Best of CES 2021: Laptops from Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, Acer and more

CES - which usually takes place in Vegas - is back for 2021 in all-digital form. And it's a bumper one for laptops. Here's the best picks of the bunch
Best of CES 2021: Laptops from Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, Acer and more
Best of CES 2021: Laptops from Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, Acer and more

CES takes place every January – typically in Las Vegas – and while it’s back for 2021, it’s all-digital instead. So while we’ve not been rushing around any real show floors this year, there’s been a lot of virtual running around instead.

It’s been a bumper year for laptops at CES 2021, too, with a heap of updated machines, new processors, and a big focus on gaming. Here’s the very best laptops revealed so far to give you the big picture.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 7 Plus

In an unexpected move at the start of CES 2021, Microsoft added a new Surface device – but it’s not a wholly new device, rather the Surface Pro 7 Plus (or 7+) is a modified Surface Pro.

Really the Pro 7+ is aimed at education and business rather than consumers. That’s why there’s a larger battery and removable SSD, along with upgraded 11th generation Intel Core processor options.

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Acer Predator Triton 300 SE

Here’s one that’s a little different: a gaming laptop that’s, well, ‘hidden’ inside a more casual laptop shell.

Gaming laptops are big business – but not just for hardcore gamers, per se – which is why this Predator model has come to be.

It’s all all-new idea for Acer’s gaming line-up for a number of reasons, one of which being that it’s the first Predator laptop to feature a smaller 14-inch screen.

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Razer Blade 15 (2021)

Lots of more traditional gaming laptops appeared at CES 2021 (there’s yet more below), but Razer pulled out the big guns by showing off its new Blade 15 with screen refresh rates up to 360Hz. Wowzers.

The design is second to none, too, with the same precision-crafted, CNC milled, durable finished design you’d expect from Razer.

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How about that for a flash of design and speed? Looks like a real treat.

The GE76 is available in 15- and 17-inch forms, offering a super-fast 300Hz refresh rate screen – only the Razer lade 15 (featured above) can best that.

In addition to the standard GE76 Raider – which features an RGB light bar at the front – there’s also a special edition version, called Dragon Edition (pictured), which has an etched in dragon emblem. How about that for standing out?

Under the hood the GE76 features up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, along with Intel Core i9 CPU, delivering a super-powered combination.

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Gigabyte Aero 17G / HDR

Gigabyte updated its Aorus and Aero lines, featuring the latest Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics and up to Intel Core i9 processors – putting it up there against the likes of MSI (featured above).

Top of the stack is the Gigabyte Aero 17G – priced from $2,499 – featuring a 17.3-inch screen with up to a super-fast 300Hz refresh rate. Or you can pick a 4K OLED panel with high dynamic range instead.

That’s some serious gaming clout with respect to visuals right there.

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i

Now for something out-and-out different: a dual-screen laptop. But the ThinkBook Plus, here in its second-generation form – which Lenovo calls “Gen 2 i” for some reason – features an E Ink display on the exterior, while an LCD screen lives within (in more standard laptop design fare).

This second-gen device’s key shift over the original product is that the E Ink display now covers 68 per cent of the exterior, increasing it by over 48 per cent compared to the original.

So why dual screen? Just as we said of the original: “E Ink is a low refresh-rate monochrome display technology, just like you have in an Amazon Kindle. It’s designed to be super low-energy in use, to negate battery drain, without the backlight causing eye stress. For reading, therefore, it’s a very comfortable experience”.

Acer Chromebook Spin 514

In a first for Acer’s Chromebook line-up the 2021 Chromebook Spin 514 sports an AMD Ryzen processor and graphics. It’s part of the increasing shift away from Intel chipsets.

Key to the design is a hinge that means this Chromebook can be used as a laptop, pressed flat as a tablet, or spun around for ‘stand’ and ‘tent’ positions at any angle you please.

The years have shown Acer progress its product line, too, with this 2021 model sporting far smaller screen bezels to the edges of its 14-inch Full HD touchscreen display.

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i OLED

The 2021 version of the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Pro now offers an OLED display as part of its spec – promising richer blacks and more saturated colours than its LCD counterpart.

That screen is a 14-inch panel with a 90Hz refresh rate, while the resolution can be specified up to 2.8K (that’s 2880 by 1800 pixels) across its 16:10 aspect ratio – which is wider and taller for more visible real-estate.

The screen is the one core difference in an otherwise similar feature set to the Slim 7i Pro’s LCD counterpart – both models including up to 11th Gen Intel Core processors with optional Nvidia GeForce MX450 discrete graphics.

Lenovo IdeaPad 5G

The IdeaPad 5G is Lenovo’s third take on the connected ultra-fast laptop. The IdeaPad’s aim is to being in a new phase of affordability, the 14-inch model – which isn’t available in North America – starting at €799.00 in Europe.

Take that in context: the Yoga 5G launched with a staggering £3K price tag on contract in the UK – at a time of life when hardly anyone is out and about on the move.

The IdeaPad 5G follows a similar structure to earlier Yoga 5G: it’s built upon Qualcomm’s 8CX hardware, which means 5G connectivity, no fans needed for cooling (so it’s silent), and absurdly good battery life is a given.

But that hardware also means full-fat Windows apps aren’t necessarily supported.

HP Elite Folio

The most noteworthy of HP’s new releases at this CES, the Elite Folio, is centred around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 platform with a fanless design and 5G connectivity.

That brings with it similar advances and drawbacks to the Lenovo IdeaPad 5G (featured above), i.e. great battery life but not full compatibility with the full suite of Windows apps – but if you want 5G and longevity for an on-the-go office-like laptop then it’s likely to be a cracker.