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At CES 2023, powerful laptops are big and commanding

A bad back? Do you suffer from that? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ultra-thin and portable computers are no longer the wave of the future. However, laptop manufacturers showed up at CES 2023 with hefty rosters with a wide variety of 14-inch, 16-inch, and even 18-inch computers.

This, for better or worse, is the new reality of laptop PCs. It’s not ideal for posture, but fantastic news for performance (and, potentially, your eyes) (and, perhaps, your eyes).

The backbreakers have been introduced

It’s a little weird to witness PC laptops execute a sudden 180 and escape back towards girthy designs. A decade ago, at CES 2012, Intel introduced the Ultrabook idea as a direct response to Apple’s excessively thin MacBook Air. Many of today’s most successful PC laptop sub-brands, like Dell’s XPS and Asus’ Zenbook, started in this swerve towards thin.

However, those times are passed. It seems that with each new generation of high-performance CPUs and GPUs, they use more power rather than less. As a result of heightened rivalry between companies like AMD, Intel, Nvidia, Apple, and Qualcomm (to name a few), the number of cores in laptop computers has skyrocketed into the double digits. As a result, manufacturers of portable computing devices have had to accommodate for bigger, hotter components.

Think about the Acer Predator Helios 18 as an example. There are four different 18-inch displays available for this massive laptop: three IPS LCD varieties, each weighing 6.97 pounds, and a top-tier Mini-LED behemoth, weighing 7.17 pounds. They range from about 16 inches broad and 13 inches deep to over an inch thick.

Industry insiders refer to this as “an absolute unit,” and Acer isn’t the only company with one. It has been speculated that Razer, like Asus and Alienware, is working on a larger flagship computer. So, to be quite clear: these are not marketing ploys; these are flagship products.

The size and performance are commensurate

Not everything about flagship computers becoming bigger is terrible. Also, laptop graphics processing units (GPUs) have jumped on the newest features (such as Nvidia’s DLSS) and their CPU core counts are now often in the double digits. That’s great news for efficiency, particularly in the most resource-intensive applications.

The Cinebench R15 multi-core test gives a score between 1,100 and 1,200 for a typical laptop with an Intel Core i7-9750H, which is typical of high-performance laptops marketed until 2020. Lenovo Legion 5i and other recent laptops with Intel Core i7-12700H processors often get a score between 2,400 and 2,600 on this benchmark.