Ctrl+Alt+Delete: The top laptop innovation of 2022

It’s Christmas Eve and the year is almost over!

With so little computing news going on during this year’s festive season, I’ve decided for my latest column to take a full look back at the year and celebrate some of the best laptop innovations I’ve seen with my own eyes.

These great features may not necessarily make it into the overall best laptops of the year, either because of their high price or simply because they aren’t ready for public use. But they do offer an exciting sneak peek into the future of laptops, with more polished iterations likely coming in the coming years.

And even if they have tons of rough edges, it’s still nice to see laptop makers willing to take risks and add a bit of imagination to an industry that usually plays it safe.

So, without further ado, here are some laptop innovations in 2022 that really got me excited and that I want to see more of throughout the next year.

Foldable screen – Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED

When we tested the laptop in August, we fell in love with the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED’s foldable screen. It changed the way I normally use my laptop, allowing it to prop up a huge 17-inch screen like a work tablet and fold it up when I’m ready to go home.

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I was impressed with how Windows snapped into the correct alignment whenever I put the keyboard on top of the screen or rotated the device between landscape and portrait placement.

I can’t remember any other device I was more upset about losing when I sent the Fold OLED back to Asus after the review period. That said, there are a lot of issues with this device. First, it’s very expensive, at over £3000, and its performance and battery life are overwhelming compared to the competition.

As a result, it’s difficult to recommend the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED in its current state. Although that doesn’t stop me fixating on the collapsible design. The technology may not be ready yet, but there’s no doubt that foldable laptops will have a huge impact on the industry over the next few years.

Touch Bar – Dell XPS 13 Plus

I figured Apple’s controversial Touch Bar on previous iterations of the MacBook Pro would have prevented laptop makers from attempting something similar in the near future. That’s completely wrong, because Dell has added its own take on the Touch Bar on its latest laptops.

The Dell XPS 13 Plus has a Touch Bar that allows you to switch between shortcut icons when you press a function key. It lacks Apple’s Touch Bar features, but instead proves to be a great middle ground between the new and the old.

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I hope Dell takes this concept further in 2023, allowing users to choose their own custom shortcuts. However, this was an excellent starting point for Dell to finally disrupt the status quo and push the outdated keyboard into the modern era.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Spatial Labs Edition 03

3D screen – Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition

It was 13 years ago when Avatar was first released and the hype around 3D technology was at its peak. Since then, however, interest has waned to the point where buying a 3D TV is almost impossible. So when Acer released SpatialLabs laptops in 2022 that let you play games in 3D without the need for 3D glasses, I was very surprised.

Playing games in 3D is amazing. God of War and Shadow of the Tomb Raider bring more depth and detail to the environments. There is no doubt that 3D technology enhances your experience.

However, this technique has many drawbacks. Only about 50 games currently offer support. There are also some technical bugs and you need to keep your head relatively stable for the 3D effect to work.

However, the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition proved that there may be an appetite for 3D gaming in 2023 and beyond. And it’s refreshing to see innovations in laptop screens beyond OLED and high refresh rates.

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Surface Pro 9 in tablet mode

AI Features – Microsoft Surface Pro 9 5G

When discussing laptop processors, the conversation is usually limited to the speed at which laptops are built. However, Microsoft wanted to change that perspective with the Surface Pro 9 5G, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor that can do some great AI tricks.

I haven’t posted a review of the Surface Pro 9 yet, but I tried it myself in time at a Microsoft event. A spokesperson showed off some neat features, such as being able to give the illusion of looking directly into the webcam during a video call.

Surface Pro 9 can also track your head, so you can keep your face in frame as you walk around the room. Finally, Microsoft’s laptops can block out background noise, so people on video calls won’t hear a dog barking or a baby crying.

For those acquainted with the latest smartphone innovations, all of this may not be too impressive, as companies like Google have been working on groundbreaking AI features for years. But it’s nice to see the laptop market catching up and realize there’s more to processors than high performance, with AI showing incredible potential.

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