Digital Trends’ Best of CES 2011 Awards

We came, we saw, we dozed nonstop after stumbling back home in a sleep-deprived haze. And after emerging from our hibernation, we looked back at a blur of circuits, silicon and screens that hail the beginning of the 2011 tech blitz. With more than 2,700 companies in attendance and 80 launches of tablets alone, CES 2011 brought plenty of hum-drum tech debris, but a select few companies also managed to rise above the din and make themselves heard with extraordinary products worthy of another look. Here are the products and concepts that made headlines at CES 2011, and will define the year to come.

Motorola Atrix 4G

Is it a phone or a laptop? The fact that we can honestly answer “both” is what makes Motorola’s Atrix 4G an extraordinary product. Rather than compromising the portability of a smartphone and the power of a laptop with a tablet form factor, the Atrix 4G preserves the best of both worlds by keeping them distinct, but easily combinable. The Android-powered 4G smartphone works like any other, until you snap it into Motorola’s laptop dock, at which point it essentially functions as an 11.6-inch notebook. A multimedia dock and vehicle dock will even further expand its capabilities, making it one of the most flexible devices we can’t wait to get our hands on.

RIM PlayBook

In the thick spread of tablets that littered the show floor CES 2011, RIM’s PlayBook stood out more than any other. RIM’s fresh approach to a tablet includes an original OS built from scratch with no ties to its smartphone platform, a dual-core processor that makes multitasking a breeze and Web browsing snappy, and a form factor that weighs less than a pound. Only numbers will tell whether RIM can carve out an appreciable share of the market at launch – and whether it can stand up to whatever the iPad 2 has in store – but for the moment it’s one of the best bets for anyone looking for a tablet without an Apple on it.

Razer Switchblade

For the first time, Razer has stepped away from making computer peripherals and started making computers, and we can’t believe the maestros of the mouse didn’t start earlier. The Switchblade concept is basically a miniature gaming notebook with a touch screen and, more impressively, an Optimus-style keyboard with keys that change function – and look – depending on the game you play. For the moment, it remains purely a concept, but Razer hints that it may partner with another company to provide a production notebook with the same concepts in the future.

Motorola Xoom

The first tablet to tap Google’s Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system is, not surprisingly, worthy of the honor. Motorola’s long-rumored supertablet features a hotrod Tegra 2 processor, sturdy iPad-like build quality, a buttonless front bezel, plus all the trappings of Honeycomb, like a revamped home screen, Google eBooks preinstalled, and all sorts of tablet optimizations. It will even be upgradeable to use Verizon’s 4G LTE network in the future, has more screen resolution than the iPad, and Motorola has included oddities like a barometer, which can be used to detect altitude and weather changes. Come on, Motorola, we know you’ve got a killer tablet in you.

Nvidia Tegra 2

When a smartphone can pull tricks that would have been impressive on a laptop from a few years ago – like fluid 1080p decoding – you’ve got to tip your hat. Nvidia’s dual-core Tegra 2 will be found in everything from the latest tablets, like the aforementioned Motorola Xoom, to smartphones like LG’s Optimus 2x. Every piece of hardware we tried with a Tegra 2 inside moved along effortlessly, game demos met and surpassed what can be done on consoles like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, and 1080p playback had us dreaming of casually hooking up a phone in a friend’s house to play back Blu-ray quality video from a pocket-sized block.

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