The Stand-Out Laptops of CES 2021

The Stand-Out Laptops of CES 2021

It was definitely strange not being able to hold, type on, or touch the brand new laptop screens at CES as we would have in pre-covid times. There’s only so much you can tell about a product you only see or read about online, so that tangibility is an absolute necessity to figuring out what a laptop is all about. (Some benchmarking would be nice, too.) Yet as we saw, it’s entirely possible to stand out with just a hardware spec list, new features, or an interesting design.

All the below laptops did just that. While this is not an exhaustive list of every laptop announced at CES 2021, these are a few that piqued our interest. Plenty of other gadgets caught our eyes, too, from wearables to TVs, and everything cool and just plain weird in between.

Asus ROG Flow X13 Ultra Slim

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Asus hit us with a bit of a surprise this year: None of its new or refreshed gaming laptops will come with an Intel processor, save for one. Every other model will have one of the new processors in AMD’s 5000-series.

But in the spirit of last year’s CES, and its success with the Zephyrus G14 from its ROG lineup of gaming laptops (which also had an AMD processor), this year Asus merged two different laptop worlds together to create the unique 2-in-1 ROG Flow X13 Ultra Slim.

The 360-degree hinges let the touchscreen display fold completely backward to use the gaming laptop in tablet mode, yet you still get the combined power of AMD’s new Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU alongside Nvidia’s GTX 1650 GPU regardless of what mode you use it in. Currently, the laptop comes bundled with the impressive RTX 3080 inside Asus’ XG Mobile eGPU too.

It seems like Asus has designed this laptop for both the frequent and infrequent gamers who use their gaming laptops for other tasks, too. Gamers are artists, bookworms, students, teachers, etc., and a laptop that can literally morph itself to suit any working scenario is appealing.

But while this laptop is definitely a stand-out that I would love to get my hands on, I hope Asus decides to at least sell it separately from the XG Mobile. The two together cost a whopping $US3,000 ($3,895).

Acer Predator Triton 300 SE

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I can’t get enough of the Predator Triton 300 SE’s new design. It’s all grown up now, decked out in a grey-silver that is both subdued and professional while also being bright and inviting. But it’s packed with power underneath the hood. This is Acer’s flagship gaming laptop, and it did not go light on the specs.

Sporting a new 11th-gen Intel Core i7 H35-series Special Edition processor and an Nvidia RTX 3060, Acer did much more than stuff this laptop with new components. The all-metal chassis is thinner and lighter, just 0.7 inches thin and weighing 2 kg. The battery life is substantially better, according to Acer, and there’s a 14-inch FHD IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate, which is a solid choice for someone who’s looking for a laptop for work that can also handle a variety of games.

It starts at $US1,400 ($1,818), which makes me nod my head slowly and say, “Not bad, not bad.”

Dell Alienware m17 R4

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Power and a stupid-fast fresh rate are basically synonymous with Dell’s refreshed Alienware m17 R4. It’s the first Alienware gaming laptop with a 360 Hz, 17.3-inch, 1080p display, HDMI 2.1 support, and Nvidia’s new RTX 30-series cards.

To support the new GPUs, Dell has opted for Intel’s Core i7-10870H, and the Core i9-10980HK is also an option. They’ve got the core count and the performance that gamers would expect from a beastly laptop like this. (Although I would like to see one with a new AMD Ryzen 5000-series chip, too.)

The m17 R4 is also getting slightly faster DRAM at 2933 MHz, and up to 4TB of storage so you can upload lots of games the size of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

HP Envy 14

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HP has given its popular Envy laptop series a welcome refresh, making it even more suitable for those looking for a machine for work or school — something reliable that will get the job done quickly. Not only is the Envy 14 getting Intel’s new 11th-gen Core i5 processor, but HP has also made other tweaks to the overall specs to make it better suited for some creative tasks as well.

The Envy 14 now has a 14-inch, 16:10 (1920 x 1290) display instead of a 13-inch, 16:9 (1920 x 1080) IPS touchscreen. There are dedicated keys to mute your mic or open/close the physical webcam shutter, and an AI Noise removal feature for those times you’re on a Zoom call and someone with a leaf blower walks up right next to your window. (This happens to me at least once a week.)

The machine also claims to last an impressive 16.5 hours on a charge — if true, that means you can leave your laptop charger at home. There’s also an optional GTX 1650 Ti for those who need a little more GPU compute power than Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics.

The price isn’t too bad, either — $US1,000 ($1,298) for the whole kit — if you’re looking for something with a more robust operating system and more oomph than a Chromebook.

Lenovo Yoga AIO 7

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The Yoga AIO 7 is technically an all-in-one desktop PC, but I’m including it here because it has a mobile processor as its brains. And it looks really, really neat. (It’s so much more pleasing to look at than Lenovo’s Yoga A940 AIO.) It’s basically a mid-range gaming laptop disguised as an all-in-one desktop with a display that can rotate vertically, and it supports wireless casting from phones and tablets while the PC is off.

Specs-wise, the Yoga AIO 7 comes with either a Ryzen 7 4800H or Ryzen 5 4600H CPU and an RTX 2060 GPU — a step down from Asus’ Zephyrus G14, yet it should deliver similar performance. The display itself should catch the eye of some creators, too. If you opt for the higher-end version, it’s a 27-inch 4K IPS display with a DCI-P3 99% colour gamut, but there is also a cheaper option with a 100% sRGB colour gamut. Both are flicker-free and low blue light certified from TÜV Rheinland.

The only downside is Lenovo has no plans at this time to release it to the North American market, which is a major bummer. I hope it reconsiders.

MSI Stealth 15M

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It’s no small thing to boast your company now makes the thinnest and lightest gaming laptop in the world, but it would seem that MSI has done it. At 0.62 inches thick and just 2 kg, the Stealth 15M is lighter and thinner than both the Dell XPS 15 and Lenovo’s newest Legion Slim 7. (Both weigh more than 2 kg and are thicker than 0.70 inches.)

MSI has found a way to fit some serious hardware into its newest Stealth 15M, too: an Intel Core i7-11375H CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3060 Max-Q GPU, along with Wi-Fi 6 support, two USB-C ports (one with Thunderbolt 3), and a full-size HDMI port.

Compared to Razer’s newest Blade 15 (down below), the Stealth 15M is $US300 ($389) cheaper and has a newer processor than the Blade’s 10th-gen chip, so it might be a more enticing option to some people. The rest of the specs are pretty much the same.

NEC LaVie Mini Concept

Image: Lenovo
Image: Lenovo

OK, so this isn’t a thing that you can go out and buy, nor is there even a promise of it ever launching, but my gosh is it cool! It’s way cooler than Dell’s Concept UFO from CES 2020. Lenovo teamed up with NEC to create this interesting, laptop-to-handheld gaming device concept, the LaVie Mini.

Depending on the price, I would buy this in a heartbeat. Laptop mode would be great for firing off a quick email or doomscrolling through Twitter, and when you’ve had enough bad news for one day, you can transform your mini laptop into a handheld console. It’s got the specs for it: an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU with Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, Wi-Fi 6, and a 26 WHr battery. At least, that’s how it’s designed to be configured at the moment.

I’m assuming Windows 10 would run on it, too. So make it LTE (or even 5G) compatible along with Wi-Fi 6 and you could play games on it almost anywhere via the cloud on GeForce Now, Stadia, Luna, Xbox, Shadow — whatever!

It’s hard to tell if the controllers will fold in/out from the laptop itself, or if they will be separate. If the controllers fold in/out, that would make the LaVie Mini enticing. But for now it’s just a concept, so dreaming is going to be a lot easier than willing this sucker into reality.

Razer Blade 15 (Base Model)

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Last but not least is Razer’s refreshed Blade 15. Keeping its signature look, the newest Blade 15 comes with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7, up to an RTX 3070, a 512GB PCIe SSD (plus one empty M.2 PCIe slot), 16GB of RAM, and a FHD 144 Hz or QHD 165 Hz display. The chassis is also about 4% smaller than the previous model, and there’s an Ethernet port.

Unlike many other gaming laptops, though, the new Blade 15 focuses on storage capacity. Razer has added a new storage module that stacks two M.2 PCIe SSDs together, which means if you wanted to put up to 4TB of storage in this laptop, you could. Both the Base and Advanced models have this feature, actually!

If you have some more cash to burn, the Blade 15 Advanced model has a 10th-gen Intel Core i7, up to an RTX 3080, 1TB PCIe SSD with an extra M.2 PCIe slot, 16GB or 32GB of RAM, and a FHD 360 Hz, QHD 240 Hz or 4K OLED Touch display. It does swap the Ethernet port for an SD card reader, though.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for local Australian pricing and availability.

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