Dell Elevates The Work From Home Experience At CES 2021

By Patrick Moorhead - February 1, 2021
Dell's updated lineup of monitors and laptops unveiled at CES 2021.

Dell has a history of making big product launches at CES, across multiple product segments in its client product portfolio. This year, Dell’s new products center around commercial clients, new productivity displays and gaming. Dell’s core business has always been commercial client, be that desktops or laptops. This year, though, the company leaned more heavily into the business client computing realm with a slew of new productivity products. Because so many of us will be stuck at home for the foreseeable future, many of these products target improving the work from home experience.

Dell Latitude 9420

Dell’s Latitude line of laptops features many hardware and software innovations. This is especially true with the higher-end models like the new Latitude 9420—a device that can be configured as a laptop or a 2-in-1, featuring the industry’s first automatic webcam Safe Shutter. The Latitude 9420 runs off of Intel’s latest 11th Gen Tiger Lake processors with Iris X graphics, and sports the latest 5G connectivity from Qualcomm. It features a 16:10 aspect ratio. Both the 1600p and 1080p display variants (for the 2-in-1 and laptop form factor, respectively) feature a 16:10 aspect ratio and 100% sRGB displays with 500 nits brightness. 

Not only is the hardware in this laptop is top-notch, but it also includes Dell Optimizer software, a suite of programs designed to improve the user experience even further. Dell Optimizer has programs like ExpressConnect, which automatically connects to the office or home’s strongest access point and directs bandwidth to conferencing applications. ExpressResponse uses Intel’s Adaptix Technology to prioritize the performance and launch time of your most commonly used applications. ExpressSign-in uses Intel Virtual Sensing Technology to instantly wake and log you in via the IR camera and Windows Hello. This feature also automatically logs you out and locks your system when you walk away for added security. The new Express Charge 2.0 improves the user experience by delivering a 35% charge in 20 minutes and up to an 80% charge within 40 minutes. Intelligent Audio enhances audio quality and reduces background noise to make conference calls easier. The Latitude 9420 will be available at a starting price of $1,949 in the Spring of 2021.

UltraSharp 40 Curved and 38 Curved USB Hub

The Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD Monitor (Q4021QW) is Dell’s (and the world’s) first 40” UltraWide curved 5120 x 1440 monitor. Most monitors of this size tend to be 38” rather than 40” and offer lower resolutions like 3840 x 1080 (or even 3440 x 1440). In fact, the only monitors that come close in terms of resolution are Samsung’s 49” gaming monitors. Samsung’s latest is last year’s curved 49” 240 Hz Odyssey G9, which overcame many initial bugs to eventually become my daily monitor. Unlike the Odyssey G9’s aggressive 1000R curve, the UltraSharp 40 features a 2500R curve and 60 Hz, making it a much flatter monitor with less edge distortion and a productivity refresh rate. The monitor caters more towards the creative working crowd, supporting a color gamut of 100% RGB and 98% of DCI-P3. The 300-nit brightness could use some improvement, as it won’t pass any VESA HDR standard testing. However, it also supports Thunderbolt 3 docking, which enables data throughput of up to 10 Gbps and the ability to connect to multiple PCs (thanks to a built-in KVM switching capability). KVM allows you to run your desktop on one half of the monitor while running your work laptop or another PC on the other half. 

The UltraSharp 40 Curved monitor can also be tilted and swiveled (but not rotated) into portrait mode, which makes sense for a 40” monitor with a 32:9 aspect ratio. Dell already has a productivity line of curved monitors with 34, 38, and 49” sizes. Still, there is no 40” monitor with that resolution, which results in a higher pixel density and sharper image. The 38” Curved UltraSharp monitor, the UD3821DW, also comes with the same color gamut support as the 40” monitor and a lower 3840 x 1600 resolution. It also includes a connectivity hub that includes an ethernet port, USB-C ports and support for up to 90W of power delivery. Both monitors will be available starting January 28th. You can pick up the the UltraSharp 40 Curved monitor for $2,099, the UltraSharp 38 Curved USB-C Hub Monitor for $1,499.

OptiPlex 3090 and 7090 Ultra

The Optiplex 3090 and 7090 Ultra are zero-footprint computers that integrate inside Dell monitors’ stands. The 7090 is an update to the OptiPlex 7070 from 2019, which now features Intel’s latest 11th Gen Core i3, i5 and i7 28W TDP processors (codenamed Tiger Lake). The OptiPlex 3090 and 7090 integrate all the usual things that you’d find in a PC into a form factor that is completely integrated into the monitor. This provides an all-in-one experience that allows for upgradability and modularity without taking up the space of a traditional PC. The 3090 shares many similarities to the 7090 in terms of connectivity and form factor but offers only Celeron, Core i3, and i5 processor options and no vPro. The OptiPlex 7090 offers more and faster connectivity, including support for Thunderbolt 4.0 over USB Type-C (the 3090 does not). These will go on sale on January 28th and sell for $659 for the 3090 and $769 for the 7090.

Conference displays (24/27/34)

Dell also introduced a slew of new monitors for video conferencing, including a 24” Video Conferencing Monitor, a 27” Video Conferencing Monitor and a 34” Curved Video Conferencing Monitor. These monitors will have a dedicated Microsoft Teams button for quickly joining Teams meetings with a single touch. Additionally, what makes them conferencing monitors is that they all have pop-up 5MP webcams, dual 5W integrated speakers and a noise-canceling microphone for improved conferencing capabilities. These monitors also feature facial recognition sign-in with Windows Hello, which can simplify the login experience and security. These monitors start at $519 for the 24”, $719 for the 27” and $1,149 for the 34” Curved Monitor.  All will be available February 16th,, 2021.

Gaming updates

Dell also announced updates to many of its gaming laptops, introducing some of the latest and greatest components available to the industry. While gaming is not necessarily part of the work from home experience, there are many people who work from home who have turned to video games as a form of escape during the pandemic. The new Alienware m15 and m17 R4 laptops feature NVIDIA’s latest GeForce RTX 30 series laptop GPUs, which include 12-phase GPU VRM. Dell is also now offering the Alienware m17 R4 with a 360 Hz FHD panel, which means that FPS gamers who have the skills and the reaction time can benefit from the best that the industry has to offer in a competitive scene, on the go. While I don’t see many competitive gamers playing on 360 Hz panel laptops, it may be a nice thing to have to stay sharp while traveling between competitions (if that ever becomes a thing again). In addition to updating its laptops, Alienware also updated the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition to R10, giving it AMD’s latest Ryzen 5000 series CPUs and a choice between AMD Radeon RX 6800XT or NVIDIA RTX 30 Series graphics. The Alienware m15 and m17 R4 will be available starting at $2,149 on January 26th, while the Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 is available now starting at $1,079.

Wrapping up

Dell always uses CES to kickstart the company’s product lineup for the year, and CES 2021 was no different (albeit everything was virtual, and it’s a lot harder to get hands-on experience with the devices). Dell clearly decided to focus on improving the work-from-home experience this year, with this slew of new displays and features. I was also glad to see that Dell has been innovating in software, with the new Dell Optimizer features in the latest Latitude notebooks. I’m particularly excited about the UltraSharp 40 Curved Monitor, which I believe will compliment my curved 49” monitor quite nicely—one for work and one for gaming!

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.