Thin end of a desirable wedge for laptops
Their slim profile can make them hard to notice, but laptops are alive, kicking and getting more and more powerful
With the mad competition for market share and that elusive "cool factor", phones have dominated tech-trend news for years.
They’re slimmer, smarter, and more integrated in our lives than ever before, and manufacturers have put a lot of effort into making them work- and entertainment-capable.
But, for both blockbusters and business, the laptop is still the workhorse and, arguably, the professional’s dominant screen — at least from 9 to 5.
"Even though younger generations tend to prefer a mobile device for their daily activities, in general, [older] people still prefer to use a notebook device that can meet both their personal and business needs," says Lenovo’s Julian Pienaar. Accordingly, though laptops are competing more for their share of media coverage, innovation in this space has certainly not stalled.
So, what can we expect from laptop trends in 2019?
Like most tech, there is a lot of focus on how slim and light laptops are getting, and this will continue to be a significant trend. Arguably it was Apple’s 2008 MacBook Air that led the charge in this direction, and the industry hasn’t looked back. Last month, the FM reviewed the Acer Swift 7 (2019 edition, model SF714-52T), the world’s thinnest laptop, and we were impressed with the look and performance. HP’s Spectre Folio and Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 are two others in close competition for the coveted "thinnest" title.
All of the above fall into the "ultrabook" category that promises to perform in terms of solid battery life and heavy-lifting processing power, while keeping things tight in the size department. Ultrabooks are status machines — and are priced accordingly. Other top choices in the category are the Huawei Matebook X Pro, Dell XPS 13, and Lenovo Yoga 920.
Razor-thin above all else, however, isn’t the only way to go … Yes, consumers still demand portability from their laptops (it’s their raison d’être after all), and machines will continue to get leaner, but the rise and rise of the souped-up gaming notebook has shown there is another way to go.
Generally, gaming laptops tend to be bigger and bulkier because they are built to accommodate specific needs.
They have larger keyboards and screens (15 inches and up is common), more ports, and the bodies need to accommodate fans and allow for heat dissipation.
With top-of-the-range graphics cards and an expectation that they can meet processing demand without crashing, gaming laptops have attracted a new subset of users: creatives. So much so, that at its global media conference in New York last week, Acer announced the launch of its new Concept D sub-brand.
"Market research has shown that 50% of the people buying
our gaming laptops are not involved in gaming. They were looking for a product that was powerful enough for their everyday work," says Acer marketing manager Angelica Davila.
Like Predator for gaming, Concept D is a range of devices aimed at professionals within more creative fields or those who create visuals — think video editors, animators, and so on. Potential users also include professionals like architects, engineers and even scientists who might be using these machines to visualise data, run 3D modelling, and the like.
The flagship laptop in the range is the Concept D9, with a ninth-generation Intel Core i9 processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card and a Pantone-validated 4K ultra-HD display. These won’t hit shops for a number of months and price estimates hover around the $5,000 mark, but it points to specialisation as a trend that perhaps we didn’t see coming — especially if we’re taking our lead from smartphone trends.
Finally, as binge-watching and streaming media edge out old-school broadcast TV, consumers demand more and more of their laptop screens. This may be one of the reasons OLED displays — with their fantastic deep blacks and bright colours — staged a slight comeback at the Las Vegas consumer-tech show CES in January.
This type of screen first cropped up a few years ago, but then seemed to fall out of favour. In Las Vegas this year, however, HP debuted its Spectre x360 with an OLED screen, and Laptop Mag reports that Dell and Razer will both have OLED laptops in their ranges this year.
The writer was a guest of Acer at its global media conference