Previous Blogs

August 22, 2017
The Evolution of Smart Speakers

August 15, 2017
The Myth of General Purpose Wearables

August 8, 2017
IoT Connections Made Easy

August 1, 2017
Smarter Computing

July 25, 2017
The Value of Limits

July 18, 2017
Tech in the Heartland

June 27, 2017
Business Realities vs. Tech Dreams

June 20, 2017
The Power of Hidden Tech

June 13, 2017
Computing Evolves from Outside In to Inside Out

June 6, 2017
The Overlooked Surprises of Apple’s WWDC Keynote

May 30, 2017
Are AR and VR Only for Special Occasions?

May 23, 2017
The Digital Car

May 16, 2017
Digital Assistants Drive New Meta-Platform Battle

May 9, 2017
Getting Smart on Smart Speakers

May 5, 2017
Intel Opens High-Tech "Garage"

May 2, 2017
The Hidden Value of Analog

April 28, 2017
Google’s Waymo Starts Driving Passengers

April 25, 2017
The Robotic Future

April 21, 2017
Sony Debuts New Pro Camera

April 18, 2017
Should Apple Build a Car?

April 14, 2017
PC Market Outlook Improving

April 11, 2017
Little Data Analytics

April 7, 2017
Facebook Debuts Free Version of Workplace Collaboration Tool

April 4, 2017
Samsung Building a Platform Without an OS

March 31, 2017
Microsoft Announces Windows 10 Creators Update Release Date

March 28, 2017
Augmented Reality Finally Delivers on 3D Promise

March 24, 2017
Intel Creates AI Organization

March 21, 2017
Chip Magic

March 17, 2017
Microsoft Unveils Teams Chat App

March 14, 2017
Computing on the Edge

March 7, 2017
Cars Need Digital Safety Standards Too

February 28, 2017
The Messy Path to 5G

February 24, 2017
AMD Launches Ryzen CPU

February 21, 2017
Rethinking Wearable Computing

February 17, 2017
Samsung Heir Arrest Unlikely to Impact Sales

February 14, 2017
Modern Workplaces Still More Vision Than Reality

February 10, 2017
Lenovo Develops Energy-Efficient Soldering Technology

February 7, 2017
The Missing Map from Silicon Valley to Main Street

January 31, 2017
The Network vs. The Computer

January 27, 2017
Facebook Adds Support For FIDO Security Keys

January 24, 2017
Voice Drives New Software Paradigm

January 20, 2017
Tesla Cleared of Fault in NHTSA Crash Probe

January 17, 2017
Inside the Mind of a Hacker

January 13, 2017
PC Shipments Stumble but Turnaround is Closer

January 10, 2017
Takeaways from CES 2017

January 3, 2017
Top 10 Tech Predictions for 2017

2016 Blogs

2015 Blogs

2014 Blogs

2013 Blogs

TECHnalysis Research Blog

August 29, 2017
The Golden Era of Notebooks

By Bob O'Donnell

As we head towards the end of summer, when kids go back to school and many happy vacationers reluctantly return to their workplaces, it’s common to think about the potential for new devices to help with renewed educational and vocational efforts.

Back-to-school is a particularly important time for notebook PCs, as many vendors introduce new models to meet the seasonal boost in demand that hits this time each year. The great news this year is that it’s hard to go wrong with the options being made available. Thanks to some critical new technology announcements, advancements in some key standards, and most importantly, improvements in the physical designs of modern notebooks, there is a wealth of great options from which to choose.

In fact, after years of hype and, frankly, some unfortunate cases of overpromising and underdelivering, we’re finally starting to get the super sleek and ultrathin, yet very powerful and flexible laptops we were promised a long time ago. To put it bluntly, the Windows PC industry has finally caught up to and arguably surpassed what Apple first started with the Macbook Air about 9 years ago.

Pick up the latest offerings from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer or any other major Windows PC vendor, compare it to the notebook you currently own or use for work, and the difference will likely be dramatic. Today’s laptops are lighter, offer longer battery life, and nearly 1/3 feature flexible designs. Some have bendable hinges that enable switching from a traditional clamshell format with the keyboard down below the screen to a tablet-style mode, with a touchscreen interface. Others feature detachable keyboards, most notably Microsoft’s growing range of Surface devices.

Beyond the more obvious physical design enhancements, these new laptops also startup, boot applications, and run much faster than their predecessors. This performance boost is primarily due to some important “under-the-hood” improvements in the chips powering today’s notebooks. Last week, for example, Intel just announced the eighth generation of their Core line of CPUs, the Core i3, i5 and i7, which offer up to a 40% boost in performance versus even last year’s models on some applications (though not on everything).

A good portion of this boost is due to Intel increasing the number of independent computing cores inside the CPU. Because people do more multitasking and keep multiple applications open and running on their computers these days, as well as the nature of how modern software is being written, these extra cores can make an important difference in real-world performance.

In fact, Intel’s main competitor in the CPU market, AMD, used this design concept in both their Ryzen and Threadripper desktop CPUs—introduced earlier this year—with great effect. Thanks to these changes, AMD is finally starting to compete and, in some instances, beat Intel in desktop CPUs. AMD will be bringing these advancements to the mobile market in 2018. Best of all, though, it’s brought a greatly renewed sense of competition back to the market, and that will make both companies’ chips faster and the notebooks using these new designs even better, which is good news for all of us.

The semiconductor improvements in PCs aren’t just limited to CPUs. Nvidia and AMD continue to drive the mobile PC gaming market forward with the dedicated GPUs. Nvidia just unveiled a new thin design they call MaxQ that allows even their high-end GeForce GTX1080 chip to fit inside a comparatively thin 18mm notebook, a huge improvement over many of the current gaming notebooks.

As with CPUs, AMD also just made a strong new entry on the desktop side with their new Vega architecture chips, formally introduced earlier this month, and they will bring Vega to notebooks in 2018.

But you may not even have to wait until then, because the final key new advancement in today’s notebooks is a relatively new connection standard called Thunderbolt 3.0. Found primarily on more expensive notebooks right now, Thunderbolt 3.0 uses the USB Type C physical connector, but supercharges it with the ability not only to connect up to two 4K displays, but also power connections for the notebook, storage devices that can work as fast as internal hard drives and, most interesting of all, the potential to connect desktop graphics cards to a thin notebook. Now, you will need a relatively large, separately powered adapter housing for the card, but the ability to connect and even potentially upgrade desktop-quality graphics to a notebook PC is a capability that’s never been widely available before.

Put all these elements together and it’s clear that we really are in a golden era for laptop PCs. Small, lightweight designs, fast performance, tremendous expandability, and improved flexibility are enabling some of the most compelling new notebook designs we’ve ever seen. Throw in the fact that many new notebooks will be more than capable of driving the new mixed reality VR headsets that Microsoft and its PC partners just announced this week and the outlook appears even brighter. Plus, this vigorous new competitive environment is providing a desperately needed revived spirit for the PC industry overall, and promises even more improvements for the future.

Here's a link to the column:

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

Leveraging more than 10 years of award-winning, professional radio experience, TECHnalysis Research participates in regular audio podcasts in conjunction with the team at
  Research Offerings
TECHnalysis Research offers a wide range of research deliverables that you can read about here.