ANOTHER YEAR HAS COME AND GONE, leaving a trail of phenomenal new hardware, disturbing and annoying trends, and disappointing flops and no-shows in its wake. All told, 2006 was a great year for PC enthusiasts, and a very busy one for us. An almost endless stream of new hardware passed through our labs, and most of it was pretty good. We also got to see dual-core processors really come into their own, Intel bounce back from the horrendous NetBurst era, and Nvidia shock the world with a unified shader architecture. Somewhere in the middle of all that, AMD surprised everyone by acquiring ATI.
Of course, 2006 was also dotted with events and trends that we'd just as soon forget. For every engineer working overtime on an innovative new product, there seemed to be at least one PR rep blowing smoke, one marketing team spinning hype, and one product manager making a poor design decision.
To send 2006 off in style, we've singled out the best enthusiast-oriented products of the year for our Best Hardware of 2006 awards. We've also whipped up a selection of unique awards to recognize some of the year's most interesting innovations and annoying trends. And there were plenty of each. Read on to see our picks for the best hardware of the year-and then some.