By Andrew Eisner

CES 2011 officially opens on Thursday, Jan. 6 and we’re already getting a sense of what products and categories are going to stand out from the crowd. We still believe that 2011 will be the year of the tablet and expect to see lots of them in Las Vegas.

Android tablets will be everywhere

Google may have been caught off guard in 2010 as far as a tablet-friendly version of Android but with new versions including Gingerbread and Honeycomb about ready to ship we expect to see Android-based tablets make up for lost ground this year. We expect to see large crowds gathering around a Honeycomb-based tablet at the Motorola booth. Android tablets will most likely be featured in booths from vendors like LG, Toshiba, Samsung, Acer, Asus, MSI, Dell, Lenovo, and many others while we expect to see Windows Phone 7 (or some other Microsoft mobile OS) running on tablets in the Microsoft booth.

HP and Palm have managed to keep the wraps on their “PalmPad,” tablet but we could see a WebOS tablet make an appearance at the show as well. Intel will surely have something to promote in the tablet “engine” department along with Nvidia who will be bragging about Tegra 2’s graphic processing power for tablets

3DTV, take two

Last year 3DTV was the hot topic at CES 2010 but due to various difficulties, including the lack of compelling 3D content, premium prices, and even some resistance to wearing special glasses, 3DTV didn’t take off quite as fast as many would have liked. This year we expect to see another push for 3DTV with manufacturers bragging about having the largest 3DTVs like LG’s 72-inch 480Hz LCD 3DTV.

We’ll see more demonstrations of glasses-free versions, but we suspect they will still be limited to narrow viewing angles. We also expect to see vendors like LG and Vizio show off their passive glasses 3DTVs, but we’re still concerned about the 540 line resolution limits of passive glasses TV sets. One 3D product we’ll be checking out is the new Mitsubishi Diamond HC9000 3D Projector which has some impressive features including a low (19dBa) noise level.

Laptops gain power but netbooks could make a comeback

With Apple “validating” the netbook class computer with its 11.6-inch MacBook Air late last year we could see laptops feeling a pinch not only from tablets but netbook computers as well but with new chips from Intel, Nvidia and AMD laptops will get a boost in processing power.

At CES 2011, Intel will be promoting its new “Sandy Bridge” processor that integrates a graphic processing unit (GPU) on the same die with multi-core processors which should mean better performance and power efficiency for mobile devices like laptops and netbooks. Nvidia will be touting the power of their GPUs for gamers and media players in laptops and netbooks.

HDTVs will be bigger, thinner, and better than ever

Every year at CES companies vie for bragging rights to the largest or thinnest HDTV. We’re not sure if that game may have played out but we should see new LCD HDTVs with improved local dimming resulting in higher contrast. Improved motion control circuitry will help reduce blurring and even better “green” features like better power conserving technology will make HDTVs more environmentally friendly. Last year we saw demonstrations of UHDTVs (ultra high definition) and expect to even more this year as we look to UHDTVs eventually making your brand new HDTV set obsolete.

Everything will be connected to something

We predict Internet connectivity in TV sets, Blu-ray players, game consoles, set top boxes and anything else that connects to your HDTV set with an HDMI cable will be the most requested feature this year as streaming services like Netflix and Hulu continue to gain users at a fast rate. Samsung will once again be promoting their version of DLNA called “AllShare” which lets you move content from one device to another like from your smartphone to your HDTV. We have always wondered why it’s not more widely used than it is. Maybe it will catch on this year. Apple’s AirPlay is their proprietary version of the open DLNA standard.

4G announcements may wait for Barcelona event

CES is not traditionally a big event for smartphone announcements with many venders preferring to wait a month for the Mobile World Congress put on by the Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM) in February. Verizon’s CEO will be onstage for one of the keynotesat CES and we expect him to brag about all things LTE except maybe the exorbitant fees. The web site Droid-Life has uncovered some interesting images of what could be one of Verizon’s Android-based LTE smartphones from HTC called “Thunderbolt.”

Apple won’t steal CES this year

When Apple announced the iPhone in San Francisco during CES 2007, a lot of CES buzz shifted in direction of San Francisco (or Cupertino). The next two big announcements likely to come from Apple will be new iPads and new iPhones. The word is Apple will use a February (Valentine’s Day) event to announce a Verizon iPhone and possibly an updated 9.7-inch iPad (adding cameras and more) and possibly a smaller iPad or ones that work with other carriers like Verizon. The big question on a Verizon iPhone is whether or not it will implement LTE or 4G.

One last thing — we think mobile DTV is cool

We hope to see Mobile DTV make an appearance at CES 2011 in portable devices like handheld TVs, laptops, smartphones and anything else you might want to watch free, over-the-air, digital TV on at home, in the car or on the go. You can read the full story at .

(Andrew Eisner is a computer journalist and the director of content for the consumer electronics shopping and review site is one of the largest consumer electronics review and shopping sites in the world, helping people decide what to buy, when to buy, and where to buy. Retrevo uses artificial intelligence to analyze and graphically summarize more than 50 million real-time data points from across the web to give shoppers the most comprehensive, unbiased, up-to-date product information they need to make smart, confident purchasing decisions for electronics.)