Laptops in 2024 (and what we can hope for)

The good, the bad, and the ugly of the premier CES technology show and other laptop updates.

2023 was a decent year for laptops from many brands (for the sake of this article, I will not be focusing on Apple and their MacBooks, because for better or for worse, they’re very different compared to Windows laptops). There were some really great options but also some duds.

We got the launch of Intel’s 13th gen Raptor Lake CPUs, and also AMD’s Ryzen 7040 series CPUs, as well as Nvidia’s RTX 40 series GPUs for laptops.

CPUs and GPUs are the same, with one exception

Unfortunately, in 2024, a lot of key specs have stayed the same: AMD has not planned to release Zen 5 based CPUs this year, so their Ryzen 8040 series of CPUs are actually Zen 4 CPUs but with an AI NPU (Neural Processing Unit). Similarly, Nvidia didn’t announced any refreshes to their RTX 40 series GPUs for laptops, not even a Ti or Super model. Finally, Intel announced the 14th gne CPUs, aka their Raptor Lake Refresh CPUs, which are basically just rebranded 13th gen CPUs, for more powerful laptops.

The only interesting CPU or GPU release to come out of this year (as of January 2024) was Intel’s Meteor Lake CPUs, which is somewhat exciting, as it promises better efficiency with better optimizations for lower powered workloads with E core optimizations in a bit for better battery life, an NPU for AI accelerated tasks like with Ryzen 8040, and new LP-E cores for lower powered tasks and better iGPUs that can finally compete with AMD’s integrated Radeon GPUs.

That sounds great, however, unfortunately, Meteor Lake only seems to be meant for laptops that use around 45 watts or less, which were traditionally H or U series CPUs (the P series has been merged into the H series this generation), so OEMs that want their systems to make use of more cores or higher sustained power limits are stuck with the aforementioned 14th gen CPUs. Again, these 14th gen CPUs are basically just 13th gen but overclocked slightly; no NPU, no better iGPU (even though HX series CPUs from both Intel and AMD are almost always paired with discrete GPUs), and no better efficiency or micro-architecture, so basically no real spec bump over 13th gen.

Not to mention there was a serious lack of AMD Ryzen CPU and Radeon GPU options in 2023; while the Radeon 7000M and 7000S options for laptops were much slimmer, so it was understandable for OEMs to stick with Nvidia at the top end in that regard (although Alienware, the gaming-focused brand of Dell did release the AMD Radeon 7900M as a high-end option, however, that was just one laptop and it requires around 175 – 200 watts of power to run properly, so its efficiency leaves a lot to be desires), however, many brands simply didn’t offer Ryzen Zen 4 options and many of them came out in the final quarter of 2024. Even some brands seemed to flip off AMD and AMD fans in 2023.

One such OEM (and the biggest example of this) was Asus, who used to offer the several Ryzen based options in 2021 and 2022 switched their formerly Ryzen based ROG Zehyprus G16 and Flow x16 laptops to Intel 13th gen, to varying levels of success, and the G14, which was an AMD Advantage laptop (a laptop with an AMD Ryzen CPU and an AMD Radeon dGPU) in 2022 returned to using an AMD Ryzen CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX GPU due to the lack of high-end options in the GPU department. And the ROG Strix Scar 16 and 18, which use Intel CPUs, got a brand new design with better screens and easier maintenance options while the Strix Scar 17 got a crusty old design first used in 2020, which stuck to poor secreen offerings, the same crusty chassis with an outdated 16:9 screen while many other laptops moved to 16:10, just with a webcam because Microsoft finally required OEMs to add one to all laptops starting in 2023, and the same design of ribbon cables attached to the bottom of the laptop that are too easy to rip off (and I have done it on a 2021 model, R.I.P.). So yeah, Asus seemed to really screw over AMD fans in 2023.

Another lesser example was Lenovo and their Legion lineup, which saw the Legion Pro 7 (the AMD model) be delayed outside of Asia until the fourth quarter of the year, and it too went from being an AMD Advantage laptop in 2022 to AMD + Nvidia (among other objective downgrades).

Why did this happen? One theory suggests poor supply of AMD CPUs. However, that seemed to resolve itself in the second half of the year, and given many OEMs are still stuck with Intel CPUs, I can’t say I’m thrilled about an essential CPU monopoly, especially when that CPU maker is power hungry and inefficient compared to its “competition” who can’t even get its foot in the door, aside from a few laptops here and there.

But things seemed to get even worse in 2024, as there were a total of two laptops with AMD Ryzen 8040 CPUs at CES 2024: The 2024 Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 and the 2024 Razer Blade 14. The latter saw only a spec bump (which is fine because the 2023 model was just a bit expensive, but did have some nice features, like two RAM slots), while the former was redesigned, alongside the still Intel (but now using an H series Meteor Lake Core Ultra CPU). It seemed like the major brands forgot that AMD even existed, which basically hurts brands even more because it makes them even more tied to Intel, which always is a bad thing.

The winners of 2024

MSI

MSI was the only brand to really come out swinging in a good way in 2024. They pretty much redesigned their entire laptop lineup. Their Titan laptop series, which is their premium desktop replacement gaming laptop series, and their Raider series, a step below the Titan series, were both redesigned with 16:10 screens and a new chassis. But it was the Cyborg 14 that caught my eye. Yes, it uses Intel Meteor Lake CPUs, but it is a mid-range 14 inch gaming laptop with Ethernet (something no other 14 inch laptop currently has), two RAM slots (the only one alongside the Stealth 14 and Razer Blade 14), and at a relatively reasonable price. And they were the first major OEM to announce an Intel Meteor Lake-based PC gaming handheld, the MSI Claw.

For more information on MSI’s CES reveals, check out the below video from Jarrod’s Tech:

The Tongfang (XMG, Eluktronics, etc.) Resellers

In 2023, the 16 inch flagship Tongfang gaming laptop (sold as the XMG Neo 16 in the EU, the Eluktronics Mech 16 GP in the US, and sold as other laptops from other brands across the world), was a bit of a disappointment, as despite strong GPU performance, it had poor CPU performance due to inadequate cooling and resulting CPU thermal throttling even with maxed out fans and the optional liquid cooler, it lacked modern features like USB Type-C charging, it had poor build quality, and it failed to undercut the bigger OEMs.

This year, the 16 inch model gets a full redesign, with all of the complaints seemingly addressed. The liquid cooling pipe is integrated into the cooler and now goes over the CPU & GPU dies and the laptop now supports Type-C charging for lighter (non-gaming) loads. It also gets a redesign with an all aluminum housing, which likely will improve build quality.

However, the liquid cooler is now only supported on the RTX 4080 and 4090 configurations, which also get liquid metal applied to the CPU and GPU dies. The RTX 4060 and 4070 configs don’t have support for the liquid cooler and use standard thermal paste for the CPU and GPU dies. Also, for those who liked the Cherry MX mechanical keyboard on the 2023 model, I’m sorry to say that the 2024 removes this option and goes back to a “standard” laptop keyboard as the only option to allow airflow to be improved through the keyboard.

Overall, I’m looking forward to this laptop! Check the video below from Jarrod’s Tech to see more about this laptop and the other showings from XMG, the EU’s Tongfang reseller:

The Results of 2024 that Are Too Close to Call

HP

HP announced the HP Omen Transcend, their first 14 inch gaming laptop. It is super thin and light and yet feels and looks very premium. It uses H series Intel Meteor Lake CPUs, up to an Nvidia RTX 4070 GPU, a 2.8k 16:10 120 hz OLED display, and a 71 watt hour battery. Unfortunately, it has only 4 zones of RGB, not even per key, which is a bit of a disappointment, and the white key caps on the white model might have some usability issues in some lighting conditions. It also charges over a 140 watt USB-C charger, so the GPU power limit is limited to just 80 watts (although to be fair, the RTX 4050, 4060, and 4070 are voltage limited at around 100 – 110 watts anyway, regardless of what you might hear from OEMs and Nvidia, so it’s not the end of the world in this case, especially given that a “ful-powered” RTX 4070 is only around 8 – 10% faster according to Jarrod’s Tech).

Personally, I’m a bit mixed on this, but I’ll have to wait and see if it is worth the money once reviews come out on it.

ASUS ROG

Asus announced the redesigned ROG Zephyrus G14 and G16 for 2024. As mentioned previously, the G14 uses AMD’s 8040 “Hawk Point” HS-series CPUs and the G16 uses Intel’s Meteor Lake H-series CPUs. Both have a brand new design that appear more like the Razer Blade series, with a dark grey and lighter white option. The AniMe matrix display on the 14 inch model has been removed with the lid and overall cleaner aesthetic being partially ruined with an annoying glowing slash in the middle of both laptops.

Both laptops get higher refresh rate OLED screens, with the G14 and G16 being the first OLED laptops to have full G-Sync support for adaptive sync support while gaming to reduce screen tearing.

The negatives include the G14 being stuck with only a microSD card slot instead of the full-sized SD card slot on the G16, all RAM being soldered on both models (the G16 still has two SSD slots though), and the G14 losing its biggest advantage over other 14 inch laptops: The option to go past an RTX 4070 in a 14 inch size, which was a nice way to get more vRAM and performance out of a smaller laptop. Yeah, the power limit was lower compared to a bigger gaming laptop, but no other 14 inch laptop went past an RTX 4070. Now, the G14 unfortunately loses that advantage and becomes a tougher sell compared to the Razer Blade 14, which retains its two RAM slots but otherwise just receives a small spec bump to Hawk Point CPUs as well, as well as having a higher maximum GPU power limit than the G14. Personally, unless you really want an OLED screen, the 2024 Razer Blade 14, or even the 2023 model, is a better buy in my opinion because of the two RAM slots and two USB4 ports, especially if you can catch the Blade 14 on a sale.

The G16 on the other hand is a bit of mixed bag. Yeah, it also gets a G-Sync compatible OLED display and a full-sized SD card slot, as well as actually being offered with up to an RTX 4090, but it uses Meteor Lake CPUs, which we’ll have to see how good they are once the G16 is reviewed. Also, the completely soldered RAM on a 16 inch laptop really hurts upgradability on such an otherwise decent laptop.

The Losers of 2024

Dell & Alienware

Dell really seems to have embodied the “we’re evolving, just backwards” mentality since 2022. In 2022, they split up their popular XPS 13 into two worse laptops: The too tiny, underperforming, and completely nonupgradable XPS 13 9315 and the underperforming, frustrating to use, and poor battery life XPS 13 Plus (9320/9330). Both were generally poorly received and many XPS fans were hoping that Dell would revise the 9320/9330 design and make it more usable before bringing it to XPS 15 and 17 or possibly go back to a more traditional design.

Unfortunately, Dell seems to have a case of the “form over any sort of function” mental illness that plagued Apple from 2016 – 2019. In a move that can only be described as a middle finger to what was formerly a great premium laptop series and its fans, the XPS 13 Plus was made into the XPS 13, and the XPS 14 and 16 replaced the 15 and 17, but all of them take on the XPS 13 Plus’s controversial design and somehow learn nothing from its mistakes.

First, the capacitive function row that in many ways resembles Apple’s now discontinued touch bar but is worse due to a lack of customization has seen just one improvement: The light on the keys can now turn off after 30 seconds of idle time. Otherwise, the lack of haptic feedback and the removal of the physical Escape and Delete keys seem to have been a common complain that Dell has completely ignored (for programmers, Escape is a very important key, and Delete is used for the famous Control Alt Delete shortcut). The touchpad also seems to be the same terrible haptic implementation first seen in 2022, with no physical or light up borders and weak haptic feedback. This entire input seems like an accessibility nightmare.

But the downgrades don’t stop there. The XPS series has less ports than a 2021 or later MacBook Pro, and the XPS 13 has less ports than a M2 MacBook Air! The XPS 13 still lacks a headphone jack, while the XPS 14 and 16 get only that headphone jack, 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a microSD card slot instead of their predecessors full-sized SD card slot, a middle finger to creative professionals who used that port.

Speaking of middle fingers to creative professionals, the GPU power limits on the XPS 14 and 16 are very low, with the XPS 14 topping out at an RTX 4050 and the 16 topping out at an RTX 4070, all with very low GPU power limits. Also, the company who introduced the CAMM standard to fix the problem of LPDDR RAM having to be soldered to the motherboard has completely forgotten about said standard and removed all RAM slots, even on the XPS 16, making the only upgradable thing on all of these laptops the SSD slots… Oh wait, I mean SSD slot. Yeah, that’s right, Dell actually removed the secondary SSD slot the XPS 15 and 17 have had from 2020 – 2023. That means that users who want to upgrade the SSD to a bigger size will have to either reinstall the OS or clone all of the partitions on the old drive to the new one with an external SSD caddy.

Finally, the RAM options are tied to the other specs, like GPU, so you can expect prices for these configurations to be through the roof despite all of these compromises.

Honestly, it feels Dell has given up on the creative professional market and focused more on the MacBook Air “ultrabook with just a bit of grunt” segment of the market without actually making laptops that actually do the basics right. And that’s a huge problem that they’re going to have a wake-up call on. And the XPS 16 looks like it will fail to impress as well, not only being a downgrade from the 2023 in practically every way, but also being unusable for people with sight issues or programmers, who might have considered the XPS lineup in the past but now should not because of the capacitive escape and delete keys!

The XPS lineup is dead, long live the “average consumer” laptop!

Consumers

And that brings me to the biggest losers of CES 2024 and possibly laptops in general for 2024: The consumers buying laptops and those who just want something that works for them without too much fuss.

Instead of making laptops that work for consumers, we’ve seen multiple laptops this year focus on useless gimmicks like dedicated Copilot A.I. keys, making laptops thinner at the cost of upgradability, having good keyboards, and performance, and still failing to deliver the basics, like having good battery life, good keyboard, and having a decent port selection. (No Dell, two ports on the XPS 13 is not enough for any sensible user!)

Not to mention for programmers or users who may want to use something other than Windows 11, many laptops in the past two years seem to have trouble running Linux well. For example, I could not get the Razer Blade 14 from 2023 or 2024 to have working internal speakers in Linux no matter what distro or method I tried. And looking online, it seems that there is currently no way to get them to work at the moment. So as much as I liked the Razer Blade 14 laptops, both models I tried had to go back because that’s a pretty serious problem for a laptop, especially one that is meant to be used on the go! Looking online, a lot of recent laptops from other brands such as Lenovo and Asus have this problem as well, and Dell seems to have discontinued their XPS 13 developer edition, which was one of the few laptops from a major OEM to come with Linux out of the box and offically support Linux. I’m not surprised at all at this, given the 2022 and 2023 XPS 13 Plus Developer Edition laptops were terrible buys for many reasons, such as a propietary web cam unit that required an obtuse kernel module to work at all among the other issues with the XPS 13 lineup from 2022 on, but with a Copilot key on the keyboard, it’s clear that they just do not care anymore, which to be honest, I could say for a lot of laptop brands.

And for those Linux-first laptop, there are problems with those. First of all, many of these laptops from brands such as Slimbook and Tuxedo are a fortune to import in the United States and don’t have the right keyboard layout for the U.S. market and they will not supply modern laptops with even an option for one. And System76, the only serious U.S. based option, is just a Clevo reseller with underwhelming hardware that has 16:9 screens when the market had already moved to 16:10 screens, as well as low quality webcams, below average build quality, an underwhelming option for AMD users that don’t have USB4 support and actually saw the screen on the Panoglin regress from a 144 hz screen to a 60 hz screen, both 1920×1080 (16:9), just with thinner bezels, and the only option for a laptop that has a 16 : 10 screen in their entire lineup (the Oryx Pro) only comes with a 1920×1200 (16:10) 165 hz screen (when the system can have up to an Nvidia RTX 4070 in it, you’re literally throwing money out the window with a 1200p screen because the GPU cannot take advantage of the lower resolution) with no other option.

What We Can Hope For

For me, the only option for somebody who wants all of the following is the Framework Laptop 16:

  • It must have an option for an U.S. ANSI keyboard layout.
  • It must have a high refresh rate 16:10 screen higher than 1920 x 1200
  • It must have good upgradability and repairability (no soldered RAM, SSD, or Wi-Fi card.
  • It must have a discrete GPU for gaming and creative work like video editing.
  • It must run Linux well out of the box.

Unfortunately, I have not found any other laptop with all of these features apart from Framework’s 16 inch laptop.

Many people have talked about Framework for moving towards more upgradable and repairable laptops when other OEMS are going the other way. Despite receiving heavily polarizing reviews on their latest 16 inch model (and two of those less positive reviewers seemingly having lemon units), some of the point people have brought against Framework aren’t really correct:

  1. Framework hasn’t shown they will be able to supply upgrades for their laptop.
    • This is completely untrue. The Framework Laptop 13 has been out since 2021 and it already has 11th, 12th, and 13th gen Intel P series CPUs and AMD Ryzen 7040U options, the latter of which was hard to find in 2023. And all of them have been compatible with even the first model’s chassis. Not to mention, most of their hardware designs, such as the expansion bay modules, the expansion card modules, and the input covers, are all open sourced. So if Framework does go under, the community can continue where Framework left off, much like the community around older ThinkPads and modding them. As such, this argument has no merit; they have already shown that users can upgrade their laptops.
  2. The Framework Laptop is too expensive for what it offers.
    • Actually, the more you upgrade the RAM and SSD, the less expensive it is compared to other “similar” laptops. And many of them have moved to soldered RAM this year.
    • Not to mention, it seems Nvidia wants nothing to do with Framework, which left AMD as the only option for the dGPU, which is a bit unfortunate s they currently do not have many options for dGPUs for laptops. Framework is doing the best they can in that regard.
    • Finally, there aren’t many premium AMD Ryzen 7040/8040 HS laptops this year, so this in and of itself is huge.

The other arguments I’ve seen from Just Josh on YouTube and Sean Hollister from The Verge seem to stem from the fact that their units were likely defective pre production units because of they delays in the retail units shipping out (this was confirmed by Framework). The final retail units have fixed the software issues plaguing Sean’s unit via firmware updates and there are hardware fixes being rolled out for the keyboard modules’ flex on Josh’s and Linus Tech Tips’s review units so that the retail units will not be affected by this issue.

We need more consumer focused companies like Framework. That’s what we can hope for. Whether you use Windows or Linux, more companies respecting consumers should be much more standard than it currently is!


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