What we’ll be looking for in laptops for 2017?
Certain pieces of technology tend to stick around. USB has been the connector of choice for all manner of peripherals for two decades, and ATA hard disks, first parallel and now serial, have a history back to 1986. Over the last few years, however, we’ve started to see real alternatives to these technologies hit the market, with NVMe storage and Thunderbolt 3 for attaching devices.
We’ve also seen formerly niche capabilities, such as biometric authentication, move into the mainstream. Both facial recognition and fingerprints continue to become familiar parts of the hardware landscape.
Accordingly, our platonic ideal of what a laptop computer should be has shifted somewhat. As we head into 2017 and all the systems that will inevitably be announced at CES, we felt it would be useful to describe what we’re looking for. “Thin and light” is no longer enough. Systems have to do more than that to justify a premium price.
HP Spectre x360
The HP Spectre x360 has biometric support, Thunderbolt 3, and NVMe at all price points, but it lacks a Precision Touchpad.
Dell XPS 13
The Kaby Lake Dell XPS 13 has Thunderbolt 3 and a Precision Touchpad, but the cheapest models use SATA storage, its use of USB Type-C is mediocre, and it doesn’t have any biometric support. Some variants also lack a touchscreen.
Microsoft’s Surface Book
Microsoft’s Surface Book has NVMe storage, Precision Touchpad and biometric support, but it doesn’t have Thunderbolt 3 or USB Type-C at all.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S.
Lenovo’s Yoga 910
Lenovo’s Yoga 910 has a touchscreen, biometrics, NVMe storage, and a Precision Touchpad. Alas, it lacks Thunderbolt 3, and it uses USB Type-C in an awkward way: one port can charge the machine, the other port can do display outputs, but not vice versa.
Apple MacBook Pro 2016
Apple plays by different rules, of course. The company has adopted NVMe storage across the board, and systems like this 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar offer biometric authentication, too. They have also fully embraced Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C. It doesn’t have a Precision Touchpad, though OS X offers comparable functionality. Apple steadfastly refuses to make a touchscreen laptop.