Microsoft might have been only a “sort of” participant at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas—Steve Ballmer took part in Qualcomm’s “Born Mobile” keynote address, and the Surface Pro made an appearance to give attendees a sneak peek—but Windows 8 has been very much on the minds of exhibitors and attendees. It’s a welcome vibe for Microsoft, given the slow launch numbers that the company has seen since the debut of its controversial new consumer OS.

Microsoft partners have come up with a bevy of cool and unusual designs to bolster the decidedly controversial Windows 8 OS. You know you’re in for something new and acrobatic when one of the products is called a Yoga! But it’s a fascinating landscape of options and innovation. Acer, Asus, Dell, Gigabyte, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio all displayed some very promising Windows 8 Ultrabooks, tablets, hybrids, and laptops in varying designs.

CES attendees were drawn in large numbers to all the players, curious about what this Windows 8 tablet offered that was different from what that Windows 8 hybrid offered. For many, it was a first look at Windows 8 itself. In many ways, CES is proving to be the new OS’s actual “coming out” party, as opposed to its official launch last fall.

Check out our slide show of some fascinating CES-featured Windows 8 devices.

Acer Aspire S7—This thin and light model is an eye-popper laptop, coming in two sizes: 11.6” and 13.3”. It has a full-HD touch display, an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, a 128GB SSD, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and an illuminated keyboard. Pricing starts at $1,199.

Acer Iconia W700—The Acer Iconia W700 is a spiffy Windows 8 slate device with a unique dock-and-keyboard setup. Screen size is 11.6”, with a 1920x1080 display. It comes with an Intel Core i3-3217U processor, 4GB SDRAM memory, and a 64GB SSD. Battery life is 9 hours. The cost is $799.

Acer Iconia W510—This tablet doubles as a laptop with its detachable keyboard—shades of Surface Pro, because this system also includes the full Windows 8 OS, not Windows RT. It has a 10.1” display, at 1366x768 resolution. It comes with 2GB SDRAM memory and a 64GB hard drive. Battery life is 9 hours. The cost is $749.

Asus VivoTab Smart Tablet—This multi-purpose tablet features an Intel Atom Z2760 dual-core CPU, a 10.1” display at 1366x768 resolution, 2GB of memory, and a 64GB hard drive. Like the Surface, the VivoTab has a stand and a keyboard that doubles as a cover. Battery life is 9.5 hours. This device could offer the best of both the Surface Pro and Surface RT worlds. Pricing to come.

Asus Transformer Book TX300CA—This hybrid Ultrabook and tablet is geared toward multi-touch portability. It’s got a 13” screen at 1920x1080 resolution, an Intel Core i7 processor, SSD and HDD storage, and 4GB DDR3 RAM. The Transformer Book sports dual cameras, with a HD front-facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera. Pricing to come.

Dell Inspiron R Series—Available in 14”, 15”, and 17” screen sizes, these laptops are powered by different chips, from the Intel Celeron 887 to the Intel Core i7-3517U. Hard drive capacity goes from 320GB to 1TB. The Inspiron 14 and 15 models have 720p WLED 1366 x 768 displays, whereas the Inspiron 17 has a 900p WLED 1600 x 900 display. Prices start at $430, $500, and $650, respectively.

Dell XPS 13—This premium Ultrabook includes an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, a 128GB-256GB SSD, 4GB dual-channel DDR3 SDRAM memory, a 1920-by-1080 display, and “excellent battery life.” Pricing to come.

Gigabyte S1082—This Windows 8 tablet features an Intel Celeron dual-core processor, a 10.1” display at 1366x768 resolution, 2/4/8GB DDR3 memory, and a range of HDD and SSD storage options. Battery life appears to be exceptional, with the option of an extended-life battery. Pricing to come.

Gigabyte S1185—This Windows 8 tablet features a third-generation dual-core Intel Core processor, an 11.6” display at 1920x1080 resolution, 2/4/8GB DDR3 memory, and a range of SSD storage options. Battery life appears to be exceptional. Pricing to come.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix—This convertible Windows 8 Ultrabook is a hybrid touchscreen tablet and laptop. The machine features Intel's Core i7 processor, and 3G/4G antenna options. It’s extremely thin and weighs less than 2 pounds. The price starts at $1,499.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga—This 11” convertible Windows 8 laptop folds upon itself to become a touchscreen tablet. It features an Nvidia quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and 64GB of storage. The device is 0.6 inches thick and weights about 2.8 pounds. The cost is $799.

Microsoft Surface Pro—That’s right, Surface Pro made an appearance at CES so that attendees’ and journalists could get an early look at the Windows 8 variant of the device. It sports a 1920x1080 10.6” display, and Intel Core i5 processor, 64GB or 128GB of integrated memory, and 4GB of RAM, as well as a range of connectivity options. Plus, it’s got that groovy detachable keyboard. Pricing starts at $899

Samsung Series 7 Chronos—Here’s a high-powered laptop that comes in a light, streamlined package. This system offers 16GB of memory, 1TB of storage, and a 15.6” screen with 1920x1080 resolution. Battery life is 11 hours. Pricing to come.

Samsung Series 7 Ultra Touch—The ultra-mobile Series 7 Ultra offers an Intel Core i5 or i7 procession with up to 16GB of RAM. The 13.3” screen offers 1920x1080 resolution. Battery life will be about 8 hours. Pricing to come.

Sony Vaio T Series 15—This full-HD, touch-enabled laptop features a 14” LED backlit display at 1366x768 resolution, third-generation Intel Core processors (options include i3, i5, or i7), a 500GB hard drive, and up to 8GB RAM. Pricing to come.

Toshiba Qosmio X875—This stylish laptop is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 2TB of storage (including a 1TB hybrid storage option). The 17.3” display has a 1920x1080 resolution. Pricing starts at $1,480.

Toshiba Satellite U845T—This featherweight budget-focused touch system features a 14” 1366x768 screenHD touchscreen display, an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. Pricing is around $800

Vizio Thin + Light—This 14” or 15.6” touchscreen laptop runs an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 128GB-256GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. The 14” variety sports a 1600x900 resolution, and the 15.6” variety offers 1920x1080 HD. Battery life is about 7 hours. Pricing to come.

Learn more from Paul Thurrott's article "Microsoft: 400 Million+ Windows 8 Devices in 9 Months, 100,000+ Apps in 90 Days."