The road ahead of us is a long one. While describing a year as “365 days” is technically accurate, a lot of the time nobody really thinks about just how significant that amount of time can be. For tech, a year of progression is more like two. 2016, like 2015 before it, is yet another revolutionary year for technology and tech enthusiasts.
In this article we’ll be discussing the latest features and innovations coming to laptops being manufactured this year, what they mean, and how they should factor into your purchases.
Intel Core M Processors
The Intel Core M processor is a fairly big deal in notebook technology. Now, if you’re familiar with processors from Intel, you may be wondering what the “M” designation even means.
In this case, the Core M is a specification of Intel processor that’s designed for mobile devices. It stands between the Atom line and Core i3 series in terms of performance and power consumption.
Intel Atom processors are for miniscule power consumption and heat, at the expense of performance. Atom processors are usually found in netbooks and lower-end devices. The Core i3 series (as well as higher designations like the i5 or i7) are higher-level processors, sometimes desktop-grade.
The goal of the Core M is to be fairly powerful, much more so than its Atom cousin, while not consuming that much more than Atom. The performance drop is noticeable in high-end applications, but due to the manufacturing method of the Core M, the Core M is miniscule and has a TDP of less than 5 watts.
The Core M allows for high performance in low-profile, low power consumption devices. While it may not be the best processor for video-making professionals or high-end gamers on laptops, the Core M is more than suitable for browsing, streaming video and most work conditions.
Innovations in Laptop GPU Technology
What would this article be without talking about graphics technology? Everyone at Make Tech Easier knows that I’m a huge nerd for gaming, and the latest news from the CES show floor has me excited for where that tech is going.
Despite my huge criticisms of gaming laptops, I’m feeling somewhat optimistic about them this year. In fact, one ingenious solution has already come to light that might just help.
External GPU enclosures! Laptop manufacturers are releasing external GPU enclosures which can be paired with their laptops in order to allow users to use full, desktop-grade graphics cards with their laptops. A common pitfall of buying laptops for gaming is that the cost of graphics hardware is way higher, and it hits a lot more limitations on a mobile platform. With external GPU enclosures, these limitations are easily overcome.
Also, desktop GPUs are now being put into laptops. This technically started late last year, but as 2016 progresses, expect to see plenty of high-end machines toting desktop graphics cards like the GTX 980.
While this raises more concerns about thermals, at least one laptop manufacturer has gone completely insane and decided to add water-cooling to a laptop. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this scheme become more popular as time goes on since people want proper desktop replacements out of their laptops. That means laptops have to overcome hurdles in performance and thermals – hurdles they seem to be jumping by taking more inspiration from their desktop cousins.
Pricing on these solutions isn’t well known, but their release does mean that we’re coming closer to a future where a laptop can be a main machine without sacrificing the power of the desktop platform. That’s something to look forward to.
New USB Standards
The advent of USB 3.1 and USB Type-C brought interesting changes in not just PC hardware, but also in tablets and smartphones. USB 3.1 is allowing even higher data transfer rates, more equivalent to Thunderbolt.
Type-C is the more interesting one. Type-C supports high power delivery (up to 100W), a reversible connector (meaning that it can be plugged in however you like, unlike the infamous problem with flipping USB cables) and can be paired with USB standards like 3.1 and older, as well as Thunderbolt displays and more.
The applications of USB Type-C and 3.1 include faster charging for laptops and tablets and even better support for monitors and other peripherals.
Innovative Form Factors
The Surface Book, released late 2015, turned quite a few heads upon its release. A full-powered notebook from Microsoft (similar to their original Surface series, but not quite) with a detachable display that can be used independently as a tablet?
The Surface Book isn’t the only notebook with a radical form factor that became popular last year. Lenovo’s Yoga series is also quite popular as a notebook/tablet hybrid, and as time goes on I think we can start expecting more and more subversions on laptops.
In this article we went over all the main things you should be looking out for when buying laptops this year. Do you feel like there’s anything we missed or should’ve mentioned? Would you like help finding the right laptop?
Comment below and let us know!