CES 2021: The Best Laptops, Tablets, and Desktops

CES is stacked with laptops, desktops, and tablets this year with new models from HP, Microsoft, Acer, and more.
Tom Fogden

Everyone loves a new computer and, at CES this year, we've been treated to loads of them.

Lenovo, for example, has announced a new 5G-enabled laptop while HP has debuted a boatload of stylish and powerful laptops and convertibles.

Here's the lowdown on the laptops, desktops, and tablets that are set to be hitting the shelves this year.

Microsoft

Let's start with a big one — the new Microsoft Surface Pro 7+. The name is a bit of a mouthful but it's a significant product, especially so given the ongoing pandemic.

Microsoft is promising that the Surface Pro 7+ has been “purpose-built to empower people, teams, and classrooms in the new digital age.”

But what has it actually done to achieve that?

The new Surface Pro comes with the latest 11th gen Intel Core processors to improve performance and longevity — it now promises up to 15 hours of battery life, compared to the Surface Pro 7's 10.5 hours.

The front and rear cameras have also been upgraded with 1080p video along with Dolby Atmos speakers and dual far-field microphones. This should help make previously tiresome video calls painless.

The Surface Pro 7+ also has improved packaging which is 23% lighter and is made from 99% natural fiber-based material, of which 64% is post-consumer recycled content. This should make it easier for workers, teachers, and students to get started working remotely.

The wifi-only Surface Pro 7+ starts at $899 while the LTE models start at $1,149. Business and education customers across Asia, Europe, and North America can place orders now, and they'll start shipping by January 15.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7+

HP's Huge Range

Strap in, there's a lot of new stuff here.

HP Elite Dragonfly Max and G2

Perhaps the biggest announcement in HP's eyes is the new Elite Dragonfly range.

The original Dragonfly G2 was launched at CES 2020 but it's been updated for our strange new reality. The G2, if you're not familiar, is a thin-and-light 2-in-1 with optional 4G LTE or 5G wireless connections, as well as a built-in Tule Tracker so you can find it easily. HP has now decided to stick some new 11th-gen Intel Core processors inside the G2's chassis to ensure it can keep pace.

The Dragonfly Max, on the other hand, makes communications easier. It has four wide-range microphones and a 5-megapixel webcam and an IR camera.

There's no pricing for either model yet but they should be available this month.

HP Elite Folio

The HP Elite Folio is a new business version of the Spectre Folio that debuted a couple of years ago. The Elite Folio borrows the (vegan) leather-bound design of the Spectre Folio, as well as its interesting hinge mechanism. — this allows you to move the screen flat with the keyboard or just behind the trackpad for watching videos or even video-calling.

The Elite Folio is powered by the increasingly prevalent Snapdragon 8cx 5G platform, which gives you 5G compatibility and long battery life. Performance might be a bit slow compared to Intel chips but it should be quick enough for most work.

Again, no pricing has been announced but the Elite Folio should be available in February.

HP Elite Folio

HP Envy 14

Next up is a new version of the Envy 14. It's a consumer, rather than business-focused device, but HP is aiming it at ‘creatives' (whoever they are).

To this end, HP has changed the display, giving it a 16:10 aspect ratio which also covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut. Of course, creative work often requires a lot of power and HP has obliged, giving users a choice of 11th-gen Intel Core processors and up to NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti Max Q discrete graphics.

Again, HP has bumped up the video conferencing chops of the Envy 14. You get AI noise removal which can help clear up the sound around you making you sound clearer to anyone on your Zoom meeting — helpful if you're working in the kitchen with a dishwasher running, for example. It has also added HP Enhanced Lighting feature, which turns the screen into a selfie ring light to brighten up your face while you're on a video call.

Prices are expected to start at $1,000 when it goes on sale this month.

HP Envy 14

HP EliteBook 840 G8 Aero

Finally, there's the EliteBook 840 G8 Aero. HP claims it's the lightest 14-inch business laptop on the market, tipping the scales at just under 2.5 lbs or 1.1 kilos.

It comes packing 11th-gen Intel Core processors, a built-in Tile Tracker again, and optional 5G wireless.

Again, there are upgraded video conferencing components with three microphones, and privacy features such as HP SureView which can help block what's on your screen to anyone looking at it from behind you.

It'll hit the shelves in March, though we don't have any information on pricing yet.

HP EliteBook 840 Aero G8

Acer's new Chromebook

The Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is the first ChromeOS device to feature an AMD processor and AMD Radeon graphics.

That's right, AMD's all-conquering chips have made their way over to Chromebooks. Acer's hoping that the new Ryzen chips and graphics cards will make the Spin 514 something of a powerhouse.

Of course, Chromebooks aren't as power-hungry as Windows PCs which might make the Spin 514's new chips look a bit like overkill.

However, having more power is seldom a bad thing and the ten hours of battery life should be more than enough for most people (especially as many of us are working at home at the moment).

The Spin 514 will be available in North America next month starting at $479.

Acer Chromebook Spin 514

Lenovo's High-End Laptop

Lenovo has launched a number of products at CES this year with three new IdeaPad models, including one with built-in 5G and a new tablet. We've written about these already but the American company wasn't finished.

Yoga Slim 7i Pro

It has also announced the new Yoga Slim 7i Pro. It comes packing a 14-inch OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and you can choose from 11th-gen Intel Core processors and up to NVIDIA GeForce MX450 dedicated graphics cards.

That screen, however, is the main draw. With a 16:10 aspect ratio and a 2880×1800 resolution, it should be perfect for on-the-go gaming and content creation.

Sadly, it won't be available to buy in North America.

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Pro

Razer's Sharper Blades

Razer makes some of the finest laptops on the market and any updates to its Blade line of gaming notebooks are always welcome.

At CES this year, the company has seen fit to upgrade its Blade 15 and 17 models with the latest NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series graphics cards. These GPUs deliver excellent performance and include the ray-tracing features which make flames, water, and light reflections seem even more realistic.

To make the most of the new GPUs Razer has also given the laptops new displays with higher refresh rates.

The 15-inch Advanced model has three screen options: Full-HD at 360Hz, Quad HD at 240Hz, and an Ultra HD OLED display with a 60Hz refresh rate. The 17-inch version gets either Full-Hd at 360Hz, Quad HD at 165Hz, or Ultra HD at 120Hz.

The 15-inch version is, according to Razer, the smallest 15-inch gaming laptop with an RTX 30 series GPU. The 17-inch, meanwhile, has to make do with being “one of the thinnest” gaming laptops on the market. Never mind.

The Razer Blade 15 starts at $1,699 and is available to buy from Razer.com now, with third-party retailers getting the model on January 26. The Razer Blade Pro 17, meanwhile, starts at $2,299. It's also available from Razer.com now.

Asus Launches a Load of Laptops

The Taiwanese giant arrived in Las Vegas this year with a huge range of laptops ready to be launched, including some interesting dual-screen devices.

Asus's Dual-Screen Devices 

Asus has announced two new dual-screen ZenBook Duo laptops at CES this year.

The laptops have one big regular screen and a smaller, secondary screen where you'd expect to find the keyboard.

The 15.6-inch ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED is, basically, an update to the existing ZenBook Pro Duo 15. It has a new OLED display, 10th-gen Intel Core processors, and RTX 3070 graphics.

The 14-inch ZenBook Duo gets 11th-gen Intel Core chips as well as up to MX450 GPUs.

However, the biggest improvement is that the secondary display now tilts forward, rather than sitting flat in the body — no need to crane your neck over the laptop to see what's going on with your smaller screen.

Asus has also improved the software to make the most of that second screen. It has new apps to improve multitasking and allows you to “flick” windows from one screen to another.

Asus's more… conventional laptops

If you like your laptops with one screen, rather than two, Asus has still got you covered, however.

The new VivoBook S14, for example, comes with 11th-gen Intel Core i7 chips, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, and 16GB of RAM, strong specs for a modern ultrabook.

It's also the lightest 14-inch VivoBook ever, weighing a paltry 1.3 kilos.

Asus also has a new Chromebook, the CX9. Again, you get up to 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processors and Intel Iris Xe graphics. The slim bezels around the 14-inch display should make for a good viewing experience, as well as a stylish and slim design.

Plus, the Chromebook CX9 gets Google's Titan C security chip to keep all your data safely secured.

Asus has also debuted the Chromebook Flip CX5. It's the first 15.6-inch Chromebook Flip to be powered by 11th-gen chips. It also packs Wifi 6 connectivity and provides up to 12 hours of battery life.

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.co with a range of experience in the world of tech publishing. Tom covers everything from cybersecurity, to social media and website builders when he's not reviewing the latest phones, gadgets, or occasionally even technology books.

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