Computex 2019: Every announcement you need to know

Next week the tech world will converge in San Francisco for WWDC, Apple’s conference on all things iOS and Mac. But for the past week in Taipei, Taiwan for Computex, we’ve gotten a glimpse into the future of Windows PCs and laptops.

The big, long-term takeaway is that single-screen laptops are possibly a thing of the past — or dual-screen laptops are going to be the tech industry’s next spectacular gimmick. Either way, there will be many multiple-screen devices in our future.

The chip business is also, ahem, heating up. AMD had a buzz-creating showing at Computex, while Intel introduced its 10th-generation Ice Lake CPUs, among other big announcements. Qualcomm, meanwhile, promises 5G laptops in the not-too-distant future, and Nvidia is expanding its graphics card line to better accomodate creatives.

And then there were the cases. Oh, the cases. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.

Asus doubles down on dual displays

Asus unveiled the ZenBook Pro 15 at last year’s show. Its star feature was the ScreenPad, a phone-sized second screen that functioned as the laptop’s trackpad. One year later, Asus’ ZenBook Pro Duo became Computex 2019’s star product.

In addition to its 15-inch 4K main display, the ZenBook Pro Duo has a 14-inch screen above its keyboard. It’s the same length and resolution as the top screen, but about half as deep. It can serve two different functions: you can either use it as an extension of the main stream, so for instance your Facebook feed will flow from one screen down to the second, or as a completely separate display.

The latter option allows you to run three programs on the bottom screen. So, you may be doing your work on the main display and have Spotify, Facebook Messenger and Netflix open on the bottom three. (In which case, you’re probably not getting much work done.)

Apart from that, it’s an impressively spec’d high-end laptop. It can be configured with up to an Intel Core i9 CPU and an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU. There’s also a less expensive version, the ZenBook Duo, that goes up to a Core i7 and an Nvidia MX250 card. The sacrifice here is weight: It’s not chunky like a gaming laptop, but it’s not a thin-and-light device either. 

Asus is calling the big second screen a ScreenPad Plus. The regular ScreenPad in last year’s ZenBook Pro 15, now called the ScreenPad 2 thanks to improvements in responsiveness and functionality, will be ported to Asus’ less expensive ZenBook line and its less expensive still VivoBook S range.

And that’s just the beginning, Intel says

As nifty as Asus’ ZenBook Pro Duo looks, it could be just the first step to a dual-screen future. Intel at Computex showed off two concept laptops, Twin Rivers and Honeycomb Glacier, to demonstrate what it thinks our laptops will look like in the coming years. (Remember, Intel doesn’t make computers, just computer parts, so these are just demonstrations to show what can be made off the back of Intel tech.)

Twin Rivers is Intel’s take on thin-and-light, ultra-portable laptops. It’s a dual 12.3-inch display setup, where the bottom screen has an onscreen keyboard, like one you’d find on a tablet. However, this concept also comes with a physical Bluetooth keyboard that fits perfectly atop the virtual one for use in long sessions. 

Then there’s Honeycomb Glacier. It’s a gaming rig, with a 17.3-inch main display and a 12.3-inch secondary screen. It’s similar to the ZenBook Pro Duo, except that it has an ergonomic lift that lets you game with less shoulder-hunching action.


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The most futuristic feature of this laptop, however, is eye tracking. In the demo we saw the laptop had four windows open, one on the main screen and three on the bottom one. The laptop tracked the demonstrator’s eyes and put him in control at whatever window he was looking at, distinguishing even between the three on the bottom screen. It was wild.

Intel says we’ll see devices like Twin Rivers in “one to two years.” However, it gave no timeline on when a Honeycomb Glacier-like gaming rig would hit the market.

Processor proselytism

One of Computex’s biggest stories wasn’t about devices, but the parts that power them. 

Intel and Nvidia have both dominated the CPU and GPU markets, respectively, for the past decade. Since 2015, Intel has held roughly 80 percent of the processor market against its main rival, AMD. Meanwhile, Nvidia has fluctuated from 60 to 80% over its main rival, AMD.

But AMD, whose CPU marketshare has jumped 3% in the last year, came out guns blazing at Computex. It officially announced its Navi range of Radeon GPUs, which will power the Sony PlayStation 5, but its main focus was on competing with Intel. 

The “one last thing” moment of the press conference was the Ryzen 7 3900X CPU. A competitor for Intel’s top-of-the-line Core i9 9920X CPU, the “no compromise” Ryzen 7 3900X features 12 cores and has a boost clock speed of 4.6GHz. It runs on 105 watts, versus the 9920X’s less efficient 165 watts, and more importantly will retail for $499 upon its July 7 release. The 9920X, for comparison, costs $1,199.

Notably, AMD stock rose 10% after the announcement.

But Intel had a strong showing at Computex, too. Apart from the dazzling concepts shown above, Intel’s two main announcements were its 10th-gen Ice Lake CPUs and Project Athena.

While AMD focused on benchmark comparisons, Intel promised tangible quality-of-life improvements. Laptops with its Ice Lake chips will be even thinner than already lithe devices like the Dell XPS and HP Envy and their battery life will be improved, too. I was personally most impressed by Ice Lake’s gaming chops: Intel showed an Ice Lake-powered laptop running Destiny 2 on integrated graphics alone, without any discrete GPU.

Project Athena, meanwhile, is a new class of laptop. To get the Athena stamp of approval, companies like Asus, Lenovo and Dell need to make laptops that hit certain criteria. These include the ability to wake up within a second, achieve 9 hours of “real-world battery life” and more. Project Athena laptops will hit the market by the end of the year, Intel says.

Qualcomm made a similar pitch. Just as its parts power the 5G phones from Samsung, LG and Nokia, the American company wants to fuel the 5G laptop revolution. It says we’ll soon have laptops that are internet connected at all times and location aware — in addition to the usual promises of svelter designs and longer battery lives.

Nvidia unveiled RTX Studio, which are laptops powered by its new Quadros RTX GPUs. These graphics cards have similar power to the new RTX GeForce cards (that is to say, a lot), but have much more memory. A high-end GeForce GPU will have 8GB of memory, for instance, while Quadro cards can double that. The average Joe won’t need that boost, but for creatives who work with 3D rendering and high-resolution video editing (think 4K, 6K and 8K), it makes a huge difference.

And finally, UK-based Arm announced its Cortex-A77 chip, which it promises will make high-end Android phones 20% faster in 2020.

The laptops of Computex

The Asus ZenBook Pro Duo was the most attention-grabbing laptop at Computex, but it wasn’t the only one worth your attention. 

Dell pushed meaningful updates to both its premium productivity laptop, the XPS, and its premium gaming laptop, the Alienware m. The XPS 15 gets OLED displays for the first time, as well as Intel’s Ice Lake CPU, Nvidia’s GTX 1650 and 64GB of RAM. The Alienware m15 and m17 laptops got significant facelifts, and the latter can now be configured with a 244Hz display. 

By the way, if you prefer hulking gaming laptops over thin-and-light-but-less-powerful ones, check out MSI’s newest Titan. It has an RTX 2080 — no Max-Q tweaking needed.

Luxury trimmings were also displayed at Computex, with Asus revealing a special 30th-anniversary edition of the ZenBook. A 13-inch, ScreenPad-equipped laptop clad in genuine white leather and 18 karat rose gold plating. Then there’s HP’s updated Envy, which comes with a wooden palm rest.

Last but not least, Nvidia’s RTX Studio parts are cool — but mean nothing without companies making laptops for creatives. Razer and Acer have stepped up to the plate, with the former committing its Razer Pro 17 to the RTX Studio program and Acer updating its ConceptD with new Quadro parts.

And that’s it for Computex 2019! We’ll see you again next year, where we will presumably welcome our new 5G, tri-screened overlords.

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