1. Dual-screen Ultrabooks
Manufacturers are creating ever more intriguing portable computing devices. Graft a tablet onto a thin laptop and we have a strange and wonderful 'tabtop/laptablet' dual-screen device that functions interchangeably. On the high-end of the spectrum are packed-to-the-gills devices like the upcoming Asus Taichi-a Windows 8 Ultrabook with two full HD screens, one on the inside for use as a laptop and the other on the outside for use as a tablet.
And all of this without sacrificing processing grunt-it packs an Intel Ivy Bridge processor with an Nvidia graphics chip that can, together, handle demanding apps. While such systems will cost more than $1,300, there will also be scaled-down versions, such as the Asus Yoga 11 based on Windows RT (its 32GB version comes in at $679).
2. Google Chromebook
For those who store all their data online in locations such as Dropbox or Google Drive, and who live off Google's web applications, the Google Chromebook might just be the ticket. Think of it as an affordable, thin and light web-connected netbook that serves as a platform for accessing several online services. It has limited storage and modest capabilities, but its entire raison d'etre is accessing online services. Starting at $199, it is a compelling device not just for personal use but also for the cloud-connected enterprises that need affordable, easily manageable devices that are more secure than conventional portable devices.
3. Intel's Next Unit of Computing
With miniaturisation being the catchword for nearly every area of technology, why should the trusty desktop be left behind? In September, Intel showcased a new Lilliputian 4-inchx4-inch machine that could well be the basis for computing devices you might find in your home or office soon. Built around an integrated board with an Ivy Bridge Intel Core i3 processor, two memory slots, the new thunderbolt connector and an external 19V power supply, it resembles a set-top box. While its modest specifications will not find use in applications that need processing muscle, it will appeal to daily applications like surfing the internet or serving movies across home networks. Keep an eye out for devices in this form factor-think home media servers or internet access boxes for the kitchen or porch. And at $300 to $320, cost won't be a deterrent.
4. Google Nexus 4
Given the glut of Android devices, it takes a lot for one of them to really stand out. But LG's Google Nexus 4, with its fantastic blend of technologies and form, seems to have done just that. Although its 4.7-inch IPS screen with a 1280x768 resolution, 1.5 GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and wireless charging might be surpassed eventually, it has set the gold standard for price-performance. The $199 entry point makes it the best value device in the market and will undoubtedly pave the way for lower-priced yet powerful smartphones in the year ahead. Of course, you'll need to fight the hordes before you get your hands on one, but the effort will be worth the anguish.
5. Solid State Storage
Chances are the next piece of personal technology you own will contain solid state drives (SSD)-storage in the form of memory chips, as opposed to conventional hard disk-based magnetic storage. Advancements in fabrication processes and technologies are breeding higher-capacity and cheaper SSDs that offer significant gains-higher speeds, greater robustness, lower power consumption, lighter weight and smaller size-over conventional platter-based storage. The primary deterrent has been cost per megabyte: SSDs are expensive to manufacture. But this is fast changing. With companies like Samsung announcing high-performance SSDs at $200 for 250 GB, the storage scene is poised to change. Although the prices are higher than conventional drives, Samsung says one in five drives shipped next year will have SSDs; this is expected to rise to one in two by 2016.
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