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The AI PC Turned Professional At MWC 2024

Lenovo’s prototype transparent-display laptop


Late last year, Intel introduced its new Intel Core Ultra family of processors, aimed at enabling the AI PC era with the company’s first processor to feature a built-in NPU. Following that launch in December, the company’s OEM customers came out with various systems that take advantage of Core Ultra capabilities. While some AI applications are still fairly nascent, Intel is without a doubt one of the companies that can turn a piece of new technology into a mass-market, widely adopted new feature.

At the Mobile World Congress 2024 event that just wrapped up, Intel once again showed off a series of new PCs based on Intel Core Ultra, along with its professional vPro technology meant to bring the AI PC to the enterprise. Two of Intel’s biggest OEM partners, Dell and Lenovo, were front and center, introducing new business laptops with vPro and Core Ultra to enable the latest AI experiences in a professional environment.

Dell Laptop Offerings With Intel Core Ultra

Dell brought out a range of commercial PCs at MWC 2024 that combine Intel Core Ultra and vPro. For starters, Dell announced upgrades for its whole line of Latitude business laptops, which serve business users across many different models, moving them from the previous generation’s 3000 series to Dell’s flagship 9000-series nomenclature. The Dell Latitude 9450 two-in-one is what Dell claims to be the world’s smallest 14-inch commercial PC with mini-LED display technology; it’s also equipped with a new HDR webcam and Wi-Fi 7. Moving down the stack, the Latitude 7000 series comes in 13-, 14- and 16-inch screen sizes and offers the two-in-one form factor as well as 13- and 14-inch Ultralight models. Dell clearly has a lot of diversity within the 7000 series.

Two standouts of the family are the 7350 and 7450 Ultralight laptops with Intel Core Ultra and 5 MP webcams. There is also a 7350 detachable model, which Dell claims to be the world’s most serviceable commercial detachable, inspired by Dell’s Project Luna. Moving further down the stack, the Latitude 5000 series offers AI capabilities in 13-, 14- and 15-inch sizes as well as a 13-inch two-in-one. At the bottom of the stack is the (new) Latitude 3000 series, which still offers a point of entry for users to transition to the AI PC. The Dell Latitude 7350 detachable will be available in Q2 2024, while the rest of the Latitude lineup will be available in March.

The Precision line of laptops is Dell’s family of mobile workstations, which also got the Intel Core Ultra treatment, paired with the latest generation of Ada GPUs from Nvidia. For Dell’s Precision family, there are two tiers of performance: the 3000 series and the 5000 series. Dell offers the 3490 and 3590 workstations with up to RTX 500 Ada graphics paired with Core Ultra, while the Precision 5490 and 5690 offer 14- and 16-inch models with up to an RTX 5000 from Nvidia.

Lenovo — ThinkPad And Prototype PC

Not to be left out of the commercial AI PC party, Lenovo also announced a wide array of new notebooks taking advantage of the new Core Ultra processors. Lenovo’s ThinkPad series is the tip of its commercial notebook spear, making up most of its new commercial AI PCs powered by Intel’s Core Ultra and vPro technologies. That said, not all of the PCs announced by Lenovo feature Intel Core Ultra; in particular, the ThinkPad T14 Gen 5 (14-inch AMD) features AMD’s new 8040 Ryzen processor with AMD’s XDNA AI architecture. (For more about AMD’s approach to the AI PC, see this writeup I did in December.)

Lenovo’s T16 Gen 3 notebook features Core Ultra processors, but also employs Lenovo’s new enhanced repairability thanks to the company’s collaboration with iFixit, representatives of which were actually present at Lenovo’s booth during MWC 2024. Lenovo also announced an Intel flavor of the ThinkPad T14 featuring the Intel Core Ultra with vPro, and it announced an Intel-based T14s Gen 5, which also features enhanced repairability through the iFixit partnership.

The T16 and T14s models are at the heart of Lenovo’s ThinkPad lineup, which means that Lenovo is taking repairability seriously for some of its most important products. Ultimately, repairability is good for the user and for the enterprise because it reduces repair costs and keeps systems in use for longer, which is inherently better than trying to recycle them.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X12 Gen 2 is a sleek system with a 3:2 aspect ratio clearly designed to compete with the Microsoft Surface. The X12 Gen 2 also features Intel Ultra U-Series processors and supports up to 32GB of LPDDR5X RAM, which should make it capable of significant productivity. It features a 5 MP front-facing webcam and IR camera for Windows Hello. It also has an 8 MP world-facing camera for video and photos, even though the photo and video capture experience on Windows is lacking. This system also continues an oddity that I’ve seen recently on other ThinkPad systems: it has 4G LTE support, but absolutely no mention of 5G. While I understand that some enterprises might not be actively deploying cellular, it makes little sense to support 4G at all, given that so many networks are deprecating 4G coverage and speeds.

Last but certainly not least is Lenovo’s ThinkBook Project Crystal concept system, which got a lot of press at Mobile World Congress. This 17.3-inch notebook is already bigger than most systems that Lenovo ships today. The company says that it leverages a MicroLED transparent display technology to enable a completely transparent viewing experience. This achieves two things: it creates the potential for an AR display inside the laptop, and it means that the display could enable a completely bezel-less viewing experience, creating an even smaller footprint for such a large display. This is still very much a concept, but one of the biggest sacrifices would likely be losing Windows Hello and a webcam, at least until Lenovo and its display partners figure out how to implement that technology with the new display.

Samsung Book4 Series

Following Dell’s and Lenovo’s updates to their systems with Intel Core Ultra processors, the Samsung Book4 family of PCs is fairly similar in its iterative nature. There don’t appear to be any significant differences compared to the last generation, with Samsung continuing its four-device family featuring the Galaxy Book4, Book4 360, Book4 Pro 360 and Book4 Ultra. The Book 4 Pro is the only model that comes in 14- and 16-inch sizes, while the 360 only comes in 15.6-inch and the Pro 360 and Ultra come in 16-inch. (All of these are AMOLED 2X displays.) Once again, the Ultra is the only SKU offering Intel’s fastest Ultra 9 series 185H processor and discrete Nvidia RTX graphics. That said, it is great to see Samsung entering the AI PC era with the rest of the PC OEMs, and it will be great to find out how these systems perform against the competition.

Wrapping Up

Intel and its partners were very present at MWC 2024 with a wide assortment of newly refreshed commercial PCs featuring the new Core Ultra processors. Intel and its partners’ current focus is to get as many Intel Core Ultra systems as possible refreshed with AI without messing too much with the rest of the formula. This means focusing on ensuring that the Core Ultra–powered machines deliver an improved total experience with the added benefit of an onboard NPU for AI applications.

Intel’s vision is not entirely NPU-focused, given that it also sees other cores including GPUs, CPUs and ASICs performing critical roles for AI. That said, there is no doubt that most developers—along with Intel’s competition—are focused on the NPU part of these processors for performant and power-efficient AI applications. The AI tsunami from CES has continued into MWC 2024, and frankly, I think we’ll continue to see AI at the center of most things this year, especially because nearly every PC announced at both CES and MWC can be considered an AI PC. There are still more launches to come later this year, including from Microsoft and Qualcomm, so there’s still a lot to pay attention to as the market evolves and embraces local AI compute.

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