20 Feb 2015

Laptops With No Glaring Flaws

I read the following in a review of the Macbook Air:

The MacBook Air is balanced. It has a lack of outstanding flaws, great performance and battery life, the latest chips and ports and, most importantly, an unbeatable keyboard and trackpad—something that other companies are still struggling to produce. It also has that amazingly solid aluminum unibody.
And now it has an incredible battery that lasts over 12 hours to a charge. Chances are you’ll be okay with this one. And not only because of the machine itself.

It’s interesting that it has a lack of outstanding flaws. And in fact, most Windows laptops and Chromebooks have some or the other glaring flaws. Which means that all it takes to dethrone the Macbook Air is not an exacting sense of design, or highly sophisticated technology, or anything of that kind, but just a determination to avoid any glaring flaws. How hard can that be? It’s just a matter of common sense.

I’d say a laptop should have a 13-inch screen at 1080p resolution (ideally a Retina Display, but that’s expensive). It should have a great contrast ratio, so you use it in a dim room without eyestrain, and in a bright room without being washed out. The laptop should have a HDMI port that supports an external monitor at 2560 x 1440 resolution.

The laptop should have a keyboard with a great typing experience and backlit keys. It should have a trackpad without obvious problems like a cramped size, poor tracking, the mouse randomly jumping around the screen, accidental touches, broken two-finger scrolling, etc. It should have a 10-hour battery life, and 8GB memory, either builtin or as an option.

Maybe your list of what makes a laptop great is slightly different. That’s fine, but the bigger point is that none of this is rocket sense, or requires a rarefied sense of design. Just don’t make any obvious and dumb mistakes when designing a laptop. How hard can that be? And it’s surprising that most laptops still fall short on one or more of these obvious and straightforward criteria.

Maybe great design sometimes amounts to just not making any stupid and glaring mistakes.

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