Each January at the Consumer Electronics Show, companies gives us a glimpse into both the near and far future. And while many products we get a chance to see come out within the first or second quarter of the year, many take a little longer… if they come to market at all. And, of course, devices that seem to have promise on the show floor sometimes don’t look so hot once we actually get our hands on them. On the eve of CES 2011, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at last year’s crop of Best Of CES winners to see where they are now.
The Core i5 chip is definitely a success story. Throughout the year we’ve reviewed dozens of systems with this CPU and found performance more than satisfactory across the majority of systems. Four of the Best Notebooks of the Year sported Core i5 processors, in categories ranging from budget to high-end ultraportable.
We’re still big fans of the concept behind the U1 Hybrid and are still eager for it to come to market. Though Lenovo first slated it to hit stores in the summer, the rise of the iPad and Android as a powerhouse tablet OS made Lenovo rethink their plan to couple Windows 7 with their homegrown, Linux-based Skylight OS. However, the U1 is not dead, according to the company. In fact, we may see a revamped version in 2011 and Engadget even got hands-on with a prototype.
The poor Lenovo Skylight is another product that never made it to market, this time a victim of category death. Smartbooks seemed to have so much promise, but tablets stole the show early in the year and the industry couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm for these tweener devices. It’s too bad, since the Skylight was a seriously beautiful machine. We hope Lenovo finds a way to salvage the design, because it’s far too good to waste.
The S10 Blade is one of those devices that looks good on paper but falters in execution. We liked this convertible netbook’s design when we saw it at the show, and it still got high marks for that once it came into our labs for testing. However, its sluggish performance was a major problem.
Perhaps it was the Z series Atom CPU Viliv saddled it with, or the slower than usual PATA solid state drive. Plus, the pre-production unit we tested got dangerously hot underneath; not good on a normal netbook, and certainly not on a tablet you’re meant to hold. Though the S10 Blade didn’t live up to the potential we saw in it, we’re still hoping to see something great from Viliv this year.
One of the first phones to earn the Superphone appellation, this device featured a 4.8-inch, 1024 x 480 resolution screen and utilized Intel’s Moorestown platform chip. The result was a multitaskers dream phone capable of displaying different running content side by side on its generous screen. At first it seemed that the GW990 was destined for stores by the summer, but in April LG announced that it was just a concept and would not actually come to market. Was it the Moblin OS or the CPU that put the final nail in the coffin? Hard to tell. Still, we’re likely to see descendants of the GW990 before long.
It took a while to finally show up for sale, but this iPhone-controlled RC helicopter toy did go on sale in time for the holiday rush. It’s just as cool as we first thought, and the accompanying app is intuitive enough for everyone in the family to grok.
When we finally got our hands on the Boxee Box it was still as impressive as when we got our first glimpse at CES. The design is still great, the hardware robust enough to handle any media you throw at it, and the interface really well done. The problem the Boxee Box faces is the same one all of the set-top boxes we saw this year faced: content. Networks and movie studios are still floundering in this digital media world, and Boxee Box could weather the storm or become a casualty. We hope it’s the former, because we’re ready for the Boxee to become a permanent fixture in our living room.
The Alex was one of the few products that came to market when the company promised it would. It also mostly lived up to its claims, offering a good eBook reading experience coupled with the freedom of Android. Unfortunately, this eReader didn’t catch on with many consumers due to its high price; it never found its way into Borders stores as the company hoped. It also failed to keep up with the rapid changes in the world of Android — current models still run version 1.6. Plus, with the explosion of tablets, the nature of multitasking eReaders has shifted somewhat. We still like the Alex for what it is, but we wish it did more.
Mirasol remains an exciting technology — the idea of full and deep color on an LCD-like screen with the sunlight-friendliness and low power consumption of E Ink is deeply appealing. Qualcomm said that they would start shipping displays by the end of the year, so we didn’t expect to see too many products until around this time. Now there are rumors that PocketBook will show off one of the first eReaders with a mirasol display at this year’s CES. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing the market-ready version.
Check out our CES 2011 preview for a sneak peek at what we expect out of this year’s show.