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Best of 2013: It's All About Networking

September 1, 2013 By John R. Quain
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While some of the mainstays of the electronics business have fallen out of favor with consumers, others are have taken their place ... with a vengeance.

TV sales are struggling and the descent of the personal computer is all but assured.

Meanwhile, shoppers are gobbling up tablets and smartphones, both of which have become this generation’s PC. During the first quarter of this year, for example, PC shipments fell 14 percent compared to the same period last year, according to IDC. Conversely, tablet shipments during the same period sailed ever higher, soaring 142 percent.

Consequently, for a CE product to succeed today it has to accommodate smartphones and tablets. Home electronics are becoming a part of the Internet. Reflecting this new reality, each of this year’s best of the best make the right connections.

Best Smartphone: HTC One
If there was a Sexiest Phone of the Year edition of People magazine, the HTC One would be on the cover. Demonstrating that Apple is all too vulnerable, HTC’s top-of-the-line trounced the competition in term of technical beauty and features.

The phone’s all-metal chassis includes front-facing stereo speakers, improving not only the experience of playing games, video and music, but also boosting its speaker-phone capabilities. A sharp 4.7-inch screen delivers full 1080p HD video. A combination USB and HDMI port can be used to play videos on the living room set. And as if that weren’t enough, there’s also built-in infrared so the phone can double as a TV remote.

The HTC One boasts many other high-end specifications: built-in noise cancellation, NFC, dual cameras, a quad-core 1.7 GHz processor, and 32 GB of storage in the basic model. So the handset is powerful and quick, flipping between apps without hesitation. Available for as little as $99 on T-Mobile, the HTC One is also available on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

Best CE-Centric Car: 2014 Chevrolet Impala
Connected cars have endured complaints—and downright resistance—from consumers and critics alike. But automakers continue to improve the systems, leveraging the power and flexibility of smartphones to add more features in the dashboard.

Chevrolet’s next generation MyLink, which debuted in the 2014 Impala this summer, brings state-of-the-art controls to the connected car. Standard on the LT and LTZ Impala trim packages (starting at about $29,000), the system features an 8-inch touchscreen that slides up out of the dash to reveal a hidden compartment where drivers can conceal a smartphone. The display can be locked down with a passcode to keep out nosy valets, and it’s pressure sensitive so you don’t have to take off your gloves to use it.



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