Technology

Laptops adapt to the new normal in 2022

Dell wireless webcam prototype.

Richard Peterson/CNET

This story is part of Next yearCNET’s look at how the world will continue to evolve from 2022 onwards.

2020 and 2021 were a reminder of how important mainframes are to work, school, home, and almost everything we do. It all started around March 2020, when many people took their work laptops home, then hadn’t been back in the office for more than 18 months, if at all.

During that time, we’ve changed the way we attend meetings, collaborate on projects, and learn new things. But, for the most part, the tools for working from home and learning from home were the same we had before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, this laptop isn’t designed to work just for all-day video meetings, or to sit in a virtual classroom. Case in point: most laptops during this time still had only poor webcams and decent microphones. You can always tell if someone has a hard-to-find Full HD (or better) standalone webcam with good eye line and a clear picture. Many people commented with Something like MacBook Air, with a slanting shot up of the nose and a soft, blurry portrait.

Not that we didn’t know that turning every home office into a head office meant that more people would want better cameras, microphones, monitors, and more. But responding to this need — by designing a new product or new features, and then making something in store — is a process that takes several years. That’s why it’s only when we get involved 2022, at CES And more than that, we’re starting to see even simple features like Full HD webcams become prevalent.

The pandemic has also made one laptop per person more base than it already was. That’s because every member of the family, adults and children, needs their own full-time regimen. You may have your office laptop with you — but it may be old and perforated enough (or company) that you want something else. You or your spouse may be a self-employed worker and need their own laptop. Meanwhile, every school-age child in the family suddenly needed a separate laptop for distance learning – no more sharing a system for kids or having a family’s PC in a central location.

Here’s how these trends, spurred by the pandemic, will be reflected in new PCs and laptops for 2022 and beyond.

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HP Elite Dragonfly Ultra Light Laptop.

HP

Easy fix: The best webcams and microphones

For years, the 13-inch MacBook Air has been the most universally useful laptop most people can buy. With one big drawback – the average 720p webcam. Watch enough of those and you can almost tell who was in your Zoom meeting on your MacBook, just as some experienced radio DJ can tell which microphone someone was using just by voice.

To its credit, Apple started rolling out better cameras right away, starting with 2020 version of iMac 27 inch. I appreciate the 1080p camera so much that I ended up dragging it from one corner of my house to the other just to use the webcam and microphone in meetings and TV backs. trend continued in iMac 24″ and new MacBook Pro 14 inch and 16 inch laptop.

Now, in 2022, you can expect more Full HD cameras in laptops from Lenovo, Dell, and more. It won’t be on every model, as it’s still an extra cost and might frankly require a larger camera unit, but it’s getting closer to becoming the global standard every day. And whether you work from home, in an office, or both, that’s a good thing.

MacBook Pro 2021

The latest MacBook Pro laptops actually upgrade their 1080p webcams.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Recycled New Ideas

Everyone wants their product to be environmentally friendly, sometimes for non-advertising reasons. You’ve heard of laptops and accessories that have used a certain amount of recycled plastic, or recycled cardboard in computer packaging, but 2022 means that more laptops will be built around recycling materials and reusing parts.

Dell recently liked Demo of a new concept called Luna. The idea is that your laptop will have as many user-accessible parts, not so much that you can upgrade them later (although I’d still like to see that), but more so you can swap out old or faulty parts and can company Dell recover unused hardware without having to get rid of your entire laptop. It also makes it easy to replace a used laptop so that the hard drive, CPU, RAM, and other components can be stripped down and converted to new hardware.

Luna is just a concept project, not a real laptop line, but I hope some aspects of it turn into real products sooner rather than later.

What you can look forward to from computers in 2022 is more recycled materials in laptop packaging and even power adapters, even if that’s harder for the laptop chassis itself.

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Dell’s new XPS 13 Plus also features some high-end upgrades, including a row of capacitive touch function keys and an all-glass front lip.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

New ways of working

Some of the upcoming innovations promise to ease some of the embarrassment that remote work brings. A few have already been announced, such as Dell’s Flow concept, which automatically connects and disconnects the laptop from a secondary screen based entirely on proximity. I also loved Dell’s prototype Pari webcam, which is wireless and able to stick itself anywhere on your screen for the perfect eye line. Or you can just pick it up and point it anywhere, from the chalkboard across the room to the cool idea you drew on a cocktail napkin.

These developments are still in the concept or prototype stage, so don’t expect them any time soon. But I think we’ll see more innovative assistive apps and features this year, like laptops that can alert you when someone peeks over your shoulder or can sign in using facial recognition, even when you’re wearing a mask.

The last frontier may be the smart desk. What would you look like and what would you do? I don’t think there’s universal agreement on that yet, but I suspect it will start with wireless charging and may move to secondary screens, ergonomic adjustments, and more.

Wider slide options

There are two big forces helping laptops and other computers break away from the dominance of Intel chips. One is that widespread adoption of Chromebooks, especially from students participating in some level of distance learning, is opening the door to more ARM-based laptops, which were previously nonexistent in the Windows world.

Second, Apple’s strict timetable for switching its entire line of Macs from Intel to its M-series chips has shown that laptops that skip Intel or AMD chipsets shouldn’t skimp on performance. In fact, the latest MacBooks M1 Pro and M1 Max are miles faster than most Intel models they replace. Google is said to be making its own chip, especially for Chromebooks as well.

However, Intel controls approximately 75% of the PC market, and this vastness of the playing field may be affected by many factors, including the ongoing shortage of chip supply. And since a lot of people have had to splurge on an emergency upgrade to a new laptop over the past 18 months, those folks may be hesitant to upgrade again soon.

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