With that in mind, there are a few big themes for upcoming laptops in 2022 and a few models that stood out as potentially great. We’re finally seeing more full HD (1080p) webcams for better work-from-home video meetings. There are a lot more AMD-powered gaming laptops. Secondary screens are back for another turn at bat. And better GPUs are turning up in devices that don’t look or feel like gaming PCs.
Last year’s CES, which was broadcast live from Las Vegas in January 2021, was an unexpectedly fantastic year for obtaining hands-on time with new computers. Most PC manufacturers provided samples of their new laptops for my crew to try out because they understood the show wouldn’t be in person. Due to the rapidly shifting omicron scenario, many firms (and the media) decided not to attend CES 2022 in person until late in the day. As a result, our views of the year’s most exciting and inventive laptops are mostly based on specifications and promises, rather than hands-on experience. There are, however, exceptions.
Talking to my CNET colleagues Josh Goldman and Lori Grunin, these are the laptops and hybrids that we thought were the best of CES 2022. The Dell XPS 13 is one of my go-to premium laptops, as it has a great design, decent specs and a price in the same ballpark as the MacBook Air it closely resembles. A new premium version, called the XPS 13 Plus, leans into the “minimalist and modern” look. There’s no discernible touchpad, just a single piece of glass all the way along the front. Instead of physical function keys, there’s now a touch-controlled strip that can swap between Fn keys and media control keys. I’m reserving judgement on both of those. They look cool, but might be impractical. More importantly, the display can go up to a 4K OLED screen and 28-watt Intel processors, up from 15-watt CPUs on other XPS 13 laptops. Read more about the Dell XPS 13 Plus.
Asus debuted the Flow X13 convertible laptop and its portable external XG Mobile GPU/USB hub last year. This year, it gets a younger sibling, the Flow Z13, a 13-inch detachable (i.e. a tablet plus a keyboard) that also works with the portable graphics system. Like the X13, it takes crams in a relatively powerful Intel Core i7-12700H gaming CPU as well as a bit-better-than-integrated Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, so you can actually game on it a bit without hooking it up to the eGPU. But the eGPU is small and light enough that you can really tote it easily, and that adds series power with an RTX 3080 or soon an AMD Radeon RX 6850M. I think the tablet is a more attractive proposition than the convertible as well, though the fact that Asus downplayed stylus support makes me wonder if it will be as useful for graphics work as I’d like. Read more about the Asus ROG Flow Z13.
The Dragonfly line is a poster child for laptops designed around hoteling and hot-desking mixed with remote work. The Windows version, called Elite Dragonfly G3, adds a 5-megapixel webcam with Auto Frame and other improvements for conferencing and collaboration, plus an optional 3,000×2,000-pixel OLED screen. But I’m more interested in the Chrome OS version — a rare premium business Chromebook. It has a similar design, but is a two-in-one rather than a clamshell. It’s also the first Chromebook with a haptic touchpad, and the first Chromebook with Intel’s vPro platform, which is something IT departments use to remotely set up and maintain your system. Read more about the HP Dragonfly.
The ThinkPad business laptop line turns 30 this year and while ThinkPads aren’t quite the black boxy laptops they were decades ago, most don’t look strikingly different either. The new Z-series ThinkPads — available in 13- and 16-inch sizes — do shake things up a bit with bodies made from recycled aluminum in gray or black with bronze or gray accents, or even recycled black vegan leather on the lid. More importantly they’re indicative of all the other trends we saw at CES this year: 16:10 OLED displays, full-HD webcams with IR for facial recognition and even haptic touchpads. They’ll also get AMD’s new Ryzen Pro 6000 processors announced at CES. Read more about the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 and Z16.