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, it’s the Computex that wasn’t.

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

At the end of May was Computex, the largest laptop-specific fair of the year. (Well, it really was very May – since many international visitors couldn’t reach Taiwan, most companies just did their own thing and dumped their releases whenever they wanted, but that’s another story. I’m still reeling from this one month of non-stop announcements, please don’t text me.) Now would have been the perfect time to release some of these innovative releases. Or request a release date.

But we didn’t get them on Computex 2022. In fact, the show was aggressively unexciting. We’ve had a lot of chip bumps. We have a number of screens with a higher refresh rate. We have an HP Specter x360 with rounder corners. (Just to be clear, I’m personally very excited about the rounder corners, but I may be the only person on Earth in this boat.)

Don’t get me wrong: incremental upgrades, both to internal specs and to external elements, are important. They will make a difference in people’s lives. Companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every laptop they release. But it’s still worth noting that some of the devices that seem really ready to expand or redefine their categories aren’t there yet (or if they are, I can’t find them for sale ).

The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 on a wooden table with a bookshelf in the background, open, tilted slightly to the left.  The screen displays Media Today Chronicle's home page.
Here’s the Elite Dragonfly G3, which you can’t buy yet.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / Media Today Chronicle

Here are some highly anticipated products announced earlier this year that still haven’t made it to my desk:

  • Asus’s Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, originally announced at CES for Q2 of 2022. There are 25 days left from Q2 at the time of writing, and we don’t even have a confirmed price yet. This is one of the many rumored foldable 17-inch laptops we’d been expecting this year — Samsung showed one off at CES too, and rumored to have one in the works. We haven’t seen it at Computex either.
  • The XPS 13 2-in-1, one of the most important models in the convertible space. Okay, so this one hasn’t actually been announced yet, but it’s leaked – and according to the leaks, Dell will likely switch this product from the traditional 2-in-1 form factor to a Surface Pro-esque device. Nothing will be said about this in May.
  • The non-business version of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, the only device that roadside employees were most excited about this year. It’s poised to be the first Chromebook with 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 got an update in early May – it’s coming “this summer” now, 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. Looking at HP’s website, it looks like it won’t ship until July.
  • Lenovo’s ThinkBook Plus Gen 3, the 2022 release I’m personally most excited about. It is a 17-inch device with two screens. While dual-screen devices that place the keyboard on the front of the deck can still be pretty good, their positioning doesn’t work for everyone. The ThinkBook Plus places the screen to the side, keeping the keyboard in its usual position (albeit a little far to the left) and keeping the touchpad a usable size, an arrangement that could be more practical for many people. It was legitimately very cool to use in Lenovo’s CES demo area, and could potentially be a useful representation 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, a funky new ThinkPad line aimed at Gen Z, featuring a haptic touchpad and vegan leather cover, and may be a new vision for those who can benefit from a business laptop. This was supposed to ship in May, but no dice so far. (At the time of writing, the website still reads “Coming Spring 2022”.
  • RDNA 3, AMD’s next-generation Radeon GPUs that are rumored to bring insane performance gains. The innovations AMD showed off were still a big announcement, but the single-thread gains mentioned were disappointing by comparison.

It’s not all bad news. Some of the most anticipated devices of 2022 have been released on schedule, including some gaming products such as Asus’ ROG Flow Z13. And of course companies constantly deviate from the plans. But I checked my impressions with Gartner Research vice president Stephen Kleynhans, and it seems to be true: Across the board, we’re seeing delays in PC shipments, which in turn impact releases. It’s not a unique problem for the PC space, of course – industries across the board, including the auto industry, 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 / Media Today Chronicle

These delays, Kleynhans believes, are, unsurprisingly, “primarily supply chain issues,” and much of them related to the current COVID situation in China, which has led to shutdowns at key tech hubs. Kleynhans told me that “until China actually opens up again, which seems to be what we’re seeing now, and it can catch up with the backlog that has been created, we will continue to see disruptions on top of the disruptions that were already there”. He thinks the availability of PCs could be disrupted “at least by the summer and by the end of the year”.

According to Kleynhans, companies are not only struggling to get their hands on the current generation of units, it also has to do with the execution of orders from the last generation. “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 pending,” Kleynhans told me. † We’re definitely seeing delays on current models, too — many of Apple’s most recent MacBook Pros show shipping dates of 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 can stick to its usual short-term availability timeline.)

When it comes to supply chain delays, the PC market is not the hardest hit (or most important) industry. The world will keep turning if 17-inch foldable PCs take longer than expected. And laptop slowdowns are hardly the most significant 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 go right for 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) to our doorstep. It’s nice to live in a world full of haptics, foldable devices and 2X performance gains at the beginning of the year. But the real world is more complicated and boring, and even the coolest innovations require all sorts of logistics stars to align.

Frank Broholm had acquired considerable experience in writing and editing publications before recruited by The Media Today Chronicle News portal as Editorial Manager. His key task is to conduct effective business reviews based on the most recent business…