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Best laptops of CES 2022

These new laptops, tablets and hybrids set the stage for the year ahead.

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

Last year's CES, held remotely in January 2021, was a surprisingly good year for getting hands-on time with new laptops. Because everyone knew the show wasn't going to be in person, most PC-makers sent samples of their new laptops for my team to try out. For CES 2022, many companies (and media) decided not to attend in person relatively late in the day, due to the fast-changing omicron situation. That means our impressions of the most interesting and innovative laptops this year are based largely on specs and promises, not hands-on time. Although there are exceptions. 

With that in mind, there are a few big themes for upcoming laptops in 2022 and a few models that stood out as potentially great. We're finally seeing more full HD (1080p) webcams for better work-from-home video meetings. There are a lot more AMD-powered gaming laptops. Secondary screens are back for another turn at bat. And better GPUs are turning up in devices that don't look or feel like gaming PCs. 

Talking to my CNET colleagues Josh Goldman and Lori Grunin, these are the laptops and hybrids that we thought were the best of CES 2022. 

Dell XPS 13 Plus

Dan Ackerman/CNET

The Dell XPS 13 is one of my go-to premium laptops, as it has a great design, decent specs and a price in the same ballpark as the MacBook Air it closely resembles. A new premium version, called the XPS 13 Plus, leans into the "minimalist and modern" look. There's no discernible touchpad, just a single piece of glass all the way along the front. Instead of physical function keys, there's now a touch-controlled strip that can swap between Fn keys and media control keys. I'm reserving judgement on both of those. They look cool, but might be impractical. More importantly, the display can go up to a 4K OLED screen and 28-watt Intel processors, up from 15-watt CPUs on other XPS 13 laptops. Read more about the Dell XPS 13 Plus.

HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

HP

The Dragonfly line is a poster child for laptops designed around hoteling and hot-desking mixed with remote work. The Windows version, called Elite Dragonfly G3, adds a 5-megapixel webcam with Auto Frame and other improvements for conferencing and collaboration, plus an optional 3,000x2,000-pixel OLED screen. But I'm more interested in the Chrome OS version -- a rare premium business Chromebook. It has a similar design, but is a two-in-one rather than a clamshell. It's also the first Chromebook with a haptic touchpad, and the first Chromebook with Intel's vPro platform, which is something IT departments use to remotely set up and maintain your system. Read more about the HP Dragonfly.

Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen Edition

Dell

Though its new sleeker, smaller cousin the x14 may be more eye-catching, the m17 R5 Ryzen Edition packs in all the latest AMD technologies, including AMD's new top-end processors, the Ryzen 9 6980HX CPU and RX 6850M XT GPU. That means it takes advantage of all the new battery-saving and power-optimizing architectures introduced by AMD with its new 5nm Ryzen and Radeon parts, which makes this m17 one of the first 17-inch gaming laptops that might actually deliver decent battery life in addition to powerful gaming performance. Read more about the Alienware m17 R5 Ryzen Edition.

Asus ROG Flow Z13

Asus

Asus debuted the Flow X13 convertible laptop and its portable external XG Mobile GPU/USB hub last year. This year, it gets a younger sibling, the Flow Z13, a 13-inch detachable (i.e. a tablet plus a keyboard) that also works with the portable graphics system. Like the X13, it takes crams in a relatively powerful Intel Core i7-12700H gaming CPU as well as a bit-better-than-integrated Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, so you can actually game on it a bit without hooking it up to the eGPU. But the eGPU is small and light enough that you can really tote it easily, and that adds series power with an RTX 3080 or soon an AMD Radeon RX 6850M. I think the tablet is a more attractive proposition than the convertible as well, though the fact that Asus downplayed stylus support makes me wonder if it will be as useful for graphics work as I'd like. Read more about the Asus ROG Flow Z13.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 and Z16

Lenovo

The ThinkPad business laptop line turns 30 this year and while ThinkPads aren't quite the black boxy laptops they were decades ago, most don't look strikingly different either. The new Z-series ThinkPads -- available in 13- and 16-inch sizes -- do shake things up a bit with bodies made from recycled aluminum in gray or black with bronze or gray accents, or even recycled black vegan leather on the lid. More importantly they're indicative of all the other trends we saw at CES this year: 16:10 OLED displays, full-HD webcams with IR for facial recognition and even haptic touchpads. They'll also get AMD's new Ryzen Pro 6000 processors announced at CES. Read more about the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 and Z16.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16

Asus

Asus never fails to announce a couple of extraordinary devices at CES, like the upcoming dual-screen Republic of Gamers Zephyrus Duo 16 gaming laptop. It's a refined version of the company's Duo 15, featuring a 16-inch main display and a 14-inch secondary 4K touch panel that rises from above the keyboard when you lift its lid. Asus will offer two main screen options, including an exclusive Dual Spec panel that can be used at 4K with a 120Hz refresh rate or 1080p at 240Hz. It's filled with the latest components from AMD and Nvidia for peak performance, too. Read more about the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16.

Honorable mentions 

Alienware x14

A new screen size from Alienware, and one that's only 14.5mm thick. This is one of the CES 2022 laptops we got to see in person, and while it supports up to an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, supports Nvidia Advanced Optimus and has a 144Hz full HD screen, it's also heavier than it looks, at 4 pounds. Read more about the Alienware x14

Asus Zenbook 17 Fold

I'll have to see it to believe it, but on paper, the idea of a 17-inch flexible display just sounds cool. Folding laptop screens were all the rage two years ago, but since then only one or two have actually come to market. Read more about the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold

Lenovo Yoga 9i

The Yoga line was first announced 10 years ago, establishing the convertible two-in-one laptop design that would eventually be adopted by most PC manufacturers. Lenovo announced the seventh generation of its Yoga 9 series at CES 2022 and it's every bit the premium two-in-one I'd expect. The body was redesigned and a new row of shortcut function keys that makes it easier to use the 9i for hybrid work or learning. However, while the Yoga 9i is a favorite, the Yoga 7i also got updated and is likely to be the one I'll be recommending, especially the new 16-inch size. Read more about the Lenovo Yoga 9i and 7i

Acer Swift X

What's most impressive about the new 14-inch Swift X (and last year's model, too) is that it's thin and weighs just a hair over 3 pounds but still has discrete graphics. And it's a chip with some pop to it: Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. Acer is adding 12th-gen Intel Core processors to it, too, and has switched from a 1080p 16:9 widescreen to a 2,240x1,400-pixel display with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Acer also added a 16-inch size to the line that will use Intel's new Arc discrete graphics also announced at CES 2022. Read more about the 14- and 16-inch Acer Swift X.