The smorgasbord of laptop silicon at CES this year ran the gamut from ostentatious hybrid gaming rigs to sleek ultraportables with smartphone-inspired notches in their displays, to useful, inexpensive workhorses. Here are our favorites.
LAS VEGAS—The desert here was crawling with new laptops this week, in what is shaping up to be some of the grandest reimagining of portable computing since the introduction of the 2-in-1 convertible laptop.
PC makers large and small brought their convertible tablets, 2-in-1s, and laptops from all over the globe. Of course stalwarts like Dell and Lenovo were present, but niche players like Avita and Huawei showed off intriguing new designs as well. The restulting smorgasbord of silicon runs the gamut from ostentatious hybrid gaming rigs (the Asus ROG Mothership and Acer Predator Triton 900) to sleek ultraportables with smartphone-inspired notches in their displays (the Asus ZenBook S 13 and Lenovo Yoga S940) to useful, inexpensive workhorses (the HP Chromebook x360 14).
PCMag darted around the city to get our hands on as many of these designs as we could. There are so many clever but minor new features—eye tracking and proximity sensors, to name a few—that we didn’t get to try them all. Still, it’s clear that anyone in the market for a laptop will find something to satisfy their desires from the spoils of CES, even if those desires are just limiting wallet damage. Most of the models below are expected to go on sale in the next few months, and we’re eagerly awaiting all of them.
Dell XPS 13 9380
The XPS 13 has enjoyed its place near or at the top of PCMag’s list of favorite ultraportables for some time now. Its combination of exceptional mobility, near-bezel-free design, and comfortable aesthetics helps it stand out in an ultra-competitive market. With the 2019 edition, Dell wipes away one of the machine’s few blemishes: an awkward webcam placement beneath the screen that results in footage of your knuckles and nostrils. Now, the webcam in its natural habitat above the screen. Plus, Dell gives a choice of three color schemes, all spiffy: the classic silver/black, a rose gold, and a frost white. That all adds up to a laptop that’s practically perfect for power users and frequent travelers alike.</ziffbin>
Lenovo Yoga S940
From afar, the Iron Gray exterior does little to distinguish the Yoga S940 among a sea of other gray ultraportables. But look closer, and you start to see intriguing details along the edges—specifically, that you can barely see the edges because they’re so thin. The most futuristic part of the design, though, is only present once you open the lid: a notch that houses the webcam, letting the screen extend as far as possible toward the laptop’s thin edges. Other cool features include an eye-tracking capability that can automatically move a window to a second monitor when you shift your gaze away from the laptop’s built-in display. Perhaps the only bad part about the Yoga S940 is that you’ll have to wait until May to buy one.
Asus ZenBook S 13
Another pioneering laptop with a notch above its screen, the Asus ZenBook S 13 includes a few more features uncommon to the world of cutting-edge ultraportable laptops: a discrete graphics chip, a hinge that doubles as a stand to tilt the keyboard, and a USB Type-A port to connect older peripherals. Asus says the new ZenBook S 13 has the world’s thinnest laptop display border—known as a bezel. Components inside include Intel Core i5 or Core i7 U-series processors, up to 16GB of memory, and up to 1TB of SSD storage.
MSI GS75 Stealth
The Razer Blade Advanced received an update at CES this year, and it’s just as lustworthy as ever. Its build and features are largely the same as before, though, which means that the competing MSI GS75 Stealth is our favorite new gaming laptop at CES. This 17-inch system doesn’t look much bigger than a 15 incher due to its slim bezels and trim design, which comes in at just 0.74 inches thick. The big 144Hz screen looks great, the gold-and-black color scheme from its Stealth siblings is slick, and the chassis is still large enough to pack some serious power. It can take up to the Max-Q version of the now-available Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, which means some seriously high frame rates to make use of that high-refresh screen.
HP Chromebook x360 14 G1
Chromebooks aren’t just for kids in class anymore. The new HP Chromebook x360 14 G1 is a worthwhile alternative to premium Windows laptops, boasting a 14-inch screen and an optional Intel Core i7 CPU. The big unknown at this point is price, however. HP’s last premium Chromebook, the detachable-keyboard-toting $ 599 Chromebook x2, is expensive among Chrome OS devices, but still a decent value for what you get. If the Chromebook x360 14 G1 ends up following that formula, especially for the entry-level configuration, it could be a winner. It goes on sale this month, so expect pricing details soon.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The no-compromises Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is perhaps the ultimate business laptop. Lots of corporate types covet its durable, muscular design that manages to be so thin and light thanks to its carbon fiber chassis. But Lenovo still isn’t sure that even those folks appreciate how unique the X1 Carbon is. So the latest generation will make it more obvious by including an optional lid that shows off the carbon-fiber weaves, in case the Carbon name wasn’t enough to make you remember how thin and durable this laptop really is. The seventh-generation X1 Carbon debuted at CES this week alongside a brand new ThinkPad X1 Yoga, its 2-in-1 convertible cousin.
Asus ROG Mothership
The ROG Mothership (GZ700) is one of the most audacious new gaming laptop designs we saw at CES. The keyboard base portion detaches from the screen portion, turning it into a giant tablet of sorts. The keyboard is hinged and folds in the middle; you aren’t meant to use it n this tent-like inverted-“V” orientation, but it sure looks neat. The hinge pivots a full 360 degrees, and the keyboard—which has an internal battery of its own—connects to the rest of the system via a 2.4GHz wireless signal or a USB-C port. Expect the Asus ROG Mothership to launch in Q1 of 2019 in limited numbers, complete with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card and Intel’s top-end consumer mobile CPU, the Core i9-8950HK.
Acer Predator Triton 900
Another wild hybrid gaming rig, the Acer Predator Triton 900 can also be used as a tablet, but its keyboard doesn’t detach. By no means is it light or thin, though, and its hinge doesn’t rotate 360 degrees the way a normal 2-in-1 would. Instead, the hinge acts as a fulcrum, allowing the display to slide forward and cover the top of the keyboard. In addition to the standard notebook mode, the Triton 900 can also switch to Display mode, Easel mode, and Stand mode just like much smaller portable 2-in-1 laptops. The size of the chassis doesn’t just offer the benefit of being able to house a big screen. It also allows powerful parts to be packed in. The Triton 900 has a desktop-class Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, 16GB of memory, and two 512GB SSDs in RAID 0. It will start selling in March for a cool $ 3,999.
Dell Latitude 14 7400 2-in-1 (2019)
Dell’s new enterprise-focused convertible laptop is a looker rather than a staid business workhorse. Its ultra-thin bezel is its biggest style claim to fame, taking a cue from Dell’s own XPS line of consumer ultraportables. It boasts some nifty security features, too, like a smart card reader and a proximity sensor that automatically deactivates sleep mode when you walk up to the laptop. The Latitude 7400 2-in-1 will also be available with an optional Gigabit LTE modem when it goes on sale in March with a starting price of $ 1,599.
Acer Swift 7
When the Acer Swift 7 launched in 2017, it turned heads with its borderline ridiculous thinness. Through design refinements (most notably, the extremely thin screen bezels on all four sides), the 2019 Swift 7 has managed to trim the chassis down even further. It’s less than a centimeter thick (0.39 inches), and weighs just 1.96 pounds. The chassis is made of magnesium-lithium and magnesium-aluminum between the lid and deck, so it’s also quite rigid despite the extreme lightness. Rounding out the specs are an 8th Generation Intel processor, 8GB or 16GB of RAM, and 256GB or 512GB of SSD storage. The 2019 Swift 7 will be available in May starting at $ 1,699.99.
HP Spectre x360 15
Most features on the 15-inch HP Spectre x360 are very similar to its 13-inch sibling, which HP announced last fall. They’re both 2-in-1 convertible laptops, and they both have unique sawed-off rear corners with USB ports in them to let you plug in peripherals while keeping the cords from interfering with whatever else is on your desk. The reason the brand-new 15-inch Spectre x360 is so intriguing is its optional OLED display, with much deeper blacks and more vivid colors than a typical LCD. You might have been forgiven for thinking that OLED laptops were dead, but that’s not true anymore. Unfortunately, they’re more expensive than their LCD-based counterparts. HP didn’t announce pricing yet, so we’ll have to wait until it goes on sale in March to find out how much of a premium the OLED screen will command.
Dell’s Alienware gaming division is proudly touting the new Alienware m17 gaming laptop as its thinnest and lightest 17-inch design to date. It measures just 0.91 by 16.1 by 11.52 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.8 pounds. You can make the m17 pretty modest or powerful, with graphics options ranging from a basic Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (best for 1080p play) up to a powerhouse GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q. Similarly, the CPU can run from an Intel Core i5 chip to a Core i7 or Core i9. The m17 will launch on Jan. 29, at a starting price of $ 1,649.99.
Huawei Matebook 13
After a few years of middling laptop designs, Chinese tech giant Huawei knocked one out of the park last year with the excellent MateBook X Pro. Now, the company is borrowing many of the features that made the MateBook X Pro stand out and sticking them on a brand-new, less-expensive laptop, the MateBook 13. In addition to the thin bezels and unique 3:2 aspect ratio of its display, the MateBook 13 also sports a generously sized touchpad and USB-C charging. It goes on sale on Jan. 29 for a palatable $ 999 starting price.