The best laptops of CES 2022

The Engadget editorial team explores the new laptops that were announced during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year.

Video transcript

DANA WOLLMAN: Laptops had a good showing at CES 2022. The show, which wrapped Friday, brought more than just the usual CPU refreshes. We saw some wild concepts, at least one controversial design decision, and several systems our own editors said they'd consider buying. Here's the best of what we saw. From the beautiful, to the wacky, to the eco-friendly, but never boring.

First up, our best of CES winner in the PC category, Lenovo's ThinkPad Z series. I saw this laptop at a private demo for reporters, ahead of CES. And what I noticed first was the lid, which was built to be openable with one hand. But it turns out there's more to the Z13 and Z16 than their sleek, user-friendly design.

The Z series is also one of the more environmentally friendly notebooks we've seen, with materials that include recycled aluminum and vegan leather. The charger is made from 90% recyclable materials and the packaging is 100% recyclable, thanks to compostable bamboo and sugarcane. Just as notable, the ThinkPad Z series is the result of an exclusive collaboration with AMD, making it among the first laptops with AMD's new high-performance Ryzen PRO 6000 series laptop processors.

Rounding out the spec list are Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, Dolby AI noise cancellation, and OLED screens. That would be 8k resolution for the 13-inch and 4K for the Z16. We're excited to test this out soon, closer to when it goes on sale in May.

Another great Lenovo machine, the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3. The Gen 3 was too impractical to win Best of CES, especially for left-handed people, but it deserves an honorable mention. The 17.3 inch ultra-wide laptop squeezes an 8-inch secondary screen onto the right side of the keyboard. It's hardly the first dual screen notebook we've seen, but we appreciate how designers or some other kind of power user can use the screen to magnify something in, say, Adobe Lightroom. Or have easy access to a control dashboard.

Additionally, the screen can be used in whiteboard mode or as a digital notepad. And then there's the most unconventional, the layout options. A waterfall mode that allows content to spill from the primary screen down to the smaller one below. What's especially neat here is how Lenovo takes advantage of Windows 11's built-in screen mirroring and extension options, so that third party developers like Adobe, don't have to tweak their apps just on Lenovo's account to make them work well on that secondary screen.

Under the hood, you get a new 12th Gen Intel Core processor and up to 32 gigs of RAM. There's also a webcam privacy shutter and a generous array of ports that includes HDMI, two usb-a, and Thunderbolt 4. We'll be sure to review the Gen 3 when it arrives in May. The starting price will be $1,399.

Moving on, in the love to hate category, we have Dell's XPS 13 Plus. Is it the best, that is debatable. Noteworthy, you bet. You see with its newest XPS 13, Dell may have messed with a good thing. That or it beat the rest of the industry to a bold, inevitable move. It removed the headphone jack.

We at Engadget don't like this one bit and we didn't want to like this machine. But we mostly did, in spite of ourselves. It's a gorgeous ultraportable, with a glass haptic touch pad and latticeless keys, that means no space between the buttons. And that's a design choice that allows for larger keycaps.

We even have to give credit to Dell for how pretty the touch sensitive function row is, even if it does remind us of Apple's now discontinued touch bar. Between the missing headphone jack, the touch bar clone, and the glass touchpad, which my colleague Devindra Hardawar found tricky to use. The XPS 13 Plus did not rise level of a Best of CES award-winner winner. But it's definitely the one everyone was talking about last week.

OK, yes this is in fact a CPU refresh, but it's in the service of helping some of the best gaming laptops stay at the top of their game. The Razer Blade 14, 15, and 17 will be offered with Nvidia's flagship GPU, the RTX 3,080 Ti. This news comes fresh off Nvidia's announcement at CES last week, that the 3070 Ti and 3080 Ti will be available for laptops, in addition to desktop systems.

Meanwhile, the Blade 15 and 17 will use Intel's new 12th Generation Core H-series processors, with a beastly 14-Core i9 12900 H chip available at the high end. In addition, though the Blade hasn't been redesigned, exactly, it has slightly larger keys for quote "wellness reasons." Along with a thinner hinge that promises improved ventilation.

The Blade 15 also benefits from a new UHD display option, while the largest model, the Blade 17 is getting a larger 82 Watt hour battery and eight speakers, up from four on last year's model. You can pre-order the Blade 15 and 17 later this month starting at $2,500 and $2,700, respectively. The Blade 14 goes up for pre-order on February 10th, starting at $2,00.

Now onto the weird stuff. We have to respect companies for putting out some experimental products, even if we're not so sure yet we'd buy them ourselves. ASUS dreamt big ahead of CES, with not one, but two funky devices on hand at the show. The Zenbook 17 Fold is, as the name suggests, a giant 17-inch foldable tablet.

In the box, you also get a Bluetooth keyboard with a built-in trackpad. Fold the tablet up, set the keyboard on top, and you've got yourself a modular Windows 11 PC that's equivalent in size to a 12.5-inch laptop. ASUS's ROG Z13 Flow is like a Surface Pro for gamers. A 2.43 pound tablet that manages to pack it in an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU and 12th Gen Intel Core processor.

If you need even more power, you can plug-in ASUS's mobile external GPU, which supports up to AMD's Radeon RX6850M in addition to Nvidia's mobile RTX series cards. Either way, the pitch here is that you can use it to play your PC games pretty much anywhere.

Like I said, it was a really good year for laptops at CES 2022. CES is not historically always a very exciting laptop show. So which was your favorite? Are there any that we just didn't include on your list that you were especially fond of?

Let us know in the comments and remember to like and subscribe. And check out engadget.com for even more stories about CES that we published last week. Thanks.

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