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Last week at CES, we saw a lot of really cool things. That "quadricopter" from Parrot that hovered in mid-air? Pretty sweet. But for $299, it's also pretty expensive for a toy. Razer then gave gamers a sneak peak at a tablet that will play full-fledged PC games — with a projected price tag of around $1,000. And even though LG claims that its stunning OLED HDTVs, a popular technology also on display at Samsung, will eventually cost the same as standard LCD TVs, that won't be the case until 2016. For 2012, both LG and Samsung's impressive OLED panels will likely be priced out of the reach of many consumers.
So what then can the average, budget-minded shopper take away from CES now? Well, luckily, this year at CES, we unearthed some bargain options for a handful of super-hot tech trends. For example, want to try out a 3D TV this year, but not convinced you want to spend the money? You might be thrilled to learn that we'll see the first 3D set from a third-tier manufacturer later this year. We're also anticipating the release of a more affordable ultrabook and the least expensive Android tablet to run Ice Cream Sandwich.
A 3D HDTV That Will Break Price Barriers
Tucked away in the Hilton hotel at CES, Westinghouse showed off its first 3D television (pictured), which also makes it the first third-tier manufacturer to tackle the technology. If you're a fan of cheap TVs, this is a very good thing. Vizio (as well as a few choice top-shelf manufacturers) have already begun pushing the prices of 42" and 46" / 47" 3D TVs down; in fact, we've seen models for as low as $680 and $780 / $798, respectively. But those are deal prices, after significant cuts from MSRP.
The Westinghouse model is set to debut at $899, which means retailers — likely Best Buy, newegg, Target, Walmart, and PCConnection, and others that typically carry the Westinghouse brand — could slash prices on this 3D HDTV by as much as 40% to 50% within a year of hitting store shelves, if it follows the typical pricing of other Westinghouse TVs. For example, last February, the LD4655VX model was selling for $750, or $250 off list just a month after the TV was announced. Now, less than a year later, this TV is consistently priced at $550. If the 3D Westinghouse follows a similar trend, it will eventually bring with it new all-time low prices for 3D. Moreover, come Black Friday, we'd expect a set like this to be at the top of the doorbuster list.
One caveat to note: Westinghouse's TV won't be LED-backlit. This is good and bad. It's bad because LED is the new standard in LCD panels. It's good because this omission is a big contributor to why the set can be so cheap to begin with, and why it'll be extremely deal-friendly in the future.
A More Affordable Ultrabook
The biggest push at CES this year was indisputably the widespread arrival of Ultrabooks, which are an Intel-inspired initiative. It seems that technically Intel is not defining the category in terms of form factor (see the company's response at the bottom of this article), but there is clearly emphasis on maintaining a thin and light profile; representatives at the Intel booth at CES told us that in order to be an Ultrabook, the laptop should be less than 1" thick.
Regardless of what you think about the Intel-created buzzword, there's no disputing the consumer desire for sleek, skinny laptops, as evidenced by the love for the MacBook Air. Several of these Windows-based models, however, clock in at $899, which is just $100 shy of the low-end MacBook Air's price tag. While that's a small difference at retail, non-Apple products are far more flexible in terms of deals, and we're likely to see sizable discounts in the coming months. Moreover, Lenovo announced that its U310 and U410 models (U410 pictured) will start at just $699 in May. That's 30% less than the cheapest MacBook Air, and these new Ultrabooks will likely become even more affordable after special promotions and sales.
The Cheapest Tablet to Run Ice Cream Sandwich
Android fans are eagerly awaiting the mass spread of Google's OS update, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) or Android 4.0. And it's no wonder, as early reviews have been glowing: Engadget even gushed that the OS offers "one of the largest and most important upgrades we've witnessed from Android since its humble beginnings." Sounds exciting, right?
The update is meant to be optimized for both smartphones and tablets, which means eager techies will want to try ICS out on a slate. And luckily, in the coming months, Coby is planning to release a 7" tablet (with 4GB of RAM and a front-facing camera) that will run ICS for just $179 — likely the cheapest way to get Android 4.0 on a slate. (There's also tech chatter about the Ainovo tablet priced to sell at $79, but it's currently only available in China and there's only vague mention of when it might hit U.S. soil.)
If the smaller specs on the Coby tablet don't do it for you, then CES also brought the souped up Asus Memo 370T 7" tablet. This slate will feature a quad-core CPU, as well as 16GB of storage — which is a lot for the diminutive $250 price tag. It too will ship with ICS, giving consumers two nicely-priced Android 4.0 tablet options.
So when can you get your hands on these tech items? Several of the aforementioned Ultrabooks are already available, so you can begin seeking out deals now. The Westinghouse TV likely won't appear until this summer, and the Coby tablet is slated for the first quarter of the year. Set up a customized email alert for any of these products to learn instantly when we find a deal.