We’re still waiting for the big year of the laptop


We're still waiting for the big year of the laptop

After a long, long month of laptop releases, Computex 2022 is finally over. In a way, it was the Computex that wasn’t.

The beginning of this year was an exciting time for a laptop reporter. Every company and its mother announced that big ideas were on the way. Crazy products abounded, from monitors to phones. LG Display (which supplied the 13.3-inch panel for Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold) showed off a 17-inch foldable OLED screen. We’ve seen RGB, OLEDs and haptics galore. Chip manufacturers promised architectural innovations and performance improvements. We were told that these would all be coming soon.

Computex, the largest laptop-specific trade fair of the year, was held at the end of May. (Well, it really was all of May – since many global attendees couldn’t make it to Taiwan, most companies just did their own thing and threw their releases whenever, but that’s another story. I’m still recovering from this one Month of Nonstop Announcements (please don’t text me) This would have been the perfect timing for the release of some of these innovative releases. Or get a release date.

But we didn’t get them at Computex 2022. The show was actually aggressively unexciting. We got a heck of a lot of chip bumps. We have some higher refresh rate displays. We got an HP Specter x360 with rounder corners. (To be clear, I personally really appreciate the rounded corners, but I may be the only person on the planet in this boat.)

Don’t get me wrong: incremental upgrades, both for internal specifications and external elements, are important. You will change people’s lives. Businesses don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every single laptop they release. But it’s still worth noting that a number of devices that seem really ready to expand or redefine their categories aren’t here yet (or if they are, I can’t find them listed for sale).

The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 on a wooden table with a bookshelf in the background, open, tilted slightly to the left.  The Verge home page will appear on the screen.

Here’s the Elite Dragonfly G3 you can’t buy yet.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Below are some highly anticipated products that were announced earlier this year and still haven’t made it onto my desk:

  • Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED originally announced at CES for Q2 2022. As of this writing, there are 25 days left of Q2 and we don’t even have a confirmed price yet. This is one of several 17-inch foldable laptops we’ve been expecting this year – Samsung also showed one off at CES, and HP is said to have one in the works. We didn’t see either of these at Computex.
  • The XPS 13 2-in-1, one of the most important models in the convertible segment. Okay, so this one hasn’t really been announced yet, but it’s been leaked – and according to the leaks, Dell will likely transition this product from the traditional 2-in-1 form factor to a Surface Pro-like device. There is no talk of that in May.
  • The non-enterprise version of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, the standalone device that edge The employees were looking forward to this year the most. It’s poised to be the first Chromebook to include a haptic trackpad and Intel vPro, among other impressive new features. This was supposed to ship in April when it was announced at CES. We received an update in early May – it’s now coming “this summer” but is currently out of stock.
  • Speaking of HP, the equally exciting Dragonfly G3, which is finally bringing the 3:2 display to the high-end business line and which we saw a prototype of in January, was originally expected in March. From the HP website it looks like it won’t ship until July now.
  • Lenovo’s ThinkBook Plus Gen 3, the 2022 release I’ve personally been most looking forward to. It’s a 17 inch dual screen device. While dual-screen devices that place the keyboard at the front of the deck can still be quite good, their positioning doesn’t work for everyone. The ThinkBook Plus puts the screen to the side, keeps the keyboard in its usual position (albeit a little far to the left), and keeps the touchpad a decent size, an arrangement that many people might find more convenient. It was rightfully very cool to use in Lenovo’s CES demo area and could potentially be a useful introduction to the dual-screen form factor. This should be delivered in May, but according to Lenovo’s website it is still “coming soon”.
  • There’s also no sign of the ThinkPad Z Series just yet, a funky new ThinkPad lineup aimed at Gen Z that includes a haptic touchpad and vegan leather sleeve and may be a new vision of who can benefit from a business laptop . This should ship in May, but no dice yet. (The website still says “Coming Spring 2022” as of this writing.
  • RDNA 3, AMD’s next generation of Radeon GPUs rumored to bring insane performance improvements. The refreshes AMD showed off were still a big announcement, but the reported single-threaded gains were underwhelming in comparison.

It’s not all bad news. Some of the most anticipated devices of 2022 have been released on schedule, including a slew of products on the gaming side like Asus’ ROG Flow Z13. And, of course, companies always deviate from plans. But I checked my impressions with Stephen Kleynhans, vice president of Gartner Research, and it seems to be true: We’re seeing delays in PC shipments across the board, which in turn are affecting releases. It’s not a problem unique to the PC space, of course – industries across the board, including automotive, are being held up.

The Lenovo ThinkBook plus Gen 3 keyboard seen from above.  The primary screen shows a blue swirl on a white background.

Photo by Monica Chin / The Verge

Unsurprisingly, Kleynhans believes these delays are “mainly supply chain issues,” and much of it has to do with the current COVID situation in China, which has led to lockdowns in key tech hubs. Kleynhans told me: “Until China really opens up again, which we seem to be seeing now, and it can catch up on the backlog that has built up, we will continue to see disruptions on top of the disruptions that were already there”. He believes PC availability could be disrupted “at least towards the summer and towards the end of the year.”

According to Kleynhans, not only are companies struggling to get their hands on current-gen devices — it’s also had to do with fulfilling last-gen orders. “If you have a customer who placed an order for 1,000 machines three or four months ago and still hasn’t received it, you don’t want to release this year’s model while those orders are still pending,” Kleynhans told me. We’re certainly seeing delays in current models as well – many of Apple’s latest MacBook Pros are showing shipping dates from late July or later. (Apple is rumored to have a new MacBook Air in the pipeline, and it will be interesting to see if the company is able to stick to its usual near-term availability schedule.)

When it comes to supply chain delays, the PC market is hardly the hardest-hit (or most important) industry. The world will keep spinning if 17-inch foldable PCs take longer than expected to ship. And laptop delays are hardly the most important or impactful consequence of this pandemic.

Still, this situation should serve as a reminder of a fact that, frankly, is always worth remembering: the PC room has so many moving parts. A lot of things had to be right to bring the laptop you’re typing on and the laptop I’m typing on (it’s a Zephyrus G14, if you’re curious) to our doorsteps. It’s fun to live in a world full of feel, foldability and double the performance at the beginning of the year. But the real world is more complicated and boring, and even the coolest innovations require all sorts of logistical stars to align.

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