The Big Hits of CES 2012, So Far

Most of the big announcements at the annual gadget show have been made. Here are the phones, tablets, computers, TVs and more that will make a difference this year.

CES's Early Contenders

One of the secrets of CES is that many of the biggest products of the show are unveiled before the show even officially begins. At a series of press conferences Monday, companies such as AT&T, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and others showed off the products they hope will make stir this year. Here are PCWorld editors' choices for the best of the show so far.

Of course, there are still lots of surprises in store once the show doors open for real on Tuesday, so keep an eye on our continuing CES coverage.

Vizio Laptops

The TV maker is looking to break into the laptop market later this year, but, their laptops, unlike their TVs, are targeted for the top of the market. The machines, slated for release in mid-year, impressed our laptops editor, Jason Cross, with their aluminum unibody design and high-resolution screens. Perhaps the most refreshing part of Vizio's plan: They promise there'll be no stickers and no crapware, just a clean Windows installation and Microsoft Security Essentials.

Samsung Galaxy Note

Is it a phone or is it a tablet? That may be the hardest thing to figure out about the Samsung Galaxy Note. The new 5.3-inch device allows you to use a Waacom-made stylus to take handwritten notes, but you can also use it to make phone calls, though you may feel strange with such a huge chunk of plastic and glass against your ear. (Check out how large it looks in the hands of our smartphone editor Ginny Mies.) We know the LTE-enabled Note will be exclusive to AT&T's network, but we don't know yet when it'll be available or how much it'll cost.

Canon Powershot G1 X

It must have been tempting for Canon to build a compact interchangeable lens camera like all its rivals. But the company bucked the trend and opted to build a really formidable fixed lens shooter instead. The most impressive thing about the PowerShot G1 X is the large CMOS sensor; at 18.7mm by 14mm, it's six times larger than the sensor in the acclaimed PowerShot G12. According to cameras editor Tim Moynihan, that sensor allows for faster continuous shooting, 1080p video and sensational depth-of-field effects.

HTC Titan II

The biggest knock on Windows Phone 7 smartphones hasn't been the OS, it's been the hardware. So far, the specs of most of the handsets have been unimpressive. HTC seems to be looking to change that with the Titan II. In fact, they might even be overcompensating by offering an eye-popping 16 megapixel camera. But that's not all the Titan brings. It also has the largest screen of any Windows Phone device at 4.7 inches and a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S2 processor. AT&T, the network with the largest stable of Windows phones, will offer the Titan II.

55-inch OLED TVs from Samsung and LG

This isn't the first year we've seen OLED TVs at CES, but the previous models were tiny – 10 or 12 inches. Seeing video on a nice big OLED screen is a whole different experience. The colors are vivid and rich and the screens have tiny bezels that make the TVs, one from LG and one from Samsung, seem to just hang in space on their own. Samsung says their OLED set should be out in the second half of the year. No news on the availability of the LG model. And the companies didn't announce prices for either set. They won't be cheap, but if you love a great picture, they may be worth it.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720

All-in-one desktops are often used primarily for entertainment, so it's natural that they're starting to approach the size of small TVs. The Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 is a massive 27 inches, but it doesn't look huge because the screen is so thin (Lenovo packed all the components in the A720's base). This IdeaCentre is also capable of laying flat, letting you use the touch screen without having to hold your arms up for minutes on end like a tired boxer.

Sharp 80-inch 3D LED TV

The attitude of Sharp's TV division seems to be that web-connected features are nice, but what people – alright, let's face it, what guys – really want is the biggest TV they can afford. The Sharp LC-80LE844U is more than just a small billboard, though. It features Sharp’s Quattron technology for better 3D images, plus it has LED backlighting and refreshes at 240Hz to keep fast-moving video clear. Oh yeah, and the set, due out in April, can connect to the web through its built-in Wi-Fi. But you probably won't pay $6500 for the web apps; you'll pay it to induce TV size envy in your friends.

Nikon D4

At $6000 for the body alone, the Nikon D4 is something most camera buffs will only dream about. But what a dream it is. With a sensor that measures 1.4 inches by 0.94 inches and a top ISO level of 204,800, you can shoot in the dark with the D4. And you can shoot fast, too: 10 frames per second at full 16.2-megapixel resolution. The D4 is due out in February, so start saving.

Huge TVs are great when you have the time to kick back on the couch. But it can be frustrating to have lots of great shows stored on your DVR and be unable to play them on one of the other screens in your life – a laptop, an iPad, or your office computer. The DVR streams to virtually any web-connected device, inside or outside of your home. And since it uses your own hard drive connected by USB, you can have virtually unlimited storage space. The is due out this spring. The hardware will cost $149 and the service $4.99 per month.

Acer Iconia Tab A700

When Acer showed off the Iconia Tab A700 on Monday morning, it was the only tablet with a fine-grained 1920 by 1200 pixel resolution. That distinction lasted only a few hours, until Asus announced the Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF700T with the same resolution. But pixels aren't the only things that distinguish the Acer tablet. The company has managed to significantly diminish glare on the A700 and the Ice Cream Sandwich slate has a solid design with a good selection of ports.

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