Best of CES 2022: The most intriguing and innovative PC hardware
CES returned to Las Vegas in 2022, but most of the major PC players decided to stick to the safety of remote events. The parade of PC hardware went on regardless. Big names AMD, Intel, and Nvidia all made splashy announcements, and PC manufacturers followed in their wake with new products, many coming soon. Peripherals and displays proved just as exciting. We also witnessed some deeply interesting reveals that had nothing to do with computers whatsoever, like a chameleon-like color-shifting BMW.
No time to sift through all our CES coverage? No problem! Read on for our Best of CES picks—the most intriguing and innovative products we saw. (If you’re looking for higher-level impressions from the show, be sure to check out our roundups of 5 laptops trends and 5 monitor trends that PC enthusiasts can’t ignore.)
CyberPowerPC Kinetic case
We’ve seen a lot of PC cases in our time, but none that has the wild take on practicality of CyberPowerPC’s new Kinetic series. This futuristic case features a set of small, angular panels on its front that automatically open and close to manage airflow. Between the geometric design, sleek white and copper aesthetic, and mechanical wizardry, it looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. The company demurely refers to its design as “intelligent airflow,” but it’s a hell of a way to stand out among the field of mid-tower ATX cases. —Alaina Yee
Dell XPS 13 Plus
Dell’s XPS 13 is arguably one of the most high-profile laptops around thanks to its history of setting the stage for what all laptops strive for. For example: Before the first XPS 13 with InfinityEdge bezels appeared, all laptops rolled with bezels about as ridiculous-looking as bell bottom corduroy pants.
Dell’s vaunted line once again reaches for the brass ring with the new 14-core XPS 13 Plus, which gives off a gorgeous and minimalistic look with its integrated haptic trackpad. The trackpad is still there in the central part of the palm rest but rather than using a conventional piano-hinge design, it “clicks” similarly to how your phone shakes.
Dell also isn’t shy to take the Internet’s slings and arrows with the integration of, well, not a touch bar, but a bar you can touch for the function keys striped across the top. Sure, the tech press that previously lauded Apple’s Touch Bar as “futuristic” and “smart” are now out in force saying the XPS 13 Plus’ capacitive touch function key is a bad idea—but that’s the fickle press for you.
The Dell XPS 13 Plus grabs onto another controversial design decision with both hands by ditching the beloved 3.5mm analog headset jack. Dell said it dumped the jack to save space (also the reason it ditched physical function keys), which lets it stuff way more hardware inside.
Obviously, everyone will wonder if it’s worth losing that headset jack and physical F4 key, but we’d guess there are plenty of folks that would call those worthy sacrifices to get a 14-core CPU in a laptop weighing less than three pounds.
What we can tell you is to win big, you have to take risks, and the XPS 13 Plus swings for the fences like Dell did years ago, when it basically forced all other laptop makers to catch up. — Gordon Mah Ung
Alienware 34 QD-LED
We’ve seen a few OLED screens aimed at PC gamers before, but they’ve generally been repurposed TV panels with a few extra bells and whistles (and of course, that lucrative “gamer” branding). Alienware seems to be the first out of the gate with a screen built from the ground up with PC gaming in mind. This massive 34-inch monitor is still tiny by comparison to previous designs, fitting into the popular 34-inch ultrawide category.
But it’s not wanting for bells nor whistles. In addition to the usual RGB lighting, G-Sync support, and plethora of inputs expected from a premium PC gaming monitor, the Alienware QD-OLED 34 combines quantum dot technology with the perfect blacks and vivid colors of OLED for a brighter overall panel, overcoming some of the technology’s inherent weaknesses. It’s a common theme among the new TVs at CES, so it’s great to see that (finally) going right into a PC monitor. On top of that you get a speedy 175Hz native refresh rate (impressive for this size), a USB hub, and a host of gamer goodies as well.
In short, while there are bigger and more impressive OLED “monitors” on the show floor, this is the one I’m going to be extremely tempted to spend (lots and lots) of money on in 2022. —Michael Crider
12th-gen Intel ‘Alder Lake’ laptop CPUs
We wouldn’t be lying if we said CES 2022’s bushel of laptop CPUs was an embarrassment of riches, with AMD first announcing Ryzen 6000 mobile CPUs using its impressive Zen 3+ cores, and then Intel firing back with its 12th-gen Alder Lake mobile CPUs. What’s better? Well, we don’t honestly know yet to be honest. Both lines offer pretty spectacular feature sets, such as the new RDNA 2-based GPU cores in AMD’s Ryzen 6000 processors, which offer twice the performance of the older chips. Intel’s CPUs, meanwhile, bring core counts to unheard-of levels with three pound laptops wielding 14 cores on tap.
So you can see our predicament in trying to pick the best laptop CPU announcement at CES—everyone’s a winner! “Best of” awards never get shared, however, so that means we have to pick a winner and with phaser to our head, we declare Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake laptop lineup as the best laptop CPU of the show.
Offering a hybrid architecture with up to six performance cores sitting aside another 8 efficiency cores, a combination expected to offer more than 40 percent increased performance over Intel’s already pretty awesome 11th-gen Tiger Lake CPUs, Intel’s 12th-gen chips will be very difficult CPUs for even AMD’s new Ryzen 6000 series to unseat in terms of raw performance. —Gordon Mah Ung
Samsung Freestyle portable projector
Projectors may seem out of fashion these days, given the ubiquity of fancy monitors and televisions. But given world circumstances right now, the idea of setting up a big-screen viewing experience almost anywhere hits just right. Whether you want to have outdoor movie nights or make the most of ultra-tight living quarters, the Samsung Freestyle can adapt to the situation. It takes the same amount of room as a thermos, can run off of a USB PD power bank, and even screws into standard E26 light bulb sockets. No one needs this projector, but I definitely want one. (You can get the full lowdown on the Samsung Freestyle over at TechHive, our sister site.) —Alaina Yee
Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3
You know what’s better than one display? Two displays. The Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 certainly raised some eyebrows at CES this year due to this rather unusual feature. That said, it’s a cool bit of hardware that makes multitasking a whole lot easier. The secondary display, which lives on the right side of the keyboard, is 8-inches with a resolution of 800-by-1280. The screen is made of glass and touch-enabled, and it allows you to quickly access apps like Microsoft Outlook or Edge. It’s a great productivity machine for business professionals looking to get some serious work done, that’s for sure. —Ashley Biancuzzo
AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT
Over three long years after Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 20-series kicked off the real-time ray tracing revolution, the first sub-$200 graphics card capable of handling those beautifully strenuous lighting effects is finally here—and it came from AMD, not Nvidia. The Radeon RX 6500 XT is a humble $199 desktop GPU pitched more as a budget successor to the popular Radeon RX 570 than a true ray tracing powerhouse, but flipping on AMD’s new Radeon Super Resolution feature (which will speed up performance in all your games) should help pick up the slack.
The sheer fact that a $199 graphics card exists in the midst of a severe GPU drought is worth cheering, and since AMD outfitted the 6500 XT with 4GB of RAM, it can’t be used to mine Ethereum—the primary cryptocurrency helping to drive up graphics card costs. Time will tell if you’ll actually be able to get your hands on one of these for around its sticker price, but I’d wager you’ll probably have a lot better odds finding a Radeon RX 6500 XT in stores than Nvidia’s newly announced $249 RTX 3050, whose juicy 8GB memory buffer puts it squarely in the sights of miners. The Radeon RX 6500 XT could be just what desperate PC gamers need in 2022. Fingers crossed. —Brad Chacos
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti
In a world where gamers are grateful to buy four-year-old used GPUs at their original list price, Nvidia’s mic drop reveal of the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti (it’s pronounced “tie”) felt like a slap to everyone’s face. It’s also, frankly, the most gangster move ever, akin to casually drinking from a diamond-encrusted Evian bottle while surrounded by masses of people dying of thirst.
If you were offended by it though, you’re missing the whole point of the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti’s existence in the first place.
Coming as the replacement for a card so luxurious that most reviewers said to skip it (ourselves included), the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti does two things: It gives those trying to scrimp by on $200 million NBA Super Max contracts something to buy to replace their old GeForce RTX 3090 with, and it flexes muscles in AMD’s and—more importantly to Nvidia—Intel’s face in a year we’re likely to see a GPU cat fight the likes of which we’ve never seen before. So while the 3090 Ti may not be the best GPU at CES (that honor goes to the Radeon 6500 XT), it’s definitely the best BFGPU at CES. —Gordon Mah Ung
Back when CES used to be something we visited in person, I got pitched my fair share of beauty-tech products. But unlike the “magic mirrors” products of yore, which showcased cool tech but didn’t actually solve a widespread problem, the L’oreal Colorsonic piqued my curiosity in the same way as innovations in PC cases and smart home products—it’s tech that aims to eliminate common hassles.
L’oreal says this hair-dyeing wand simplifies the process of at-home coloring by making it far less messy and ensuring even application of dye (the two biggest issues for DIYers). You simply choose one of 40 shades, load in the cartridge from the haircolor kit, and then brush the device through your hair for dye application. We’ll see how effective this product will be for dark hair (which typically needs to be bleached first), but color me intrigued. —Alaina Yee
We never owned Alienware’s original netbook-sized gaming laptop, the M14x, and to this day we still pine about the “one that got away.” But maybe—just maybe—we’ll have our chance again to own an ultra-portable gaming notebook, as the new Alienware x14 claims the title of being the “thinnest gaming laptop in the world.”
Yeah, we know, you wrinkle your nose at “thin laptops,” but nothing motivates sales like a thin laptop, while also challenging engineers to make faster laptops with increasingly limited amounts of space.
Alienware’s x14 measures a mere 12.66×10.4 inches at just 0.57-inches (or 14.5mm) thick. How thin is that? Most gaming laptops chest pound for being 19.5mm, so the x14 is 25 percent thinner. In fact, the Alienware x14 “out thins” Apple’s new MacBook Pro 14 by a millimeter.
Despite its stature, the x14 packs in plenty of hardware with up to a 14-core 12th-gen Core i7 cooled with Alienware’s Element 31 thermal interface, and a GeForce RTX 3060 6GB GPU along with a 144Hz FHD panel and G-Sync plus Optimus Advanced.
While other thin gaming laptops have tended to tone down the gamer aesthetic to go “legit” the x14 embraces its heritage. Sure, to get there you have to use soldered down LPDDR5/5200 RAM, but that also helps with battery life on a laptop that you likely won’t mind actually carrying in your really thin bag. —Gordon Mah Ung
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D
Like laptop CPUs, the desktop CPU news at CES was beefy AF, with Intel filling out its entire desktop line up of 12th-gen CPUs, from $42 budget chips to the non-K CPUs most people buy. Intel closed off with news and a demo of a special edition “KS” chip that can run all of its performance cores at 5GHz while gaming. AMD, likewise, talked up its next-gen Ryzen 7000 processors due in the second half of the year—which can also run games with all cores at 5GHz. The CPU that might have the most impact for gamers, however, was AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which packs 64MB of high-performance L3 cache on top of an 8-core Ryzen 7 5800 die (hence the “3D” in the name).
That cache, AMD says, is just what games love, and will boost the Ryzen 7 5800X3D to gaming performance at and above that of Intel’s top-end Core i9-12900K chip. It’s so fast that AMD laid claim to it being the “fastest gaming CPU.” Sure, Ryzen 7000 is sexy and Alder Lake’s full roster is exciting, but the value of a “fastest gaming CPU” sticker on the box is going to make most consumers gooey inside and easily qualifies as the best desktop CPU announcement at CES. —Gordon Mah Ung
BMW iX Flow
BMW’s iX Flow is a concept, but one that should be familiar to PC users. What would happen if you took an ordinary BMW SUV and instead replaced the “paint” with a bunch of E-Ink panels? The result is the BMW iX Flow, which can change colors on the fly. Since they’re E-Ink, you can only switch between black, white, and limitless combinations of gray, black, or various patterns/combinations, but it’s simply way cool, as you can see in the tweet above. —Mark Hachman
Dell UltraSharp 32 4K
This seems so obvious I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before: The Dell UltraSharp 32 4K is a desktop monitor that doubles as a Thunderbolt I/O dock. Maybe it just strikes me as particularly genius now that I’m working from home more often than not and finding myself regularly moving between my personal desktop and my work laptop, while having just one large monitor and one desk between them.
With the UltraSharp 32 4K, I could connect both machines to my 3240×2160 IPS display, as well as my mouse and keyboard, and use the KVM switching feature to seamlessly move between the two PCs as needed, using all the same peripherals, without adding any extra clutter—in the form of a standalone dock or switcher—to my already-cluttered desk. Shoot, you could possibly even daisy-chain a second monitor. At the same time, the UltraSharp’s dock would be keeping my laptop charged without the need for its own power cable. How great is that? Ports include DisplayPort 1.4, USB-A ports, 10Gbps USB-C connections, an RJ45 port for Ethernet, and audio. It even has a built-in webcam. —Katherine Stevenson
Acer Predator Triton 500 SE
Acer’s Predator Triton 500 SE strikes a balance between work and play, something that will hopefully become a trend in the future. Why have a gaming laptop and a productivity laptop, when one notebook can do both? Sure, there’s a powerful 12th-gen Core and an Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti GPU inside, but the real story is just the workmanlike exterior and lack (yes, lack) of RGB bling. Long battery life, a high-res display, and gaming chops is a trend we like to see. —Mark Hachman
TP-Link AXE11000 Tri-Band Archer AXE200 Omni
Routers packing Wi-Fi 6E—the cutting-edge networking standard worth investing in—showed up in force at CES 2022 after sticking mostly to rare, high-end models in 2021. We saw Wi-Fi 6E routers rolled out by Netgear, TP-Link, Asus ROG, and even Comcast at the show, every one featuring blazing-fast speeds and killer next-gen features. My favorite though? The TP-Link AXE11000 Tri-Band Archer AXE200 Omni, and for a very, very dumb reason. It features mechanically self-adjusting arms that have a practical purpose—maximizing throughput from this ultra-fast router—but just as importantly, look absolutely badass.
As Wes Davis put it in his coverage, the whirling robo-arm setup “delights me—as someone who grew up with an ’80s family-friendly sci fi-fueled vision of the future wherein all houses are full of whirring gizmos with superfluously-rotating, undulating, oscillating whatsits and doodads—on a purely superficial level.” And as a simple man who likes simple pleasures, all I can say is amen, brother. —Brad Chacos
LG C2 42-inch OLED TV
Prior to LG’s announcement this week, using an OLED television as a monitor meant going big—displays started at 48 inches and only went up from there. Having one sitting just a couple of feet from your face was borderline unwieldy. The upcoming 42-inch version of the LG C2 doesn’t sound all that much smaller, but the six-inch difference should make desk usage feel far more comfortable. And at that close distance, you’ll be able to properly enjoy OLED’s deep black levels in all of your favorite dark, moody games and movies. The only bummer about LG’s announcement is that the 42-inch and 48-inch version of the C2 lack the brighter EVO panels of their larger siblings. (For more info on the LG C2 lineup and other OLED TV announcements from CES, head over to our sister site TechHive.) —Alaina Yee
Lenovo Legion 5i Pro
With its glacial white chassis and barely-there bezels, the Lenovo Legion 5i Pro is sure to turn heads. The minimalistic, sophisticated aesthetic is a most welcome departure from the traditional gamer look. But it’s more than just a pretty face. The 2960-by-1600 resolution IPS display features a lightning-fast adaptive refresh rate of 240Hz. The sky-high refresh rate is a major selling point, as it means smoother gameplay. The laptop is also driven by a 12th-gen Intel Core processor and RTX graphics. If it’s power you’re looking for, the Legion 5i Pro should have everything you need. —Ashley Biancuzzo
Editor’s note: Originally published on January 7, updated on January 11 to add the Dell XPS 13 Plus and Alienware x14.