2021 is off and running with CES and one thing is quite clear and that is people are talking about 5G. Specifically, companies are showcasing it as an included feature in their laptops.

Out of curiosity, I started a simple poll on the YouTube Community page for the channel and asked people to vote on how they felt about cellular connectivity in laptops. After a day, the following results were tallied:

Poll results from the YouTube Community page on cellular connectivity in laptops. Image captured January 9, 2021.

The results were interesting. Approximately two-thirds of respondents didn’t see the need or felt the cost was a barrier. Several people commented that if they needed the internet they either tethered from their phone or used their phone to create a mobile hotspot. One commenter even suggested the benefits of doing this as it allows you to position the “antenna” (the phone) in a better position for a signal without the need to move the entire laptop. I found this thought very sound having done so myself on several occasions.

The question then is of course, who are these laptop manufacturers targeting with 5G? The answer I suspect is the same people that have always been targeted with cellular connectivity in laptops. Businesses. If they have employees that need to have internet access to do their job then it makes sense for the business to purchase a machine and a data plan to ensure they get it. I note a change already at CES this year, with 5G seemingly being used to target consumers as well. But for the average user, I suspect the data plans that are already being paid for as a part of a phone plan are enough. With people still mainly stuck and home or under travel restrictions, being in a location without WiFi is not currently a common experience for many users.

Lenovo’s landing page for the IdeaPad 5G at CES 2021

The big question is, will cellular modems break into the mainstream anytime soon? With cellular bands like 5G almost becoming a branding item like multi-lens cameras on smartphones, I could see it happening. There is also the potential for something like this to be great in areas where traditional infrastructure is not as reliable as cellular service. Time will tell if the consumer values this added feature that I suspect will be coming to more laptops this year than ever before. I suspect many customers however will see this and start to count on their fingers how many times and how much they are paying for internet access.

NEC announced this week that it is releasing its LAVIE Pro to the world.

NEC while based in Japan, when it comes to laptop development is partnered with Lenovo, which makes sense if you want access to large-scale manufacturing capacity.

The specifications of the device appear to support a very mobile yet powerful laptop. Equipped with an i7-1165G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 1920×1080 IPS display, 512GB SSD and even an IR camera for Windows Hello as standard there is a lot to like. Although the design is made out of a boasted new carbon material wrapped in a soft-touch coating, the price tag is certainly premium at $1,699 USD.

Packing all of this into a package as thin and light won’t be cheap and it has to make room for a 49Wh battery, but at that price point, can it move beyond just being a “good” laptop? As with many premium devices, they invite comparison and I will be curious to see how the NEC LAVIE Pro stacks up once in the wild.

For full specifications, see their datasheet.

ThinkMods have announced one of their next products on their Discord today. It is a better-built version of an existing mod that puts a USB port inside of your compatible ThinkPad.

This is really handy if you have a USB module for a mouse or keyboard that you use all the time but don’t want to use up an external port. Instead, it plugs into an absent SmartCard plug found on the motherboard. To be clear, this mod is only possible on the X220/X230 and T430 machines. The Tablet variants of the X series listed should be compatible.

While this mod currently exists and can be found on several websites, there are some key differences that the ThinkMod version will provide.

Unlike the Chinese one, these will both be available for $5, and the X220/X230 one actually has a full 5V voltage regulator, so it provides a proper 5V unlike the Chinese one which only provides 3.3V.
(some USB devices, like logitech unifying receivers, are ok with 3.3v, but not all are)

So in summary: Higher quality, cheaper, and ships much faster than the Chinese variant.

While the main focus remains on getting the TM-E2M finished, it is exciting to hear what they have in the works. For more information, consider dropping by their website, https://thinkmods.store/