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Opinion: The old reliable laptop is getting a makeover and could be tech’s next new thing

The consumer electronics industry is getting new life from an old product: laptops.

Although the changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, they’re substantial enough to make the laptop sector more competitive with the desktop PC sector of the market.

This is especially significant as global PC sales tumbled 19.5% in the third quarter of 2022 — the largest decline since consulting firm Gartner began tracking sales in the mid-1990s. When you consider supply-chain issues, global economic crises and the crypto craze that took desktop graphic card prices sky-high last year, this is hardly surprising.

In 2022, this lack of demand created a vacuum, and laptops are about to fill it. But these machines will need powerful CPUs and GPUs, and earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), consumers got a good look at what’s coming.

Nvidia NVDA
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AMD
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and Intel INTC,
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each showcased their own powerful mobile technology. Nvidia’s RTX 4000 mobile GPUs offer a more varied selection than the desktop versions. Intel’s Core i9-13980HX is the first 24-core laptop CPU that can be overclocked to 5.6GHz. Meanwhile, AMD’s Ryzen 7000 mobile processors focus on high-end performance while keeping low power consumption. Nvidia’s RTX 4000 mobile GPUs with DLSS 3 upscaling technology aim to make affordable and mid-range gaming laptops handle even the most graphically demanding games. Intel’s Core i9-13980HX also has the potential to narrow the performance gap between laptops and high-end desktop PCs.

AMD’s Ryzen 7000 mobile processors with integrated RDNA 3 graphics could also create a generation of affordable laptops capable of running more PC games without a discrete GPU, which would help keep prices down and prolong battery life.

While many of the laptops on display were simply updated versions of their predecessors, these stood out:

Acer 2353
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Predator Helios 16 and 18 are excellent options for gamers looking for a balance of power and portability. Both models are equipped with Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs, 13th-generation Intel i7 or i9 CPUs, and boast high-resolution screens with a maximum refresh rate of 240Hz. They also come equipped with ample storage and memory, which makes them ideal for running today’s latest and greatest games.

Alienware m18 is a cutting-edge gaming laptop that is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of screen size. It offers options of either 165Hz at 2560 x 1600 resolution or 480Hz at 1920 x 1200 resolution and includes the latest technology — Intel, Nvidia and/or AMD chips, up to 64GB of memory, and 9TB of storage. However, at $2,899 (starting for Intel CPU & Nvidia GPU), the price point is quite steep.

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ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 boasts a unique design with two screens — a traditional display and one above the keyboard. The laptop comes equipped with the latest AMD CPUs and Nvidia GPUs, a 240Hz QHD+ screen, and ample storage and memory.

HP’s HPQ
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Omen 17 offers great flexibility with multiple configurations to choose from. The top-of-the-line version includes an Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series GPU, a 13th-gen Intel i9 CPU, 32GB RAM, 2TB SSD storage, and a high-resolution and refresh rate screen of 2560×1440 and 240Hz.

Lenovo 992
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Legion Pro 7i is a sleek and durable option with Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs, 13th-gen Intel CPUs, and high-resolution and refresh rate screens. However, its configuration options are rather limited.

The MSI Cyborg 15 is a powerful gaming model that features an Intel Core i9-11900H processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics, and a 1440p, 300Hz display. It also includes lightning-fast storage and memory, a mechanical keyboard, and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity.

Unfortunately, while each of these models are impressive stats-wise, they offer little in regards to innovation. The same can be said for their business-use counterparts presented at the event, with a few notable exceptions:

Lenovo Yoga Book 9i 2 in 1 with two 13.3-inch, Dolby Vision-powered screens is the first full-sized OLED dual-screen laptop. (The screens can be used in tandem, one on top of the other or side by side, depending on the user’s needs). Under the hood, the model boasts Intel 13th-gen Core i7-U15 processors and can support 16GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 512GB of storage. Priced at $2,100, it is expected in June of 2023.

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Twist features a rotating display that allows users to alternate between a clamshell or tablet position without compromising the display quality. The model comes with 13th-gen Intel Core processors, a 13.3-inch OLED display, a 12-inch E Ink display, noise-cancelling microphones, and improved wireless connectivity. It is priced at $1,649 and will be available this June.

Ultra-thin and lightweight, LG Gram Ultraslim weighs about two pounds and is slightly thicker on one side to make room for ports. It boasts a 15.6-inch OLED display, a 13th-gen Intel Raptor Lake processor, and a customizable storage space of up to 512GB. Pricing is currently unavailable, but the model will be available overseas in February and in the US later this year.

Aside from showcasing the aforementioned advancements in laptop technology, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and Nvidia Corp. used this year’s CES to vie for dominance in the market for AI acceleration chips. AMD CEO and Chair Lisa Su introduced the Instinct MI300 chip, a combined central processing and graphics processing unit meant for AI acceleration. The chip is billed as “the world’s first data-center integrated CPU + GPU”, and Su claims it can reduce the time it takes for an inference modeling process to weeks from months.

AMD doesn’t stop there; it introduced its Alveo V70 AI Accelerator, which boosts “energy efficiency for multiple AI inference workloads.” The company also announced it will release laptops with RX 7000-series graphics based on the AMD RDNA 3 architecture that offer “exceptional energy efficiency” and can run 30-plus hours of video on a single battery charge.

From powerful mobile technology to larger screens for gaming laptops and AI acceleration chips, the industry clearly is committed to making laptops more capable, efficient, and cost-friendly for a broad range of users. With the emergence of larger and more powerful models, combined with AI acceleration chips, the laptop industry could be poised to make a major comeback and reclaim its stake in the PC market.

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