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These are the best new laptops launching this fall

In the lead-up to the holiday buying season each year, a slew of new laptops always getting announced. Between the upcoming move to Apple Silicon for Macs to the highly anticipated launch of Intel’s 11th-gen processors, the end of 2020 is turning out to be a fascinating time to buy a new laptop.

Below are the best new laptops currently scheduled for release before the end of 2020, including some that are yet to be confirmed.

Asus ZenBook S

Asus is the David to the Goliaths of companies like Dell and HP. The company continues to churn out new thin and light laptops with some innovative features, and the latest iteration of the ZenBook S is no different. Asus has already updated the ZenBook S with its new standout feature, specifically a display with a 3:2 aspect ratio at 3300 x 2200 resolution that promises excellent productivity thanks to the taller panel. A 100% DCI-P3 color gamut and Pantone validation promise excellent colors for creative professionals, and the 92% screen-to-body ratio promises a smaller chassis.

The upcoming version will update to Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake platform, meaning it will inherit Thunderbolt 4 and Intel Xe graphics to go with the anticipated significant speed increases of Tiger Lake itself. The laptop will be quite thin and light at 0.61 inches and 2.97 pounds, while still packing in 67 watt-hours of battery life.

Connectivity will be exceptional for such a tiny chassis, including a full-size HDMI port, two USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 support, a USB-A 3.1 port, and a microSD card reader. The one bit of connectivity the laptop won’t have is a 3.5mm audio jack — users will be relying on a USB-C dongle instead.

Finally, the laptop will feature an edge-to-edge keyboard to pack in plenty of key spacing. And, the touchpad will feature the company’s NumberPad technology that embeds an LED numeric keyboard into the touchpad without interfering with its primary function.

We don’t have pricing or availability yet for the ZenBook S, but suffice it to say that it will be one of the more attractive 13-inch laptops when it finally arrives.

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 9i

Lenovo’s upcoming IdeaPad Slim 9i is all about materials — that is, the unusual materials used to construct the chassis. Specifically, the laptop will enjoy a black leather cover over the aluminum lid that uses a “special 20-step bonding process that allows the leather to retain its original appearance.” That’s a different approach than HP’s use of an actual leather cover on its Spectre Folio 2-in-1 but still adds a touch of panache to the laptop’s appearance.

In addition, the IdeaPad Slim 9i will feature an all-glass palm rest that stretches underneath the keyboard. Rather than a mechanical touchpad, therefore, Lenovo is following Apple’s lead by utilizing haptic feedback to mimic touchpad button presses. Lenovo call’s its version the “Smart Sensor Trackpad,” and it uses vibrations to simulate the click of a button.

Another innovation is an ultrasonic fingerprint reader that’s located underneath the glass below the arrow keys. Lenovo promises more accurate fingerprint scans, and the technology even works with wet fingers.

Beyond those material differences, the IdeaPad 9i will feature Tiger Lake CPU, Intel Xe graphics, and Thunderbolt 4. The chassis will be very thin and light at just 0.54 inches and 2.64 pounds, and the 90% screen-to-body ratio of the 14-inch display promises an overall tiny chassis. Display options will range up to a 4K panel that puts out 500 nits.

Pricing will start at $1,600, meaning that this is definitely a premium laptop.

Dell XPS 13 update to Tiger Lake

What do you do when you already have the best 13-inch laptop on the market? Well, you update it to Intel’s latest silicon, that’s what. Dell hasn’t officially announced a new XPS 13 with Tiger Lake yet, but the laptop was spotted in an Intel advertisement, sporting the new 11th-gen branded-stickers on the palm rests.

When Dell’s XPS 13 does finally get updated, it will come with all the benefits of Tiger Lake, including Intel Xe graphics and Thunderbolt 4. As far as we can tell, the laptop will remain the same design as the current model, just benefiting from greater performance.

In addition, the XPS 13 is expected to be among Dell’s first Intel Evo platforms. Evo-certified laptops guarantee a number of key attributes, including wake from sleep in less than a second, nine or more hours of real-world battery life with Full HD displays, fast charging that can power up to a four-hour charge in under 30 seconds, and consistent responsiveness while running on battery.

A new 12.5-inch Surface Laptop

If you believe the recent rumors, Microsoft may not update the Surface Laptop 4 this year. Instead, there is talk of a smaller 12.5-inch Surface Laptop that will be aimed directly at a budget audience. If the rumors are correct, then the entry-level model of this new version would equip a 10th-gen Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. The laptop might run in Windows 10 S mode, which limits app downloads to what’s available in the Microsoft Store.

If it materializes, the 12.5-inch Surface Laptop would maintain the same basic design as its larger siblings but will follow the Surface Go in being a smaller and more affordable version. We’re talking about a $500 to $600 price range, which would place it in direct competition with other budget laptops.

The Surface Pro X 2 could also launch this fall, which is Microsoft’s flashier ARM-based line of 2-in-2s. The new model is rumored to include a new custom chip based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx V2, as well as a new color option.

Apple Silicon MacBooks

MacBook 2015

It’s impossible to talk about anticipated 2020 laptops without mentioning the upcoming Apple Silicon MacBooks. Apple’s transition from Intel to its own ARM-based processors is a massive sea change in the laptop world.

The MacBook Pro 13-inch and 12-inch MacBooks are the first two Macs rumored to adopt the new system architecture, both likely due out before the end of 2020. Both would run a version of Apple’s latest A-series processors, perhaps the A14X in the 12-inch MacBook and the A14 Bionic in the MacBook Pro.

The return of the 12-inch MacBook comes with a healthy dose of skepticism over a design that never originally caught on. Between the single USB-C port and the much-maligned butterfly keyboard, Apple would be brave to bring it back without some significant changes.

At the same time, a 12-inch MacBook running an Apple Silicon CPU would also be a major event if it falls into the expected $750 price range. That would give Apple a bona fide budget laptop to compete against the hordes of Windows 10 machines at the price point or lower. And running an A14X processor could give it competitive performance at this price range, making it a compelling option.

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