Even though most of the vendors were not in Las Vegas and most of the announcements were virtual, last week’s CES conference taught us a lot about what we can expect from the new PCs entering the market this year. From important new processors from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia to designs from just about every major maker, this year’s machines should be faster, and with more features for gamers, content creators, and those of us who spend a lot of time in video conferencing applications such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom.
Here are some of the standouts to me. I’ll start with the chip makers and then discuss the PCs themselves.
AMD CEO Lisa Su’s CES keynote included an impressive list of new product announcements, but the standout is theThese chips combine up to eight Zen 3+ CPU cores with RDNA2 graphics on a single die that measures around 200 square millimeters, as manufactured on TSMC’s 6nm process. The fastest version reaches CPU speeds up to 5.0GHz, and AMD says this delivers 30% higher single-thread performance than the current Ryzen 5000 Mobile. In addition, it has up to 12 RDNA2 Compute Units (compared to 8 Vega CUs in the current Ryzen 5000 Mobile), which AMD says can double the graphics performance. AMD is also promising significant improvement in battery life including up to 24 hours of video playback. Of course, as always, I take performance claims with a grain of salt, but we should see the first laptops with these chips soon. AMD says we will see more than 200 Ryzen 6000 designs this year, including designs from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Razer.
AMD also announced several new discrete GPUs for laptops including thefor thinner laptops—those that weigh less than 4.5 pounds and are less than 200mm (0.78 inches) thick. AMD says the high-end 6800S will be capable of running at more than 100 frames per second at maximum settings for many games. The company also expanded its 6000M series for bigger laptops.
On the desktop side, AMD said itswill be available this spring. The new cache is supposed to provide a performance boost, particularly for gaming.
More important will be the 5nm Ryzen 7000 desktop CPUs, with a new Zen 4 core design, which AMD said should be available in the second half of the year. This will require a new socket, called AM5, and a new chipset. This will support DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0. AMD did a quick demo, in which Su said all the cores were running above 5GHz, though she did not give specifics on things like core counts. My guess is we’ll hear more about it this fall, as it’s not expected to be out until late in the year.
Intel had introduced its 12th Generation Core (Alder Lake) line of new CPUs a few weeks earlier, but only the desktop processors. At CES, it highlightedranging from the Core i5-12459H, with four performance cores (which include hyperthreading) and four efficiency cores to the high-end Core i8-12900HK, with six performance cores and eight efficiency cores (a total of 20 threads), with the high end clocking in at a maximum turbo of 5 GHz. These are set for gaming and content creation laptops (which tend to run at 45 watts and up).
Intel also announced the models in the more mainstream U-series (which tend to run thinner and lighter machines at about 15 watts). But what seemed more important to me was that it said its new P-series, which supports up to 28 watts, can run in many of the same thin and light designs as the U-series. It appears several vendors will support that, although most won’t use the full 28 watts. Still, it’s something I’m very much looking forward to seeing in this year’s systems.
On the desktop side, Intel announced 22 new Alder Lake chips for mainstream desktops, ranging from $42 dual-core Celerons at 35 watts all the way up to $489 Core i9-12900 parts at 65 watts. Intel also said it has begun shipping Arc discrete GPUs (code-named Alchemist) for both desktops and notebooks, and would be in more than 50 designs, but it provided no real details on the specifications or performance of these parts.
Nvidia as well had some new offerings for laptops, specifically afor laptops starting at $2,499. This offers more than 1,000 additional CUDA cores (parallel processors) than the existing RTX 3080 laptop GPU, and 16GB of graphics memory, but a lower boost clock speed. The company says this will make the fastest laptops faster than the Titan RTX card, which was the fastest desktop card introduced in late 2018. That’s great improvement. In addition, the company announced an RTX 3070 Ti GPU for laptops, again with more cores, but with 8GB of graphics memory, designed for notebooks starting at $1,499. Nvidia says this should allow about 100 frames per second in 1440p gaming.
For desktops, Nvidia is bringing Ampere RTX graphics down to more affordable systems with the $249 GeForce RTX 3050, which Nvidia said brings ray tracing and accelerated AI to mainstream desktops. The card will be available starting January 27. The company teased its upcoming new flagship GeForce RTX 3090 Ti, saying it will have 24GB of faster GDDR6X memory and deliver 40 teraflops at single precision (FP32), which would be 12% higher than the existing RTX 3090. The company said more details will be available later this month.
As far as the PCs themselves go, all of the major vendors have had new announcements, either at the show or in the run-up to it. Not surprisingly, all the vendors will support Alder Lake, and most are planning Ryzen 6000 options as well. But there was also more of an emphasis on improving audio and video communications for business users, as well as more powerful machines for gamers, and a few very unusual designs.
Everyone will be updating their chips this year, and no surprise that there’s ancoming to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 10), Yoga (Gen7), and Nano (G2). But the news is that these will not only support the U-series variants, but also the P-series at 20 watts for the Carbon and Yoga and 19 watts for the Nano, which should provide an additional performance boost. All the screens this year are 16:1, with Eyesafe technology (which was true in 2021 as well).
The big focus is on communications (like most vendors), adding a full HD webcam with a 1.4-micron sensor and f/2.0 lens, which the company says should offer better quality. There are also quad microphones with Dolby Voice for noise cancellation.
There’s a computer vision option (using a Lattice Semiconductor chip) that can detect when you’re in front of the PC, dim the screen when you look away, lock when you leave, and unlock when you return. New are options to prompt you to rest your eyes and to sit up straight. These are due out in March.
On the AMD front, the firm introduced the newwith a Ryzen Pro 6000. Lenovo will support the Ryzen R3, R5, and R7 versions of the processor, as well as an exclusive R7Z model that offers somewhat better performance, which Lenovo says should make this faster than other AMD-based laptops.
This model is aimed at non-ThinkPad users, and will look different with silver, vegan leather and bronze, and black aluminum cases (vs. the carbon fiber on the traditional ThinkPads), coming in at 2.76 pounds. It will be available in both 13.3 and 16-inch sizes, with “edge-to-edge” displays and a larger all-glass palm rest with a haptic 120mm trackpad. It has the TrackPoint but if you double tap it you get quick access to various camera and audio settings for your conferencing apps. (Oh, and for this model only, Lenovo has flipped the control and function keys, so it matches the configuration that HP and Dell use). This is due out in May.
On the consumer side, the Yoga 9i has a new 16:10 display with up to a 4K OLED, with Bowers & Wilkins audio on a 360-degree rotating soundbar. It now has rounded edges which they say makes it easier to carry. The trackpad is bigger as well, and there’s a one-click function bar of keys you can hit to change whether you want it set for performance boost or battery; entertainment profile; background blur; or switching into dark mode.
Lenovo also updated the Yoga 7i (Intel 14 and 16, now with 4 Dolby Atmos Speakers), and Yoga 6, (AMD 13-inch with a stain-resistant fabric cover and more recycled materials)
On the gaming side the 15.6-inch Legion 5 is 15 percent thinner than last year’s model with AMD or Intel processors. They say the new design has a new thermal system that balances the CPU and GPU to reduce temperatures and system noise. Also the Truestrike keyboard reduces percussion noise by 33 percent. The Legion 5 Pro is a 16-inch version with a WQHD+ 240 Hz automatic refresh display.
The more unusual stuff is in the ThinkBook (SMB) line. The ThinkBook 13x Gen 2i works with a wireless charging mat, using Pogopins to deliver 65 watts of power. This weighs 2.67 pounds.
Stranger still is the. Instead of an E-ink exterior screen (as on the Gen 2), this has a 17-inch wide display with a 22:10 ratio (3072 by 1440), with the keyboard on the left and a second 8-inch display (800 by 1280) to the right of the keyboard, so it looks a little like you’ve placed a tablet next to your PC. You can use this display for other apps (like a calculator), to zoom and use with a pen on apps like Lightroom; or you can extend a window down from the main display in what the firm calls “waterfall” mode. Later, you’ll be able to mirror a Motorola phone in the second display. It starts at $1399; due out in May. It’s certainly an interesting idea.
HP’s big focus as well is on collaboration, with its HP Presence software for audio and video, adding new features on the full business line. The concept is that every space is now a meeting space, so people should be able to move around more freely with features such as dynamic audio control.
This includes an “appearance filter”, and a single button for the myHP application, which provides a single dashboard to customize settings for all collaboration applications, and well as other features such as control of the programmable key.
On the specific products, HP has refreshed its small, still in slate blue and natural silver, with a 3:2 aspect ratio, larger keys and a touchpad with a 1:1 screen, but still coming in at less than 1 KG for the base configuration.
On the collaboration front, it has a 5-megapixel camera and HP AutoFrame, which lets you choose whether to show your head and torso, head and shoulders, or the head alone. It also has HP Dynamic Voice Leveling – with dual-edge microphones and a 3m pickup range, along with 360-degree voice tracking. The microphone works with an open or closed lid, and it’s all controlled in the myHP application.
Other changes include ports on both left and right sides, and intelligent charging.
The(formerly 1030c) will be the first Chromebook with vPro support, including a new trackpad, a wireless pen with a strong magnet, and HP features such as SureView Reflect screens and Sure Shutter.
The EliteBook 1040 G9 and the Elite x360 1040 G9, which will be Intel only, have a new feature that detects when the system is in a bag, so that it automatically goes to sleep. It continues to have presence detection features, and now upgrades to a 16:10 display.
The EliteBook 805 G9 series, based on the Ryzen 6000, now adds a 16-inch option, and also upgrades to 16:10. It has a 5MP camera that allows for high quality video chatting, and features like Auto Frame which allows people to move around while keeping them in frame; audio by Bang & Olufsen with two discrete amps that work together to create immersive sound; the Dynamic Voice feature; and, AI-based noise reduction, which supposedly enhances audio so people can be heard even when wearing a mask. There will be a 14-inch 845 G9 and a 16-inch 865 GP, both due out in April.
The EliteBook 605 series and ProBook 405 series are more basic, Ryzen 5000-based notebooks.
Dell didn’t announce a refresh of its enterprise laptops (Latitude) yet but did show off a new version of its consumer flagship,, with some pretty big changes. Like the ThinkPad line, it too will support a P-series processor, in part due to larger fans that Dell says provides 55 percent better airflow without increasing noise or temperature.
Available in Platinum or Graphite (lighter or darker shades of silver/grey), it looks different from any other laptop I’ve seen in that it doesn’t have a visible touchpad. Instead the whole palm rest looks flat, though it’s really hiding a glass touchpad with haptic response. The top row of the keyboard has a capacitive touch interface that switches between function keys and media keys (sort of like last-generation MacBook Pros, but bigger and seemingly better designed) and it now has larger keycaps with no space between keys. It has an edge-to-edge 13.4-inch 16:10 display, with 3840 by 2400 LCD or 3.5K (3456 by 2160) touch options (plus regular and touch display. It’s due out in Spring.
Dell did a major refresh of its Gaming machines for the new AMD chips, announcing m15 and m17 with the Ryzen 6000 series and either Nvida (up to RTX 3060) or AMD (up to Radeon RX 6850M XT) graphics.
Bigger (or smaller) news is a smaller gaming laptop,, which Dell says is the thinnest gaming laptop and the first 14-inch laptop with Nvidia G-sync, with a RTX 3060 and 85 watts of graphics power, Intel 12th generation processors, a 144Hz display panel, and a new vapor chamber cooling technology.
Dell showed a bunch of concepts (in a video), including Flow, effectively a dock which charges a laptop wirelessly and automatically connects it to the network, keyboard, mouse, speakers, second display etc. which looks quite cool; Pari, a moveable wireless web cam; and Stanza, an 11-inch companion touch display designed for writing or taking (and transcribing) notes. Gaming concepts include Nyx which uses edge computing to share a computer with multiple screens in a home but with much lower latency than today’s solutions; and Polaris, an external GPU docking solution that would work with 16-inch desktop gaming graphics cards.
Acer announced three new Chromebooks, including the Spin 513 with a 3:2 aspect ratio and the new 8-core MediaTek Kompanio 1380 processor.
On the Windows side, Acer announced a couple of new gaming machines. The Triton 500 SE has a 12th Generation Intel processor, RTX 3080Ti, and a 16-inch 2560 by 1600 panel with a 240Hz refresh rate and 3ms response rate. Slightly below that is the Helios 300, with 15.6- and 17.3-inch versions with 2560 by 1440 displays; and then the Nitro 5 series with either Intel or AMD 6000 series, again with 15.6- and 17.3-inch versions.
In addition, the firm announced the Aspire Vero National Geographic Edition, which incorporates design elements evocative of Planet Earth and has more sustainability features, something all of the vendors seem to be pushing (using recycled plastic where possible, more sustainable packaging, etc.)
One of the most interesting designs was, a foldable laptop, which you can use as a big screen with or without an optional full-travel keyboard that attaches; or as a 12.3 inch display clamshell with the keyboard on the bottom (or an onscreen one). Due to launch Q2. Samsung showed a similar machine as a concept (the Flex Note), but unclear if that will ever come to market. Lenovo has a similar idea in a shipping machine with a smaller display.
Again, focused on gaming, Razer introduced new version of its Blade 14, 15, and 17 notebooks. Notable is that the Blade 14 14-inch notebook can have a Ryzen 6900HX and up to a RTX 3080Ti graphics, with a 2560 by 1440 165Hz display (at about $3,500). The Blade 15 can have a Core i9 12900H 14-core processor, the 3080 Ti, 32 GB of DDR5, and a 144Hz 4K OLED display (about $4,000 fully configured). These are due very shortly.
Razer also showed Sophia, a concept desk with 13 different swappable modules, a magnetically attached chassis, and a massive OLED display panel. But the company did not say it had any plans to bring this to market now.