The big picture: With return to office plans in full swing across the country and around the world, individual workers and companies are starting to think longer term about their PCs and other client devices. The big question is, how will their existing laptops and desktops fit within the various types of hybrid work environments expected to become more commonplace? Even for those planning to still work from home, it makes sense to use this transitional time to think through the types of capabilities they're going to need in their next PCs.
Timed to meet some of these questions is a spring refresh of new ThinkPad series laptops from Lenovo as well as a set of desktop CPUs from AMD. On the mobile side, the two companies worked together on the new Ryzen Pro 6000 exclusive ThinkPad Z-series (expected to ship this May). In this latest round of announcements, there are a few more mainstream-priced AMD powered ThinkPad options.
In sum, Lenovo announced six new additions to its third-gen ThinkPad line, all of which offer Intel 12th-gen Core CPUs and five of which offer a Ryzen Pro CPU as an option. The models range from the $1,369 Intel-only ThinkPad X13 Yoga Gen 3 down to the $799 Ryzen Pro 5000-powered ThinkPad L13 Gen 3 (an Intel version of which runs $859). In between are AMD and Intel versions of the ThinkPad L14 and L15 Gen 3, the ThinkPad L13 Yoga Gen 3, and the ThinkPad X13 Gen 3.
All feature hardware and software features for enhanced collaboration, including Dolby Voice AI noise suppression, optional full HD cameras, multiple microphones, and a variety of connectivity enhancements.
Lenovo continues to offer a broad range of wireless WAN cellular support, including 4G LTE for the L Series Gen 3 and X13 Yoga Gen 3, and sub-6 GHz 5G (no mmWave) for the X13 Gen 3 models. As people start to return to regular business travel, the desire for embedded, always-on cellular connectivity is going to be increasingly strong, so it's great to see Lenovo extend that option to a broader range of laptop price points.
For the record, the lack of mmWave 5G support in a notebook is going to be a non-issue for most as the extremely high frequency mmWave signals can't pass through walls or windows and are typically only available outside.
Both the X13 and X13 Yoga Gen 3 feature WiFi 6E support (requires Windows 11 to function), and all the other models also offer an optional upgrade to WiFi 6E.
On the security front, all the new ThinkPads have ThinkShield capabilities, including an integrated TPM (Trusted Platform Module). Intel-powered units also support vPro and the Intel Hardware Shield, while the AMD-equipped models support AMD Pro Security. For login and verification purposes, the entire line optionally supports a fingerprint reader built into the power button.
For those who may be more focused on continuing to work remotely for the long term, desktop PCs are becoming an increasingly popular option, particularly in conjunction with the growing range of extra-large PC monitors now available. Plus, many work-from-home employees have recognized that an up-to-date, self-built desktop system can be converted to an occasional (or more than occasional!) gaming rig at night and on the weekends.
To that end, AMD unveiled a new range of lower-cost Ryzen 4000 and 5000 Series desktop CPUs, as well as the pricing and release date for the Ryzen 7 5800X3D gaming-focused CPU.
The 5800X3D is now expected to be available on April 20 for $449. It's the first CPU to use AMD's proprietary 3D V-Cache chip stacking technology. Essentially, V-Cache allows the CPU's cache to be packaged directly on top of the CPU cores, thereby enabling faster connections to the cache, and translating into a 15% increase in performance for gaming applications. It's a prime example of how chipmakers are starting to leverage new ways of packaging components in clever new ways to improve overall system performance.
AMD also released three new Zen 3-based Ryzen 5000 series processors and three new Zen 2-based Ryzen 4000 series chips for desktops, ranging from the 4-core $99 Ryzen 3 4100 up to the 8-core Ryzen 7 5700X at $299. All but the 5700X come bundled with the Wraith Stealth cooler/fan. To improve the range of systems that can use these and other Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 series CPUs, the company announced that a BIOS update for existing AMD X370, B350, and A320 chipset-based motherboards will be available in April.
Desktop PC gaming grew tremendously during the pandemic, and even as people start to adapt to new hybrid working models, there's little doubt that enthusiasm for the category will not be waning anytime soon.
Bob O'Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.