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 of the 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, published. 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).
Here are some highly anticipated products announced earlier this year that still haven’t arrived on my desk:
- Asus’ Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, originally announced at CES for Q2 2022. Q2 is 25 days away at the time of this writing, and we don’t even have a confirmed price yet. This is one of many 17-inch foldable laptops we’ve been anticipating this year – Samsung also showed off one at CES, and HP is rumored to have one in the works. We saw neither at Computex.
- The XPS 13 2-in-1, one of the most important models in the convertible space. Okay, so this one hasn’t been announced yet, but there was a leak – and according to the leaks, Dell is likely upgrading this product from the traditional 2-in-1 form factor to a device Surface Pro-like. No mention of this in May.
- The non-business version of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, the unique 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 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, the 2022 version that I’m most personally 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 keeps the touchpad 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, features a haptic touchpad and vegan leather cover, and is potentially a new take on who a business laptop can benefit. This was supposed to ship in May, but no dice so far. (The website, as of this writing, still says “Coming Spring 2022.”
RDNA 3, the next generation Radeon GPU from AMD that is rumored to bring incredible 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 released 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 Research VP Stephen Kleynhans, and it seems to be true: Overall, we’re seeing delays in PC shipments, which in turn are impacting builds. . This isn’t a problem unique to the PC space, of course – industries across the board, including the automotive realm, are locked in.
These delays, according to Kleynhans, are, unsurprisingly, “primarily supply chain issues,” and they’re largely related to the current COVID situation in China, which has led to lockdowns in major tech hubs. Kleynhans told me that “until China really reopens, which seems to be what we are seeing now, and can catch up with the backlog that has been created, we are going to continue to see disruption in plus 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”.
According to Kleynhans, it’s not just that companies are struggling to source current-gen units, it also has to do with last-gen order fulfillment. “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’re certainly seeing delays on current models, too — many of Apple’s newest 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 lags 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.