The CES Laptop Rush: Scores of New Models But Few New Designs
There is certainly no shortage of new laptops announced at CES this year. In an unusual turn, both Intel and AMD have hot new laptop processors ready to ship, and the manufacturers are scrambling to incorporate them into their product lines.
From Samsung to Lenovo, Sony to HP ...virtually every laptop manufacturer is announcing top-to-bottom new models that swap out last-year's CPUs for 2nd Generation Core processors from Intel or Fusion CPUs from AMD.
These are pretty impressive new processors. Both Intel and AMD's new beauties incorporate the GPU right into the same piece of silicon as the CPU, vastly improving performance compared to previous integrated graphics solutions. The actual CPU part of the processors are faster and more energy-efficient, too. Intel's 2nd Generation Core processors (formerly code-named Sandy Bridge) are aimed at all-purpose and desktop replacement laptops, with dual core ultra low voltage versions coming later in February to fit into the more expensive ultraportable PCs.
AMD's new E-Series and C-Series CPUs, the first of its Fusion line, are tiny, inexpensive, low-wattage processors aimed at the market dominated by Intel's Atom CPUs netbooks and inexpensive thin & light ultraportable laptops.
Unfortunately, most of the new laptop models we've seen are simply refreshes of existing models. Cosmetically altered only slightly, the laptop makers seem to have rushed to change the internals of their existing models without bringing to market wholly new designs.
There are a few exceptions, of course. Samsung's new 9-Series is a very thin and light design that is obviously aiming at Macbook Air territory (including the high price). Acer is showing off its Iconia dual-touchscreen laptop, which we got a closer look at late last year. For the most part, though, the dozens of new models announced are very similar to existing models, only with the new chips inside (and, on the larger units, the addition of USB 3.0).
This is just a matter of timing. Most laptop manufacturers make major changes to the design of their product lines every one to two years, releasing them late in the spring (the Dads and Grads" time of year) or late in the summer (for Back-to-School). As much as I'm enamored with the idea of a $600 laptop based on AMD's E-350 Fusion processor that looks like a Macbook Air, only perhaps without the pricey all-aluminum body and SSD, this really isn't the time of year such a dramatic new design would come to market.
Good News and Bad News
So that's the good news and bad news from CES. The good news is there are very impressive new processors from both Intel and AMD and they're finding their way into nearly every laptop from every brand over the next couple months.
The bad news is that the designs are mostly the same as what's on the market today. If you need a new laptop, wait for one that incorporates the new CPUs. If you can wait longer, you'll see a lot of new designs to pique your interest by the summer.