Photo by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge CES offers an early look at where laptops are going in the year ahead, from flashier designs to more impressive specs. This year, the changes are a lot more subtle than usual, and that’s actually a good thing. There are a few practical reasons for the subtle changes.…
CES offers an early look at where laptops are going in the year ahead, from flashier designs to more impressive specs. This year, the changes are a lot more subtle than usual, and that’s actually a good thing.
There are a few practical reasons for the subtle changes. First, Intel’s delayed 10nm chips and AMD’s slow recovery means that there’s less room for bigger improvements. Meaningfully faster, more efficient laptop processors simply don’t exist for manufacturers to use. There’s also that fact that laptops are approaching the limits of how thin we can reasonably make them. And then there’s the lack of pressure from Apple. Its MacBooks used to set a high bar for Windows competition, but they have recently taken a back seat to the company’s iPhones and iPads when it comes to hardware and software innovation.
As Dell’s XPS head Frank Azor admitted toThe Vergebefore the show, “There wasn’t much more we could invest with today’s technology in making this version much better,” beyond fixing the notorious nose hair-glorifying camera.
Asus introduced ZenBooks that had trimmer bezels than the models that were announced last fall, but it’s not the same drastic redesign that we saw back then. Samsung improved the design of the Notebook 9 Pro, but the specs barely moved forward. HP debuted an impressive but still incremental OLED display variant of its existing Spectre x360.
Of course, the usual spec boosts were in attendance, too, but even those jumps weren’t that big. A shift from Intel’s first round of 8th Gen Core processors to the more recent “8.5 Gen” models announced earlier this year led the charge. Let’s face it, the addition of slightly faster Wi-Fi speeds just isn’t a groundbreaking change, no matter how you pitch it. And even the practically bezel-less laptop trend that was sweeping the industry last year has already become standard across most mainstream machines.
The PC market has moved in such leaps and bounds in recent years that it has caught up with (and even started to outpace) the computational needs of most people. Once you’ve got a decent processor, 8GB of RAM, and a nice display — something that practically every laptop has — you’re beyond what someone needs to browse the web, watch Netflix, and write a school report.
If CES is a preview of the future of laptops, then this year’s computers are going to look a whole lot like the ones we already have today, even if all of this year’s promised improvements come to pass.But considering how good our laptops are now, that sure sounds like a great future to me.