Conceptual: Perfect Notebook (2013 Version)


Apr 29, 2013

Macbook Pro - Apex of Today

Flashing an image of an Apple product at first, might seem odd. After all, it is not the perfect laptop. I agree. It is however, the most refined notebook in ways of design. What remains, is finding a sweet spot balance in terms of features that producers have yet to claim. Here it is.

1. 1920x1080 IPS 15-inch Display
The reason why thirteen inch laptops have been on the rise, is due to the ignorance of people. In terms of dimensions, a slim fit 15-inch laptop can virtually fit in any bag. Furthermore, a full HD resolution is just too much when it comes to scaling for a 13-inch model. With a 15-inch, it works, and the imagery is just immense.

The downside of most budget laptops is not just resolution, but also panel quality. While the era of OLED will be shortly upon us, the current manner to assure the best image quality, is an IPS panel. Rich in color accuracy, and unlimited viewing angles, make this an absolute for touch displays.

2. SSD
A quality solid state disc of well endowed dimensions (~256GB) costs only approximately 170$ for consumers. Compellingly, the somewhat slower hybrid discs land only 40 dollars short of that, with a fraction as much memory.

Everyone can see the advantages of a pure SSD, with faster boot-up, app loading and dashing responsivity.

3. Intel ULV (Ultra Low Voltage)
Dismiss the thought that a laptop should be anywhere near a desktop in processing performance. A quad core processor in a laptop puts out excessive heat and drains the battery. Heavy cooling solutions ought to be in place to handle these thermals, which again draws more power.

Decreasing the wattage is a simple solution to a longer lasting, cooler and silent build. I am not claiming that most of us will never need that extra processing performance a regular unit heeds, but that it is a compromise worth making for keeping the notebook a mobile unit.

4. Lack of discrete graphics
This might come to a shock to some. I honestly do not bash a laptop when I see a 799$ price tag and no discrete graphics. I applaud it.

Truth is, discrete graphics has their use in terms of gaming. But once again they stand in the way of portability. Not only do they demand physical space, but they also add heat and draw power. Some might be content with nVidia's Optimus technology, that lets the discrete graphics kick in on demand. However, none can argue against the efficiency of a bareback model. A laptop without discrete graphics last significantly longer on a single charge - even at idle.

This is an omission that only pays off for those of us who do not hold anything more than a casual interest in gaming. With Haswell comes Intel HD 5200, which promise vastly upgraded graphics performance. If it can play Battlefield 3 on medium at lower resolutions (1366x768), then all said, it is a pretty decent solution. For the rest, demanding more, a different brand of laptop is preferred. 10W TDP (Haswell ULV) versus 80W TDP (Haswell Quad Core 47W + nVidia GT 750M at 33W)

5. Lack of DVD / BluRay drive
The physical footprint of this unit is immense. With a dying format in a time and age where everything goes digital, it is high time to omit the optical drive. The emptied space this rewards, can be used by respectively a larger battery and speakers with depth (because physical size of elements on speakers matter).

6. Battery size and speakers
As aforementioned, by removing the optical drive bay, you create a lot of space for other components. If Apple can put in 95Whr or 8000mAh batteries in their 15-inch MacBook Pro w/Retina, then so can others.

Brilliant, but not impossible design

The sound is also an important aspect of a laptop's portability. Not having to connect external speakers to it, is a big relief. As of yet the Dell XPS 15 have had the best laptop speakers. You can see how it is physically thicker than most laptops are, to make room for the elements of the speakers, but at the same time it has an optical drive. Remove it, and you can still look at rich sound in the ultrabook range.

7. Build Quality and Weight
Even with a sturdy unibody construction of pure aluminium, the MacBook Pro 15 w/Retina display comes in at under 4.5 lbs or just 2 kilograms. Not even a school girl in 4th grade has any issues lifting such a weight, so why should you?

I personally consider physical dimensions and build quality to take priority rather than weight. Added weight usually comes from a larger battery pack or an aluminium construction after all, and that should be denoted as a positive more than a negative. With ultrabook dimensions, transporting the laptop should be the least of your worries.

8. Features
This is where I find the current market to hold the most potential. Lenovo (or rather IBM) and Apple have both been successful through the years with innovation. Everything from a large one-area trackpad, thin rubber feet to opening mechanisms of a laptop adds value to it.

Especially the latter is useful. While an intelligent fan system will not attract that much dust, being able to clean it can increase the notebook's life cycle from 2 years to the five-fold of that. Deterioration of high quality components goes more slowly (plastic breaks, aluminum only scratches), that is the biggest plus to going premium, and easy self-fix solutions are highly regarded.

Aggressive pricing versus reasonable pricing
If a producer can save 50 dollars picking speakers from the bottom shelf as opposed to the premium shelf, should he do it? I personally think not. Each designer should sit down and figure out which components are not subject to compromise, and which are. Stick to the formula, and accept the end price. Rather get rid of clutter and stick to minimalism to decrease costs. While crapware is not something anyone wants, it is a good way to lower costs, and a fresh re-install is not an overly complicated task. Windows is what most people want on their systems, so the omission of it, makes little sense to me - as they install it for a lower price than you would get retail by buying it.

The ideal piece of hardware for me includes the following:

  • - 15-inch Full HD IPS
    - 256GB SSD
    - 10W TDP core components (Intel ULV Haswell & omission of discrete GPU)
    - Large battery (Apple has done 8000 mAH)
    - No optical drive
    - Utilize space for speakers with depth
    - 4.5 lbs / 2kg weight limit
    - Durable construction (metal)
    - Easy self-fix solutions (access to fan and battery)

Imagine a laptop that lasts you an entire day (10W TDP + 8000 mAH is a lethal mix), can play current-gen games at medium settings at 1366x768 resolution, is silent and cool, has top of the line display and speakers for movies, has functional and durable design, and has aggressive pricing thanks to minimalism.

Sounds perfect, no? I think so. That's why I keep wondering why Samsung, Asus and the rest cannot make just ONE model that is like this. Considering they make so many different ones in all price ranges, getting original like this can't really hurt, can it?
1. Some people actually want ultra portability and that is what the 13" laptops with 1920x1080 resolution screen is for. It's a niche market, but apparently large enough to make a profit.

2. SSD is nice, still too expensive per 1GB. $170 for a 256GB SSD seems a bit low, then again I've only been looking at specific brands. 256GB of storage is not enough for everyone. I'm looking for at least 500BG of storage. Perhaps up to 1.5GB.

3. An ULV CPU is a matter of choice. I prefer a standard 35w dual core CPU or a 45w quad core CPU; (maybe Haswell will be able to knock off a few watts). I'm may be looking at a "desktop" replacement laptop even though I am keeping my desktop. I suppose I just like having a decent / good amount of processing power in a laptop since I do CPU intensive things from time to time. It's nice to be able to do so outside of home. A 35w Core i5 should suffice, but I will likely not say "No" to a 45w quad core i7 CPU if it is within my budget.

4. Some people want discrete graphics because they want a portable gaming machine. I'll admit it would be nice, but I will rely on integrated in my next laptop. The iGPU has come a long way especially with regards to Intel. People generally have higher expectations and regards for AMD's iGPUs, which is well deserved since AMD acquired ATI (although they paid about $2 billion too much) back around 2006. However, Intel has come a long way since the GMA 4500 series, and the current Intel HD 4000 is fine for "light gaming".

5. I still prefer an optical drive since it can come in handy from time to time. But it doesn't necessarily has to be integrated with the laptop; it could be external. Actually, for my next laptop I plan on using an adapter for the optical drive bay so that I can install a HDD or SSD.

6. Having good speakers is nice. But not all laptops need to have or can high good quality speakers. I like the JBLs in my Lenovo Y470, they are one of the better integrated laptop speakers I have heard.

As for the battery... At first I was kinda thinking about getting an ultrabook, but I decided against it because the battery is integrated into the chassis. It makes it more of a pain to install a new battery. If it is under warranty, then you need to ship it to a service center to have the battery replace. If it's out of warranty, then I suppose any laptop repair shop can do it for you. If it's a MacBook, then it can be done at the nearest Apple store... if there is one in your neck of the woods. I prefer having a user replaceable battery because the laptop never leaves my presence. I do not have to worry about someone trying to access sensitive information in the laptop. Also at times when charging up a laptop is not an option, having a fully charged spare battery does come in handy.

7. Weight... well lighter is usually better. However, like everything else in a laptop, there is a compromise. Typically expandability means a larger chassis which adds to the weight. Coupled with higher performing CPUs which needs additional cooling in terms of a larger and heavier heatsink. Add in a relatively large capacity battery means even more weight. While ideally I would like a 5.25lbs laptop, it seems what I am looking for comes in at about 5.6 lbs - 5.7 lbs.


As for your argument about aggressive pricing vs. reasonable pricing. What you state can and does work with Apple's MacBook. If you want a MacBook you have very limited choices and they are from Apple. If you cannot pony up for a MacBook... tough. The PC side is different. Competition is fierce. Aggressive pricing and component quality compromises can make a difference between consumers buying your product or a competitor's product.



Apr 29, 2013
I am not knocking that such a laptop would fit every person, but that it would appeal to a very broad audience. Keep that in mind throughout my reply.

1. My view is that the 13" market has largely outgrown its use. I see so many people claim that 13" models are the only alternative for school or work, when they have large desks available for them to put their laptops on. I feel that most people regard a 15-inch model as being too clunky, but truth be told, if it's a slimfit with a thin bezel, it is very portable and manageable in size.

2. I swear I had a statistic somewhere claiming that the average user spent between 160 and 250GB with files that they foresee will be used again. Like you say, a SSD has a high cost per gigabyte, but is at the same time essential to have. The argument goes between a hybrid disc that has a considerably higher idle wattage and creates noise, or a pure SSD. I find it logical that like with an external optical drive, you can have an external hard drive for your videos. That even has its advantage, being able to access the files on every computer, not just one.

3. I agree with you that there are some tasks on a laptop that is really CPU intensive. But for large projects like that, I often ask myself why one would not just relay it to the desktop instead. This is not working without exception, but still... You have to weigh in the positive consequences too. Once you go lower in TDP, the battery life increases dramatically. Theoretically, a 10W TDP would last 3.5 times longer than 35W or 4.5 times longer than a 45W CPU. Naturally, there are other components too craving power in a laptop, but the CPU is actually pretty dominant overall. Combined with the aspects like little thermal development, barely audible fan settings and no need for a huge heatsink, it deserves some serious thought.

4. If people really want a high end laptop for gaming, then they are looking into a niche market with 17" models featuring heavy quad cores and mobile GTX processors. After all they are the only ones whose casing can stand up to the heat developed. There are GPUs which offer good performance at a modest power draw, so naturally whichever laptop brand decides to walk this road, should have two versions - one with integrated and one with discrete graphics.

5. External is definitely the way to go.

6. Good quality audio is always preferable. If it has enough depth to add bass through a subwoofer, and still is crystal clear in the mids and highs, then I clearly prefer it to headphones for casual listening. Not that the quality is any better, but if only people knew how damaging headphones and earplugs are to the ear... watching an entire movie with sound being created inches away from your ear, adds immense pressure.

I agree about the battery. It should be replaceable, and honestly, I can't see how this can be so hard.

A MacBook is far from what I want actually. It only hits home in terms of design features, like how they've made the battery, the trackpad, the display hinges, rubber feet etc. Internally, there is a lot of things I'd like to change, as described in this post. I also find the retina display a ridiculous idea, due to the added cost compared to a good 1080p display.