It’s Christmas Eve, and the year is almost over!
With computing news thin on the ground during this festive time of the year, I’ve decided to look back at the year as a whole for my latest column, and celebrate the very best laptop innovations that I’ve seen first hand.
These excellent features may not necessarily feature in the overall best laptops of the year, either due to high pricing or they’re simply not ready for public use. But they provide an exciting sneak peek for the future of laptops, with more refined iterations likely arriving in the coming years.
And even if they do have numerous rough edges, it’s still great to see laptop manufacturers willing to take a risk and add a bit of imagination to an industry that generally plays it safe.
So without further ado, here are the laptop innovations that got me really excited in 2022, and which I hope to see more of throughout next year.
Foldable screen – Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED
I was in love with the foldable screen of the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED when I tested the laptop back in August. It changed the way I’d normally use a laptop, allowing me to prop the massive 17-inch screen up like a tablet for work, and then fold it away when I’m ready to journey home.
I was impressed with how Windows would snap into the correct alignment whenever you placed the keyboard on top of the screen, or even when rotating the device between a horizontal and vertical placement.
I can’t remember another device I was more upset about losing when sending the Fold OLED back to Asus after the review period. That said, there are plenty of issues with this device. Firstly, it’s extremely expensive costing more than £3000, and its performance and battery life were also underwhelming compared to the competition.
As a result, it’s difficult to recommend the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED in its current state. Although that doesn’t stop me pining for the foldable design. The technology may not be quite ready just yet, but there’s no doubt foldable laptops are going to make a major impact on the industry in the coming years.
Touch Bar – Dell XPS 13 Plus
I assumed that Apple’s controversial Touch Bar on previous iterations of the MacBook Pro would have put off laptop manufacturers from attempting anything similar for the foreseeable future. I was completely wrong, as Dell added its own takes on the Touch Bar to its latest laptop.
The Dell XPS 13 Plus features a Touch Bar which can swap between shortcut icons when the function key is pressed. It lacks the functionality of Apple’s Touch Bar, but instead proved to be a great middleground between the new and the old.
I would like Dell to take this concept even further in 2023, perhaps allowing users to pick their own custom shortcuts instead. But this was a great starting point, with Dell finally daring to disturb the status quo and push the outdated keyboard into the modern era.
3D screen – Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition
It was thirteen years ago when Avatar first released and hype for 3D technology was at its peak. But since then, interest has dwindled to such an extent that it’s now near-impossible to purchase a 3D TV. And so I was incredibly surprised when Acer launched its SpatialLabs laptop in 2022, which allows users to play games in 3D without the need of 3D glasses.
Playing games in 3D is astounding, with the likes of God of War and Shadow of the Tomb Raider offering more depth and detail to environments. There’s no doubt that 3D technology enhances your experience.
However, the technology does have many shortcomings. Right now, there are only around 50 games that offer support. There are also a few technical bugs, and you have to keep your head relatively steady in order for the 3D effect to work.
But the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition has proven that there may well be an appetite for 3D gaming in 2023 and beyond. And it’s refreshing to screen an innovation for laptop screens beyond OLED and high refresh rates.
AI features – Microsoft Surface Pro 9 5G
When discussing laptop processors, the conversation is usually limited to how fast it makes the laptop. But Microsoft wanted to change that perspective with the Surface Pro 9 5G, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor capable of some outstanding AI tricks.
While I haven’t published my review for the Surface Pro 9 just yet, I did get hands on time with it at a Microsoft event. A spokesperson showed me a couple of neat features, such as being able to create the illusion that you’re looking directly at the webcam during a video call.
The Surface Pro 9 is also capable of tracking your head, and so can keep your face in frame even when you’re walking around the room. And lastly, Microsoft’s laptop is able to block out background noise, so those on a video call won’t hear your dog barking or your baby crying.
Those clued up on the latest smartphone innovations may not be too impressed with all this, as the likes of Google has been working on innovative AI features for years. But it’s great to see the laptop market catching up, and realising that there’s more to a processor than high performance, with AI showing incredible potential.