Year 2015 top picks :The 10 best products and innovations

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Top 10 innovation 2015Thousands of products were launched at CES, but only ten garnered a PC Pro award. Here, we celebrate the very best product.

Best laptop

HP EliteBook Folio 1020

Forget what you consider to be a business laptop: the Folio is part of a new breed of sleek, sexy ultraportable, with Intel’s Core M processor taking a starring role. It’s this, along with a CNC aluminium chassis, that helps the 1020 to a sub-1kg weight. All this would mean nothing if it weren’t a pleasure to use in practice, but a top-quality keyboard and vibrant IPS screen ensure this won’t be a problem. Pricing and availability are still to be confirmed as we go to press, and we’ll have to wait until we get the laptop into our labs before can determine if its battery lasts the nine hours HP claims but so far, so fantastic.

Best phone

Asus ZenFone 2

We had to double-and triple-check the price, but it’s true: Asus claims this stunning-looking 5.5in phone will cost as little as $199 (around £131). The company hasn’t compromised on the core specifications, with 2GB of RAM for the base model a 4GB version will be available and an Intel Atom processor inside. Storage will range from 16GB to 64GB, and there’s a microSD slot to potentially expand that by another 64GB. Even more remarkably for such a cheap phone, it looks and feels like a premium device helped in no small part by a 1080p IPS display. It will arrive in the US in March; the UK release date is yet to be confirmed.

Best convertible

Toshiba Satellite Click Mini

If you want to travel with a tablet and a fully fledged laptop, then you have two choices: separate devices or a two-in-one. The latter design is starting to build momentum, and now Toshiba has joined the fray with the stylish Satellite Click Mini. It’s light just under 1kg in laptop mode; 470g as a tablet and Toshiba claims a stunning 16-hour battery life. We also love the 8.9in IPS display, with a generous 1,920 x 1,200 resolution. Our one caveat is that hitting small Windows 8.1 UI features when you want to minimise windows, for instance is a pain with a finger. A well-sized keyboard and Atom processor are both good enough for everyday use, making this a bargain at £249 inc VAT.

Best innovation

Intel Curie

Last year Intel took our top innovation award with its development platform Intel Edison including a 22nm SoC (system on a chip) for the Internet of Things. This year it repeats the feat by creating a button-sized module with an enhanced version of Edison’s SoC tailored for wearables. As we discuss on p15, Curie is a brilliant little innovation, making it simple for manufacturers of wearable tech think anything from bracelets to fitness trackers to build their devices without having to worry about the core technology. It’s small, yet potentially very, very big.

Best tablet

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 AnyPen

With so many tablets launched at CES, the winner of our Best Tablet award needed something a little bit extra special. And the Lenovo Yoga Tab 2 AnyPen has that in spades. Which, coincidentally, you could use to write on the screen, because this tablet doesn’t need a stylus to work: it works with any tip capable of conducting electricity. That could be a pencil, a biro, even a screwdriver and yes, that was part of the demo we saw at CES (pcpro.link/246anypen). A special finish on the 8.9in display prevents scratches, while an Intel Atom processor helps this Windows 8.1 tablet to 15 hours of battery life. We’re expecting it to go on sale early this year for around £250 inc VAT.

CES Top Pick

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi

So nearly the winner for Best Convertible, this 12.5in device is the largest in a new range of two-inone Transformer Books that Asus announced at CES. What makes it more interesting than the 8.9in T90 and 10.1in T100 is that it’s fully usable as a main laptop. While we struggled to type on the smaller machines’ keyboards, the T300’s is a full-sized affair with a decent feel to the keys. What’s more, it’s powerful enough to be your main PC, featuring a Core M processor, and a great 12.5in display the sample we saw had a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, but a Full HD version will be available. You can buy it now in the US from $699 (around £460); UK availability will follow soon.

3D Sound Labs Neoh headphones

With products such as the Samsung Gear VR (see p68), we’re starting to see the emergence of “immersive” visual environments. But what about audio? That next step could come thanks to companies such as 3D Sound Labs. It’s been working on a way to make surround sound a possibility in headphones so, when you move your head to look at something, the “sound field” moves to match. Look out for a Kickstarter campaign soon, where you’ll be able to pre-order a set with “extremely attractive early-bird special deals”.

Nvidia Drive PX

Autonomous cars drove one street closer to reality at CES 2015, with Nvidia launching a technology that could be the force behind the next generation of cars. Drive PX features two of Nvidia’s “super chip” Tegra X1 processors, which means it can handle up to 1.3 gigapixels of visual data per second enough to cope with dozen 2-megapixel cameras at 60fps around the car. That’s matched image-processing tech to build a of the car’s surroundings on the allowing it to auto-park, detect vehicles by make and model, take action to avoid obstacles.

Dell XPS 13

The 2015 update to Dell’s familiar XPS 13 range has one stand-out feature: its stunning screen. Dell refers to it as an “infinity display”, because the 5mm bezel on every side comes very close to making it look like it doesn’t have an edge. Nor is this just for looks: it means the all-new XPS 13 squeezes a 13.3in screen into what would traditionally be a 11in laptop’s chassis. With one of Intel’s fifth-generation Core processors inside, you can also expect plenty of speed, and Dell claims a superb 15-hour battery life. It’s available now with only one downside: the price, which starts at £1,099 inc VAT.

Lenovo LaVie Z

This laptop weighs 770g. Let’s repeat that: 770g. Not a tablet, but a fully loaded Windows 8.1 PC with a lovely 13.3in screen, Core i5 processor and 128GB SSD. And it weighs 770g. We were lucky enough to have a play with one at CES (pcpro.link/246lavie) and the experience of picking it up for the first time was simply bizarre: it feels like you’re holding an empty shell. The LaVie Z does have some drawbacks: with black, square lines, it’s no beauty; battery life is limited to six hours; and it’s only for sale in the US, for now. But if you find yourself Stateside from May, then you can pick one up for $1,299 (around £854).

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