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Best of CES 2022: Laptop Mag’s top picks

Best of CES 2022: Laptop Mag’s top picks
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

CES 2022 wasn’t what the Laptop Mag staff expected. This is the second year we found ourselves covering the show virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. 

But that didn’t mean the show was without its fair share of compelling new products. Laptops continue to make an impact thanks to Intel, AMD and Nvidia announcing new chips, heralding a new round of systems for gamers, students, mobile professionals, students and creatives. 

And while there were a lot of exciting devices to sift through on the virtual show floor, only a few could make our Best of CES list for 2022.

Packed with exciting new features that will shape the tech industry for the next 12 months, these are the absolute best laptops, phones, monitors and more announced at CES 2022.

Best of Show

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Dell XPS 13 Plus

The Dell XPS 13 Plus is a polarizing choice for Best of Show, no doubt about it. Dell is pushing the envelope on its flagship brand and there are sure to be some detractors. Dell has taken a scalpel to the XPS 13, removing a slew of features in the name of extreme streamlining. The result is the Dell XPS 13 Plus, a minimalist, futuristic, modern fever dream with a focus on performance. Where Apple has added back ports, Dell has aggressively removed them, leaving behind a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports. The touchpad is now invisible, using haptics to help users navigate their systems. The spare ports and keys were sacrificed in favor of power –– namely the new 28W Intel 12th gen processor, which makes the Plus, Dell’s most powerful flagship to date. 

This is the beginning of a new era for the Dell XPS 13. With the introduction of the Dell XPS 13 Plus, the company is looking to redefine the meaning of premium. Instead of a slew of bells and whistles, the Plus offers power by way of laser-precision streamlining. The result is a laptop unlike anything we’ve seen from the brand. If the performance lives up to Dell’s claims, consumers might be open to such a drastic change. –– Sherri L. Smith

Best Design

(Image credit: Asus)

Asus 14X OLED Space Edition

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Asus P6300 laptop’s 600-day presence on the Mir space station, Asus has released this beauty: the Zenbook OLED 14X Space Edition. The unique aesthetic is adorned with markings all over the shell that are morse code for “Ad Astra Per Aspera” which translates to “Through the hardships to the Stars” in Latin. 

But of course, a space-inspired laptop can’t stop at just looking worthy of sub-orbital flight. This ultraportable has been tested to meet U.S. Space Systems Command Standard SMC-S-016A standards, while also packing extreme temperature resistance too from -24°C to 61°C. Throw a customizable 3.5-inch “ZenVision” OLED panel on the lid, and you’ve got the standout winner of our Best Design category. –– Jason England

Best Innovation

(Image credit: Future)

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3

Casually fitting a whole 8-inch tablet-like LCD display into the base of a laptop? Lenovo’s wicked ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is begging for an award in innovation, and we’re here to give it the glory it deserves — and that’s without mentioning the enviable specs under the hood.

Powered by 12th Gen Intel Core H-Series processors, Intel Iris Xe graphics, up to 32GB LPDDR5 RAM and up to 2TB for storage, the Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 truly shines thanks to both of its stunning displays. The laptop is equipped with a massive 17.3-inch primary display, with an impressive 21:10 ultra-wide aspect ratio with a 3072 x 1440 resolution at 120Hz. You can also expect up to 400 nits of brightness and a 90% screen-to-body ratio with Dolby Vision support and low blue light with TÜV Rheinland EyeSafe certification.

Oh, and the secondary display? The 8-inch LCD touch glass display with 800 x 1280 resolution can be used in a number of ways, including being a chat window, notepad, drawing board to sketch or edit images (with the integrated digital pen with ColorKing Plus and digital Pantone libraries being the perfect companion), calculator, and it can even mirror smartphones. Plus, it sports a “Magic Launcher” that can place frequently used application icons on the second display for quick access. Clearly, the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 has been tailor-made for nearly every creative professional use case, especially for photo- and video-editing apps. Innovation in 2022 is off to an intriguing start.  –– Darragh Murphy

Best Smartphone

(Image credit: Nokia)

Nokia G400

While it may not be a threat to the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, the Nokia G400 was the most attention grabbing phone of CES 2022 as it delivers a 6.6-inch, 120Hz display, 5G and a 48MP primary camera for just $239.

Those are the kind of specs that even many flagships couldn’t live up to a year or two ago and now it’s available on a phone for under $250? The processor is the biggest trade-off on the phone with a Snapdragon 480, we wouldn’t plan on doing any gaming on this phone, but the 6GB of RAM should help keep multitasking snappy.

The Nokia G400 launches with Android 12, a welcome change from some other budget brands, HMD promises two years of software updates, which may not match up with Google or Samsung, but for this price it’s a solid level of support. For users that don’t care about the latest flagships the Nokia G400 looks like an intriguing phone and an incredibly encouraging sign for where things are going in the budget phone market in 2022.  –– Sean Riley

Best Laptop

(Image credit: Acer)

Acer Swift X 14

CES has proven that 2022 is going to be an amazing year for laptops, which made this category difficult to decide! But when we take into account what’s important here, one stood out: the new Acer Swift X 14.

This Swift X boasts a 12th Gen Intel Core CPU, a dedicated RTX 3050 Ti GPU, up to 16GB of DDR5 RAM and up to 2TB SSD storage. That power is combined with a 2240 x 1400 IPS display with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 100% sRGB color gamut, and all that is packed into a frame coming in at 12.3 x 8.4 x 0.7 inches and weighing just under 3.1 pounds. 

Plus, with a 1080p webcam, WiFi 6E, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI 2.0 and a 3.5mm headphone jack (unlike the Dell XPS 13 Plus), the connectivity makes for a seriously user-friendly system. And if previous price point trends are to be followed (average Swift X 14 pricing has been $1,000), this will be a great value machine for creative prosumers and gamers alike. –– Jason England

Best Gaming Laptop

(Image credit: Asus)

Asus ROG Flow Z13

The Asus ROG Flow Z13 is one of the few gaming laptops at CES 2022 that stood out apart from its screen size and performance upgrade. This is Asus’ first gaming detachable. It’s packed with an Intel Core i9-12900H and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU driving its gaming performance. It’s basically a little baby ROG Mothership. If you need more power, you can snag the XG Mobile, which connects right to the Asus ROG Flow Z13, providing you with RTX 3080 performance.

The most important feature about being a detachable is having a gorgeous display, which the Flow Z13 nails with its 13.4-inch, 3840 x 2400 display at a wide 16:10 aspect ratio. On top of that, the tablet features stylus support and includes Dolby Vision for an even more glamorous picture. This is not only one of the most portable gaming machines out there, but it’s also one of the prettiest. –– Rami Tabari

Best Business Laptop

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10

Lenovo has had the business laptop market on lock with its ThinkPad X1 Carbon for years now and the 10th generation announced at CES 2022 continues that run. The addition of Intel 12th Gen processors, including the more powerful new P-series, may open up more users to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon as it should be capable of far more demanding tasks than its predecessor.

The gorgeous carbon finish of course remains present and it still astounds that Lenovo manages to pack two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A ports, an HDMI port, a combo headphone/mic jack and a Nano SIM slot into a laptop that weighs just 2.48 pounds. 

The new display options are the other highlights for this year’s refresh with a dazzling 2.8K OLED and up to 4K touchscreen options available on the 14-inch ultra-wide 16:10 display. Some other business laptops definitely tried to come for the crown this year, but the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 walks away with it again.  –– Sean Riley

Best Chromebook

HP Elite Dragonfly Max (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

HP Dragonfly Chromebook

The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, as you might have guessed, is the Chrome OS alternative to the Elite Dragonfly, a Windows laptop. It has a lot in common with its PC counterpart. It’s a two-in-one and it comes with an optional magnetic pen that charges wirelessly on the side. However, where the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook differs from its Windows sibling is that it sets a lot of firsts for Chromebooks. It is the world’s first Intel vPro Chromebook and it also is the first premium Chromebook with a haptic trackpad.

HP hasn’t announced a price for the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook just yet, but we expect the 2022 Chrome OS device to cost a pretty penny as its Windows-powered sibling starts at just below $2,000. The Elite Dragonfly Chromebook will hit store shelves in April.  –– Kimberly Gedeon

Best Peripheral

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Freestyle portable projector

Samsung’s Freestyle projector is not a device that I was anticipating coming into CES 2022, but it’s one of the most fun gadgets I saw announced this year. While portable projectors are a category that gets hurled at you in droves at CES every year, the Freestyle stands apart (for $899 it certainly should) with auto-focusing, auto-leveling and auto-keystoning that remove a lot of the typical frustrations with portable projectors.

The 1080p image can scale from 30 inches all the way up to 100 on any surface for a portable movie night or to make a flawless TikTok background. At 550 lumens, it’s reasonably bright, but you’ll still want a dim or dark room for the best viewing. The Freestyle isn’t just a projector either, it uses the same software as a Samsung Smart TV with apps like Netflix and many more. It also supports Bixby and Alexa smart assistant features with its far-field mic array, and contains a 360-degree, five-watt speaker. Samsung also has a ton of add-ons available for the Freestyle allowing you to make it waterproof, add a battery pack and even screw it into a standard lightbulb socket for power. 

While it won’t be for everyone, the Freestyle’s ease of use makes it the most compelling portable projector that I’ve seen.  –– Sean Riley

Best Gaming Peripheral

(Image credit: Sony)

PSVR 2

PlayStation VR (PSVR) is long overdue for a refresh. I mean, come on, it launched in 2016, and there’s been too many advancements in the virtual reality (VR) hardware market that makes PSVR seem like a dinosaur compared to other popular headsets (e.g. Oculus Quest 2). Sony finally woke up and unveiled the next iteration of PSVR at CES 2022. Dubbed PlayStation VR2, Sony’s next-generation VR headset offers high visual fidelity while using a foveated rendering technique to reduce graphics-heavy processing. In other words, users can enjoy 4K HDR visuals, but only where the fovea of the eye (the central portion with the sharpest vision) is focusing. The display resolution will max out where the user is looking while other parts of the virtual world will drop in quality. This helps to manage the hardware’s resources. 

Other cool features include headset-based controller tracking, eye tracking and a brand-spanking new PSVR2 Sense controller. The latter is a much-needed upgrade because PSVR's Move Controllers are not ergonomic and fail to adapt to different gaming scenarios. 

If Sony can bring fun, immersive games to PSVR2, the gaming giant may have a hit on its hands.  –– Kimberly Gedeon

Best Audio

(Image credit: Noveto)

Noveto N1 Soundbar

It’s been dubbed the invisible headphones. The Noveto N1 Soundbar uses ultrasound to target the listener’s ears instead of blasting sound into the whole room. It’s a novel solution to wearing a pair of wireless earbuds or headphones for hours on end, especially in a world of hybrid work and learning setups. If the soundbar lives up to the hype, the Noveto N1 will keep the audio confined to the space around the listener. The only thing anyone else will hear is a slight murmuring similar to what you’d hear through someone loudly listening to music on a pair of headphones. 

In addition to ultrasound, the Noveto N1 uses integrated head-tracking technology to give listeners some level of 3D audio. If it works, this is a cool way to ditch the eight-hour headphone sessions some of us are finding ourselves in during the ongoing pandemic. –– Sherri L. Smith

Best Headphones

(Image credit: Jabra)

Jabra Elite 4 Active

I’m not too surprised to see Jabra here. The company consistently makes some of the best wireless earbuds that aren’t AirPods in the business. Jabra draws on its decades of audio experience and technological wizardry to create earbuds that are comfortable, durable, packed full of features and sound great. Which brings us to the Jabra Elite 4 Active earbuds. The earbuds offer up a IPX57 (water and sweat proof) durability rating and active noise cancelling with HearThrough technology in case you need to hear the outside world. You also have the Jabra Sound+ app that gives listeners access to a host of features including an adjustable equalizer. 

You get all that plus, Jabra’s stellar sound that doesn’t have any right to sound so good in such a small package. If the situation arises, the buds can be used individually. Jabra has the Elite 4 Active rated for 7 hours of battery life, placing it among the longer-lasting earbuds on the market. But the best part by far is the $119 retail price, that aggressively undercuts the pricing on a host of premium wireless earbuds and is sure to make the Elite 4 Active the must-have sports buds of 2022. –– Sherri L. Smith

Best Monitor

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Odyssey Ark

Samsung’s new 55-inch curved Odyssey Ark monitor brings impressive specs, starting with 4K UHD resolution, mini-LED backlighting, quantum dot color and a 16:9 aspect ratio for starters. However, what sets this next-gen monitor apart is its adjustable curvature that makes the Ark an excellent choice for productivity, gaming, and content creators. It’s so stylish and sexy there may be a gladiator battle over which member of the Laptop staff gets to review it. 

The Ark not only allows users to adjust the curvature, but you can also adjust the height, pivot, and tilt to suit your needs allowing for a more comfortable viewing position. With 55-inches of screen real estate, users will be able to put the multiple monitors swallowing up their desks away and have several sizable windows open which is a significant gain in productivity. The Arks cockpit field of view will level up your gaming experience, while the ability to rotate it into a portrait orientation adds to the unit's multitasking skillset. Samsung’s Odyssey Ark looks to prove that being flexible is not just a useful trick but game-changing. –– Mark Anthony Ramirez

Best Concept

(Image credit: Razer)

Razer Project Sophia

Over the years, Razer has made it clear that it isn’t afraid to get weird. This was most apparent with the reveal of Project Hazel (opens in new tab), a mask which featured interior lighting, a transparent pane and a built-in microphone that amplified the wearer’s voice. And for CES 2022, Razer continues the absurdity with Project Sophia (opens in new tab), a customizable gaming desk that could allow users to build their PC in tabletop modules.

These modules act as mini-control stations on top of the desk itself, giving you the ability to include stuff like programmable hotkeys, sound controls and system monitoring. There are a few creative ways these modules can be customized; a Twitch streamer could have a chat viewer, media options and production controller right at their side. And if you’re hard at work, you could have something like Slack open on the desk. There’s even a concept that suggests one of the modules can be used as a beverage warmer. 

And of course, the tabletop is lined with LEDs that can synchronize with Razer Chroma for even more personalization. As for the display, it seems it has to be Project Sophia supported, as it slips into the desk itself. Currently, Razer plans for it to be OLED with support for sizes of either 65 or 77-inches. The PC components themselves will be placed beneath the desk in a chassis that magnetically attaches to the tabletop. Razer has confirmed that this can be removed for the replacement and installation of new parts. While it’s hard to imagine how much this extravagant piece of tech could cost, we can guarantee it won’t be cheap.  –– Mohammad Tabari

Sherri L. Smith
Editor in Chief

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.

With contributions from