The laptops of 2022: what we look forward to for the year ahead

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Dell’s prototype wireless webcam.

Richard Peterson / CNET

This story is part of The year to come, CNET’s take on how the world will continue to evolve from 2022 and beyond.

The 2020s and 2021s were a reminder of how mainframes are at work, at school, at home, and just about everything we do. It started around March 2020, when many people took their work laptops home and then didn’t go back to the office for more than 18 months, if at all.

Meanwhile, we’ve changed the way we attend meetings, collaborate on projects, and learn new things. But, for the most part, our work-at-home and home-learning tools were the same ones we had before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, this work laptop just wasn’t designed for all-day video meetings or sitting in a virtual classroom. Case in point: Most laptops back then still had lousy webcams and just fine microphones. You can always tell when someone has a hard-to-find (or better) Full HD standalone webcam with a good eye line and a clear picture. A lot of people were stuck with something like a MacBook Air, with an upward tilted shot and a soft, blurry image.

It’s not that we didn’t know that turning every home office into a main office would mean more people would want better cameras, microphones, screens, and more. But responding to that need – by designing a new product or new features, then making something and in store – is a multi-year process. That’s why it’s only when we step into 2022, at CES and beyond that, we’re starting to see even simple features like Full HD webcams becoming mainstream.

The pandemic has also made one laptop per person even more of a rule than it already was. This is because each member of the household, adults and children alike, needed their own full time system. You might have your desktop laptop with you, but it might be old enough and junky enough (or so corporate) that you want something else. You or your spouse might be a freelance writer and need your own laptop. Meanwhile, every school-age child in the family suddenly needed a separate laptop for distance education – no more sharing a system for the kids or having a centralized family computer.

Here’s how these trends, driven into high gear by the pandemic, will be reflected in new PCs and laptops in 2022 and beyond.

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HP Elite Dragonfly ultralight laptop.

HP

Easy solution: improve webcams and microphones

For years, the 13-inch MacBook Air was the most universally useful laptop most people could buy. With one significant flaw – the mediocre 720p webcam. See enough and you could almost tell who in your Zoom meeting was on a MacBook, just like some experienced radio DJs can tell which microphone someone is using just by sound.

To its credit, Apple immediately began rolling out better cameras, starting with the 2020 version of the 27-inch iMac. I enjoyed its 1080p camera so much that I ended up dragging it from one corner of my house to another just to use the webcam and mic in meetings and TV appearances. The trend continued in the 24-inch iMac and the new one 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptop.

Now, and in 2022, you can expect a lot more Full HD cameras in laptops from Lenovo, Dell, and others. It won’t be in all models, as it’s always an added expense and frankly may require a larger camera unit, but it’s getting closer to the universal standard every day. And whether you’re working from home, an office, or both, that’s a good thing.

MacBook Pro 2021

The latest MacBook Pro laptops already have upgraded 1080p webcams.

Dan Ackerman / CNET

New recycled ideas

Everyone wants their product to be green, and sometimes it’s even for non-advertising reasons. I’ve heard of laptops and accessories that used a certain amount of recycled plastic or recycled cardboard in computer packaging, but 2022 means even more laptops will be built around recycling materials and the reuse of parts.

Dell recently impressed me with a new concept demo called Luna. The idea is that your laptop will have a lot more user accessible parts, not so much so that you can upgrade them later (although I’d still love to see that), but more so you can swap out parts. old or defective parts and Dell can recover unused parts without throwing the entire laptop away. It also makes it easier to trade in a used laptop so that the hard drive, processor, RAM and other components can be removed and inserted into new machines.

The Luna is just a concept project, not a real line of laptops, but hopefully some of its aspects will turn it into real products sooner rather than later.

What you can expect from computers in 2022 is more recycled material in laptop packaging and even power adapters, although that’s more difficult to do with the laptop body itself. .

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The new Dell XPS 13 Plus also sported a few cutting edge upgrades, including a row of capacitive touchscreen function keys and an all-glass front lip.

Dan Ackerman / CNET

New ways of working

Some upcoming innovations promise to alleviate a bit the discomfort of working remotely. Some of them have already been announced, like Dell’s Flow Concept, which automatically connects and disconnects a laptop from a secondary display based solely on proximity. I also liked Dell’s Pari webcam prototype, which is wireless and able to stick anywhere on your screen for the perfect eye line. Or you can just pick it up and aim it anywhere from the whiteboard across the room to the brilliant idea you’ve sketched out on a cocktail napkin.

These developments are still in the concept or prototype stage, so don’t expect them any time soon. But I think we’ll see more innovative assistive apps and features this year, like laptops that can alert you when someone peeks over your shoulder or that can log you in with facial recognition, even when you are wearing a mask.

The last frontier may be the smart office. What will it look like and what will it do? I don’t think there is universal agreement on this yet, but I suspect it will start with wireless charging and could move onto secondary displays, ergonomic adjustments and more.

Choice of larger chips

Two great forces are helping laptops and other computers move away from the dominance of Intel chips. The first is that the widespread adoption of Chromebooks, especially by students engaged in some level of distance learning, is opening the door to more ARM-based laptops, which previously were not newbies in the field. Windows world.

Second, Apple’s aggressive schedule to move Intel’s entire Mac lineup to its own M-series chips has shown that laptops that ignore Intel or AMD chips don’t have to compromise on performance. . In reality, the latest MacBooks M1 Pro and M1 Max are faster than most of the Intel models they replace. Google says prepare your own chip, especially for Chromebooks.

Yet Intel controls about 75% of the computer market, and this expanding playing field can be affected by many factors, including persistent shortages in chip supply. And since so many people have had to splurge on an emergency upgrade to a new laptop over the past 18 months, these people may be reluctant to upgrade again so soon.



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