The annual 2019 Computex trade show is now over. As was expected, there were many new laptops and accessories on show as every major PC OEM and chipmaker made a beeline for Taipei to come together under one roof to share their broader vision about the future.
Like in past years, this year too a few key tech trends emerged that will shape the PC industry in 2019 and beyond. Here are the four main trends we noticed this year.
Dual-screen laptops stole the show in Taipei. The new laptop form factor is perhaps the biggest trend to watch in 2019. Asus took the lead by launching the ZenBook Pro Duo, but it was quickly joined by Intel with Honeycomb Glacier and Twin River dual-screen concept laptops. Both Asus and Intel are excited about dual-screen laptops, and for a good reason. After all, the new form factor is seen as the future of laptops.
In the age of smartphones, we still use the laptops. Yes, they pack more powerful processors, larger screens and thin-and-light designs, but their primary form factor remains almost unchanged. Intel alongside Asus’ vision is to make laptops more compelling through two screens. The idea is to have a laptop with the secondary screen or a “companion display” that acts like a second computer monitor.
On the ZenBook Pro Duo, for example, Asus highlighted how videographers and gamers could do much more with the secondary screen. If you are the video editor working in a publication, you could have the editing window on the main screen and use the secondary display for toolbars. The ability to drag and drop multiple windows onto the secondary display takes multitasking to a whole new level. This opens up new possibilities for how we interact with our laptops.
While Asus promises to launch the ZenBook Pro Duo sometime in the third-quarter of the year, Intel’s two-screen laptops are mere prototypes that might never see a commercial release. Whether it is the ZenBook Pro Duo or the Honeycomb Glacier concept, the idea behind those devices is to project them as cool and futuristic. They are radically different from the current-generation laptops and that’s what manufacturers want to put emphasis on. At the same time, we already are aware that those devices aren’t made for everyone, at least initially. But we at least liked the idea of a dual-screen laptop that is the major design shift in the laptop form factor.
5G for laptops
Thought 5G is limited to smartphones, think again? As many operators around the world have slowly started rolling out high-speed 5G services, PC makers are jumping at the opportunity to launch 5G-enabled laptops. At this year’s annual Computex trade show, Lenovo announced the world’s first 5G laptop, dubbed Project Limitless. The notebook uses the latest Snapdragon 8cx mobile platform as well as Qualcomm’s second generation 5G modem, the X55.
The device, which has no marking name yet, is one of the first commercial 5G laptops to hit the market early next year. Computer makers like Lenovo are clearly thinking that 5G services can prove transformational for the stagnant laptop market. 5G, or the fifth-generation of wireless services, promises our laptops and smartphones will have the ability to stream and download 4K video movies in seconds and, most importantly, will offer faster data speeds at lower latency and longer battery life. The real question now is: do we really need a laptop with 5G? With free Wi-Fi readily available at Cafes, hotels and airports, 5G may not have a big impact the way we use laptops.
Wi-Fi 6 everywhere
This Computex, there was a big emphasis on Wi-Fi 6, a new Wi-Fi standard. Chipmakers like Intel along with its partners like Asus, Dell, HP and MSI launched laptops with Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+). We also saw a slew of new routers and gateways being launched with Wi-Fi 6 in Taipei. It is clear that device makers believe in the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology (based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard) that offers speeds of up to 10Gbps and is designed to improve WiFi in congested spaces like stadiums and conference halls.
The key advantage of Wi-Fi 6 over the old Wi-Fi 5 is that it improves the network when a lot of devices are connected at the same time. This will drastically reduce buffering or lag during streaming movies on Netflix or playing online games. Wi-Fi 6 also improves the battery life on smartphones (say, the Galaxy S10 which is the first Wi-Fi 6 compatible smartphone) and other devices that support the new Wi-Fi standard. Keep in mind, though, that your devices need to have the chips to support Wi-Fi. ABI Research estimates that there will be more than one billion Wi-Fi 6 chipsets expected to be shipped annually in 2022.
A wooden laptop, anyone?
It has become tough to define a non-Apple laptop just by it looks. Most modern laptops these days are made using a combination of plastics and metals, mainly aluminum. But at Computex 2019, computer makers generated attention by launching laptops with new materials. For example, HP showed a new line of Envy laptops featuring wooden inlays on their palmrests.
Last year, HP introduced its Spectre Folio 13, a high-end Windows laptop using 100 per cent genuine, durable chrome-tanned leather. Asus also introduced its ZenBook Edition 30, a special-edition premium notebook, clad in “Pearl White” Italian leather and an 18-karat rose gold plated Asus logo placed on top. Just a few days ago, Lenovo showcased its first foldable prototype laptop covered in leather. It just shows that a growing number of PC makers are turning their attention to directly appeal to fashion-conscious users and business executives who care about design. Although a handful of such laptops are available in the market today, the trend is likely to gain momentum in the coming months.