It’s never a bad year to soak up new technology, but we’ll still go out on a limb and say 2011 has been a particularly good one for gadget fiends. Sure, on the surface, 2011 lacked the many landmark product introductions that have changed the landscape of technology. A year like 2007 brought the first iPhone, first e-reader, and first netbooks. Even the tablet revolution we’re experiencing now started back in 2010. No, the last 12 months can’t lay claim to many new buzzwords, but 2011 will stand out as a year many of these technologies reached new degrees of performance, affordability, and practicality.
Smartphones now connect at 4G speeds, pack dual-core processors, and run two mature, fully featured operating systems, with a third still brewing. Ultrabooks have taken the successful design elements pioneered by the MacBook Air and made them more affordable. A number of potent Android tablets have given the iPad a run for its money, and low-price introductions like Amazon’s outstanding Kindle Fire now sell for as low as $200. It’s a good time to be a geek.
With such a plethora of hot silicon on the market these days, we’ve rounded up our favorites in every category to both look back at the devices that defined the year, and give credit where it’s due. We’ve seen it all. Here’s what takes the cake.