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2012 predictions: What to expect in technology in 2012

Eyeing up the future, we look at what's to come next

Our special 200th issue of PC Advisor (onsale in newsagents and as a digital magazine from January 5th) includes a look back at the ground we’ve covered over the past 16 years. But let’s briefly look forward to the immediate future of computer technologies we can expect to see over the coming year.

Intel has already started the ball rolling with thinner, lighter laptops, which it’s calling ‘Ultrabooks’. Very much inspired by Apple’s achievement with its MacBook Air, these ultraportables are becoming more affordable – although, from what we’ve seen so far, the best value ultrabook remains the original Air, and its overall user experience is still very much second to none. We've looked at one of the first ultrabooks, the Acer S3-951.

In a few months’ time we should see the next generation of ultrabook, fitted with Intel’s latest 22-nanometre 3-D Tri-Gate processor. This CPU’s transistors are stacked vertically to enable even smaller die sizes, and thereby faster performance with the same power consumption – or the same performance, but even longer battery life. It’ll be interesting to see how closely Intel can approach upstart rival ARM in power-efficient computing.

So Intel’s ‘Ivy Bridge’ family of processors, successor to the ‘Sandy Bridge’ chips seen in many of our desktop PC and laptop reviews, is now on the horizon. These CPUs also promise integrated graphics that can drive very-high-resolution displays. Since 1440x900 pixels is enough for an ultraportable’s 13in screen, you’d be forgiven for wondering why we need to pack more pixels into a small screen.

The answer is a new concept in ultra-high-resolution graphics: HiDPI. This will give the same kind of photographic realism we’ve seen in the iPhone’s Retina display. We’ve been experimenting with HiDPI in OS X Lion, letting a 2560x1600 screen render its interface with 1280x800 readability, but with incredible grain-free graphics.

The same type of ‘dotless’ displays should also be appearing in tablets in just a few months, and the ongoing battle between Apple and Samsung in the tablet market will be fought on this graphical battleground. Watch this high-resolution space to see how invisible pixels will transform our vision of 21st-century computing.

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