Christian Blauvelt
January 09, 2012 AT 08:25 PM EST

Las Vegas is about to become gearhead Nirvana once again.

The annual International Consumer Electronics Show opens tomorrow for 140,000 tech enthusiasts hoping to get a first glimpse at the latest cutting-edge computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, TVs, and cameras. With 1.7 million square feet of Las Vegas Convention Center space to cover, you can expect that the only sins coming out of Sin City until CES wraps up on Friday will be the unrealistic expectations fostered by the 2,700 vendors setting up shop. It’s a testament to the size and enduring power of the 45-year-old trade show that Spike will be devoting four hours of its Tuesday lineup, starting at 1:00 p.m. ET, to updates from the floor with host Eliza Dushku. Other celebrities expected to attend CES this year include 50 Cent and Justin Bieber, in addition to TV workout guru Jillian Michaels, who represents a growing trend connecting the tech and fitness worlds.

The relevance of CES may be on the wane. Many smartphone manufacturers are holding on to their most anticipated gear until February’s Mobile World Congress. And as usual, Apple won’t be in attendance. Nor will Amazon, Google, or Facebook, which run their own events throughout the year. And Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who’ll be giving the keynote address tonight, has announced that this will be the last year his company will attend as well. CES, though, is still the event that introduced the VCR to the world in 1970, the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, the TiVo in 1999, and Blu-ray in 2003. So count it out at your own peril.

Here are five of the biggest trends we expect to see at this year’s show.

1. Behold, the Ultrabook—Netbooks have been a failure, and everyone knows it. They’re way underpowered and have keyboards so tiny they make everyone feel fat-fingered. So Intel has picked up the slack in the race to develop a legitimate competitor to the MacBook Air. Their solution? The Ultrabook, a thin and light laptop that boots up instantaneously like a tablet and can run all day. All the major PC manufacturers—HP, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and ASUS—will be showing off new ultrabooks at CES, with up to fifty never-before-seen models on display. The specs for most of these haven’t been announced yet, and it’s feared that Intel’s new Core processor line that will be powering these Ultrabooks, a 22nm core known as Ivy Bridge, will push the cost sky high, even though the company was initially hoping for a sub-$1,000 price point.

Burning Question: Will Ultrabooks finally bridge the gap between Laptop PCs and tablets, or will their cost prove prohibitively high?

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