Edge of Innovation

IFA 2016: The laptops and mini desktops that stole the show

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

If there’s one thing that IFA 2016 has taught us, it’s this: tomorrow’s laptops and desktop PCs will come in all shapes and sizes.

The new Acer Swift 7, for example, is almost impossibly thin — the first clamshell computer to measure under a centimeter at the back. And it achieves this without compromise, its chassis still roomy enough to incorporate a 14-inch 1080p display and a new 7th-gen Intel Core processor.

Better than a MacBook?

The Asus ZenBook 3 also turned heads. Faster, thinner and lighter than a MacBook, the new ultraportable rocks a 7th generation Core i7 CPU, has a slim 11.9mm chassis and weighs a trifling 910g. The next-gen specification is rounded off by a high-res 12.5-inch display, huge 1TB SSD, Harman Kardon speakers and versatile USB Type-C connectivity.

Asus ZenBook 3 at IFA 2016
The Asus ZenBook 3 is only 11.9mm thick and weighs less than a kilogram.

Of course, not all of the new mobile hardware at IFA 2016 verged on the super-skinny. Others dared to be different.

The world’s first laptop with a curved screen

The Acer Predator 21X, for example, is about as far away from the sleek Swift and the snazzy ZenBook as you can probably get. It’s a beast. A seemingly crazy Frankenstein experiment that blends together a curved 21-inch display (a world first for a laptop), two GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs, 4TB of storage and a 7th-gen Intel Core processor. It’s big. It’s powerful. And it’s loud. Five fans strive to keep the Predator 21X cool.

Acer’s gaming behemoth also features built-in eye-tracking. Using a combination of infrared sensors and software, the laptop can track a player’s eye movements. In doing so, key moves can be performed simply by looking at a specific part of the screen — aiming, identifying enemies and so on. It’s a feature that’s also present on the hefty, GTX 1080-powered Alienware 17 laptop.

Yoga Book at IFA 2016
The Yoga Book features a touchscreen display and a Wacom-style touchpad.

Lenovo used IFA 2016 to announce an update to its popular Yoga 900 2 in 1. This took the form of a 7th-gen Core Yoga 910 with a 13.9-inch UHD display. Yet it was the company’s Intel Atom X5-powered Yoga Book tablet that got everyone talking.

Reinventing the 2 in 1 experience

The Android- or Windows 10-powered Yoga Book folds out into two panels — a 10.1-inch Full HD touchscreen and an accompanying ‘Create Pad’.

This secondary touch-sensitive panel acts as an on demand keyboard when you need one and a digital notepad-cum-sketchpad when you don’t. It’s a design that feels reminiscent of Microsoft’s old twin-screen Courier concept and comes with a Real-Pen stylus that works on either screen or pad.

All of which brings us to the desktop PC and HP unveiled two. The Elite Slice might look like a small set-top box, but the compact black case hides a full Windows 10 PC powered by a 6th-gen Intel Core CPU.

USB-C enables cool modular designs

Here’s the clever bit… HP’s teeny PC is modular like the Acer Revo Build. So adding extra hardware, like a B&O sound card or an optical disc drive, is as easy as stacking new ‘slices’ on top of the base (connecting by USB-C).

HP Elite Slice at IFA 2016
The HP Elite Slice desktop PC with modular sound and optical drive add-ons.

Meanwhile, the HP Pavilion Wave (pictured top) is an eye-catching triangular desktop PC with a built-in speaker that pumps out B&O audio in 360 degrees. Powered by a 6th generation Intel Core processor, the distinctive tower unit is covered by a fabric-like material that makes it look less like a PC tower and more like a living room subwoofer.

This modern desktop system, along with Acer’s monstrous Predator and Lenovo’s intriguing Yoga Book prove that there’s still plenty of innovation in the PC market. In the past, computers might have failed to combine power, performance and pleasing design. On the evidence of IFA 2016, they can now deliver on all three.

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