emphasis on function over flash, even as prices continue to plummet in coming months – always a plus for one's pocketbook, especially when you've got more ability than ever to shop around.

By Scott Steinberg

Monster Katana

Courtesy of Monster

Monster Katana

Post Beats by Dre, audio powerhouse Monster is doubling down on fashion and gaming, with 2013 highlights including its eye-catching VEKTR and MVP Carbon headphones. But the 400-watt Katana wireless digital speaker system brings the most noise of the manufacturer's new offerings, delivering clean, amplified audio and bass most Bluetooth rivals can't match. Compatible with streaming music from laptops, tablets and MP3 players, convenience and high-octane sound are key upsides here – a sign of where the industry's headed in 2013.

Samsung T9000

Courtesy of Samsung

Samsung T9000

Barely able to work your icemaker? Grab a snack and move on. But absent-minded professors and those operating at the speed of toddler will appreciate the finer points of this Android-powered fridge's oversized LCD screen, including compatibility with myriad apps like popular note-saving/-sharing service Evernote. Sorry, you can't play Angry Birds in your kitchen. But features should prove uniquely handy while simultaneously trying to keep kids from killing one another and making grocery shopping lists.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon

Courtesy Lenovo

Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon

Table or tablet – you decide. Either way, it's easy to see why this 27-inch high-definition touchscreen computer is going to be big on family game night. Secretly an all-in-one PC that's been designed as an oversized, group-friendly alternative to the iPad, tabletop systems are meant to be touched, tapped and prodded en masse, letting you easily browse photos, swipe through a music collection or dominate at Monopoly. Just one downside: Hand sanitizer sold separately.

Pentax MX-1

Courtesy of Pentax

Pentax MX-1

Adopting a more retro-futuristic vibe than rivals, Pentax's slick compact digital camera hits all the basics, including top-quality low-light shooting, speedy image capture and a robust range of manual inputs. But the brass-plated model really scores with its clean and comfortable control layout, and slick sense of craftsmanship that you wouldn’t expect from typical assembly line castoffs. Priced at $499.95 and due in February, it won’t come cheap, but should score serious points with style-minded shutterbugs.

Asus Transformer All-in-One P1801

Courtesy of ASUS

Asus Transformer All-in-One P1801

A schizophrenic, self-contained computer which doubles as an 18.4-inch desktop that runs Windows 8 when docked and portable Tegra 3 Android tablet when taken on the road. Packing a high-definition display the size of some performance laptops, it's not necessarily the first choice you'd pick for a traveling companion. However, if you're torn between which type of device to choose and refuse to compromise on features, it's an emphatic way to split the difference.

LG 55EM9700

David Becker/Getty Images

LG 55EM9700

Got a spare $12,000? You can experience LG's flavor of the future of television when its 55-inch OLED model hits the U.S. in March. Just 4mm thick, sets promise ultra-crisp and -bright pictures with staggeringly high contrast levels that existing models can't match. Think characters that better pop from backgrounds and black levels that reach shades so deep they appear bottomless. Big spenders be warned, though: That five-figure tag? Just a starting price.

AMD SurRound House

Courtesy of AMD

AMD SurRound House

Just as hyper-literate gaming bestseller BioShock's world of Rapture made the environment a vital storytelling element, so too does AMD's 360-degree audio technology promise to make positional sound a crucial narrative gaming device. Music and productivity applications could prove equally telling, though: Imagine standing in your living room enjoying symphonies that spin and swirl around you, or videoconferencing Star Trek-style, as voices echo from every corner of virtual auditoriums. Available now (and via a single PC), it's yet to be see what content creators make of it, however.

Sony Xperia Z

Courtesy of Sony

Sony Xperia Z

Think high-end performance meets hard-nosed practicality. Packing a quad-core Snapdragon processor for juggling premium apps, 4G LTE high-speed connectivity and 13MP camera (capable of point-and-shoot-grade photos), Sony's flagship phone doesn't skimp on technical horsepower. Thankfully, its hedonistic ways are also tempered by real-world practicality. Designed for durability, an anti-shatter 1080p HD display and water-resistant capabilities hope to protect what's all but guaranteed to be a nosebleed investment from encounters with butterfingered buddies and accidental plunges into portable toilets.

Hapilabs HAPIfork

Courtesy of Hapilabs

Hapilabs HAPIfork

A so-called "smart fork," this connected eating utensil – designed by the French, natch – hopes to curb America's obsession with overeating. Built to vibrate if you're wolfing down lunch too quickly (high-tech spoons also available!), the sensor-equipped gadget actually tracks how fast it's raised to your lips, then provides tangible prodding to stop porking out. Programmable by individual pace, data can even be transferred and tracked online, hopefully training you to stop doing your best DustBuster impression.

NVIDIA Project Shield

Courtesy of NVIDIA

NVIDIA Project Shield

Shockingly, in a field dominated by incumbent manufacturers like Nintendo and Sony, this portable handheld gaming concept comes from chipmaker NVIDIA, better known for its visual wizardry on PCs. Pairing a button-equipped controller with high-definition touchscreen built into a clamshell cover, upsides look to be equally novel. Able to run Android games and apps and output them through HDMI cable to TV, users can actually stream computer games to its 5-inch display via WiFi network. 

In This Article: CES 2013

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