Dreaming of a wire-free laptop? It's closer to reality

Laptops from Acer and Asus will ship with WiGig, and wireless charging products will be shown at CES

In the not too distant future, PC makers want to free your laptop of wires and cables. Some announcements at CES signal progress toward that goal.

PC makers want to bid adieu to bulky power adapters, and make charging as simple as placing a laptop on a kitchen counter, desk or table at a cafe. Another goal is to establish speedy wireless connections between laptops and external peripherals, which could eliminate wired ports like USB and HDMI from PCs.

Intel showed a wire-free prototype laptop last year. The laptop charged wirelessly when placed on a surface. Monitors and external storage linked up to the laptop through the emerging WiGig wireless technology, which is significantly faster than Wi-Fi.

There wasn't a specific product announced at CES with all the key wire-free attributes. But some laptops were announced with integrated WiGig, and wireless power standards organization AirFuel Alliance said that products capable of charging laptops would be available this year.

Acer said its TravelMate P648 series laptop was the first of its kind with integrated WiGig, which could be up to 10 times faster than Wi-Fi 802.11ac. Targeted at business users, the laptop will be priced at US$799 when it starts shipping in April. The 14-inch laptop is loaded with the latest technologies like optional Intel Skylake chips, Thunderbolt 3 ports, DDR4 memory and optional Nvidia GeForce 940M graphics.

Asus also said it will integrate WiGig into a few laptops later this year, with wireless chips for the systems provided by Qualcomm. Asus sees gamers taking advantage of WiGig for faster communication  between laptops and external devices.

WiGig doesn't have the range of Wi-Fi, and communication is largely limited to devices within a room. Data transfers happen on the unlicensed 60GHz spectrum. Qualcomm has estimated its WiGig chipset transferring data at a rate of 4.6Gbps (bits per second).

But there's a problem -- peripherals with integrated WiGig aren't yet available. Peripherals like monitors and external storage need to be hooked up to a WiGig dock to get the feature.

Lenovo introduced the Thinkvision X24 Pro display to which an optional thin WiGig bar can be attached. The 23.8-inch monitor has a 3D RealSense camera, and the product will sell for $399 starting in June.

HP and Dell executives said that WiGig would be integrated inside monitors, but could not provide specific release dates for products.

In the wireless charging arena, standards organization AirFuel Alliance said many products would debut this year after it achieved regulatory approval worldwide for its certification program. Some device makers will introduce wireless charging stations for devices up to 70 watts, a power profile within which smartphones, tablets and mid-range laptops with up to 15.6-inch screens can fit. AirFuel Alliance -- which was formed after the merger of A4WP (Alliance for Wireless Power) and PMA (Power Matters Alliance) -- said devices based on its magnetic-resonance technology will be shown at CES.

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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