Windows 11 is coming, so does that mean I should wait to buy a new laptop?
We've looked at the age-old OS upgrade conundrum from every angle. Here's what we recommend.
Dan AckermanEditorial 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
ExpertiseI'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
It's one of the biggest technology buying hangups: Is my new purchase going to be immediately obsolete? Or at least outdated? That kind of FOMO can lead to long delays in buying a laptop, phone or tablet, always waiting for the next update or upgrade. With the announcement of Windows 11, laptop and desktop shoppers are in this familiar situation.
Here's what we know so far. Windows 11 is coming Oct. 5, though not to every PC right away. (You may have to wait until mid-2022 to install it.) The system requirements as outlined by Microsoft would seem to cover nearly any Windows PC sold today. To make sure Windows 11 will work on your current computer, you can install Microsoft's PC Health Check here. Must-haves for Windows 11 include at least 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a 720p display measuring over 9 inches diagonally. The company also says, "Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use."
1GHz or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or system on a chip
64GB or larger storage device
UEFI, Secure Boot capable
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
HD (720p) display greater than 9 inches diagonally, 8 bits per color channel
Internet connection and Microsoft account
For Windows 11 Home edition: internet connectivity; Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use For all Windows 11 editions: internet access to perform updates and to download and use some features; Microsoft account for some features
For Mac and iPhone or iPad users, the annual operating system upgrade has become largely seamless. Changes are generally incremental and downloading and installing the updates is easy. And because there are only a handful of hardware variations, all made by Apple, there are few (but not zero) compatibility problems.
The gaming updates coming to Windows 11 are mostly based on the Xbox app, and any updates there should come to Windows 10 as well. And if you upgrade to Windows 11 later, I don't see any reason it should affect gaming hardware.
If you're thinking of buying a new laptop now, I don't see any major CPU/GPU updates coming before next year that would change my mind. Nvidia's latest 3000-series mobile chips started showing up in laptops earlier this year (although it's possible the Ti versions of those may show up in laptops at some point).
Watch this: Microsoft demos new Windows 11
Reasons to wait for Windows 11
Microsoft further says PC makers including Dell, HP, Lenovo and others are planning "hundreds of new Windows 11 designs" for the holiday season. In some operating system overhauls, that can mean interesting new hardware with valuable new features.
For Windows 11, with the promise of new built-for-Windows-11 systems, there may be new design ideas and new hardware features we haven't seen yet. But aside from potentially haptic feedback for pens, I haven't heard anything that would make me think I'll miss out by buying a new laptop now.
Based on what we know right now, if you're already about to pull the trigger on a Windows laptop purchase, I think you can move forward without worrying about it. If any new information causes my opinion to change, I'll let you know.