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The Laptop Conundrum - Have the vendors got lazy?

By Andrew Pollack on 10/08/2009 at 05:44 PM EDT

Have the hardware vendors got lazy? Have they just conceded all innovation to Apple?

My laptop is nearing the end of its useful life for me.  It's a good machine, but is nearing the time when the battery won't take a charge (again), the OS will need a re-install, and the touchpad is getting flaky.  I could fix these things easily enough, spending a day or two on it along with a few hundred dollars -- but tossing a bunch of cash at a 4 year old machine isn't smart.

Here's the problem -- there doesn't seem to be anything really compelling on the market. There are plenty of laptops out there, and for the money they've got plenty of power -- but none of them seem to have any real innovation in any way that's meaningful. They're all high gloss unless unless you special order, and just full of bullshit things that don't work.

Apple has some nice looking products, but most of my work would require emulation -- and I've been burned by every Apple product I've ever owned being too quickly obsolete. Going to 64 bit will be nice, so I can use the extra memory -- but then again, I'll need almost twice the memory just to stay even with where I am now. Battery life isn't improved since the last time I bought one. Weight and physical size isn't any better than last time I bought one (unless you want something totally silly). Input devices aren't any better since the last time -- hell, they aren't even putting multi-touch touchpads in them from what I've seen.

Dell, Asus, Fujitsu, Lenovo -- would it be so hard to come up with something new and interesting? Here's what I want:

Intel Core i5 or i7 (preferably)
15.4" (matt) wide screen at 1440x900 native resolution (any higher res and I can't read it)
External USB 3.0 ports (yes, 3.0)
External eSata Port
Built in high density SDCard reader
Multi-Touch touch-pad
802.11 N, G, B wifi
10/100/1000 Full Duplex Ethernet
External DVI Port
4 GB Ram - expandable to at least 8
Battery that isn't oddball shaped so you can't carry a spare
Secondary Hard Disk INSTEAD of a cd/dvd reader (obsolete)
Windows 7

Oh, I'd love that in a thin package that can convert to a tablet please.

I'll be waiting.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: The Laptop Conundrum - Have the vendors got lazy?By Craig Wiseman on 10/08/2009 at 06:56 PM EDT
The Latitude Z is looking really spiff. Wireless charger, .5' thick. 3G
It's nice looking, but....By Andrew Pollack on 10/08/2009 at 08:06 PM EDT
Doesn't meet any of my specs, really.
re: It's nice looking, but....By Craig Wiseman on 10/09/2009 at 08:07 AM EDT

15.4" (matt) wide screen at 1440x900 native resolution - close
External eSata Port - check
Built in high density SDCard reader - check
Multi-Touch touch-pad - check
802.11 N, G, B wifi - check
10/100/1000 Full Duplex Ethernet check
External DVI Port -check
4 GB Ram - expandable to at least 8 - check
Battery that isn't oddball shaped so you can't carry a spare - close
Windows 7 - check
re: It's nice looking, but....By Craig Wiseman on 10/09/2009 at 08:10 AM EDT
And the Z has some nifty stuff that isn't on your list. The wireless charging
and wireless docking is pretty cool.

My general point was that there is some... minimal... innovation going on
outside of Apple.
re: It's nice looking, but....By Andrew Pollack on 10/09/2009 at 08:49 AM EDT
I'll take another look, am skeptical on it that one. Inductive charging
doesn't impress me because I don't use my laptop sitting on a desk where I'd
leave the base. It seems inefficient and cumbersome to me.
re: The Laptop Conundrum - Have the vendors got lazy?By Charles Robinson on 10/08/2009 at 11:13 PM EDT
Your combination of requirements is impossible to meet. To start with, a DVI
port necessitates a thicker package. So does a Core i7 CPU. Moving beyond that,
USB 3.0 is extremely niche and only available today via add-in cards. It hasn't
even made it into desktop motherboards yet, and from what I've read won't be in
laptops until next year at the earliest. Most of the tables I've seen have 13
or 14 inch screens, not 15.4, and many screens today are moving to HD

As far as I can tell what you're looking for isn't innovation per se, it's more
horsepower in a shinier (or matte) package. Laptops are laptops. Tablets are
tablets. They're screens and keyboards attached to each other. The best they
can do is incorporate new technologies that come along. There is nothing
particularly innovative in that.

But there is innovation aplenty in other form factors. A company called Always
Innovating has created a netbook with a detachable keyboard, giving you a
fairly large screen tablet mobile Internet device. It's not what you're looking
for, though.
re: The Laptop Conundrum - Have the vendors got lazy?By Max on 10/09/2009 at 04:09 AM EDT
I don't think it's impossible, or unreasonable - it's just a bit to early.

I think most manufactures are currently hiding in their super secret labs
working on the upcoming Arrandale systems. And most probably they will show at
CES in Vegas next January.

Lenovo recently introduced a multi touch screen option on the T400s, and some
nice applications for it. With the touch support in WIN7 I'd expect more of
such convergence between normal Laptops and Tablets in the future.

So, I'd wait another three month and then look again.
re: The Laptop Conundrum - Have the vendors got lazy?By Andrew Pollack on 10/09/2009 at 08:53 AM EDT
Yeah, I'll admit that a couple of things ( USB 3.0, Core i5 or i7) are not
really expected for the next couple of months. As long as I've already decided
that what's out there isn't going to cut it, I may as well write the list
targeted to what's being finalized for later in the year.
re: The Laptop Conundrum - Have the vendors got lazy?By Jo Grant on 10/09/2009 at 12:43 PM EDT
I think it's the price of commoditization. Apple is still niche and have to do
attractive things to lure people into their niche. Normal laptops... well you
can get any color you want as long as it's black. :-)
re: The Laptop Conundrum - Have the vendors got lazy?By Bob Balaban on 10/10/2009 at 11:58 PM EDT
don't knmow if they'd meet your specs, but a lot of my customers are getting HP
laptops these days. Several have told me the customer service is better then
Dell. Caveat: I have no direct experience

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