Compromises with thin laptop design

Discussion in 'Hardware Components and Aftermarket Upgrades' started by techtonic, Oct 19, 2013.

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  1. techtonic

    techtonic Notebook Consultant

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    It seems like almost all of the premium laptops with high end parts outside of gaming laptops are becoming more and more thin. I like light laptops like anyone else, but light and thin are not the same. Thin laptops sacrifice a lot of functionality to be thin. It's classic form over function.

    To list a few--potential throttling of CPU and GPU or only being able to fit in lower performance ULV chips, non-removable batteries, soldered RAM and SSD, short key travel keyboards, loss of actual mouse buttons, low quality speakers, removal of ports such as RJ45 Ethernet, and high temperature areas. Is this the way forward, laptop makers? I like thin laptops but when I see these issues, I wonder if that extra 5mm was worth the sacrifice.
     
  2. Tsunade_Hime

    Tsunade_Hime such bacon. wow

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    Nobody likes carrying around the big bulky laptops from like early 90's til like 2010. Apple has shown with the unibody models that you can have full speed processors and mid range GPU's and still have a thin body (but not that light, minus MBA).

    Thin and light is the way for the average consumer who doesn't care about gaming performance, etc. But for gamers and business professionals, I think laptops will be slightly thinner, but for the most part ignore the trend.
     
  3. kent1146

    kent1146 Notebook Prophet

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    When buying a laptop:

    1. Portability
    2. Power
    3. Price

    Pick any 2 of the 3.

    There are plenty of laptops that have tons of performance, if you don't care about portability. See Alienware, Clevo, Sager.
     
  4. techtonic

    techtonic Notebook Consultant

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    Except outside of gaming laptops, which I mentioned in the first post, the premium models are all trying to be thin.

    Here is an example: I'm interested in one of the high res screen laptops, 3200x1800. All of them have low end or mid-range GPU's. None have removable batteries. And take the Haswell XPS 15 for instance--they removed the RJ45. So all the hi-res laptops that have 3200x1800 are like this.

    And let me make one thing clear: I'm not talking about big Alienwares' vs Macbook Airs. Things don't have to be so either-or. There is a middle ground of high end specs and relatively portable that's not being met by the Dells, Samsungs, and HPs of the world. You have to go to gaming laptops to get that power.
     
  5. kent1146

    kent1146 Notebook Prophet

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    Well, it depends how you define "premium".

    A laptop manufacturer's definition of "premium" is something that is expensive that customers are willing to pay extra for. The thing is that a laptop manufacturer wants their high-priced laptops to include features that nobody else can replicate. Examples of these features are:

    * Thin design (a product of their engineering / design team).
    * Parts / features to which they have exclusivity (e.g. AlienFX lighting, Bigfoot NICs, Steelseries keyboards, premium-brand speakers, etc).

    Most laptop manufacturer will not create a "premium" laptop based purely on specs, because anyone can replicate that. Suppose Brand-XYZ created a drool-worthy laptop with an Intel Haswell-generation quad core CPU, dual GeForce 780M GPUs, and a high-res 1800p screen that they source from LG. They can sell that laptop for 6 months before someone like Sager / Clevo, Acer, or Asus comes out with a similarly-spec'ed laptop for a cheaper price. Because when you don't care about space, heat, or battery life, then all you have to do is source your parts and shove them into a chassis. Then it's a race to the bottom to compete on price.

    But if a laptop manufacturer can create a design that is thinner than the competition, then they can remain competitive on specs and still charge a higher price. That's because a me-too Taiwanese brand like Sager / Clevo, Acer, or Asus can source the same parts as Brand-XYZ, but would not have put in the same engineering investment to get those parts into a chassis that is as thin as possible. This is why Razer can charge $2000 for its Razer Blade laptop (ultra-thin design), despite being able to find laptops with similar specs for $1100. Razer can charge a higher price for its product (and therefore get a higher margin), without having to race-to-the-bottom.
     
  6. kent1146

    kent1146 Notebook Prophet

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    BTW, if you look at laptops, they all try to be as powerful-as-possible within a certain price point; or as portable-as-possible within a certain price point.

    Nobody wants to create a 15" laptop that weighs 8 lbs and costs $800. There are literally hundreds of laptops that fall into exactly that category, and they all end up being sold at Costco.

    They want to create a laptop that is 15" and weighs 3 lbs, and charge far more than $800. Or create a laptop that is 15" and can melt your face off with the amount of processing power they crammed in there, and charge far more than $800.
     
  7. HTWingNut

    HTWingNut Potato

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    Yeah this whole "let's make everything as thin as possible" trend is quite annoying. I like smaller and portable, but people fuss over tenths of inches. To me weight and overall footprint size are more critical, but don't compromise thickness or weight for performance, please.
     
    Mr. Fox, Krane, tijo and 2 others like this.
  8. techtonic

    techtonic Notebook Consultant

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    Let's not use these extreme examples. That's a strawman. Also width != weight. Thicker notebooks can weigh less than thinner notebooks.

    A premium quality notebook can be reasonably thin (1") and powerful but the mainstream companies are so focused on thin with this Ultrabook initiative. The Dell XPS 15, Lenovo Yoga 2, and Samsung Ativ Book 9 all are the respective company's premium laptops with high res screens but have middling GPU's or iGPU's and no removable battery. I would rather they allow a few more millimeters and have a removable battery and allow for higher end GPU's than be super thin and make compromises. But those millimeters seem to be more important to them. Why is a 1" notebook so bad?
     
  9. StormJumper

    StormJumper Notebook Virtuoso

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    That sounds all good but when that laptop dies or battery fails your going to find your going to spend a hefty amount to fix or replace the laptop. That is what they are planning and if you don't think so your missing the boat. There will be times one needs a VGA/DVI port or HDMI which some thin laptop removes why I am not sure as that basically rules out its functionality. I like to replace dead batteries and keep it running not having every two years buying a new laptop that to me is a waste of money. Also I still use DVD/BD drive as well so my mid 1525 works perfectly well light portable without having to buy those new tech just to have the latest fabs. There are sacrifices when one goes thin but they fail to notice it til they need something of which it no longer has. The laptop has to be functional yet be user friendly for their usage and utilitarian usage.

    Actually it is either or and you can't run PC program on Mac or Mac on PC so there is a clear choice on what one picks and why. Middle ground only work if you going either PC or Mac Laptop then you can pick and choose otherwise you can't just go PC to Mac and back and not expect users confusions. Those two are different O/S and different operations with different programming.
     
  10. Bog

    Bog Losing it...

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    While thinner and lighter is marketed by manufacturers as a premium laptop segment, all it does is line their pockets. When you're talking about squeezing high-performance components with narrow thermal envelopes into a tightly integrated environment, you're lowering reliability, repair-ability, and upgrade-ability of the system. There is no escaping the compromises that kent 1146 mentioned. When you compromise these particular qualities, the customer ends up paying a higher total cost of ownership. Want to upgrade the RAM? Too bad, its soldered - buy a new laptop. Want to replace the battery or clean the cooling? You need to pay extra to get the manufacturer to do it.

    The whole point of this reduced product life cycle and increasingly integrated product is simply to encourage consumption of more products and services. The notion that Apple's "no-compromise" designs are somehow a great thing is just marketing nonsense.
     
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