Laptop Manufacturers Need To Listen

DouglasThurman

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Oct 6, 2006
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I've been in the industry in a repair capacity for nigh on 20 years. I built my first computer, a Heath Zenith 140, from a kit with IC chips and the first mistake everyone makes (Reversing the floppy cable). I've seen the first Compaq "portables" through the PoquetPC, to the Alienware beastly laptops. One thing always irked me. None of these was a perfect laptop. I've spoken with HP, Toshiba, Dell, and Micron reps at computer shows by the boatloads and all the suggestions I've given have fallen on deaf ears. The closest thing to a perfect laptop was the Alienware 11MX version 3. It was cool, fast, upgradeable, had a backlit keyboard, and came in different colors. Here are my suggestions for a perfect laptop, feel free to add your suggestions. Maybe someone at a laptop company somewhere will take heed.

1. 12.5" screen at 1920x1080 resolution and matte finish. Deer Gods I hate a shiny screen. Can't see squat with the lights on in your conference room or place of work. Also, 11.6 seems too small for my old eyes and 13.3 is too big to sling into my messenger pouch. Touchscreen would be nice, along with the flippy feature so it can be put into tent, tablet mode. I never knew I needed/wanted that until recently.

2. Backlit keyboard. A must have these days. Also make them semi-mechanical. I love the Steel series keyboards on the Clevo clones for some reason. The perfect balance between tactile, bounce and solidity. RGB IS NOT A REQUIREMENT! Sheesh.

3. USB3 Type C and Thunderbolt support. Not a stretch considering these days it's ALMOST common.

4. Integrated graphics or strong APU. I'm really excited to see AMD's new mobile setup, but for now the A12-9700P chip looks like a kick butt chip. Too bad it's apparently only in 15.6 and higher sized laptops. At only 8W of power draw, I can see it in a 12.5" laptop. Intel could make one of their i5 offerings a quad-core and throw in the nVidia 1050 with mx150 technology into a ultra portable. I'm not saying the perfect laptop has to be able to play Crysis 3 at 100fps, but if I'm using this laptop as my go-to between work and home, it should be powerful enough to play Fallout 4 or Skyrim or CS:go at low-medium settings.

5. Build Materials. Brushed aluminium surfaces or "soft" surfaces attract fingerprints. Ugh. At the same time, the outer surfaces should not slip out of my fingers like greased butter. Something that is light, strong, textured, and pretty shouldn't be that hard for a design team.

6. Battery Life. Ultra-portable seems to be synonymous with thin. Bah. If the laptop is 12.5" it can be more than a half inch thick. Make the thing 3/4" thick and give it a decent sized battery. Use that room for...

7. More ports. Seriously Apple? I work at a school currently and I'm amazed at the teachers who want the latest MacBook Pro and then come to me expecting me to have USB-C dongles. Psh. I know VGA is on the way out, but most projectors still have that interface and it's not that hard to fit on a body that's 3/4" thick. HDMI is nice. USB 2.0 ports are important for a reason I'll list below. Thunderbolt/Type-C would be nice along with a regular USB 3.0 Type A. I'm torn on the using the Type-C for charging. Whilst convenient in that my phone uses it and I could carry fewer cables, it's limited if there's only one. Meh. Full-sized SD card slot is a must.

8. Software compatibility. Yeah yeah, most of you will harp on me for this, but in the Education arena, Windows 7 is king. It's very hard to find new computers that offer Windows 7. Yes, I know I can downgrade within the Windows 10 license, but driver support sucks on Skylake and above. Luckily, AMD has only mandated Windows 10 on their Ryzen and above chips. I have to buy refurbished Intel laptops with gen 5 CPUs to be able to find and load drivers for Windows 7. Windows 7 support is until 2020 so I disapprove of Intel and Apple creating more landfill waste by obsoleting perfectly good older computers due to their bottom line not supporting a few more lines of code. So that USB 2.0 port. To install Windows 7 you need a USB 2.0 port. Okay, end of rant there. :)

9. Storage options. 2.5" SSDs are the new normal for us here in teacher land. These teachers are so stressed out if their laptops don't boot in 15 seconds! I mean really! So if the perfect laptop had one NVME m.2 and a 2.5" SATA space for storage...perfect!

10. Dual-Channel Memory Support. There would be room for two DDR4 RAM slots of course, with dual-channel memory support. 'nuff said.

11. Webcams worth a damn. Put an 8MP webcam on the laptop for the love of all that is good and holy! Your phone has one for Skyping and Facetime, why not the laptops?!

12. Touchpad. I left the best for last. Apple's touchpad wizardry is due to software I'm sure. HP's glass covered touchpads on the Elitebook 8000 series comes awfully close. It can't be that hard. IMPORTANT: Physical buttons. None of this haptic crap. Tactile, bouncy, physical buttons. Sheesh.

So those are the first of many I'm sure we'll suggest for the "Perfect" laptop. For now, my favorite laptop is an Acer V5-122p with AMD A6-1450 quad core APU, Radeon HD8250 graphics, 18GB RAM, 750GB SSD, Killer wireless 1202, backlit keyboard, and touchscreen. Yeehaw.
 

keith12

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Aug 8, 2008
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Hi DouglasThurman.

What an interesting post. I'm sure there will be some great ideas to come out of it.

I agree with some things you've mentioned (2,3,9,10,11) and disagree with the rest. The reasoning being simple enough, (and without an exhaustive reply) that different people like different things.

An example being, I would find a 12.5 inch screen ridiculous, and would without doubt choose a min of a 15.6. That just my preference.

The other points you made, although valid, are only valid for you (and maybe similarly like minded individuals) but for many others simply wouldn't wash.
So it's practically impossible to design the perfect laptop.

Desktops on the other hand are really configurable, so it's possible to choose parts to really build your perfect desktop to your exact liking. Of course you can get a custom build Lappie too, but it's much more expensive than a standard laptop that most people might use.

In addition the chopped down nature of mobile hardware always leaves me dissatisfied. From the CPU, GPU to ram and connectivity. I always migrate back to my desktop.

I wish you luck on your crusade. I hope that you make headway and get somewhere with the likes of the aforementioned manufacturers.

Cheers
 

Barty1884

Admirable
Moderator
While I hear what you're saying, and don't necessarily disagree to a lot of the points - it sounds like you're proposing a "one size fits all" approach which, inevitably, would be near universally hated.

Just some random comments, in no particular order.

A "good" screen size, port-selection, mechanical/backlit keyboards and whether it's an APU or Intel CPU with iGPU, build materials etc are all subjective, and depends entirely on the end-user, use case and budget.

Thickness vs port-selection and batterylife is a never ending debate.
A thicker laptop, housing only a low powered APU (ie no discreet GPU) would be wasted, with a "thick" battery likely to last long beyond a 'typical' days usage. Thicker laptop = less appealing, larger battery = more weight & more cost.
Ports are a tradeoff in size. The trend has been to get as thin a laptop as possible over the past X number of years. That's unlikely to be solely a manufacturer's choice - it's going to be as a result of market research. Maybe not a true reflection of the markets needs overall, but definitely a good share.

Build materials, again, increase cost. A cheap, all-plastic laptop can be made much cheaper, and will suit the needs of probably 80+% of Windows users.
Any laptop manufacturer would be crazy to increase their production costs, and their retail cost as a result to the point of likely moving a laptop beyond "affordable" to their consumer base.

As for webcams, again, would increase cost. I've owned probably 8 laptops total, and found the webcams to be perfectly sufficient for the occassional skype call or similar. Simply improving this aspect isn't going to suddenly ship a substantial number of extra laptops, but would drive up cost across the lineup. On the flip side, if your phone can do this better, the argument would be there (IMO), that why should a laptop even bother with a webcam in 2017/2018?

The software compatibility argument though, I'd disagree with wholeheartedly. Simply because businesses don't/won't/can't update their hardware in appropriate cycle, doesn't mean newer hardware *must* support older software. I believe the support for Windows 7 has been extended a couple of times now..... if memory serves, "extended" support was due to expire this year initially.

I believe it's my dentist (some 'professional' setting, not 100% sure which) that still runs Windows Xp. Doesn't exactly fill me with confidence there, but yet they do it. I'm sure they'll upgrade their xray machines etc (at $1000's) on their appropriate upgrade cycle, but their basic infrastructure isn't considered a priority. Hard to relate that to a school setting but I'm sure there are comparables. Much like XP, which dragged on way too long, I don't (personally) feel MS should be providing support, nor should vendors be creating hardware that "can" support it, just because a certain element of their user-base don't want to upgrade*.

*Not completely agreeing with MS's approach either. Legit Windows 7 still makes up a sizeable portion of MS's market, but having set the "rules" on support, and even extended them by a couple of years, I think they've done more than they needed to.

TL;DR. Money.
 

jaguarskx

Champion
Moderator
The vast majority of the answers I provide relates to costs to keep basically the price of laptops relatively low. The exception are premium laptops. The profit margin on budget and mainstream laptops are very thin.


1. There are actually a lot of people who prefer glossy screen because it make colors more vibrant. Regards to 11.6" and 13.3" laptops, if the size is not right for you then don't buy them. There is market for these types of laptop and manufactures do to not only make laptops that revolves solely around your personal preferences.

2. Costs. Backlit keyboards costs more to manufacture and certain laptops, especially budget laptops, needs to hit a certain price point to be inexpensive enough to sell. Semi-mechanical keyboards add more costs.

3. Costs. And since USB C / Thunderbolt are relatively new, they are only found on more premium laptops. Perhaps in two years they will appear on $600 laptops.

4. Dedicated GPUs add costs to a laptop. Additionally, MX150 is not a technology; it is the GPU name nVidia decided to go with for a mobile GPU that is the successor to the 940mx. It is the mobile version of the desktop GT 1030. The A12-9700p is a 15w TDP APU. However, I suppose the TDP can be limited down to 8w, but that would decrease overall performance.

https://www.notebookcheck.net/AMD-Bristol-Ridge-A12-9700P-Notebook-Processor.182724.0.html

5. Plastic is king for value oriented laptops. However, certain types of plastic with a brushed finish seems to be finger print resistant.

6. Thin and light are in. That means something needs to be sacrificed... which is usually the size of the battery.\

7. Meh.. Apple... Don't really care.

8. Microsoft has an agreement with AMD and Intel (meaning MS gave them $$$) so that Ryzen and Kaby Lake CPUs includes circuitry which prevents anything older than Windows 10 to be installed. Additionally, MS has agreements with laptop manufactures that basically requires them to install the most recent version of Windows and nullifies licenses for older versions of Windows. There was an exception for business laptop, but that exception is no longer valid if it has a Kaby Lake CPU.

9. M.2 NVME is rather expensive and it is not required for a laptop to boot within 15 - 20 seconds. My Dell Inspiron 7559 has a M.2 SATA SSD and it can boot within 15 seconds.

10. Both cost and space. RAM slots takes up space and adds costs. Ultrabooks typically have RAM soldered into the motherboard. A few have a empty slot to expand RAM, but they are the exception.

11. Cost. Smartphones are somewhat of a bad example because with a laptop you simply pay once and it is yours (unless it is a lease). Unless you buy an unlocked smartphone which allows you to use any carrier, smartphones most people buy are sold at a loss because the carrier expects to make a profit on the monthly fee over time.

12. Macbooks are premium laptops so the touchpad installed on them made of higher quality components compared to the average Windows laptop. Apple also provides pretty good drivers too. However, keep in mind that since Apple has control over the hardware components in their Macbooks, Mac OS can be optimized for that specific handful of touchpads. There is no such hardware standardization for Windows laptops, however, MS has definitely improved their laptop drivers. But excellent drivers combine with a crappy touchpad is still a cappy touchpad.


 
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