With the year coming to a close it's time to look back at some of the most relevant stories and product launches of 2010. We’ll do a brief recount of tech happenings in six categories: Desktop CPUs and Graphics, Hardware Devices and Components, Software, Gaming, Mobile Computing and The Web.

We hope you enjoyed this year as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing you the latest PC technology news and analysis. Without further ado, here’s our take on 2010.

Desktop Processors and Graphics

Intel’s Core i7 processors remain unchallenged in the high-end desktop segment and a six-core beast was introduced for good measure – at a rather pricey $1,140. There wasn’t much pressure from AMD on this front, but the company responded with more affordable options that pushed for interesting value propositions.

In the discrete graphics market it was a different story. AMD dominated top-to-bottom most of the year with the Radeon HD 5000 series, helped by an underwhelming and delayed launch of Fermi. Nvidia finally got its act together with the GeForce GTX 460, and now, towards the end of the year it looks like they’re positioned to win the next round against the Radeon HD 6000 series.

Processors

Graphics

Hardware Devices and Components

Although the first USB 3.0-certified devices started to appear late last year, it was in 2010 that the technology actually began to gain ground – not thanks to Intel. As evidenced in our AMD AM3 Budget Motherboard Shootout, sub-$100 boards are already carrying USB 3.0 ports, so price is not a barrier at this point, even if there’s still progress to be made for mass adoption. The same can be said about the SATA III (6Gbps) interface.

The PCI Express 3.0 specification was completed just last month but compatible products are not expected to arrive until sometime in 2012. Meanwhile, Intel’s much anticipated Light Peak interconnect, which promises blazing fast speeds and to eventually replace the plethora of ports used on current PCs, didn’t see a mass rollout of compatible products in 2010 as initially planned and will debut next year using copper wires instead of fiber optics.

The big disappointment was solid-state drives. Don’t get us wrong; we still believe they represent the best overall upgrade a modern PC can get these days, but prices have stagnated for the most part which dragged down adoption, though 2011 is expected to bring a large boost sooner or later.

Solid-State Storage

Software

Windows celebrated its 25th birthday in 2010 with the latest iteration of Microsoft’s operating system becoming the fastest-selling in history. Much of the software development scene turned its attention to mobile platforms like iOS and Android, while Google intends to take everything to the cloud with its Chrome OS, Google TV and Chrome Web Store. Even Microsoft acknowledged this trend by taking its Office software online next to the latest desktop release.

There were a few fiascos (you can put AVG’s Free Antivirus in that bag) and many other gems worth highlighting in our ‘download of the week’ features. On the browser front, Google’s Chrome continued to rise in popularity almost as fast as new versions were pushed out the door. Firefox usage remained rather stagnant – version 4 might help it regain its mojo, but unfortunately it was delayed – and IE9 is set to stop the market share bleeding for Microsoft next year.

Microsoft

Google Others