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Laptop team-ups power new PCs at CES 2018

Whether it was Intel and AMD, laptop bodies and smartphone brains, or Alexa and everyone, the story of new computers at CES was a tale of team-ups.

Acer Swift 7
Sarah Tew/CNET

In the midst of CES 2018, the slate of new computers on display, including laptops, 2-in-1 hybrids, desktops and tablets, felt a little dry. There were few revolutionary new designs, and only a handful of brand-new products -- most were modest internal or external updates to existing lines from Dell, HP, Lenovo and others.

But looking a little deeper, I realized this was a year of partnerships and team-ups, where how the elements inside new computers worked together was more important than what they looked like on the outside.

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Intel and AMD

This is the team-of-rivals pairing no one thought would ever happen. Intel's new Kaby Lake G processors combine an Intel CPU and an AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics chip into a very small package that can fit into slim mainstream laptops and small desktops, while offering decent gaming performance and even VR support. So far, we've only seen a few laptop examples, in the high-end Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the HP Spectre x360 15, along with Intel's own Hades Canyon NUC, a tiny book-sized desktop, but it's the new hardware idea we're most eager to test and benchmark in 2018. 

Laptop bodies and smartphone brains

At one time, the conventional wisdom was that smartphones were becoming so powerful and so feature-packed, and with such big screens, that they would eventually replace tablets and laptops for a lot of people. Tablets have indeed become less ubiquitous, but the computer lives on, as people find it hard to actually give up things like physical keyboards, touchpads and full-size displays.


The Lenovo Miix 630 is one of the first Windows PCs with a Snapdragon processor. 

James Martin/CNET

Instead of phones becoming more like laptops, this year at CES, laptops are becoming more like phones, adding smartphone CPUs like Qualcomm's Snapdragon for 20-plus hours of battery life and an always-on LTE connection. Lenovo's Miix 630 is joining already announced systems from HP and Asus as early adopters of this new platform.

PC maker Razer showed off a prototype called Project Linda that takes a different approach to the same concept, starting with a standard 13-inch laptop body, and not only turning it into a dock for a smartphone, but also using the phone screen as both a touchpad and a second display. There's much more on this concept here, where we talk about the surprising trends in PC/phone convergence.

Alexa and your PC

Alexa, along with other smart helpers like the Google Assistant, is coming to all sorts of devices, from televisions to cars to kitchen appliances. So why shouldn't Alexa feel at home on computers as well? Lenovo is adding Alexa support, which will take advantage of the company's far-field laptop microphones, to several ThinkPad X1 products. A handful of PCs from Acer, Asus and HP are also getting on board the Alexa train, although so far it sounds like Alexa's computer launch may still be a few months out.


Dell's updated XPS 13. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The best of the rest

Team-ups aside, there were plenty of other interesting new PCs and PC-related news at CES 2018. Here are some highlights you shouldn't miss.

  • Acer's Swift 7 claims to be the world's thinnest laptop, at 8.98mm. That it has a sizable 14-inch display makes that even more impressive.
  • The latest mini Intel desktop, the Hades Canyon NUC (short for "next unit of computing") is a mini Kaby Lake G desktop about the size of a trade paperback that can support VR headsets.
  • Nvidia has a couple of new things for gamers to get excited about. The BFGD (Big Format Gaming Display) is a 65-inch G-sync display with 4K resolution, HDR support and built-in Nvidia Shield streaming features. HP, Acer and Asus will all make their own versions of this beast.
  • Dell offers a pretty sharp-looking update to one of our favorite laptops, the XPS 13, which is now smaller with new colors, but sadly keeps the same up-the-nose webcam under the screen.

Compare these new announcements with our pre-show predictions about what new CES laptops and PCs we'd find. 

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.