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CES 2012: The future of home entertainment

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Best in Show: LG 55EM9600 OLED 3-D TV
Inspiring techno-lust among all who gazed upon her, LG’s 2012 flagship 55-incher heralds an age of unbelievably sharp, rich, vivid — and thin! — OLED screens. Video fairly floats on the 4mm-deep screen (with just a 1mm-wide bezel), and 3-D is achieved using our preferred passive glasses rather than pesky active ones. (Second half 2012; price TBA)

Ultra-book: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
This was supposed to be the year of the ultrabook — light, superthin laptops à la the MacBook Air to compete with tablets. The results were mostly underwhelming, but Lenovo’s prototype definitely intrigued. It’s a slim yet robust laptop with a swiveling high-res IPS screen that folds back to make it a multitouch tablet. If this is the early version, we can’t wait for the final product when Windows 8 rolls out later this year. (Second half 2012; price $1,199)

Sony Walkman Z
Echoing the form and function of the iPod Touch, the Walkman Z is, amazingly, Sony’s first Android MP3 player. It’s light and fast with a nice user interface. And while there’s no built-in camera, there is an FM radio and HDMI out — options iPod Touch users have coveted for years. (Summer 2012; $249-329)

Eton Rukus wireless speakers
A standout among the bevy of high-priced or cheap but low-quality wireless speakers, the Rukus is both simple and clever. It comes in a battery-powered and a solar version (which can play as long as the sun shines), has an E Ink display to save juice, connects via Bluetooth to audio sources, and is surprisingly powerful for something so portable. (Spring 2012; $150)

Sennheiser RS220 wireless headphones
Wireless headphones are often plagued by interference or just bum audio quality. These high-end cans — like a wireless version of Sennheiser’s venerable HD 600s — are immune to those problems. Meant to impress finicky audiophiles and home-theater fanatics, they offer clear, uncompressed audio from both digital and analog sources from up to 100 feet away. (March 2012; $599)

Phablet Alert: Samsung Galaxy Note
One of the new class of so-called phablets or tabphones, the Android 2.3 Note pushes the idea of a mobile phone’s mobility with its colossal and crisp 5.3-inch Super AMOLED screen. The S Pen stylus allows precision input, whether you’re scribbling notes or creating a print-worthy illustration. (Date TBA; price TBA)

Sony PlayStation Vita
Sony’s new portable game player makes its bow nearly seven years after the release of the PSP. The Vita — which went on sale in Japan last month — is all about the upgrades, and comes with a sharp 5-inch OLED touch screen, an extra analog joystick, 3G wireless, a powerful processor, and the ability to continue games started on a PS3. (Feb. 22; $250-300)

HTC Titan II
Drawing cheers from Microsoft fans, the Titan II, along with rival Nokia’s Lumia 900, is one of the first LTE 4G phones for Windows. It’s zippy and smooth, despite a single-core processor, with a brilliant 4.7-inch screen. But what caught our eye is the included versatile camera app that lets you adjust the settings for the phone’s 16-megapixel shooter. (Spring 2012; price TBA)

Asus MeMo 370T tablet
A unique contender amid the Android masses, the 370T rocks a burly quad-core processor, has an HD-quality 7-inch IPS screen and a plethora of ports, runs Android 4.0 — and yet is priced almost the same as the comparatively puny Kindle Fire. Has Asus finally found a way to make inroads into the iPad’s market dominance? (Spring 2012; $249-299)

Insider’s Tip: Buy last year’s 3-D TV today
LG’s gorgeous new OLED set (previous page) is worth salivating over. But before you start planning your splurge, consider this: Right now, you can get last year’s quality 3-D TVs for a steal. Thanks to overproduction and slack demand, stores are slashing prices on 2011 models, giving consumers a once-in-a-blue-moon chance. Look for sets that were near top- shelf last year, and are feature-rich and less likely to be obsolete next year. You want an LED or plasma set with quality guts that’s 3-D ready, has smart-TV capabilities for accessing Internet content, and comes with a nice remote. We particularly like LG’s 3-D sets, which use less distracting and cheaper passive glasses: The 55LW5600 is a 55-inch LED that’s first-rate in every way, and at around $1,300 is about half its original price. For a plasma set, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Panasonic’s TC-P50ST30 for a little less.

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