Laptops get bigger, and smaller, at CES 2019

From gaming giants with RTX graphics to incredibly slim laptops, the lineup of new computers at CES covered a lot of ground.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
2 min read

Laptops were big business at CES 2019, not a surprise to anyone who has followed the show over the past several years. It's usually a very popular category with dozens of new products, but I've rarely seen a year so packed with new ideas and new designs as this one. Desktops , tablets and other types of computers showed up as well, but in much smaller numbers.

Watch this: See all the best laptops of CES 2019

Gaming gets bigger

Thanks to Nvidia's new RTX graphics chips for gaming laptops (and a new mid-priced RTX 2060 for desktops), gaming PCs stepped up in a major way, with bold new shapes from the Asus Mothership, Alienware Area-15m, Samsung Odyssey 2 and Acer Triton 900, among others. What was so surprising was that many of these flagships felt free to play with the traditional clamshell design, and it will be interesting to see which new ideas take off and which don't.


The Alienware Area-51m takes a fresh approach to gaming laptop design. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Everything else gets smaller

But as gaming laptops were getting bigger, mainstream laptops were shrinking. The Acer Swift 7 takes the prize for most-improved sequel. Last year's super-thin original was one of my 2018 favorites, but the even smaller 2019 version is even more amazingly light and compact. 


The super-slim Swift 7 gets slimmer bezels for more screen and less bulk. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Meanwhile Dell found a way to squeeze a 2.3mm webcam in the slim top bezel of the new XPS 13 -- so no more nose cam. Lenovo's new Yoga S940 takes away the traditional 360-degree hinge, but adds glass that gently curves around the side edges, much like some Samsung phones do.

Less is more

Budget laptops also made an appearance, but didn't dominate. New Chromebooks with AMD processors could bring prices down further, while Samsung experimented with the Flash, a new, low-power Windows laptop with a unique textured design that at least stands out from other budget machines.


Laptops with OLED screens have been few and far between. The displays are expensive, hard to source, and often only available in a few sizes and resolutions. This year, we saw hints of growth, but also some warning signs. Lenovo introduced an OLED-screen Yoga, but announced it wasn't coming to the US market. HP added an AMOLED display (basically the same thing) to a version of the popular Spectre x360. And Razer teased us with a prototype Blade 15 laptop with a 15-inch 4K OLED display (as well as a second model with a 240Hz display), but no firm commitment to bring either to market. OLED has been steadily taking over a big chunk of the TV market. For laptops, it's still at the starting gate. 

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