Tips for choosing your next laptop with a focus on future-proofing
It is a great time to buy a new laptop. We could say that every year, because innovation in computing never stops. But it is particularly true at this moment.
Intel’s latest 12th Gen laptop processors combine the excellent Intel Xe graphics processors with a new approach to CPU design. It sees no less than a radical upgrade in performance while still providing all-day battery life.
OLED displays that were once only available in a few expensive models are now much more accessible. They deliver flawless contrast and superb colour, for far greater image punch than even the best LCD displays.
Thunderbolt 4 connections offer superb future-proofing, and all of this tech can fit into a slim and light shell. Buy a good slim and light laptop today and it will almost certainly be the most versatile computer you have ever owned. Here’s what to look out for.
Paradigm-shifting portable power
We are in the midst of a sea change in how laptop processors are designed. They take inspiration from a place that may surprise the traditional PC fan: the phone in your pocket.
Intel’s Core i7-12700H is the best recent example of this in action. It is a 14-core processor. Six of these are performance cores with hyperthreading, eight are efficiency cores. Most phones use a similar arrangement of cores, and it unlocks a “best of all worlds” experience in a laptop. The battery can last a full day’s use of light work, but sensational power is on tap when required.
Maxon’s Cinebench R23 test indicates the Intel Core i7-12700H is up to twice as powerful as Apple’s M1 processor, and more than twice as punchy as the Core i7-1165G7 seen in a great many thin and light laptops from last year. It is even 10% more powerful than an 11th Gen Core i9-11900H, a processor typically used in much heavier, thicker laptops.
The entire H-series of Intel CPUs was typically found in chunky laptops before this generation, in fact. But its desktop-grade power is now available in a slim and light design thanks to the Intel 12th Gen’s remarkable design and efficiency.
You get a long-lasting, light PC you can carry around and use all day without worrying about the battery running dry early. Plug it in at home or at the office and the incredible hyper-threaded performance of Intel’s H45 processors makes it a brilliant workstation fit for the most demanding tasks, like video rendering, batch image processing and Adobe’s creativity suite apps.
OLED display technology
A couple of years ago, an OLED laptop was not a realistic prospect for most people. You would only find this technology in a few ultra-high-end models, out of reach for most budgets.
That has changed. If you are out to buy a premium portable laptop, you can have OLED if you like. Why does it matter? OLED screens have emissive pixels, meaning each is its own light source. This results in black depth and image contrast no LCD screen can touch, for the most vibrant, poppy image you’ll see from a laptop screen.
OLED panels typically also have excellent colour depth, which makes movies and games — and content of any type — look incredible. In recent months we have also seen the rise of high refresh rate OLED laptop displays, which bring a smoother-looking interface and better motion handling in general.
Getting technology that once seemed hopelessly futuristic is one thing, but a good laptop also needs to plan for the times to come. Thunderbolt connectors are the best example of this in action in today’s models.
A Thunderbolt connector is a USB-C port that looks like any other aside from the little lightning logo at the side of the port. However, it is anything ordinary.
Where a standard USB-C port offers 5Gbps bandwidth, Thunderbolt 4 provides 40Gbps. That is eight times as much, for a total bandwidth of up to 5000MB/s. Most of today’s peripherals don’t need anything like that kind of speed, but you only need to look to the latest SSDs to realise that will not be the case for long.
Such power lets you connect two 4K monitors running at 60Hz, one at 120Hz, or even an 8K display.
It takes more than core components alone to make Intel’s 12th Gen H-series laptops sing. An advanced cooling system is a must and should be something to consider before picking a laptop.
Next-generation cooling lets 12th Gen Intel CPUs operate at peak performance for longer. Heat build-up eventually leads to CPU throttling, and the very best cooling systems need to hold stable temperatures under pressure without generating too much fan noise.
Pay attention to how much of an emphasis a manufacturer puts on cooling in its product web page, and look out for observations on heat and noise in any reviews you read.
Where to get a future-proof laptop?
The next question is where you can get all of these features in one laptop. Our top recommendation for the moment, which we think will cover most people’s needs perfectly, is the Asus Vivobook S 14 OLED.
It’s a portable 1.5kg laptop with desktop-grade Intel Core i7-12700H power, a beautiful 1800p 90Hz OLED screen, a high-capacity 70Wh battery and two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Its IceCool cooling system uses dual 6+8mm heat pipes for optimal efficiency, and we also think its pricing is highly competitive.
However, you should also delve further into both the Zenbook and Vivobook ranges from Asus. The company has gone big on the latest Intel CPUs, OLED displays and Thunderbolt connectivity, and other models provide larger displays, flexi-hinge designs and even higher display refresh rates.
ASUS’ range of performance-leading laptops makes it a one-stop-shop for any user’s requirements, from portable for kids to use on the bus or in the car to a truly powerhouse device for anyone running a business from their bedroom.
To make your search for the right ASUS laptop easier, we’ve pulled together our recommendations so you don’t have to waste any time:
Best for gamers: ASUS TUF GAMING F17 – as it’s name suggests this laptop is mechanised endurance and battlefield brilliance designed specifically for gamers. High-power, maximum cooling for all-day play, stealth capability and stellar visuals combined with lightning-fast GPU and CPU performance means it can keep up with gamers. The sound system means you can immerse yourself in the action or have two-way noise cancellation so background noise isn’t a distraction. But the optimised for gaming keyboard has over stroke tech triggers in each key for faster responsiveness and effortless control. It is that precision that makes this laptop difficult for any gamer to resist.
Best for kids: ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5 – built for the cloud, this laptop supports Google Play and the Chrome browser to stay in sync with users’ favourite apps. Keep your kids entertained on long journeys in the car or on the way to school with a quad-speaker design and a Harmon Kardon-certified audio system delivering impeccable sound so they stay quiet. 360 degree ergo lift hinge means the keyboard can be moved from front to back without breaking and extended battery life for longer use time.
Best for movies: ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED (M3500, AMD Ryzen 500 Series) – with its stunning 15-inch NanoEdge FHD OLED1 display, that streams smoothly so there is no flicker, and awe-inspiring Harman Kardon-certified audio, Vivobook Pro 15 OLED immerses you in whatever you’re watching. FHD OLED1 NanoEdge display is super-bright — up to 600 nits — and has an 84% screen-to-body ratio, along with a 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut for ultra-vivid, vibrant and rich colours even a low brightness. It’s also PANTONE® Validated for professional-grade colour accuracy and TÜV Rheinland-certified for low blue-light emissions. so you can stream movies all day long without any negative effects on your eyes.
Best for creators: ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15 OLED UX582 – the laptop of tomorrow for creators, as its Intel® Core™ i9 eight-core processor and NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3070 GPU, provide all the power needed for at-home or on-the-go productivity. An amazing 4K OLED HDR touchscreen which includes ASUS ScreenPad™ Plus secondary 4K display and a brand-new tilting design to offer effortless ergonomics and seamless workflows for stylus and keyboard users. This laptop enables creators to capture every detail with professional-grade, unrivalled graphics, 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut bringing true colour to life and up to 550 nits peak brightness.
Best for budget: ASUS Vivobok S14 (S413) – compact and stylish, the Vivobook S Series is best in class when it comes to performance and this model boosts performance up to 40%. Ultra-efficient thermal design and power-saving features, plus Intel Core i7-12700H offering double the power of the most popular last-gen Intel processor seen in other thin and light laptops, this laptop delivers up to 17 hours of battery life. The fast-charge feature helps recharge a low battery to 60% in just 49 minutes. ASUS’ Vivobook S14 intelligently optimises performance, thermal and power parameters, and boasts whisper mode and ASUS WiFi SmartConnect to automatically select the best source for seamless connection. Designed to make life easier, it also boasts a full-size backlit keyboard10 for comfortable typing, a built-in fingerprint sensor for one-touch login and an optional ASUS NumberPad 2.0 for easy data entry.