7 unique laptops from CES 2021 that are perfect for professionals


Looking for a laptop upgrade in 2021? These newly revealed models each have something to offer.

Image: Lenovo/NECPC

CES 2021 must-read coverage

CES 2021 is here, and startups and big tech companies alike are turning to the internet to showcase their latest products in lieu of an in-person event. Tons of tech products are scheduled to be unveiled, providing a look at the tech trends for 2021. 

With people continuing to work from home in record numbers due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, portable hardware is sure to be in the spotlight. These select laptops being shown off at CES 2021 are some of the best looking models for business professionals. 

SEE: CES 2021: The big trends for business (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature)

ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15 OLED: Nvidia studio validated for creative pros

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Image: ASUS

As far as unique new designs go at CES 2021, the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15 OLED takes the cake. It has a secondary tilting OLED touchscreen above the smushed-down keyboard that extends the desktop for those needing additional multitasking space. 

The Pro Duo 15 is also Nvidia studio validated, meaning its hardware is built with creative professionals in mind. Toss in that secondary screen as a place for Photoshop toolbars, a Lightroom instance, or some other necessary creative app and you have a machine that creative professionals should definitely look twice at. 

Pricing info for the Pro Duo 15 isn’t available, but ASUS did say it will be going on sale in April 2021.

Lenovo Ideapad 5G: An all-day battery and 5G for the on-the-go pro

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Image: Lenovo

Take your basic 14-inch Lenovo laptop and add 5G capabilities and you have the Ideapad 5G. It’s not a unique looking computer, with its Macbook Air-like design, but the fact that it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx 5G chipset, 20 hours of battery life, and instant-on capabilities make it an ideal travel partner.

SEE: IT hardware procurement policy (TechRepublic Premium) 

The SIM card slot means it may be carrier-neutral as well, but there is some bad news for North American audiences: It’s not slated for release here at this time and pricing will vary between markets. You might have to go through some international shipping rigamarole to get it, but if you really want a 5G-capable laptop, it might be worth it. A 4G LTE model will also be available.

Dell Latitude 9420: Designed for remote collaboration

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Image: Dell

This 2-in-1 from Dell is built for those who spend a lot of time collaborating remotely, and in today’s world, that’s a lot of us. The 9420 is billed as having a powerful built-in speakerphone along with a camera that has automatic light correction and background blurring and a SafeShutter that automatically closes and opens the camera when needed. It also has a built-in camera and microphone mute keys, so no need to hunt for the right button in Zoom to protect your privacy. 

It also has an infrared camera for touch-free Windows Hello login and fast charging capabilities that can deliver a 35% charge in 20 minutes and 80% charge in 40 minutes. If you’re tired of saying “can you hear me?” or “is my camera on?” this may be the laptop you’re looking for.

Dell hasn’t released pricing details yet, but the Latitude 9420 is scheduled to go on sale March 9, 2021. 

Acer Aspire 5: Affordable but powerful

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Image: Acer

Acer’s Aspire 5 is described as being ideal for “bloggers, photographers, and students looking for an affordable but powerful device,” and Acer isn’t joking. With 24GB of memory, up to 2TB of storage, Wi-Fi 6, controllable fan speeds, and an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, it packs a punch for being a nondescript mobile computer.

The best part is its price: The Aspire 5 will start at just $549.99 when it goes on sale in the US in March. 

Alienware m15 R4 and m17 R4: Powerhouse portable computing

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Image: Dell

Both of these gaming laptops from Dell subsidiary Alienware are built to perform, with Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 GPUs, up to 4TB of storage, memory speeds up to 2,933MHz, voltage-regulated CPU and GPU controls, and vapor chamber cooling that’s designed to better dissipate heat from high-performance hardware.

Along with being mobile gaming powerhouses, these two laptops make great choices for those that need a machine capable of doing graphics rendering, 3D modeling, and other hardware-intensive tasks. The high performance of these machines won’t come cheap, though: both will start at $2,149.99 when they go on sale on Jan. 26.

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i: Work without ever opening your laptop

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Image: Lenovo

The Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2 i sports something unique: An e-ink display on the outside of the lid with a unique interface designed to launch productivity apps without ever opening the lid, and it can last for up to 24 hours on a charge if you just use that display.  

The Gen 2 i also includes a garaged pen that can automatically launch select applications, and best of all it supports wireless charging using Lenovo’s new ThinkBook Charging Mat. The ThinkBook Gen 2 i will go on sale in Q1 2021 for $1,549.

SEE: Gartner’s top tech predictions for 2021 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

NECPC LAVIE MINI: The netbook strikes back

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Image: Lenovo/NECPC

Built as part of a collaboration between Lenovo and Japanese-based NEC, this tiny 8-inch laptop is described by Lenovo as being a “pocket-sized convertible PC.” Don’t let its minuscule size fool you: This tiny computer has the specs of a full-sized laptop, making it a potential device for anyone tired of oversized laptops. 

The LAVIE MINI is billed as an entertainment device, with optional Nintendo Switch-like dockable controllers and a base station for broadcasting it to a TV, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a potential work machine. Like other tiny computers, this pocket PC is a great potential device for sysadmins, pentesters, and other mobile IT professionals who don’t want to lug around a giant, heavy laptop in order to do what can be done on this little one. 

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