The biggest names in laptops showed up to CES this week with new designs, new chips, and usually some way to sneak in the term “AI.” But most of them also quietly arrived with one of the most important upgrades of all for competitive gamers on the go: better Wi-Fi, with support for Wi-Fi 7. It’s about time, because router companies shoved Wi-Fi 7 routers out the door throughout 2023, and we’ve been waiting on machines that can put the standard’s ludicrous speed promises to the test.
Wi-Fi 7 quietly took now very expensive:
Wi-Fi 7 : came to gaming laptops first and foremost, and the focus on gaming makes sense. One of the biggest benefits of Wi-Fi 7 is that it allows for one device to connect to your router on multiple bands — a feature called Multi-Link Operation — which gives your laptop options when it comes to where to funnel its packets. That means that when your 5GHz band is at capacity, it’ll just send the data down the 6GHz pipe, and vice versa. The result should be lower latency when you’re on a busy network, which is critical when you’re not able to wire up with ethernet.
Most of the new laptops equipped with Wi-Fi 7 are on their way very soon. But some of the earliest are, at least for now, very expensive: the 16-inch Razer Blade 16 starts at $3,000, and the 18-inch MSI Titan 18 HX A14V costs at least $5,000. (The only option up for preorder right now comes in at $9,099.) Both of those are due out in mid-January.
If you’re not in the mood to dump your life savings into a laptop, some more affordable gaming models with Wi-Fi 7 were announced, too. There’s the $2,099 Lenovo Legion 7i that’s coming in March or the much more affordable HP Omen Transcend that’s available for $1,499.99. From Dell, two Alienware gaming laptops also got the Wi-Fi 7 treatment, while the company’s well-liked XPS line got the nod in two of its three laptops: the XPS 13 and XPS 16.
The one big exception at the show to the unspoken Wi-Fi 7 gaming laptop rule appeared to be Asus. None of the laptops that the company announced in its ROG lineup, including the Zephyrus line, have Wi-Fi 7 listed in their specs. That’s surprising considering that the company was one of the first out of the gate with a Wi-Fi 7 router.
If you’re looking to upgrade your gaming laptop and you’re not the type to insist on a wired connection, now is a fine time to start looking at Wi-Fi 7 routers. There weren’t a lot announced at the show — Acer has a gaming router coming, and MSI announced a mesh system — but a few hit the market in 2023, including gamer routers from Netgear and ROG. You will probably want to be cautious about pulling the trigger, though. The choices are still a little slim and mostly still expensive.
Artificial intelligence (or is that “Affectionate Intelligence”?) may have been the headliner of everything at CES 2024, but gadgets still managed to show up and speed up as always. With Wi-Fi 7, the routers were already out there, giving us the roads — now that the Wi-Fi Alliance is certifying the standard, laptops are coming to give us the cars.