OPINION: It’s been an exciting few years for laptops, with Apple shaking up the industry with its M1 processors, while cloud-streaming technology has made it possible for low-powered portables to take on heavy duty workloads.
But instead of looking backwards, let’s look to the future and make some guesses of what kind of innovations we can expect from laptops going into 2022.
Significant performance boosts
This one is the most obvious improvement for 2022, as AMD and Intel generally raise the performance ceiling for laptops every year. However, I’m expecting to see a greater generational leap than usual in 2022.
Intel’s Alder Lake desktop chip seriously impressed in 2021, so we’ve got high hopes for the mobile variants, which are expected to launch early this year. We’re also expecting AMD to release its Ryzen 6000 processors, so there will be performance boosts from both sides.
The new CPUs will likely support both DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0 SSDs too, allowing manufacturers to fit in faster components. The new SSDs are particularly exciting, as they not only make your laptop feel faster for day-to-day workloads, but also speed up loading times when playing a game so you can jump back into the action right away.
Speaking of gaming, Nvidia is rumoured to be releasing an RTX 3080 Ti GPU for laptops this year. If accurate, this will become the fastest laptop GPU currently available, and could make 4K gaming a more realistic option.
Higher refresh rates for lifestyle laptops
High refresh rates were previously reserved for gaming laptops, helping gamers to track fast-moving objects more easily so they can give their shooting accuracy a boost. But in 2021, we started to see the technology trickle down into lifestyle products.
Both the Surface Pro 8 and MacBook Pro had their screen’s refresh rate boosted up to 120Hz, allowing for smoother motion when scrolling down a website or social media feed. And with cloud-streaming services gradually pushing up the frame rate cap (as seen with GeForce Now), high refresh rates will soon become even more important to your standard laptop.
I can see other laptop manufacturers boosting the refresh rate of their laptops in 2022, or at least giving you the option at checkout.
More dual-screen and foldable laptops
With Microsoft teasing the Surface Neo back in 2019, and Dell showing off its foldable prototype (Concept Ori) the following year, we had high hopes that we’d see an abundance of dual-screen and foldable laptops appear on shelves in 2021.
However, that didn’t turn out to be the case, partly due to Microsoft’s decision to shelve its Windows 10X operating system. We’ve still seen some curious designs such as Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold and Asus’ ZenBook Duo, but they haven’t been able to make it a popular trend just yet.
But I’m expecting that to change in 2022 – not to the extent that dual-screen/foldable laptops will become the norm, but I reckon we’ll see various manufacturers have a crack at the unconventional form factor. That said, I personally don’t think these laptop designs can be successful until Microsoft finally optimises its operating system for multiple displays. But with the Surface Neo expected to launch this year, Microsoft certainly has an incentive to get it right.
Expect an influx of Snapdragon laptops
Laptops with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips are nothing new. In fact, they debuted as far back as 2017. But for all those years, they’ve been held back by compatibility issues with 64-bit Intel apps, which encompasses a great deal of software purpose built for PCs.
Fortunately, Microsoft reckons it has a solution since Windows 11 supports 64-bit emulation. In theory, this means laptops with a Snapdragon processor should be able to run all of the same apps that an Intel x86 chip can. This would immediately eliminate the biggest flaw of Snapdragon laptops, and could therefore make them a more popular offering.
We already know that Snapdragon laptops can offer an outstanding battery life – I’ve seen them last as long as 20 hours on a single charge. And since they boast such incredible thermal efficiency, they sometimes don’t require a fan, resulting in considerably lighter designs. The Samsung Galaxy Book S is a great example of this, weighing just 960g and measuring in at just 11.8mm, making it one of the most portable laptops I’ve ever reviewed.
Laptops with Qualcomm chips are often cheaper than their AMD and Intel counterparts too, making them an ideal option for those with a tight budget. With so many benefits on offer, I reckon many laptop manufacturers will start adopting Snapdragon chips in 2022, especially now Windows 11 has seemingly addressed its Achilles’ heels.
Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.