If you’re hoping for a groundbreaking personal computing product in the year ahead, you may be disappointed. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see some thoughtful, quirky innovations along the way. Two examples: a PC with a built-in projector, and one that can slip into a pocket. Here's an early look at some of the computers to watch for in 2016.
Thinner Convertible Laptops
With 2016's new crop of convertible laptops, we may have reached the useful limits of thinness—unless you want a computer that also dices vegetables. Lenovo claims the new 0.5-inch Yoga 900S (starting at $1,099) is now the world’s trimmest model, edging out Microsoft’s $1,499 Surface Book by 0.4 inches. We'll get out our micrometers once the device is in the lab, and let you know for sure. The Yoga’s 360-degree hinge lets you flip the keyboard around so you can hold the device in your hand like a tablet or prop it up on a table to watch a movie.
HP’s sleek 13-inch Spectre x360 has spawned a larger model touted as the "world's thinnest, lightest 15.6-inch convertible yet." The newcomer measures 0.63 inches and can be outfitted with an optional 4K high-definition display. If you go that route, you only get 9.5 hours (a typical workday) of battery life per charge, the company claims, compared to 13 hours for the standard 1080p display.
The refreshed 13-inch model—also a svelte 0.63 inches—offers a brighter, slightly lighter, OLED display option. (Organic light-emitting diode screens, which don't need a backlight, can combine crisp, deep blacks with energy savings.) Once again, you're looking at a claimed 13 hours of battery life, depending on the final configuration. The 13-inch HPs start at $900 and the 15-inch models start at $1,150. All feature a geared hinge that lets you bend the keyboards up to 360 degrees, much like the Yoga.
More Surface Imitators
Microsoft has had enough success convincing consumers that a two-in-one laptop (think tablet with a detachable keyboard) is a smart idea that companies like Samsung and Lenovo are now angling for a piece of the market. And so, the Surface Pro 4 will have some extra competition. Much like the Pro 4, the two new Windows-powered devices take advantage of the adaptive user interface to shift from laptop to tablet mode.
Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S is similar to Dell’s 2-in-1 in that it lets you run Windows 10 in either tablet or laptop mode. But it comes with a Super AMOLED display, which theoretically translates to a brighter picture and longer battery life. The company hasn't announced a price.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Tablet ($899) takes portability and augments it with modular components for different needs. Want to show off your latest presentation? Pop in the projector module ($279) on the tablet. The productivity module ($149) is an external battery that is said to add 5 hours of battery life, and the 3D imagery module ($149) is for scanning objects.
Changing Desktop Shapes
Oddly, the most interesting innovations for 2016 may not come from either the laptop or tablet camp, but rather the desktop market.
If you’re looking for a desktop that will, surprisingly, fit in your pocket, the $99 Kangaroo PC fits the bill. The size of a large chocolate bar, the Kangaroo PC runs Windows 10, and gets plugged into a monitor, TV, or even an iPad. You also need your own keyboard and mouse. The Kangaroo’s battery lasts about four hours per charge, according to the company. And you can use the included dock to connect USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and HDMI devices.
An even smaller PC, Intel’s second generation Compute Stick, fits into any HDMI port, and brings Windows 10 anywhere you can tote a keyboard and mouse. The price is about $150.
For those searching for something slightly more conventional, Lenovo’s got an offering that looks more droid than desktop. Billed as a compact entertainment hub, the Ideacentre 610S is a triangular tower small enough to fit in a backpack and it comes with a detachable projector that sits on top like a tiny robot Cyclops, casting a 720p display that can, according to Lenovo, go as wide as 100 feet. (Prices start at $850, including the projector.) That’s not ideal for videophiles, but it should work well for showcasing presentations, family photos and, yes, digital games. You can also link a monitor to the device via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and browse the web for summer camps while your kids watch "Frozen"—again.
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