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CES 2021 computing: What to expect from AMD, Nvidia, and more

CES is always an important moment in the computing world. It often starts with new hardware coming from Intel, AMD, and Nvidia, with a focus primarily on the mobile side of things. CES 2021 is bound to be similar.

From there, we usually get a glut of shiny new laptops and devices that show off those new processors and graphics cards, ranging from experimental concept devices to everyday commercial PCs.

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This year, despite it being all virtual, there’s still reason to keep expectations high for multiple big announcements we expect at CES 2021.

AMD’s dominance to continue


AMD just had a rock-star year. From insanely powerful desktop chips to category-breaking laptops, the company has never seen so much success against its rival, Intel.

AMD laptops, in particular, were where the company made its biggest strides. AMD laptops in the past have always been exclusive to ultra-budget offerings. But in 2020, the Ryzen 4000 laptop processors set off a landmark run, ending up in powerful gaming laptops and ultrabooks alike. Intel still maintained a strong lead in the sheer number of laptops, but AMD finally looked liked a health competitor in this space.

At CES 2021, AMD is highly rumored to announce its Ryzen 5000 mobile processors at its keynote. Building on the monumental success of its Ryzen 5000 desktop chips (which are still completely sold out), these new chips are expected to use the same Zen 3 core, optimized for small form factors. If these new mobile chips prove to be as game-changing as their desktop counterparts, 2021 might finally be the year AMD wrestles its way into higher-end laptops as well. We’ll have to wait and see how companies like Dell, HP, Microsoft, Asus, and others respond, but the momentum is certainly in AMD’s favor.

Adjusting to the reality of work from home

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2020 might be gone, but working from home is here to stay. It has taken a while for the big manufacturers to respond, but you can expect work-from-home gadgets and tools to be top of mind at CES. Whether that’s new monitors, accessories, or even something a bit more experimental, companies will be looking to monetize and support the new reality we’re all living in.

Many of these products blur the lines between commercial and consumer, which are typically very clean divisions within companies like Dell, HP, and Lenovo. I would expect these companies to find new ways to approach work-from-home employees who want something that fits into their home office just as well as it can be managed by IT.

Accessories for a new era of PC gaming

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The end of 2020 marked a new generation of gaming, both for consoles and for PC graphics cards. You still can’t buy either right now, but that won’t stop companies from trying to complete the gaming ecosystem for you. Computer monitors, controllers, PC cases, mice, keyboards — manufacturers will all be hoping to support the new capabilities (and hype) of GPUs like the Nvidia RTX 3080 and Radeon RX 5700 XT.

Displays represent the biggest opportunity for advancement. These new graphics make high refresh rate gaming in 1440p and 4K possible, which means we may see lots of high-end gaming monitors with refresh rates higher than 60Hz. But will we finally see manufacturers offer HDMI 2.1 to match the direction of some of the best TVs? That’s still up in the air, but you can depend on lots of talk around the new opportunity around these next-gen gaming experiences.

New gaming laptops with new Nvidia graphics

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At CES 2019, we counted (and ranked) more than 40 new gaming laptops. That was at the launch of the Nvidia RTX 20-series graphics cards, the first ray tracing-powered GPUs for laptops.

Will we see a similar launch at CES 2021? It can’t be said for sure. A leak of upcoming Asus gaming laptops certainly suggests that RTX 30-series graphics cards are on the way. If that’s true, you can expect a huge number of gaming companies to want to include the update on their latest models.

The RTX 30-series graphics cards proved to supply a meaningful boost both to older titles and taxing new ray-tracing games like Cyberpunk 2077. If that same gaming goodness can make it to gaming laptops as well, 2021 could prove to be a fantastic year for mobile gaming.

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Luke Larsen
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
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