In-Depth

CES 2020 Gallery: Microsoft's Hardware Partners Redefine the PC

Eight standouts from this year's Consumer Electronics Show, where Microsoft OEM partners bent (sometimes literally) the rules of the traditional Windows PC as we know it.

Every year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas plays host to Windows OEMs eager to showcase their most forward-looking PCs. This year, while many of the devices on display had plenty to offer by way of business functionality -- think more native AI capabilities, 5G support and collaboration perks -- the biggest standouts were those that really pushed the boundaries of the traditional PC form factor beyond simple streamlining.

Here's a roundup of some of the most eye-catching offerings from the 2020 show, which wrapped up on Friday:

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold

The "world's first foldable PC," as Lenovo touts it, is now out of the prototype stage. Aimed at users who are constantly switching between smartphones, tablets and laptops, the new ThinkPad X1 Fold is a 13-inch display that opens and closes like a book thanks to a complex hinge feature. It can lay flat like a regular tablet, but folding it open gives users two separate displays that intuitively interact with each other. Users can run a videoconferencing app in one display, for instance, while scrolling through a document or taking notes with a digital pen in the other. An onscreen keyboard appears in one of the displays when it's needed, but Lenovo also offers a separate "Bluetooth Mini Fold Keyboard" that users can pull out for more involved typing tasks and then store inside the closed ThinkPad X1 Fold for charging.

  • Base Price: $2,499
  • Availability: Mid-2020
  • More Information: Lenovo

Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel and Ezel Pro

Acer has fired a shot across the bow of Microsoft's Surface Studio with its new ConceptD 7 laptops. Like the Surface Studio, the ConceptD 7 devices are aimed at creative users. Its touchscreen pivots on Acer's patented Ezel Hinge to lie flat for sketching with the included pen, stand tent-style for presentations or sit perpendicular to the keyboard for traditional laptop work. However, unlike the all-in-one desktop form factor of the Surface Studio, the ConceptD 7 is more of a many-in-one laptop; Acer touts it as "a desktop replacement that can be taken on the road." There are two versions, one for "heavy workflows" and another ("Pro") for those who require more horsepower.

  • Base Price: $2,699 (ConceptD 7 Ezel), $3,099 (ConceptD 7 Ezel Pro)
  • Availability: June 2020 (ConceptD 7 Ezel), July 2020 (ConceptD 7 Ezel Pro)
  • More Information: Acer

Dell Latitude 9510

For the hyper-mobile user -- those who spend whole workdays shuttling between flights, for instance, at airports where charging stations are at a high premium -- the new 15-inch Latitude 9510 sports a whopping 30-hour battery life. That's enough, claims Dell, for power users to travel without the need to bring battery packs or charging cables. It's also fast, thanks to the Dell Optimizer technology that's built-in. Using AI and machine learning, Dell Optimizer tracks user behaviors to streamline common tasks, like launching frequently used apps as soon as they're needed, adjusting battery consumption based on past usage, and automatically locking the device when it senses the user has moved away.

  • Base Price: $1,799
  • Availability: March 2020
  • More Information: Dell

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus

With a large, pen-responsive screen on its cover, the ThinkBook Plus takes digital inking to the next level. According to Lenovo, the purpose of putting a display on the closed cover of the 13-inch ThinkBook Plus is to reduce distractions even for heavy multitaskers. With the cover closed, the front display alerts users to only essential calendar alerts, e-mails and notifications. Users can peruse and annotate files right on the cover display, or take notes that sync with Microsoft OneNote using the accompanying Precision Pen.

  • Base Price: $1,199
  • Availability: March 2020
  • More Information: Lenovo

Asus ZenBook Duo

Another entry that adds a screen where there normally isn't is the new ZenBook Duo from Asus. The 14-inch ZenBook Duo is a follow-up to the 15-inch "Pro" edition that Asus introduced last year. Besides being smaller, this ZenBook Duo is not as high-powered as its predecessor, sporting an Intel Core i7 processor compared to the Pro version's Intel Core i9 chip. However, its standout feature is the same: a secondary touchscreen above the keyboard that spans the full width of the device. Dubbed the "ScreenPad Plus," this secondary screen gives users a much bigger workspace than usual, letting them multitask in ways that normally wouldn't be possible on a laptop.

  • Availability: Q1 2020
  • More Information: Asus

Lenovo Yoga 5G

Another entry from Lenovo, this two-in-one laptop is being touted by the company as "the world's first 5G PC." The 14-inch Yoga 5G (in North America known as the "Flex 5G") promises download speeds of up to 4 gigabits per second, a 10x speed increase from a typical 4G connection. That's thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx 5G processor, which also helps the device use its battery more efficiently. The result is a convertible laptop that's suitable for everyone from business users collaborating over video, to creatives accustomed to multimedia editing on the go, to home users looking to stream movies for hours on end.

  • Base Price: $1,499
  • Availability: Spring 2020
  • More Information: Lenovo

HP Elite Dragonfly

HP is also joining the 5G train, adding a 5G LTE option to its Elite Dragonfly convertible laptop. That 5G connectivity, combined with its already light form factor and optional third-gen Sure View privacy screen, makes the Elite Dragonfly an ideal device for users working on the road or in non-office settings. Another perk is the option to have location-finding technology built right into the laptop via a collaboration with Tile, which is known for its Bluetooth-enabled dongles that attach to devices, making them trackable in case they get misplaced. HP says the Elite Dragonfly is the "world's first laptop" to enable integration with Tile.

  • Availability: February 2020
  • More Information: HP

Lenovo ThinkSmart View

With Microsoft putting more and more of its eggs in the Teams basket, it was a only a matter of time before its hardware partners followed suit by putting the collaboration service front-and-center in their products. Not a PC but a "personal business communications device," the Lenovo ThinkSmart View is a standalone unit dedicated solely to Teams conferencing. Users can quickly connect to Teams meetings through the device, which is equipped with a built-in microphone, speaker and 8-inch display. It's designed to "[free] up the PC from administrative tasks," according to Lenovo. The company is also offering a software solution dubbed ThinkSmart Manager that lets IT teams manage all of their organizations' ThinkSmart devices from a single portal.

  • Base Price: $349
  • Availability: January 2020
  • More Information: Lenovo

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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