We are still waiting for the big year of the laptop

We are still waiting for the big year of the laptop

After a long, long month of laptop releases, Computex 2022 is finally over. In some ways Computex was not.

The start of this year has been an exciting time to be a laptop reporter. Each company and its mother announced that big ideas were on the way. Wacky products abounded, from monitors to phones. LG Display (which supplied the 13.3-inch panel for Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold) showed off a foldable 17-inch OLED display. We’ve seen RGB, OLED and haptics galore. Chipmakers have promised architectural innovations and performance gains. We were told that all of this would happen soon.

At the end of May, Computex was held, the biggest show of the year dedicated to laptop computers. (Well, that was really the whole month of May – since many global participants couldn’t make it to Taiwan, most companies just did their own thing and threw in their outings each time, but that’s (that’s another story. I’m still recovering from this month of non-stop announcements; please don’t text me.) It would have been the perfect time for some of these innovative releases to be, you know, released – or get a release date.

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

Don’t get me wrong: incremental upgrades, both to internal specs and externals, are important. They will make a difference in people’s lives. Companies don’t need to reinvent the wheel with every laptop they release. But it’s worth noting that a number of devices that really look set to expand or redefine their categories aren’t here yet (or if they are, I can’t find them on sale).

This is the Elite Dragonfly G3, which you can’t buy yet.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

Here are some highly anticipated products announced earlier this year that still haven’t arrived on my desk:

  • Asus’ Zenbook 17 Fold OLED was originally announced at CES for Q2 2022. Q2 is 25 days away so far, and we don’t even have a confirmed price yet. It’s one of the many foldable 17-inch laptops we’ve been waiting for this year. (Samsung also showed one at CESand HP is rumored to have one in the works.) We saw neither at Computex.
  • The XPS 13 2-in-1 is one of the most important models in the convertible space. Okay, so this one hasn’t been announced yet, but it has been leaked – and according to leaks, Dell is likely replacing this product with the traditional 2-in-1 form factor and a Surface Pro-like device. No mention of this in May.
  • The non-business version of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is the only device that Edge the staff were most enthusiastic about this year. It’s set to be the first Chromebook to include a haptic trackpad and Intel vPro among other awesome new features. This was supposed to ship in April when it was announced at CES. At the beginning of May, we received an update; it is now arriving “this summer” but it is not currently in stock.
  • Speaking of HP, the equally exciting Dragonfly G3, which finally brings 3:2 display to the high-end business line and which we saw a prototype of in January, was originally expected in March. Looking at HP’s website, it looks like it won’t ship until July.
  • Lenovo’s ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is the 2022 version that I’ve personally been most excited about. It is a 17-inch dual-screen device. While dual-screen devices that place the keyboard at the front of the deck can still be pretty good, their positioning doesn’t work for everyone. The ThinkBook Plus puts the screen to the side, keeping the keyboard in its usual position (albeit a bit far to the left) and the trackpad at a usable size, a layout that might be more convenient for many people. . It was legitimately very cool to use in Lenovo’s CES demo area and could potentially be a useful imagination of the dual-screen form factor. This was supposed to ship in May but is still “coming soon”, according to Lenovo’s website.
  • There’s also no sign of the ThinkPad Z-Series yet, an awesome new line of ThinkPads that targets Gen Z, includes a haptic touchpad and vegan leather cover, and is potentially a new vision for who a business laptop can benefit. It was supposed to ship in May, but no dice so far. (The website, as of this writing, still says “coming Spring 2022”.
  • RDNA 3, AMD’s next-generation Radeon GPU, is rumored to bring crazy performance improvements. The updates AMD showed off were still a big announcement, but the reported single-threaded gains were disappointing by comparison.

It’s not all bad news. Some of 2022’s most anticipated devices have launched on schedule, including a number of products on the gaming side like Asus’ ROG Flow Z13. And, of course, companies deviate from their plans all the time. But I checked my impression with Gartner’s research vice president, Stephen Kleynhans, and it seems to be true: across the board, we’re seeing delays in PC shipments, which in turn are impacting versions. This isn’t a problem unique to the PC space, of course – industries across the board, including the automotive realm, are locked in.

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

Photo by Monica Chin/The Verge

These delays, according to Kleynhans, are, unsurprisingly, “primarily supply chain issues,” and they are largely related to the current COVID situation in China, which has led to lockdowns in key tech hubs. Kleynhans told me that ‘until China really opens up, which seems to be what we’re seeing now, and can catch up with the backlog that’s been created, we’re going to continue to see disruption in addition to the disturbances that were already there. He thinks the availability of PCs could be disrupted “at least towards the summer and towards the end of the year”.

It’s not just that companies are struggling to source current-gen units. In Kleynhans’ opinion, it also has to do with running the latest generation commands. “If you have a customer who placed an order for 1,000 machines three or four months ago and they still haven’t received them, you don’t want to release this year’s model while those orders are in process. “, Kleynhans told me. . We are certainly also seeing delays on current models; many of Apple’s newer MacBook Pros are showing late July or later delivery dates. (Apple is widely rumored to have a new MacBook Air in the works, and it will be interesting to see if the company is able to meet its usual short-term availability schedule.)

When it comes to supply chain delays, the PC market isn’t the most affected (or the most important) industry. The world will keep spinning if 17-inch foldable PCs take longer than expected to ship. And laptop delays aren’t the biggest or most impactful consequence of this pandemic.

Still, this situation should serve as a reminder of a fact that, frankly, is always worth remembering: the PC space has so many moving parts. A lot had to go right to deliver the laptop you’re typing on right now and the laptop I’m typing on right now (it’s a Zephyrus G14, if you’re curious) at our doorstep. It’s fun to live in a world full of haptics, foldables and 2X performance gains at the start 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.