In this month’s column, we bring you the best ultra-portable laptops for your next work trip.
At a recent laptop launch event, Lenovo shared numbers that confirmed what we already knew. Laptops are back. The mobile computing era of the 2010s saw smartphone and tablet sales put consumer PC sales under immense pressure; a complete contrast to the 2000s.
Consumer PC sales soared by 18 per cent between 2002 and 2011. The industry hit a bump between 2012 and 2018 registering a significant seven per cent decline (CAGR). Most industry observers were ready to write off the Consumer PC industry. The pandemic changed all that. Between 2019 and 2021, the industry witnessed an unprecedented growth of 18 per cent. Lenovo expects this growth to stabilise over the next few years, until 2025.
The industry hasn’t just grown but it has evolved as laptop manufacturers have started crafting product lines for a diverse profile of users. The road warriors of the 2000s might have settled for clunky laptops. It’s a different world in the 2022 as business travel gradually returns to normal.
A whole new set of buyers are looking at slinky laptops that can flit from work to play with minimal effort. We’ve seen quite a few brands respond to this challenge with OLED displays that are Netflix proof, packed with powerful processors and a featherlight form factor. We round up three laptops that can slip into your slimmest messenger bags and are ready to be your new workhorses…
ASUS Zenbook S13 OLED | Rs 99,900 onwards
This is one of our favourite Windows ultra-books from 2022 along with the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro. It’s just 14.9 mm thin and weighs 1.1 kg. ASUS has pitched this as the world’s lightest 13.3-inch 2.8K OLED laptop. It might be incredibly light and yet it’s surprisingly sturdy. ASUS has built this laptop with a magnesium-aluminium alloy chassis. It has allowed ASUS to play around with the colour palette, this laptop comes in a refreshingly cool Aqua Celadon colour option. This solid chassis also lends it a premium vibe.
The Zenbook S13 OLED is among the first laptops in India to be powered by the all-new AMD Ryzen 6000 U series of CPUs. It comes with Windows 11 out of the box. The laptop has all the firepower most of us need. Gaming (we checked out the high-end Ryzen 7 6800U) is ultra-smooth and productivity tasks are a breeze. Our favourite feature is the 13.3-inch OLED touchscreen with a 180-degree hinge for extra flexibility. This 2.8K OLED display (2880 x 1800 pixels) peaks at 550 nits; colours are terrific. This Zenbook clocks an impressive eight-hour battery life despite a vibrant OLED display.
Apple MacBook Air | Rs 1,19,000 onwards
Apple’s ultra-light MacBooks have been our preferred ‘on the go’ productivity machines. The new MacBook Air is probably the biggest overhaul since Steve Jobs pulled out the first MacBook Air out of a slim office envelope back in 2008. At 11.3 mm, this is one of the thinnest laptops out there and weighs just a shade above 1.2 kg. It’s thin from every angle and crafted with a durable, all-aluminium unibody enclosure that feels incredibly solid. The Air features a silent, fanless design and comes in two new finishes including our favourite — Midnight.
The big story is under the hood. This one’s powered by the M2 chip that starts the next generation of Apple silicon for the Mac, taking the breakthrough performance, power efficiency, and capabilities of M1 even further. This laptop features a more powerful 8-core CPU and up to 10-core GPU, so you can get more done faster.
Aside from the new design, we’re equally enamoured by the new 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, which has been expanded closer to the sides and up around the camera to make room for the menu bar. It’s a larger display with much thinner borders, at 500 nits of brightness, it is also 25 per cent brighter than before. This striking display is backed by a four-speaker sound system.
Blended work models look here to stay, and most new laptops have upped their camera game. MacBook Air includes a new 1080p FaceTime HD camera with twice the resolution and low-light performance of the previous generation. Add the processing power of the advanced image signal processor on M2, and you’re likely to look sharp in virtual meetings. The 18-hour battery life sweetens the deal. Apple switches back to MagSafe charging with the 2022 Air, and also offers an optional 67W fast charger.
Lenovo Yoga 9i | Rs 1,69,990 onwards
True to its name, Lenovo’s Yoga series has built a cult following thanks to its flexible form factor. The 9i builds on this legacy. It’s a fully functional laptop one moment, a tablet the next and can also swing into tent mode — perfect to catch up on your favourite show on a long flight. OLED displays are soon becoming the norm for premium laptops. The Lenovo Yoga 9i boasts of a 4K OLED screen with VESA Certified DisplayHDR True Black 500 and Dolby Vision, which lets you experience deep blacks and vibrant colours. It’s not just the gorgeous hues, the 9i’s entertainment creds get a boost with Bowers & Wilkins speakers enhanced by Dolby Atmos.
This ergonomically designed laptop boasts of a smooth, yet glossy jewelled finish. The edge-to-edge keyboard and 14-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio optimises your screen real estate. At its heart is a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, which distributes processing power to where you need it most.
The Yoga 9i comes with a host of thoughtful design touches like one-click function keys, a larger touchpad with more clickable area, and touchscreen functionality. There are two Thunderbolt 4.0 ports, and an SD card reader that allow you the ability to transfer data in a snap.
Ashwin Rajagopalan is a Chennai-based content architect, writer, speaker, and cultural intelligence coach. He writes extensively on travel and culture, food and drink, gadgets, and trends.