CES is always an important moment in the computing world. It often starts with new hardware from Intel, AMD, and Nvidia, with the main focus being on the mobile side. CES 2021 has to be similar.
From there, we usually get a lot of shiny new laptops and devices showcasing these new processors and graphics cards, from experimental concept devices to everyday commercial PCs.
While everything is virtual, there is still reason to keep expectations high for several big announcements this year.
AMD's dominance remains
AMD just had a rock star year. From insanely powerful desktop chips to category-breaking laptops, the company has never seen so much success against its rival Intel.
The company made its greatest strides with AMD laptops in particular. AMD laptops have always been exclusive to ultra-budget offerings in the past. In 2020, the Ryzen 4000 laptop processors triggered a milestone and ended up in high-performance gaming laptops and ultrabooks. Intel still had a big lead in the number of laptops, but AMD finally seemed to be a competitor in this area in the healthcare space.
At CES 2021, AMD will present its Ryzen 5000 mobile processors at its keynote. Building on the monumental success of its Ryzen 5000 desktop chips (which are still completely sold out), these new chips are expected to use the same Zen 3 core optimized for small form factors. If these new mobile chips prove to be just as groundbreaking as their desktop counterparts, 2021 could finally be the year in which AMD also takes hold in high-end laptops. We'll have to wait and see how companies like Dell, HP, Microsoft, Asus, and others react, but the momentum is certainly in AMD's favor.
Adapting to the reality of working from home
2020 may be over, but working from home is here to stay. It has taken a while for the big manufacturers to respond, but you can expect work-from-home devices and tools to be the main focus at CES. Whether it's new monitors, accessories, or something more experimental, companies will seek to monetize and support the new reality we all live in.
Many of these products blur the lines between retail and consumer. These are usually very clean areas within companies like Dell, HP, and Lenovo. I would expect these companies to find new ways to reach home workers who want something that fits their home office as well as IT can manage.
Accessories for a new era of PC gaming
At the end of 2020, a new generation of games was introduced, for both consoles and PC graphics cards. You can't buy one right now either, but that doesn't stop companies from completing the gaming ecosystem for you. Monitors, controllers, PC cases, mice, keyboards – all manufacturers hope to be able to support the new functions (and the hype) of GPUs like the Nvidia RTX 3080 and Radeon RX 5700 XT.
Displays represent the greatest chance of advancement. These new graphics enable high refresh rate games in 1440p and 4K, which means we may see many high-end 4K monitors with refresh rates above 60Hz. But will we finally see manufacturers offering HDMI 2.1 to match the direction of the TV world? That's still in the air, but you can count on many conversations about the new possibility of these next-generation gaming experiences.
New gaming laptops with new Nvidia graphics
At CES 2019, we counted (and rated) more than 40 new gaming laptops. This marked the start of the Nvidia RTX 20 series graphics cards, the first ray-traced GPUs for laptops.
Will we see a similar launch at CES 2021? It cannot be said for sure. A leak in upcoming Asus gaming laptops surely indicates that graphics cards of the RTX 30 series are on the way. If so, you can expect a large number of game companies to want to roll out the update for their latest models.
The RTX 30 series graphics cards have given a significant boost to both older titles and new ray tracing games like Cyberpunk 2077. If the same gaming goodness applies to gaming laptops, 2021 could prove to be a fantastic year for mobile gaming.