Veteran PC building enthusiasts know to approach CES with guarded expectations. We expect to see cool stuff, and we always do. However, the desktop PC crowds drink from their grail every June in Taipei. Given Taiwan’s record of accomplishment keeping the virus under control, I’m betting Computex happens in person this year.
Until then, let’s celebrate a successful virtual CES 2021, which made history this year as the largest digital tech event. Nearly 2,000 companies put their wares on display to audiences mostly viewing at home. Here’s a rundown of the notables.
New CPUs for ultraportable laptops
We did see some desktop CPU news break at CES, but not much. AMD show cased two high end chips: The Ryzen 9 5900HX and Ryzen 9 5980HX which are capable of boosted clock frequencies topping out at 4.6 Ghz and 4.8 Ghz respectively.
While exciting, the narrative at this years show focused squarely on mobile gaming.
Intel kicked off CES announcing a handful of new chips. Among them, Intel 11th gen H-series CPUs for mobile gaming. Seeing an H-series chip inside a thin and light form factor is a changeup for Intel. Lightweight gaming laptops have historically shipped with Intel U-series chips that are designed for low energy consumption and thus long battery life. The story here? These are Intel’s first chips built on 10mm SuperFin architecture. Although these chips are modest in the cores (four) and threads (eight) department, the company touts single-threaded performance on par with Intel desktop CPUs.
As expected, AMD is bringing their latest Ryzen 5000 ‘Cezanne’ chips to mobile. Back in November, AMD unveiled Zen 3 architecture when we first got a look at Ryzen 5000-series desktop CPUs. This puts an 8-core chip in an ultralight notebook, so if you’re musician rocking lots of stems and plugins in your DAW, or a programmer rocking a large database, this excites you. AMD’s mobile H-series CPUs run at 35-45 watts and are designed for gamers and power users. We also saw new U-series Ryzen 5000 mobile CPUs that operate on a super-efficient 15-watt design. For these, AMD is touting battery life improvements in laptops with AMD processors, which they say are capable of between 17-21 hours of continuous use between charges.
NVIDIA RTX in Gaming Laptops
Nvidia started quite the hype train in the PC enthusiast space last year with its newest 30-series GPUs, and it kept it rolling into the new year with a brand-new reveal this week. Loaded up with mobile versions of those same highly sought after Nvidia 30-series cards—a brand new line of official Nvidia gaming laptops.
These laptop GPUs, just like their full-size desktop PC cousins, come with 2nd-gen RTX architecture, ray tracing, DLSS, and all of the other same features and perks in a much smaller package. The goal, according to Nvidia, is to push laptop gaming to the “cutting edge,” and to elevate the space to be “better than ever.” We have a full-length article with all the specs and details: Read full Nvidia CES 2021 coverage on Insider
Favorite offerings from laptop OEMs
Apparently, OEMs figured that after a year of lockdown, everyone wants to play AAA games anywhere but at home. And I’m not mad! As someone who hauls PC builds between the Newegg HQ Studio and my home office, I say bring on the mobile! Gaming PCs are about as fun to carry as tube amplifiers.
Look for gaming laptops with the latest hardware to arrive here late January into February. Watch our social channels for updates. Here’s what I liked.
ASUS ROG is killing it. Following up on the success the Zephyrus G14-G15 gaming laptops, the company unveiled next-level portable systems in a similar vain. The 2021 versions will have the latest GPUs from Nvidia and AMD, and both get the popular ErgoLift hinge that bumps up the chassis to improve airflow. Gamers can choose between a 144 Hz FHD panel, or a QHD panel with a 120 Hz refresh.
Sporting a Cyberpunk 2077-influrnced design ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 offers a thin-bezel QHD display with a 165 Hz refresh rate. Inside, it has a mobile Nvidia GeFore RTX 3070 or 3080 graphics card and supports up to 64 GB of DDR4 RAM.
For ultralight gaming, users will like the ROG Flow X13, a compact but powerful piece of equipment powered by AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU and GeForce GTX 1650 graphics.
Updates for Gigabyte Aorus and Aero
The latest Gigabyte gaming laptops will deliver ray tracing on the go, with the manufacturer unveiling the Nvidia 30-series equipped Aorus and Aero laptops. Both are designed with a new thermal system that the company says reduces temperatures up to 10 degrees at the CPU and GPU.
The Aorus line is directed at gamers, featuring a mechanical key cover and displays capable of 240 Hz or 300 Hz refresh rates. This year’s model has an updated cooling system that the manufacturer says reduces internal temperatures by 37 percent. For creative professionals, the Aero line is equipped with display technology for design work and immersive content viewing. This series includes two 17-inch models with and without HDR, and an option for an OLED display for the 15-inch version.
As always, MSI laptops brought the most drama. My best in show goes to the MSI GE76 Raider Dragon Edition Tiamat. Apparently forged from Valyrian steel, it looks like Daenerys Stormborn’s laptop of choice. GE Raiders come with either the RTX 3070 or RTX 3080 graphics card. Standard (non-Dragon) GE Raider laptops will have the option for a RTX 3060.
If a more subtle look and ultra-portability is more your thing, look for the new MSI Stealth 15M. At only 0.63 inches thick, Stealth 15M features an Intel 11th gen H35-series (‘Tiger Lake’) mobile processors.
All the Z590 chipset motherboards
Even though the CES 2021 vibe was decidedly mobile first, system builders had a few things to cheer about. Namely, Z590 chipset motherboards designed to support Intel 11th gen Rocket Lake CPUs. In all, Tom’s Hardware counted 45 (!) new Rocket Lake mobos in their CES 2021 coverage.
We don’t know everything about what Z590 has to offer quite yet. The big selling points are PCIe 4.0 support, and the bumping of PCIe 3.0 x4 up to x8, which increases bandwidth for storage and network cards. Also, a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 support increases throughput for external hard drives and devices attached to your computer.
Look for more details as we get stock from manufacturers in the studio. For now, we’ll look at some of the flagship Z590 boards unveiled at CES 2021.
MSI MEG Z590 Godlike is anointed with RGB, equipped with built-in Wi-Fi 6, and support for custom loops and other high-end hardware for gamers. We don’t have all the details yet, but I’d imagine it’s got all the extras you’d want from a motherboard that costs on par with your graphics card.
ASUS announced several new motherboards. At the top of the product line is the ROG Maximus XIII Extreme, which employs individual high-surface-area heatsinks built atop wide heatpipes for highly effective thermal transfer from the circuitry beneath, plus VRM cooling.
ASRock announced its slick looking flagship, the ASRock Z590 Taichi. It supports Intel Core i9-11900K and overclockable DDR4-5000+ memory. We’re curious to find out how boosted RAM affects system performance and are eager to get this into our studio laboratory this year.
A surprise entry in the flagship motherboard conversation, Biostar unveiled the compelling Z590 Valkarie, which appears to level up the company’s RACING offering, which received the Z590 makeover at CES. Adorned in Lakers colors, Valkyrie emphasizes heat dissipation in its construction.