I recently went to IFA 2023 in Berlin, and I’ll be honest: it wasn't a particularly exciting year at the tech expo for laptop fans. Last year saw the arrival of two awesome cutting-edge foldable laptops – the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold Gen 2, both of which I tested at the event – but this year I felt relegated to the minor leagues as my colleagues on the TV and home tech teams got to enjoy the more exciting hardware.
Still, I wouldn’t be deterred, so I set out to hunt for anything new and exciting within my computing sphere – and what I found surprised me.
Thomson (and parent company Vantiva) is a brand I’m only tangentially familiar with; while it’s a veritable juggernaut in Europe, this French company has yet to properly breach other markets. Still, it’s a household name in many European countries, manufacturing everything from smart TVs to vacuum cleaners – and, as it turns out, some rather impressive laptops.
Thomthing to think about
Although France is the company’s base of operations, the team members helming Thomson’s stand at IFA were keen to talk about future goals of expanding into the Americas. And after seeing what Thomson has to offer in the PC hardware department, if there’s one brand I’d like to see break into the US market, it’s this one.
The laptop that immediately caught my attention was the new Zettabook A14 (pictured at the top of this article), a compact ultrabook with a starting price that roughly translates to around $800 / £650 / AU$1,200. In terms of specs, it’s fairly middle-of-the-road, with an Intel Core i3 or i5 CPU and 16GB of DDR5 memory along with 512GB of speedy PCIe 4.0 storage. The display is a 14-inch 1080p panel, again pretty standard, but fair for the asking price.
It’s a rather unassuming laptop with its matte black exterior and white LED-backlit keyboard, but what caught my attention was the weight. The Zettabook weighs about 900 grams, putting it in the same weight class as the popular LG Gram series. It’s quite phenomenally lightweight, to the point where I was almost worried I’d break it – but the chassis and screen hinge actually felt surprisingly durable.
A plethora of products
The Zettabook was far from the only laptop Thomson had to show off, too. There were a variety of productivity laptops (which mostly looked good, if boring) as well as Thomson’s foray into gaming hardware, the Roxxor G16 laptop.
The build reminds me of Gigabyte’s affordable gaming machines; a decent level of quality that doesn’t measure up to the fine aesthetics of more premium brands, but feels sufficiently robust.
The pleasingly large touchpad and full-scale keyboard were a welcome addition, and there was a decent selection of ports on offer too – a trait shared by the Zettabook A14, which included HDMI and microSD support, an increasingly rare sight among the best ultrabooks.
There was also the XCLOUD laptop, a budget Windows gaming laptop designed specifically to be used with cloud gaming services like Xbox Game Pass and GeForce Now. It’s a compact piece of hardware with a minimalist design, evoking the similarly cloud-gaming-focused Acer Chromebook 516 GE. I’ve been critical of gaming Chromebooks in the past, but it’s fair to say at this point that cloud gaming is here to stay, so it’s good to see purpose-built devices for it that swap out ChromeOS for the more versatile Windows 11.
If you’re reading this, Luis Martinez-Amago (that’s the CEO of Vantiva, thanks Wikipedia), please bring these laptops to the US and beyond. Healthy competition is rarely a bad thing, and since the blanket bans on Huawei laptops, I’d certainly like to see more affordable and mid-range laptops for sale from lesser-known brands. Make it happen, Thomson!