It’s going to be a laptop year. If the excitement over Apple’s redesigned MacBook Pros wasn’t already an indication, work-from-home, and some legitimately exciting developments in mobile processors have made getting a new laptop an exciting proposition heading into 2022.
At CES 2022, laptops and the CPUs and GPUs that make them go were all the stars. Intel revealed its 12th Gen H-series processors, touting new architecture and some serious performance improvements for gaming and content creation. Meanwhile, AMD unveiled new AMD Ryzen 6000 series processors and AMD Radeon RX 6000M graphics cards for thin, light, and powerful laptops. Most exciting are the wild designs and form factors manufacturers are debuting these new chips in.
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I remain strangely convinced that Dell’s new XPS 13 Plus won’t have a dramatic learning curve, but I understand why some people might be concerned. From the outside, Dell is playing things pretty straight with its new flagship laptop, but inside, it’s having a lot of fun.
There’s the edge-to-edge keyboard which calls to mind Apple’s butterfly keyboard (don’t worry it’s using Dell’s normal switches) and Touch Bar (Dell is insistent it’s not a display, but a “capacitive touch function row”) to start. But below that, there’s no trackpad. At least no visible one. Dell has opted for a haptic trackpad this go around, but it’s set flush in the rest of the aluminum body of the XPS 13 Plus. Invisible trackpads! They’re a thing! Apparently, Dell is also taking this opportunity to remove the headphone jack, which is less exciting. The newest 12th Gen Intel Core processors are included, but the design is the real star here.
Asus finally added a webcam to its gaming laptops! Seems like a strange thing to be excited about, but it was one of the major barriers to using Asus’ ROG Zephyrus line as a regular laptops. Now you can Zoom to your heart's content.
To focus on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, the 14-inch display now has a 16:10 aspect ratio, Asus has made room for a 50 percent larger trackpad, and includes the option for a 120Hz refresh rate QHD display. Inside, the G14 uses up to the new AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS processor and a Radeon RX 6800S graphics chip.
At this year’s CES, Lenovo tried to change the ThinkPad look, and the business audience the ThinkPad targets (read: Gen Z). In short, it tried to make the ThinkPad cool. The ThinkPad Z13 — like its larger 16-inch sibling — features a new, modern design with an exterior either covered in recycled vegan leather (I love an unconventional material) or made from recycled aluminum. Sure, the iconic red nubbin and ThinkPad logo are there, but otherwise, Lenovo has rethought its star business laptop.
The biggest change, besides The 13.3-inch, 16:10 Dolby Vision-enabled display with smaller bezels on the sides, is the “Communications Bar,” Lenovo’s newest take on the “reverse notch.” The Communications Bar protrudes a bit from the top and back of the Z13’s screen but includes an improved infrared FHD webcam with a larger sensor and dual-array microphones — all the better for long video calls. Elsewhere, the Z13 ditches the ThinkPad line’s separate button trackpad for a larger 120mm haptic “ForcePad.”
Lenovo has an exclusive partnership with AMD, so the Z13 can be specced with the newest AMD Ryzen 6000 processors and integrated Radeon GPUs. Overall, I can’t say for sure the new design changes will attract the younger business professionals Lenovo is hoping for, but they are charming and come with real, meaningful improvements.
Razer hasn’t reinvented the wheel with its updated 2022 line of Blade laptops, but it did make welcome improvements. All models jumped to a 1080p Windows Hello compatible webcam and larger keycaps on the keyboard.
Internally, the new Razer Blades can come specced with the latest AMD Ryzen 9 or 12th Gen Intel processors. The 2022 Blades also use faster LPDDR5 RAM, can come with up to an Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti or 3080 Ti, and in the case of the Blade 14 above, use display options ranging from 144Hz 1080p to 165Hz QHD screens.
Lenovo is also trying to hold a lead down with its gaming laptops, particularly the Legion 5 Pro. The Legion 5 Pro and 5i Pro include either the newest AMD Ryzen 9 6900 HX or 12th Gen Intel Core i9-12900H processors, and up to an Nvidia 3070 Ti laptop GPU.
The coolest bit, other than including vents between the Legion lines keys to further cool the internals, is a first. Lenovo says the Legion 5 Pro is the first 16-inch laptop to feature a 240Hz refresh rate WQHD+ display, meaning you can play with the smoothest possible framerate if that’s your particular flavor of PC gaming poison.
HP’s introduced several new gaming PCs in its Omen line at CES 2022, but one of the company’s business products is surprisingly what’s caught my eye. The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is a decidedly premium take on Chrome OS, with a five-megapixel webcam, a 51Wh battery with fast charge, a fingerprint sensor, the newest 12th Gen Intel processors, and up to 32GB of RAM.
The Dragonfly Chromebook is also the first Chromebook to feature a haptic touchpad, and the first Chromebook to be certified for Intel’s Evo and vPRo branding, which confers certain quality expectations, that at least from a distance, the Dragonfly Chromebook seems to be hitting. There’s not exactly a dearth of premium Chromebooks, but the Dragonfly Chromebook seems to be checking a lot of important boxes — while looking as nice as HP’s Windows machines.
Asus made a splash with its Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, but even its more traditional 14-inch sibling comes with some delightful design elements. The ZenBook 14 OLED Space Edition has several space exploration-themed engravings, but most importantly to me, a tiny 3.5-inch on the cover of the laptop that plays little space animations and shows the time, date, and battery life of the device.
Other than the galactic design cues, the ZenBook 14 OLED seems like a solid laptop. The 14-inch touch display is OLED (naturally) and Asus says the “zero-g titanium” body of the device is rated for “extreme temperatures (-24 to 61° C) when operational and vibration (20 – 2000 Hz)” as part of the US Space Systems Command Standard SMC-S-016A testing protocols. Yes, there’s the newest 12th Gen Intel Core H-series processors and up to 1TB of SSD storage as well.
LG unveiled its “first gaming laptop” before the holidays last year, but it’s including it as one of its CES 2022 announcements, so I’m including it here. The LG UltraGear Gaming PC 17G90Q is a slim laptop (not unlike the LG Gram line) running an 11th Gen Intel processor (not the new 12th Gen in these other devices) and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Max-Q graphics card.
As a device with a 17-inch screen and 93Wh battery, LG’s new UltraGear is by no means an ultralight laptop, but the company has kept things satisfyingly streamlined. The new UltraGear is under 21.4mm thick and weighs around 5.82 pounds.
Nothing better than a wild stab at including another display. Lenovo’s ThinkBook Plus line has sported secondary displays in the past, but for 2022, the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is coming with something slightly different: an 8-inch display next to the keyboard.
Lenovo imagines the second display coming in handy for a variety of use-cases from being a simple app launcher, to a handy calculator, but what’s most interesting to me is using the little screen for notetaking using Lenovo’s included stylus. The ThinkBook Plus has a large 17-inch, 16:10 display to accommodate the 8-inch touchscreen growth, so there’s going to be more screen real estate all around on this one.