back to article Laptop computers are crap

Occasionally, the crumbs scavenged by the Dabbs clan are supplemented with purchases from a local food emporium, the expenditure being partly funded by product reviews that I submit to El Reg. El Reg, by the way, is a real person in a kind of virtual concept common to all omnipresent beings. The last time I was granted an …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Phil Koenig

    Here, butterfly...

    I still don't understand why neither IBM or its latest incarnation Lenovo never revived the old "butterfly" keyboard from that IBM Thinkpad of yore. That was a *brilliant* and elegant idea.

    Would serve nicely until we're all using holographic UI's...

    1. stucs201

      Re: Here, butterfly...

      I suspect it came down to mechanical complexity and expense. With today's tend towards ever thinner devices the extra mechanisms required would probably be sacrificed in favour of a thinner device too.

      My favourite keyboard on a portable computer was a different IBM: the portable PS/2s. Much nicer to type on than any laptop keyboard, but only really practical as a machine to use at different desks rather than actually while moving. Second place for portable keyboard I'd give to the Amstrad PPC for at least having all the keys, even if it was a much cheaper and nastier key mechanism than the IBM (it gets last place for the screen though).

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: Here, butterfly...

        I have one of those Bytterfly Thinkpads in my collection.

        Every time I open it up I fear that something in the mechanism will fail.

        (Yeah, I know, it's a Thinkpad, it can probably deflect an RPG...)

        Sure, it looks nice, but it also looks a bit flimsy. And you really don't want to press to hard on the outermost keys.

        And the sound when it opens and closes... Doesn't exactly instill confidence.

  2. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    My laptop has a 17" widescreen display, stupidly-high resolution (I'd get 60 rows of a spreadsheet on a screen no problems at all, and that's in LibreOffice with what looks like huge 20-point rows), a built-in numpad, no crammed ports, whatever storage space I want for it (originally 500Gb but that was a while ago), wonderful display angles (hell, I've had four people sitting on a sofa watching it), stupidly loud (and clear) sound for a laptop, a decent trackpad (about the only thing I've had paid extra for would have been a trackpoint, but to be honest - the wrist-area is so damn huge I can use a mouse on it! Touchscreens are a gimmick that I wouldn't pay a lot for but would only use occasionally even if they were free), and decent battery life. Not only that, it plays every game I've thrown at it (admittedly I haven't tried the very-latest titles, but it laughs at anything you tend to buy on Steam), has a really solid build (aluminium casing), and all the ports I could ever want.

    Just because you buy cheap laptops that don't fulfill your need, doesn't mean they don't exist in perfectly ordinary retail channels (I actually have two of this laptop - one bought via Novatech, one from Amazon). All the things you mention cost extra to have, so you have to pay extra and not expect some cheapy £300 thing from Currys to have them all.

    1. MrWibble

      Take it you didn't read the whole article then?

    2. mikeyboosh

      Well? Are you going to enlighten us as to what this wonder machine is called?

      1. Silverburn

        @ Mikeyboosh

        Giveaway - solid metal case, plus rose-tinted view of perfect laptop.

        It's a Macbook Pro.

        1. Stacy

          Re: @ Mikeyboosh

          Not always... I have three aluminuim laptops at home. Two of them are from before Apple started using it to build their laptops. Only one (and without a doubt the worst for everything except battery life) is the MacBook Pro.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Mikeyboosh

          You explained in detail why macbooks are utter crap. Yes. The keyboard has fuck all use. No page up.

          If you gave a shit about technology you would NOT use Apple. I have a MSI PC that has a much better keyboard and will whip the pants off your ornament.

          Make your complaints to Apple. Not the technology world.

          1. Armando 123

            Re: @ Mikeyboosh

            "The keyboard has fuck all use. No page up."

            My Air, running Lion, has it: Option+up arrow

            1. Yag

              Re: My Air, running Lion, has it: Option+up arrow

              Aaaand we're back to the masonic handshake...

              1. Audrey S. Thackeray

                Re: My Air, running Lion, has it: Option+up arrow

                Actually that sounds like something that would work well for me.

                I hate all the Apple keyboards and mice I've used since the IIe though - in fact (physical) keyboards generally seem to be getting worse; I wonder if anyone is really expected to do a lot of typing these days.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: My Air, running Lion, has it: Option+up arrow

                  The biggest problem is that the Apple "British" keyboard is actually just a US keyboard with a pound sign on shift-3; and to type a hash you need the horrible option-3 combination.

                  I have a Macbook Air and I love it apart from this, although I might not have bought it in the first place if I realised it was so wrong. This is Apple being smug and ignoring the needs of its users.

                  Anyway, I have installed a keyboard mapping so that it uses the proper UK key layout - I just ignore the key legend and type blind for @, ", \, |, # and ~

              2. Armando 123

                Re: My Air, running Lion, has it: Option+up arrow

                As opposed to the fine CTRL-ALT-DEL or CTRL-ALT-L? The Air is so lightweight I'm willing to sacrifice that, given the scrolling gestures with the trackpad

                1. csumpi

                  Re: My Air, running Lion, has it: Option+up arrow

                  @Armando 123

                  I'm holding a Macbook Air 13" in my left hand and a Sony Vaio 13" in my right (well actually now I put them down to type this). The Air is as heavy if not heavier than the Vaio.

                  I give you this: the Air LOOK lighter. But it's not. You been foolzed.

                  Oh, and the trackpad on the Air sucks ballz. While you do have 1,2,3,4,5 and probably even 6 finger gestures, it does not have buttons. So as soon as you place your thumb to get ready to press the imaginary button, it detects a multi touch and the cursor stops.

                  So now add to the weight a mouse that I have to lag around, just because some idiot thought up the magical idea of getting rid of the trackpad buttons. For looks.

                  1. This post has been deleted by its author

                  2. Wibble

                    Re: Mac trackpads

                    Odd that as IMHO the trackpads are by far the best trackpads I've ever used. I absolutely don't miss the buttons; I know it'll click if I just press a little harder. I also appreciate the glass pad as it's more 'slippery' than the plastic or metal brethren and doesn't 'stain' or mark with continued use. Size also matters, being by far the largest trackpads around.

                    Maybe you need to adjust to its foibles a little, just as you'd need to adjust to an itty-bitty trackpad from any of the other manufacturers. You may find that you use your thumb in the same place as you'd expect a button; it works well like that.

                  3. Anonymous Coward

                    Re: My Air, running Lion, has it: Option+up arrow

                    The whole thing (trackpad) is a button.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ Mikeyboosh

              And your clearly not a coder if you think thats a happy alternative...

              My Main complaint about macs is their keyboards... Clearly their development team never talks to the design team...

              I have a nice chunky keyboard on my desktop with 4 screens, thats a decent PC running Linux...

              My MacBook Air is ok... but it is what it is, a glorified netbook.. and is required to code for iOS...

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ Mikeyboosh

              No, Option + Up Arrow is the function "Option + Up Arrow". Page Up is a key which performs the function "Page Up". If memory serves one leaves your cursor behind and one doesn't. By default. If you bind other things to those key combinations one can make tea and the other can launch a global thermonuclear strike. Under such a configuration, pressing Option + Up Arrow when you mean Page Up could be very dangerous. You could end up with a cup of tea you weren't expecting, and don't particularly want to drink.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ Mikeyboosh

            Spoken like a man with no taste! Then again if you give a shoot about technology why do you need taste in your life.

        4. Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Mikeyboosh

          17" Macbook Pro's don't have built in numpads.

      2. big_D Silver badge
        Thumb Up


        Apart from the 17" display, it describes my 15.6" Sony Vaio well enough... 1920x1080 display, full keyboard with numpad, 500GB disk, 8GB RAM, not bad for a grand.

        1. Rob

          Re: @mikeyboosh

          Sounds like my HP laptop, albeit without that res, although it was far short of a grand.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @mikeyboosh

          What is nice about laptops as opposed to whatever-pad is that it provides a keyboard, and a decent sized screen. I was at the bus station and I saw a guy looking at a movie with his iphone. I could hardly see the picture I just laughed.

        3. Wibble

          Re: @big_D

          So that's a LOW res screen you have. What's the point of working with a letterbox for a display?

          1080 high is absolute pants for everything. You need at least 1200 high to be useful - heck the ribbon takes up half of the screen.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: @big_D

            I sort of agree, I would love at least 1200 high.

            But most manufacturers have given up on making computer monitors and only make TV sets without tuners built in. :-(

            I want a 4K monitor to go with my planned 4K video camera...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well mine is a Dell Precision M6500

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          17inch screen, full keyboard and number pad, lots of USB and a DVD, 1900x1600 screen,wired lan, displayport+vga, firewire, SD and PC card slots

          Mobile awesomeness, shame about the price!

        2. Trygve Henriksen

          My condolences.

          Does it have the classical 'Restarts during high CPU usage' problem, or have Dell already replaced the motherboard?

          (The last time I checked, there was a 35 page thread on that problem on that specific machine in Dells support forums... )

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well if its a Novatech...

        Its some peice of Clevo/Mitac/Movita peice of nastiness AND if its the machine I think it is, has a GF6xxx or 8xxxx GO in it, which means really, its days were numbered the day it was sold.

        1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

          Re: Well if its a Novatech...

          Novatech sell things other than their own laptops.

          It's actually an MSI "gaming" laptop that was cheaper than most of their business laptops at the time.

      5. RAMChYLD

        There are a remarkable number of them out there. Thing is tho, most of them are 15 inchers or larger and thus are harder to find than their 14 inch low-res, crammed keyboard and ports counterpart (though, if you also want resolution higher than 1366x768, it has to be 17 inches or larger). They're also harder to get around since most computer bags seems to be designed for devices 14 inches or smaller. Also, those with HD screens tend to be 17 inches or larger.

    3. Ian Ferguson

      I presume you have to employ a team of strong young boys to carry this unnamed wonder around on their shoulders?

    4. Ammaross Danan

      Gateway NV73

      My Gateway NV73 is 17" screen, granted the resolution isn't a preferred 1080p, but with TWO storage bays, I could easily have 2TB of HDD space. Granted, I don't need that, even remotely on a laptop. If you want to "create content" and need 1.5TB+, your content is likely high-def video. Spreadsheets and Word docs are easy to fit on a 500GB, not to mention storing loads of pictures to boot. The NV73 has well spaced USB ports (2 per side), well spaced HDMI, VGA, NIC, etc ports. If you're having port-cram issues, try shopping in a realm of computing that doesn't believe in one model of computer for all (you gave away that you punch on a Mac with your port and keypad woe pictures). Oh, my NV73 has a full numpad as well.

      Why do I have these features? I specifically sought them out. I can plug in fat USB sticks, HDMI, type with a numpad for spreadsheets, have a spacey and comfortable keyboard, and view it all on a screen that I don't have to squint to see. It's also nice to have a SSD+HDD storage space. Oh, did I mention it was $430? You don't have to go expensive to get a great PC. In another year, I'll dump another ~$450 for another mid-range computer that will still be less than the woeful MacBook, but outperform it by then.

    5. keithpeter Silver badge


      What is the keyboard like on that huge laptop? Does it flex?

      I'm heavy on the keys, and can't abide the ones that collapse inward when you get a bit of speed up)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: #1

      Regarding point #1, laptop screens were fine until about 5 years ago, when Apple, Dell, HP et al began pandering to children like the poster above, who place more importance on their ability to watch "The Hulk" without letter-boxing than doing real work. Restricting vertical height resulted in fewer lines of legible type. It's as simple as that. But now that we have 4:3 fondle slabs for the sub morons, can I have my 4:3 screen back, too?

      1. Paul 135

        Re: #1

        Indeed, we at a minimum need a return to 16:10.

        I have been in the market for a new laptop for over 2 years ago, but every time I come to look at the latest models I am just so unimpressed. What are the laptop manufacturers doing? Why on earth is there so little innovation in laptop design and why cannot I find a laptop I want? (None compare to my 6 year old Acer aspire 9504). Why on earth are all these companies focusing on pointless fondleslabs rather than on productivity machines?

  3. Lloyd

    I had a marvellous on-line argument the other week

    Netbook vs tablet, what do I get for my money? In what way is buying a tablet better then buying a decent netbook at half the price? IMHO, weight is the only factor in which a tablet wins but as was pointed out to me by an iPad user, I can only get 8 hours of video from my netbook whereas after 12 hours of video his tablet is still at 40% battery. Apple must be using some serious tech for the screen to be operating at that low power either that or the battery is made with some hitherto unknown substance.

    1. Gordon 10

      Re: I had a marvellous on-line argument the other week

      screen quality. Compare a tablet to a similarly priced laptop.

      The screen on the table will be better and viewable in more lighting conditions and at more angles. If you look at the ips screen on the ipad you can view it at angles approaching 0/180 degrees top & bottom. (ie almost edge on).

      I talked my dad out of buying a new laptop specifically on these grounds.

    2. Steve Todd

      Re: I had a marvellous on-line argument the other week

      Try using a netbook screen in portrait mode sometime. Then look at what it takes to get you from off to connected to 3G Internet (iPads run in standby for weeks and the 3G models are permanently connected).

      There are many reasons why a tablet is better for some tasks, and a netbook for others. Pick what suits you personally and be happy that the choice exists.

    3. Ian Ferguson

      Re: I had a marvellous on-line argument the other week

      I have road-tested a netbook and a tablet over the past year, mainly because of those arguments. Turns out I carry the tablet with me all the time, and use it multiple times a day, whereas the netbook is languishing under my sofa.

      All the arguments become moot when held up against usability.

      1. Boothy

        Re: I had a marvellous on-line argument the other week

        I had a Netbook for a few years (dual boot between Ubuntu and Win XP), got a Tablet last year (ASUS Transformer), Netbook hasn't been used since and gathers dust.

        1. handle

          Netbook vs Transformer

          Well I should hope the netbook would gather dust if you replace it with a Transformer. I guess all that proves, really, is that Android provides all you needed under Windows (or whatever OS is on the netbook).

    4. handle

      Power consumption

      I would guess that the reason for the longer battery life has less to do with display (both types have to produce light, and that's what eats power) and battery capacity than the ARM-based CPU. Tablets have no fans; laptops do. The fan is needed to get rid of the much larger amount of heat produced by the CPU than the one in a tablet. The downside is that there is likely to be less grunt, so for a few specialist things a laptop would be better.

    5. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I had a marvellous on-line argument the other week

      Not the screen. Its the ARM (tablet) vs x86 (netbook) CPU architecture that's most likely responsible for the diffence in battery life.

    6. Frank Bough

      Re: I had a marvellous on-line argument the other week

      No, the answer is simpler - Apple forces you as much as it can to use only h264 encoded video, and this is very efficiently decoded in hardware. This is one of the reasons they're so anti-Flash, they can't control the battery load.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: I had a marvellous on-line argument the other week

        Got to agree with the ghost of Steve Jobs here - flash can be a CPU-cycle hogging PITA on a desktop (or was till a version with GPU support came out), let alone a mobile device with tighter power constraints. If websites start using something other than Flash, then good. And if it takes a company with a fair bit of clout to start nudging them that way, fair does.

        Oh, but I disable my FlashBlock for ElReg, as it seems only fair.

  4. Gordon 10

    Good Friday article

    +1 beer

    1. Steve Knox

      Re: Good Friday article

      No, that was last week.

  5. Tim 11

    Tim Robinson

    I drive a dell precision laptop - it's got a full HD screen, numeric keypad, 1.5TB of disk, 8GB RAM (I think it can go higher). It's possible to buy one with a wide-viewing-angle screen. I can't understand why these aren't more popular because I agree that most of these things are necessary for many IT people to work effectively

    what would I change? I'd have a proper block of cursor and home-end keys (probably instead of the numeric keypad), and I'd have a proper macbook-style multi-touch trackpad which really does do away with the need for an external mouse

  6. Jim 59

    Wise article

    When it's at home, my laptop is attached to a 21" monitor and proper keyboard. The built in 15" feels restrictive by comparison. Even 21" feels too small nowadays.

    Desktops are sexiest, most upgradable and generally better at every thing than laptops, which are better than tablets, which are better than smart phones.

    Laptops good for DVD viewing ? If you like whirring, clanking, and sitting in an office chair to watch your films.

    1. Stacy

      Re: Wise article

      Why does screen size matter? My laptop has a smaller screen than I have on my office desk, but is way more readable and has lots more pixels... One of the best I used was a Dell D600 (IIRC) 14" 1400*1050 screen is wide viewing angles and pin sharp. Beautiful!

      1. pPPPP

        Re: Wise article

        I'm with you, but for others it's about being able to see. A lot of people with poor sight will run their fancy large 1980x1600 screen at 640x480 in order to "make the words bigger". Increasing the font sizes doesn't seem to compute and as for the resolution, if your sight isn't that good anyway, are you going to care?

        My laptop, like most current generation Lenovos, has a screen which wouldn't look out of place a decade ago. It's shit.

        On another note, why can't they put a usb port to the left of the escape key? Dongle would stick up, you'd still be able to see the screen, and you'd be able to use it on the train.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Wise article

          The reason there are no stick-up USB ports by Esc is you'd probably smash your screen.

          How long do you think it would be before you accidentally close the lid (or someone shove by and do it) without removing the USB device?

          It's bad enough the number that get ripped off the sides when putting into bags, but at least those usually only break the USB stick.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Wise article

            A stick inserted to the left of the Esc key would hit the screen's bezel on many laptops, not the screen itself. However, your point still stands.

            If anyone knows of some 1" long, flexible USB extension ribbon cables (that can be bent through 90º and retain said angle) I would love to hear from you.

            Sorry to have banged on about them on a few posts, but they seem to be an easy, simple and cheap way to solve both one issue in the original article, and issues raised by fellow commentards.

            +Protect your USB device and your computer's USB ports.

            +Make use of USB ports that are too close together

            +Use dongles where space is constrained, such as on a train

            +Sling your laptop into its bag with having to remove your dongles or sticks

            +Use dongles more easily on machines that have god-awful industrial 'design' (Older Dell Optiplex, I'm looking at YOU!)

            1. Matt 53
              Thumb Up

              Re: Wise article

              I know what you mean, I have a couple of 3" rigid/bendy USB extension cables on the van from some old USB wifi dongles. After doing some searches the closest thing I can find nowadays is the FlexUSB product for about £8

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Nuke
          Thumb Down

          @ Stacy and pPPPP, Re: Wise article

          pPPP wrote :- "A lot of people with poor sight will run their fancy large 1980x1600 screen at 640x480 in order to "make the words bigger". Increasing the font sizes doesn't seem to compute and as for the resolution, if your sight isn't that good anyway, are you going to care?"

          That last bit is strange logic. A lot of people used to computing are now 50+, and it is a strain for them to read tiny words. You (Stacy) will find that out one day. I am not talking about people with defective vision who might want a big screen with 640x480 res, I am talking about average 50-70 yo's.

          The solution is simple, a normal (ie high) resolution, for which most apps are designed, on a physically big screen. You don't want to throw away resolution just to make the device smaller and lighter.

          People go on about lightness and slimness; I have a laptop, but use a desktop when at home and dont give a f#@K how big or heavy it is. The desk and floor take the weight, and the system unit (a hefty tower in my case) is away under the desk. If I wanted another 12 cubic inches in my room I would chuck away some of these old magazines I have lying around rather than make compomises with my PC.

      2. Daniel B.

        Screen Size

        I guess that the true problem is all this widescreen craze that has infested the recent batch of laptops. Now you got wide-ass screens that are too short to read stuff. Somehow laptop mfgs think everyone uses laptops to watch 16:9 movies instead of actually working. This is worse on netbooks, where some stuff won't even show up thanks to the height restriction.

        Also, there's something weird with Vista and win7, I swear that I can't make the letters small enough anymore. I've seen XP on the same screens and it's noticeable, so much that win7 looks like a Fischer Price "my first PC" baby UI compared even to XP's candy theme.

    2. Steve Knox

      Re: Wise article

      "If you like whirring, clanking, and sitting in an office chair to watch your films."

      I personally love to whir and clank while I sit in an office chair watching films. The wife hates it when I do that, though...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Displays and keyboards

    May I suggest that the reason you feel the need for multiple screens of extraordinary dimensions, number pads and dislike trackpads might all be down to the window manager you are using?

    I find with OSX and Gnome, virtual desktops and roll-upable windows really put an end to me feeling the need for multiple displays at all, and modern character rendering means my pixel count goes much further. I prefer a mouse to a trackpad too, but Apple have really made the most of what they have by sensible support for it at an OS level, rather than try and make it emulate a mouse and constrain what it does accordingly.

    And number pads are for accountants. ;-)

    1. Craig 12

      Re: Displays and keyboards

      Number pads are actually for people who buy too much on the internet from retailers who don't store their CC info :)

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Displays and keyboards

      And number pads are for accountants. ;-)

      In jest, I know : D

      But the article was about real work. On older CAD packages, the number pad was dead handy for entering translations.

    3. Vulch

      Re: Displays and keyboards

      And you'll be forever fiddling around rolling windows up and down and switching virtual desktops. With sufficient screen area you can have several things going at once. Typically when I'm working I'll have an editing window, three browser windows and a VNC session all in active use. If I've got to roll up the browser window with the library documentation before I can make a code change in the editor, then roll that one up so I can run the code in another, and then close that so I can see what the server logs say in the VNC session...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Displays and keyboards

      Number pads are very handy if you're using a French keyboard layout - the regular numbers are all on shift keys to make way for accented letters.

      Converselyusing ALT+Character Code (e.g. ALT+0232 to get è) for accented characters in Windows on a UK/US keyboard only seems to work with the number pad - regular numbers along the top don't work.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Virtual desktops

        Surely 4 screens is enough for anybody

    5. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Displays and keyboards

      The points you raise are valid: better windowing software can alleviate many of the issues raised (but not all)

      I suspect you have been downvoted because you have underestimated the frustration that people feel at only being able to buy laptops with screens inferior to those they had a few ago. Also, I'm not sure as to how better windowing software can make up for not having a number-pad.

      : D

  8. Snark


    When choosing a new laptop last night I surprised myself with going with a 14" simply because it was smaller, lighter and easy to take with me than the 15.6" I'd been looking at. I already have a desktop with loads of disk and big monitors so it suddenly occured to me I wanted a laptop to well, have on top of my lap and to travel with me and I was more likely to do that if it wasn't a brick. If only ultrabooks were cheaper though...

    Good article though and if I only had one machine I'd agree with just about everything said.

  9. Semaj

    Haha, what a strange article. I was about to tell you you must just have bought shit laptops because even my little (quite customised) Inspiron Mini does not fall foul of much that you noted as long as I don't expect too much from it. But then I read the end.

    Nice :) Probably should have put the troll face as the icon though.

    I don't think any of the existing form factors will ever fully die out. At the end of the day it really just comes down to personal preference and need.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Had to use the Mrs's netbook last night. Tiny keys, tiny screen, tiny track pad. Felt like a laptop for kids. Horrid.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Netbooks

      Yeah! I want to feel my sperm boiling from the heat pouring off my quad-quad-core, 24" laptop monster! I want people to think the world is coming to end when I am playing an FPS through the inbuilt sound system. I want to have to hire a team of very fit Sherpa's to lug it and the spare batteries, external 100PB disk storage units I need for watching my natively stored Blu-Ray collection and FLAC format music library. FInally I want three seats on the train when I sit down and start typing an email to my mates about a drink up on Friday night!


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Core i7, 16Gig Ram, 1.5Tb, (or 1Tb SSD.) 18in screen, plus secondary screen 23inch, plus 40in LCD telly over the hdmi.

    I have two of them, they're monsters, and two legacy 8930s (both with 128Gig Kingston v+100 and v+200 - the 200 needed new firmware, for both it, and the box.) Mark you. It needs something fast to deal with 100Mbit internet.

    I'm not trying to prove the guy wrong, I'm just showing off, see how lucky I am :-)

    Joking aside, in normal usage, the twin SSD version is the fastest thing you've ever seen. It sits there using < 0.1% cpu. Unless I'm doing heavy SQL work 4 cores are continually parked. The only thing missing is usb3, which is now present on the 8951. Copying 100 Gig of porn<del><del><del><del> family photos from one drive to the other takes no time at all. I can no longer imagine upgrading.

  12. Ian 62


    So, in each image that you complain about something being badly designed you post a hacked up image of an Apple Product.

    Then for the image you use when you say you're happy with them, you use an image of an Intel Product.

    Editorial slant?

    </irony off>

    For those of you missing the point..It's a joke :)

    1. Aaron Em

      Re: <irony>

      ...Apple bought Acer? When was that, exactly? I mean, there's a hacked-up image of an Acer laptop on the first bloody page of the article, either you're thick or you've just got a point to make.

      Or hey, maybe both, who knows.

      Special to whoever spent an hour yesterday going through my back comments and downvoting each one: lol, u mad?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: <irony>

        ...Acer bought Asus? When was that, exactly? I mean, there's a hacked-up image of an Asus laptop on the first bloody page of the article, either you're thick or you've just got a point to make.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: going through back comments

        Yes, they clearly are, but look on the bright side; they are now one hour closer to death with nothing to show for it. People like that *could* have been interacting with the rest of us.

  13. Steve Evans

    Bloody 16:9 screens GRRRR!

    I blame everything, well almost everything, on the perverse idea that laptops should have screens designed to play movies.

    My trusty old laptop is a ThinkPad R52 with 1400x1050, yes, 4:3, and guess what, it's great. It might be old, slow, and the battery last approx 20 minutes, *but* it's not the size of an aircraft carrier flight deck so is easy to carry from one plug point to the next! I don't need battery life, I need portability. I would by a new replacement, but I don't want to have to purchase a wide load screen just to get a similar vertical resolution to what I've already got. So I'm contemplating a motherboard hack to install a sata SSD instead.

    Even on a desktop machine I'm not sure about 16:9. I'm sitting typing this on a 27" 2560x1440, and I seem to have far more slack space on each side then I do top and bottom.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agreed, and double the GRRRR!

      Before it died, the T23 with same size and resolution screen (and ibm thinkpad with trackpoint keyboard) was a joy to work with. Pity that series is prone to hair cracks in the main PCB (and the keyboard bezels, and the back corners of the case, and the display bezels) and so dies too often for inherent design defect reasons.

      I'll take a display of that quality, non-glossy, perhaps with the 3qi daylight trick built in, if it can be had in that resolution and aspect ratio. Add a slightly redesigned keyboard, say an ARM core or four, make it a bit thinner and so that it doesn't need a fan, with a bigger battery in a sturdier case, couple other tweaks and I'd have something I'd have trouble stopping working with.

      I'd have the desktop provide the extra oomph either locally or in cloud fashion whenever necessary, but most of the time I don't really need it. Editors and test runs on toy datasets to iron out the bugs don't need that much. The large runs on lots of data are what's problematic, and if those get big enough I'd want a gpgpu or something anyway; those don't tend to fit in a laptop.

    2. 100113.1537

      Re: Bloody 16:9 screens GRRRR!

      I don't see why people think there is a choice between desktop and laptop. I do nearly all of my work from home, but because I also travel regularly, I have a notebook. No compromise on grunt (Corei5, 6GB RAM) and when sitting on its docking station I have external keyboard, drives etc. I don't need 500GB of storage on the machine itself - when I travel the 160GB SSD has more than enough.

      I have two screens on my desk, and yes, when I travel I find working on a single screen tedious (and I agree that 16:9 is sop to playing movies - which is not why I buy a high-end business laptop), but plugging in a monitor wherever I am working is actually not all that much hassle and I am already planning for the third screen at home (my wife already has this and , damn, it useful for big spreadsheets).

      For sitting watch TV with something on my lap - guess what - I have a tablet, but there is really nothing I need a "desktop" machine for that I don't get from my notebook. Plus I have everything with me when I travel. It is the desktop market that should be worried, not the notebooks.

    3. Wesley Wakeman

      Re: Bloody 16:9 screens GRRRR!

      20 minutes my old Dell M1730 is now 4 years old and only last 10, damn I need a new battery.

    4. Paul 135

      Re: Bloody 16:9 screens GRRRR!

      8Ndeed, I think 16:10 was already wide enough and a reasonable compromise. Unfortunately for the morons that make these decisions they had to take it too far to 16:9.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why oh why oh why?

    Couldn't you find anything worth writing about? What a pointless article.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why oh why oh why?

      You still stuck it out to the bitter end AND still had the time to spare to comment on it, must have been something kept you going?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, wait...

    Are you saying we should use a tablet because laptops don't have a numeric keypad and the usb ports are all too close together?

  16. jason 7

    Sounds like a nice.....

    inflammatory article to boost flagging add revenues at the end of the week.

    Click click click......

  17. mrfill

    And another thing

    One huge disadvantage of a laptop is you dont get an air of smug superiority as you polish the screen to remove that morning's jam, shuffle a few icons around the screen and mess around zooming and panning photos of Great Aunt Ada knowing that, because you have a tablet, you must be considerably richer and important than yeow. Praise the lord I dont have to commute by train into Lundun.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And another thing

      Yeah but you can sit on the train, pick pubes out from between the keys, hold them up at arm's length with a screwed up face, then drop them on the floor. You might even get a free seat next to you to put your bag on.

      Anonymous because I'm being hypothetical. Honestly. :-) I'm also clock-watching, it being Friday.

  18. Ian McNee

    Please! Spare us the mobile device willy-waggling!

    Yeah mildly entertaining article that is occasionally original. But...

    "My laptop is so fab it's better than your telly and has a hard drive so big that I backup the internet...yadda yadda yadda... *snore* ...and it's even colour-cordinated with my iPhad and has a dock for my iDrone and a slot for my coke spoon and..." Oh fuck off and die already.

    My laptop comes in a large metal box with screen attached by a flexible cable rather than outdated fragile hinges, contains standard components that are fast, quiet, reliable, cheap to replace if they go wrong using a single standard screwdriver, it connects to a multiplicity of peripherals (full-size spill-proof keyboard, mouse, etc.) connected via standard interfaces without need of hubs or expansion cards. Oh and it has the unique property that I cannot take it to the sofa/pub/party/anywhere else and thus fails to annoy my friends/family by intruding on the time I spend with them.

    I should add the my use-case is defined by the fact that I am not so important that the entire population of the internet has to be able to contact me 24/7/365 via Twatter, Farcebook et al so clearly my laptop would be no good for individuals less insignificant than me.

    1. Mr Young

      Re: Please! Spare us the mobile device willy-waggling!

      "standard screwdriver" - what's one of them - any kitchen knife maybe?

    2. Aaron Em

      "a slot for my coke spoon"

      Well done, sir! To whom should I address this invoice for a replacement laptop keyboard?

    3. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Please! Spare us the mobile device willy-waggling!

      My laptop is 13 years old. I won it in a competition.

      1. Ian McNee

        Re: Please! Spare us the mobile device willy-waggling!

        Alistair: just in case it wasn't obvious my futile rant was not directed at you :-)

        And Aaron, did I mention spill-proof? Assuming you've not also flooded your USB ports I recommend a Cherry keyboard - made by serious Germans with plenty of that vorsprung durch technik thingamabob that they have.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Please! Spare us the mobile device willy-waggling!

          "serious Germans"? You mean there are other kinds?!

  19. Gordan

    Baseless Rant

    I can counter most of the points made. My ThinkPad T60 has a 2048x1536 15" screen, which is about the 4th highest resolution you are going to get on a monitor (after IBM T221 at 3840x2400 like the one on my desk

    (See: ),

    and various 30" 2560x1600 models like the one that my T221 replaced and the handful of mailslot-view 2560x1440 models). In other words, you can get more than sufficient resolution for real work on a laptop.

    With a bit of a compromise (ARM instead of x86), you can have decent battery life, too. My Toshiba AC100 is thinner than a Macbook Air and has a 10" 1280x720 screen, a decent SSD and other tweaks (See: ) - and it manages 6-8 hours on a full charge (depending on the screen brightness you set, power settings, and how hard you are hammering the WiFi and the CPU). The upcoming Asus Transformer HD (1920x1200 10") will be even better when it actually arrives and gets cracked for a full-fat Linux possibility.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Baseless Rant

      Yeah, T60 is still available?

      Readers: Please suggest 1920 x 1200 + midrange laptops. I'm aware of some pricer Lenevos and Apple of course, but they seem extinct at lower price points. Of all the points in the article, the 1st, screen aspect ratio, is the most important to me, and the hardest to rectify.

      : D

      1. Gordan

        Re: Baseless Rant

        There are many, many T60s on ebay.

        You are unlikely to find one with 2048x1536 panel in it, but you can upgrade it yourself - that's what I did. Just make sure you start with one that has the 1400x1050 panel in it or you'll also have to change the inverter when going up to 2048x1536. Google "T60 2048x1536", it's a reasonably well documented mod for those of us that can never get enough pixels.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Baseless Rant

          Thank you.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Way way way back

    I was also peeved with the range of craptops, so I build my own using a brief case and standard MB and PSU.

    The most expensive was the 17" screen that I retro fitted into the lid of the case.

    It was still cheaper than a laptop of similar spec, the only downside was the battery, I had to use a large car battery and inverter. It would last for about 3 hours.

  21. wilhil


    Or you can just do what we do at work and have the best of both worlds- give everyone a laptop, keyboard + mouse and an external screen.

    You can keep your machine on the desk and all the benefits of a normal machine, with the added benefit that you can take the machine home at the end of the day / do work on the train!

    Next article - Ipad isn't a viable desktop replacement, Wireless is rubbish compared to wired... Almost everything has a time/place!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK - laptops, not as crap as they used to be

    Just because they're not completely crap any more doesn't mean they're good.

    Full size keyboard and 24 inch monitor, comfortable ergonomics, expandability and massively better performance still make the desktop machine my platform of choice. With a range of processors at 35W TDP e.g. i3 2120T they have green credentials now too when compared to rare earth mineral wasting laptops..

  23. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Agree with article. Some suggestions / inventions.

    Good article.

    Regarding the USB spacing, I think that chubby flash drive makers should take some flack. Stick your sticks on a diet!

    Solution: Flexible USB extension ribbon cables- 1" long. Reason: To avoid damage to either the USB device or the port when I'm being clumsy. But they would also solve the spacing issue. Also, negate need to remove devices when slipping laptop in bag. Someone, please make them!

    Use a tablet as a secondary monitor. Most tablet users have a laptop, I imagine. C'mon, Samsung, Acer, whoever- this is a feature that will distinguish you from your competitors! Apple only don't do it because they sell enough tablets already.

    Number Pad. I bought my sister a USB number pad some time ago, and she loves it. She has something to do with finance. Those of my peers who are in finance tend to be women, with little cutsey ThinkPads, sans number pad. D'oh!

    Solution: Swap out the Optical drive for a retractable number pad. These ladies have DVD players under their TVs, they don't need one on a 13" lappie!

    <smug mode> This is an older DELL Vostro, Core2 Duo T9550 with a 17" 1920 x 1200. Refurb. No complaints. I think I got lucky; anything older wouldn't have enough grunt, anything newer would have a godawful 1080 screen. It dodges most of the points in the article, but only because it is a big heavy bastard. It think's its a desktop. 7200 rpm etc </smug mode>

  24. Bored_Steve


    Just a minor gripe, but my laptop keyboard does indeed have a numeric keypad..

  25. Pete 2 Silver badge


    > My complaints about portable computers clearly hark back to the days when they really were crap

    Oddly, my 1997 vintage Olivetti laptop would fit right in with today's offerings (apart from it having a sensibly proportioned 4:3 screen). Sure, it was slower and had less memory - but W95 (when it didn't crash) was so much faster, esp. without the need for anti-virus and more frugal that it balances out - ref: Wirth's Law.

    The screen was a usable 12.1 inches, comparable with most screens today and the number, size and position of keys was exactly the same. So in terms of development, there's been little progress in the past 15 years. Even the screen resolution wasn't too far off todays low-end models (1024x768 vs. 1366x768 and in colour!). Battery life, too, was neck-and-neck.

    The only thing that differentiates was the price: £3,600 back then and maybe 1/10th of that now.

    So as far as crappiness goes, it seems like not much has changed.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you think laptop touchpads are bad

    Try operating the knobbly bit on an early Toshiba Libretto.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What bugs the crap out of me

    Back around 2003 (ish) I got a Dell UltraBook (wasn't called that at the time, but that was what it was). It had a 1920x1200 screen. This was better than a lot of standard monitors at the time (the standard desktop monitor at work was 1600x1200). Since I did a lot of coding on the laptop, having the vertical screen resolution so I could see lots of lines of code was crucial. Last year, I was looking for a new laptop, and i found nothing with a 1200 vertical screen resolution. Everything had gone 1080 (or less). At the same time, my home setup is a 2560x1600 screen and a 1600x1200 in portrait next to it. I find it unbelievable that in 8 years desktops have improved massively, but laptops have gone backwards. For this reason alone, I always thing that people who claim that desktops are dead are spouting rubbish.

    1. handle

      Re: What bugs the crap out of me

      But you can plug a desktop display into a laptop.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        External monitor

        Yes, within limits though, if you only have a VGA-out socket.

        It's rather hard to find out what those limits are.

        I did fancy a Dell 2560 x 1600 Ultrasharp jobbie. Ho hum.

        1. handle

          Re: External monitor

          True if you only have VGA out. But you'd be hard pressed to find a recent laptop without HDMI etc.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: External monitor

            Very true. But then it would most likely have a 16:9 screen too : D

            1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

              Re: External monitor

              Turn 16x9 screen through 90deg

              set xrandr for 90deg the other way

              perfect screen for documents!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What bugs the crap out of me


        If I have to plug a desktop display into my laptop to get a usable screen, I might as well just go out and buy a desktop. It will either cost less for the same power, or have more power for the same price as a laptop.

    2. JulianB

      Re: What bugs the crap out of me

      Is the "nothing greater than 1080" problem because everything now has a wide-screen format? For a given diagonal size, I'd rather have the taller screen shape - at least until it reaches the equivalent of A4 vertical

  28. Aaron Em

    Who is this tiresome jackass Dabbs

    and why won't he go away?

    1. Mr Young

      Re: Who is this tiresome jackass Dabbs

      Hey man - you sound much more intelligent than you actually are! How do you do that?

      1. Aaron Em

        What makes you imagine

        you're equipped to tell the difference?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You contradict yourself, sir!

    You can have a numpad on your laptop, actually. The latest widescreen crop are wide enough to sport them. Before the advent of glossy widescreens you could lug it around as an extra or have it in a convenient drawer built right in.

    Me, I never use the damn thing, not even on the old desktop. I could do with a keyboard that's that much less wide, in fact. Make it detachable or wholly separate; I'd drop it in a drawer and forget about it entirely. More room for the mouse. On that note, I never use the wheel but I do use middle button a lot. With a wheelmouse hitting that button invariably means also causing several scrolling events, with high probability. Swapping it with the right button isn't an option since that merely means shifting the pain around, not circumveting it. Where are the wheel-less three button /optical/ mice? There are so many models that vary only in size and colour and styling a bit, but a truly different approach like that just isn't to be had.

    PgUp/PgDn sit in a sensible, easily reached position on my stone age thinkpad 570. Could use bigger F keys and a sensibly-sized ESC key, as I use that a lot. No winders keys is nice, just shift the fn key to between a nicely-sized ctrl and alt keys, thanks. It also has a trackpoint. Wish I'd have that on my desktop keyboard too.

    I doubt the new touchpads won't do the same thing that drove me bonkers having to use a trackpad-enabled laptop: Detect my thumb while I'm busily touch-typing and suddenly move the cursor somewhere else. Since I always use focus-follows-pointer, that means having to stop what I'm doing, move my hands off the keyboard and onto the touchpad, move the cursor back, then go back to what I was doing. Look ma, it's got distractions built right in!

    As for distracted, so is the author. Bring up points like wanting a screen with more vertical room, that I happen to agree with, then finish up with wishing for a "cinematic" display? Wasn't that laptop ment for getting /work/ done? Apparently blinded by the shiny glossyness of the latest tech that's designed exactly to be shiny and glossy and not for getting work done, he forgets to follow through on just what would really make a good laptop for the only thing that really justifies a laptop in the age of "smart" bloody everything. Bit of a pity, really.

    1. handle

      I think you need a new mouse

      Just get one with a bit of clickiness in the wheel and you won't cause scrolling when you press it. Or take it apart and disable the wheel sensors with a bit of black pen or tape.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's not the same.

        And for now I really do not need a new mouse. The M-S35 in use now is a ps/2 three-button mouse. Downside is the ball, and that the pads on the underside have vanished. Other than finding replacement pads and occasionally cleaning the ball and rollers, it works fine. It's just that I would prefer an optical mouse with three buttons and no wheel. Trying to hit that middle button on a wheelmouse even with scrolling sensors disabled is so much less satisfying.

        And yeah, I'm not using windows. Plenty classic X apps assume three buttons present. See there the effects of monoculture.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: It's not the same.

          Apologies, did not know you were not using Windows / OSX. However:

          $ sudo apt-get install xbindkeys will help you.

          Unless of course your system doesn't support USB Human Input Devices.

          I do agree that the implementation of the middle button on many trackpads is very poor (push L & R at the same time).

          You do know that most laptops allow the trackpad to be turned off? Usually [Fn]+[an F key].

          Also, you can disable the track hilst you are typing:

          Hope this helps.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: You contradict yourself, sir!

      "On that note, I never use the wheel but I do use middle button a lot. With a wheelmouse hitting that button invariably means also causing several scrolling events, with high probability."

      I have felt your pain.

      Solution: Buy a mouse with buttons on the side, in addition to the traditional L, R and Middle. Some Logitech rodents have a 'Zoom' button by the thumb, next to the browser Frwd /Back buttons. Using 'Setpoint' (mouse config) I set that to be the middle button, and make the [scroll wheel push down + Scroll] the 'browser zoom' button.

      This is essential workaround because many CAD packages use [Middle Button + move] for rotate, and [Scroll Wheel only] for view zoom. And as you say, it is tricky to push down on the scroll-wheel without scrolling, especially on Logitech mice with the free-scrolling wheel (though it can be made to go click click click if required.

      And you will probably find the extra buttons very handy. It's hard to go back to a less well-endowed mouse. I'm sure Microsoft mice are good too, I just haven't tried them for years. I hope this helps.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: You contradict yourself, sir!

        Actually, Microsoft's mice aren't good, even the one I have that has clicky-clicky when I rotate the scroll-wheel and I'm forever clicking just above or just below where i mean to click.

        The only thing I really like about it is its 1/8" exposed USB adapter... I can leave it installed when bagging my machine.

    3. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: You contradict yourself, sir!

      Last time I went to a cinema, the screen was pretty tall.

  30. Commentard Prime

    Good grief...

    ... you got paid more for this article than my entire last project.

  31. wowfood

    My new novatech laptop pretty much resolves the majority of the issues raised in this piece.

    the screen is a fair size / resolution. admitadly not as large as was wanted in this artical (15.6 inch * 1366*768) but its good enough for 90% of tasks, and I could have gotten a higher res screen (1920 I believe) but couldn't justify the price.

    The cpu has a nice bit of grunt, 4gb memory, full keyboard including numpad / up/down keys etc.

    the trackpad is pretty crappy, but I never use it anyway, bought a micromouse which plugs in nicely. Since its a widescreen laptop there's plenty of spacing between ports.

    The only thing lacking is the HD, 500gb, I plan to upgrade to an SSD when I get the cash though since space isn't the main issue on my laptop, I keep my videos etc on the PC, if I want them on the laptop I'll just access the network drive.

  32. Redbull916

    The whole point of a laptop is portability.

    If you sitting down at a desk then use a desktop or plug a massive monitor, hard drive, proper keyboard and mouse into you laptop.

    On the move you need something light and powerful. I work in IT and carried a massive laptop around for years. I've now got a bad back.

    Using online storage and remote access, you don't need a portable server. I now use an i7 macbook air with a 256gb SD which weighs the same as the power supply for my old laptop.

  33. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    @Alistair Dabbs

    Let me guess, after point 5 you've had the audience with El Reg? Good article though. Unfortunately, I'm still plagued with one of the older models with no battery life, tiny resolution, unusable keyboard layout...

  34. yossarianuk

    100% True !

    I 100% absolutely agree - mobile technology is crap to do so many things.


    - work

    - play games - desktops GPUS are far better (also see below)

    - watch films/tv (watching 1920x1080 on a large screen is so much better)

    - controlling - touchpads are complete wank

    - listening to music (unless you like tinny sounds)

    - upgrading

    I am about to buy a new computer and its going to be a desktop....

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: 100% True !


      + Depends where you are. Get an external display and keyboard- if only for the better ergonomics. Cheaper than a chiropractor. For Office etc, no difference.

      - play games - desktops GPUS are far better (also see below)

      + Mobile GPUs can do the job though. Not at 8x AA full details 60 fps, but hey... buy a PS3 for cheaper than the latest Geforce.

      - watch films/tv (watching 1920x1080 on a large screen is so much better)

      +That is what your TV is for

      - controlling - touchpads are complete wank

      + Buy a mouse

      - listening to music (unless you like tinny sounds)

      + Headphones are your friend. Or an external amp. On a budget? Google 'Tripath Amp'. Last I looked, my desktop didn't have ANY speakers of its own.

      - upgrading

      +Okay, you've got me. It does seem a shame to waste a good display just because your CPU lacks grunt. : D

  35. the-it-slayer

    Smell the reality Mr.Writer....

    Ho, ho, ho. What do we have here? A writer who doesn't smell any hint of reality. Yes, you want a convienient laptop, but isn't prepared to get hand surgery to reduce the hand size to fit more keys on 13" keyboard. Has he tried to work with a 17" laptop in his lap that comes with all the bells and whistles he describes? It's like trying to work with a 2 tonne elephant trying to do a balancing act on a small lap area.

    My Macbook Pro in 13" size does me fine with the 1280 x 800 resolution. It's not too big and not too small so can't see the damn icons/text/or anything else. The connections? Get an extender if you so wish.

    Oh, and anyone saying 4:3 is better than 16:9 for displays? Looking at a square object that size for a long period of time is awful on the eye. 16:9 is just natural like your average hairy unshaved bush.

    Next useless article please!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Smell the reality Mr.Writer....

      Reality? 4:3 isn't square. And yes, if you trawl the interwebs, you will find an old NASA or USAF document detailing the human field of vision (approx 16:9 but curvy shaped and with fuzzy areas) but an A4 document is taller than it is wide.

      As are the pages in most books and magazines you have. Its not much fun if the sentences you are reading span your entire field of view (especially since our peripheral vision is geared for movement, not sharpness). That is why magazines often employ multiple columns on one page. Don't believe me? Go watch a subtitled film at the cinema and sit right at the front. You won't thank me for it!

      In addition, the actual working window on a display is often made even narrower than 16:9, because of the Taskbar, Window Title and Footer bars take up vertical space.

      Your Macbook has a 16:10 resolution. No one here is trying to outlaw 16:9; we just want the option.

      1. Paul 135

        Re: Smell the reality Mr.Writer....

        Indeed, if there's one thing I have to hand to Apple, at least they stuck to 16:10. ... Still, I'm not giving in to the evil fruit company - am sticking by my 6 year old Acer with broken hinges until some non-Apple manufacturer finally decides to LISTEN.

  36. Christian Berger

    There are different applications

    There are different markets. If I want a large screen and a numeric keypad (which actually exists on some notebooks) I'll get a desktop machine.

    However if you want to have a portable device, you need to make some compromises. That's why laptops have tiny keyboards and screens, as well as low power CPUs. Only that way you can reach 5+ hours on a battery still light enough to be carried with you.

    That's why I got an IBM X40 as a portable device. The only thing I'm missing would be integrated UMTS, but that didn't make any sense when it came out.

  37. h3

    16:9 sucks

    16:10 is best followed by 4:3

    Any mobile CAD workstation will give you 17" 1920x1200 (And enough power to power a few external monitors if you want - maybe using the dock maybe without).

    Don't use consumer junk for work.

  38. Jonegerton

    Just the thing

    The Amilo xi 3650 I'm reading this on has almost none of the issues (except for the dodgy trackpad and the rubbish battery life).

    It does have the disadvantage that it weighs almost as much as the desk it is sat on, as a result of which I've only left the house with it once!

    One the plus side its great for working on sat on the sofa, as long as I have my marble mouse handy, and it has the only laptop screen I've ever been happy to code on (18.4").

  39. Fuh Quit

    It's laptops all the way for me

    Yes, sometimes there is some compromise to make - but let's look at what I've had recently....

    Personal: Dell M1330 XPS - nice design, form factor and only had the mobo replaced once under warranty.....! Copper mod in place, 4 years old and still running. Couple that my HP Touchpad running ICS and I'm good to go anywhere............I do have a pair of Dell Mini 9s that I don't use anymore....!

    Work: Lenovo x220. At last Lenovo are delivering top quality again - I'd been through some T61/x61 paths to where I am now and I love the thing - I'd almost get one to replace my XPS but there is something on the horizon.....

    Coming soon.....Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. I just like what it can do - I want to go from 5 hours battery life on the x220 to 10 or more.

    Whatever the drawbacks, I want to compute where I want. Cables optional. With 18 hours of commuting every week, I could not be without the x220 for work and the Touchpad for relaxing on the way home.

    A beer for the throwback article. I do remember touching a Compaq Portable PC once:

    1. koolholio
      Thumb Up

      Re: It's laptops all the way for me

      My laptops survived a car crash writing off the car and the laptop screen... a whole cup of coffee spilt through the keyboard and through the case...

      So far i've changed the battery and thermal compound (consumables), monitor, keyboard, RAM (more power!), hard drive (for a bigger one - 750GB)

      never had any problems with the ports or anything else, was manufactured by Advent... pretty adaptable rugged cases.

      Lasted almost 7 years now! and appears it will last many many more, i find the reason why laptops/netbooks etc die so quickly is the lack of thermal pad life!

      Laptops will be hard to kill, if consumerisation doesn't kill it first, along with the economy!!!

  40. DvorakUser

    Fantastic troll

    You had me getting ready to point out all the things I disagreed with you on, and then you got to points 7 and 8. Well done, my good sir. Well done, indeed.

  41. richard 7


    OK I know its living on borrowed time being one of the really fragile HPs suffering from nVidia issues BUT I paid nothing for it and its my 'on site laptop' for which it is unbeatable. It will be replaced with an Asus Transformer when it lets go badly enough I cant repair it. However sat on a desk trying to use it for anything other than notes/diagostics/troubleshooting its bloody awful. I do have a larger 17" Vaio but I still prefer to do anything contructive on my desktop.

  42. Azzy

    Amen on vertical screenspace.

    The vast majority of consumer laptops have 1366x768 screens, which just isn't enough - I think the reason is that most consumers are stupid, and don't fully understand that screen size is measured both in inches AND resolution. Apple is once again helping us all out though - within a few months of the first macbook with a retina display, we'll have it on PCs as well. That day can't come soon enough.

    Never understood the numpad complaints, but I do really miss pgdn and pgup having dedicated keys.

    Blame for port-spacing issue lies with the device manufacturers who think that everyone's USB ports have acres of space around them. Desktops have the stacked USB port configuration, wherein a large device will block both ports, and it's been common since USB came out. So why do we have dongles (and USB keys, where the "we can't fit it into a smaller case" argument doesn't hold up) that don't fit?

    Trackpads ARE rubbish, and no amount of multitouch can change that. You can't beat a 12-inch spot of desk space and a mouse with a 3 inch trackpad. Especially when it's located where you rest your palms, leading to palmclicks, or palmclick-prevention measures which are a cure often nearly as bad as the disease.

    I still don't understand how people run out of disk space, though. Unless you pirate movies wholesale, have a pervert-sized collection of HD porn, or work in the video editing biz, even the typical laptop HDD sizes are overkill.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Amen on vertical screenspace.

      My work laptop HDD is about 80% full, because it's what I use for development and customer support, in the office and in the field.

      So I have most of the version history for several products and a few SDKs.

      Those add up fast.

      Though I suppose I don't need the local copies of 5 year old software installers anymore...

    2. P. Lee

      Re: Amen on vertical screenspace.

      Apple trackpads are actually rather good, but they are larger than normal. If they would just add "down and round in a circle to keep going down" I'd be happy. You also have to configure them from the default of pressing really hard to just tap.

      The tiny trackpad areas on most pc laptops are horrid.

      Of course, none of them are as good as mice if you have a desktop to work on, but if your laptop is actually on your lap, its easier than trying to use a mouse on your knee, or the sofa. If you have a desk, I reckon your own mouse with frikkin' laser beams is worthwhile over the nasty optical cheapies out there.

      I was given a stand-alone apple trackpad. It turns out to be quite handy to control an "under the telly" computer of OSX or Windows persuasion. Haven't tried it on *nix yet.

  43. Sooty

    I miss my old laptop

    It met with an accident on the business end of a glass of water, but I've never been able to find a similar replacement, which I'd really like.

    It was before "High Definition" so it was a just a 15" laptop with a 4:3 matt screen and 1400x1200 resolution, driven by a stand alone graphics card!

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    big screen laptops and airplanes...

    Unless you are flying biz class, you cannot open the lid of a 17 incher far enough to get an angle to view it properly due to the seat in front.

    So forget working or one of your own DVDs to watch.

    The 12" screen of a Lenovo x32 works lovely and so do even smaller netbooks

    Actually 12" is just right for occasional travel working, netbooks went too far in the small screen direction


      Re: big screen laptops and airplanes...

      If you are in tight quarters on an airplane, nothing beats a tablet. Been using my Archos for years for this very use case. Sure you can get a bigger screen with a conventional laptop but then you have no place to put it really.

      12" tablet with a proper USB port might be nice. Plug in the hard drive, pick a movie, copy it, continue on my merry way without the power drain of the hard drive.


    Can't just wish away those faults... particular, the ergonomics of laptops are crap. That's one of the reasons that tablets have been welcomed by casual users. You no longer have to hunch over a tiny screen, typing on a crap keyboard while giving yourself a permanent spinal injury.

    Compared to a crap laptop keyboard, an onscreen GUI keyboard is not so bad.

    If you aren't being productive, you want the controls to be somewhere else. If you are being productive, you still want the controls somewhere else an the monitor at a proper height. Achieving the latter will necessarily require ditching the keyboard.

    Sure you can use some sort of "docking station" but that kind of defies the whole point.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    gone the Ancient Beast route

    Old ex-corporate ThinkPad T61p, 1920x1200 15.4" IPS screen (ridiculously good viewing angles), Core 2 duo, 3G RAM - £200. Replace HDD with SSD and what a lovely toy that makes it (if more storage was needed one could put an HDD in the DVD bay). Battery life is miserable, but given everything else it does I'm happy.

    Oh and it has a trackpoint...

  47. Madboater

    Laptops are Awsome

    If you need a decent level of computing power at a usable size that you need to move about with you. If they don't meet your requirements then don't buy one. Personally I have down-graded from a desktop pc to a laptop because my den has been converted into a nursery (apparently someone else wants to store their toys in there), making a "desktop replacement" laptop the best option for me.

  48. koolholio

    Whilst humourous, Wheres your logic?

    If you want a cinematic display, then find one that has the same pinout/connector type on the board and build a case! or use an external portable VGA monitor!

    Include a multi-touch touchscreen overlay... then whinge about the touchpad! its a similar membrane in your tablet / smartphone :-)

    If you want hard drive storage, buy a bigger hard drive! and yes, include an external hard drive for backing your **** up, bluetooth keyboard in the order too...

    weighs nothing = costs more, breaks easier when you sit down on it accidently! LOGIC!?

    If USB port space is a problem, buy an extension cable / "compatible" hub

  49. heyrick Silver badge

    I get real work done on an eeePC 901

    Small screen? Check. Lowish memory? Check. SD card four times larger than the internal drive? Check.

    But on the other hand, it fits into a backpack, it runs for ages, and I don't panic if it experiences shock (bad roads etc) while it is running. I guess a real PC is cool if you have an office and a designer chair. Some of us are a little more...bohemian. Just last week (when it was warm!) I wrote code sitting in a reclining chair with cherry blossom falling around and nothing above my head but the sky. The screen was a little hard to see in the sunlight, but I wouldn't have traded it for a cubicle for anything.

  50. atippey

    Two words

    Thermal envelope.

    Laptops (especially Ultrabooks) are damn near just about the worst shape for dissipating heat. The laptop versions of the same part always have reduced frequency, cache, core count, etc. Partially because they would murder battery life and partially because they'd cook your notebook and/or anything it sat on. This is not such a problem now that even mediocre processors are more than powerful enough for needs of 95% of users, but it's one of the primary reasons a tower of some sort will remain on my desk for the foreseeable future.

  51. Shao

    Widescreen laptops

    My gripe is the move to widescreen laptops.

    They actually do give you the numeric keypad, but then the tradeoff is that EVEN MORE keys double up using the function key so a select down in Microsoft Word is FN-CTRL-SHIFT-DOWN etc. Not to mention that the main keyboard is shunted to the left to accommodate the numeric.

    Second gripe is that wih fairly cheap (sub-£400) non-widescreen laptops, you can get a resolution of 1200x800. New widescreen laptops sub-£700 all have 1366x768. Most people register the 1366 which is great because its widescreen. However, its not until they use their laptop for a while that they notice the x768 downwards which is less than the x800. The problem with this effect is that although the number of pixel differences don't seem that much, you end up scrolling down a heck of a lot more in searches and also when trying to edit anything there is not enough vertical space.

    I am not sure how the Ultrabooks are going to shape up, but let's hope its an improvement.

    1. dajames

      Re: Widescreen laptops

      "... wih fairly cheap (sub-£400) non-widescreen laptops, you can get a resolution of 1200x800. New widescreen laptops sub-£700 all have 1366x768."

      Non-widescreen (4:3) would be 1024x768. What you're (probably) thinking of is the common 16:10 resolution of 1280x800. 1366x768 is 16:9.

      It's ironic, really, that as manufacturers plunge headlong into the folly of putting wider screens into laptops they don't take advantage of the wider chassis to fit a fuller keyboard. While fitting a numeric pad on a laptop with a 4:3 display would have been a bit tricky, there's a lot more space with a 16:9 screen.

  52. dajames

    Apple are showing the way ...

    No, I'm not an Apple user ... but I really do love the screen of the new iPad. I'm SO close to buying one though $DEITY knows what I'd use it for. I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping that the example Apple have set with their "Retina" displays (stupid name, though it is) will be picked up by every other manufacturer and offered -- at least as an option -- on laptops.

    I'm still waiting for a sub-2kg laptop with a 14" 2560x1600 (or better) display, 4-core CPU of average speed, 8GB+ of RAM and 1TB+ hard disk. Offer me that spec today and I'd pay moderately senseless amounts of money. Let me have it without Windows preinstalled and I'll bite your hand off.

    BIG displays on laptops just bugger the portability, it's the pixel count that determines the amount of information that can usefully be displayed AND the clarity with which it can be displayed.

    No icon seems appropriate ... so I'll go for beer as the default option.

  53. Simon Harris

    And another thing

    Why is it virtually impossible to find a laptop with a stereo line-in socket and decent audio?

  54. david 12 Silver badge

    Osborne Computer

    The author does a disservice to Adam Osborne and the Osborne Computer.

    The computer had a useful, intuitive, screen interface, rather like that used on the iPhone/iPad. where the logical screen is larger than the physical screen, and the physical screen scrolls across the surface of the logical screen.

    I haven't used an iPhone/iPad enough to know if their screen design is equally intuitive, but I haven't heard any complaints.

    It was always a mistory to me why subsequent PC designs, including the Apple and Win/86 designs, adopted the useless and painful unix/x-windows multiple-screen/multiple window metaphor, instead of the useful and painless Osborne/iPad metaphor.

  55. Anonymous Coward

    Dell Precision M6500

    answers most of these complaints:

    * 1600x1200 wuxga

    * Keyboard + num pad

    * Two drive bays

    The only problem? You can't get it with the WUXGA display anymore. In fact the only laptop above 1024 lines of resolution now is the MacBook Pro 17"

    WTF is with this trend of selling business laptops designed for watching "HD" movies?

  56. doveman

    Cheap solution for home use

    If you just need a portable device at home, running Thinstation (or a stripped down XP) on an old laptop to RDP to a Windows desktop works great. Obviously if you need to take the device out and about it's not so good (although you can still RDP via SSH to the desktop), but it works great for my Dad who just likes to use his laptop downstairs on the sofa in the living room and saves him upgrading his (ancient and knackered) Sony VIAO. Although I do need to try and fix it as it doesn't charge the battery (either of them, he bought an additional one) so he has to run it with the PSU all the time!

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lenovo Thinkpad W701 - 2.25TB storage, 16GB memory, 17" screen, 1920x1600, TrackPad AND TrackPoint, built -in WACOM digitizing pad, built-in color calibtarot built like a tank. And if you want more display space, the W701ds has a secondary 10.6" display that pops out of the side of the lid.

    Of course, the battery life is minimal, and it weighs a ton, but I love it.

  58. Jason Togneri

    Viewing angles on mobile screen


    Not everybody likes to be in public (which, frankly, is the principal advantage that laptops have over desktops - portability) where any stranger sitting anywhere vaguely near you could easily read or watch whatever is on your screen.

  59. bhtooefr

    I ended up building the laptop I wanted...

    ...because I wanted something with dual cores, support for 8 GiB RAM, and a 2048x1536 IPS display, and I couldn't buy it.

    So, I have a ThinkPad T61p motherboard in a 15" 4:3 T60 chassis, with a display that was used in a certain medical configuration of the ThinkPad R50p.

    That solves points 1, some of 3 (and I can dock if I need better port spacing), 5, and 6 (TrackPoint).

    Unfortunately, it's not what you want in point 8. ;)

  60. Furbian

    They ARE rubbish, but not for all the reasons given..

    ... they are not economic to service, and about as un-green as you can get. I have a Sony Vaio lying around, which was £1200 new, died after 18 months, examination revealed that board had died, so a perfectly good screen, the most expensive component, wasted and probably going to end up in a landfill one day.

    Nearly all laptop ports are directly on the motherboard, one bad accidental cable yank, and you'll need a board change.

    Desk top's? No component will usually (£400 graphics cards not withstanding) be worth more than 20% of the whole things, motherboard, CPU, etc. Anything dies, getting a replacement is easy.

    My HP Envy 17's Blu-ray drive died, they fixed it under warranty, but if it was not, it looks a total pig to open even for that to be replaced.

    Oh and my fantastic Acer's. One was lasted the distance, despite hinges snapping, which I was lucky to be able to get second had, Acer spent a year trying to get me the right ones, and eventually said it was too old for them to get parts for. Now however the machine has a great display, and Windows 7 works quite well on it, but driver support has gone, none for the TV card, and waking Windows results in screen gunk, fixable by doing a sleep and wake again.

    The Acer 8920G, those Gem Blue ones, well its sound has 'gone', and yes, it's a chip on the motherboard, surface mounted, so we used external USB speakers with an audio device built in. Oh but then its inverter died, so no screen either, time to use with an external monitor. Yes I bought an inverter for it, but for some odd reason they don't last long. Again most of machine is fine, let down by small issues, rendering machine unusable.

    Driver updates from manufacturer? Typically years behind desktops, if they happen at all in some cases.

    They are also 'quirky', 'something' about their architecture will usually result them being slower than a desktop with the same spec. The Envy 17 exceeds (i7, vs i5) my desktop in performance on paper, bar the graphics card, but still feels slower despite a fresh SSD and a clean Windows install, life's too short to work out why. Maybe there are Fn key, power and screen management etc. issues, i.e. laptop related hardware.

  61. John Savard


    While the article is tongue-in-cheek about laptops, still, everyone is excited about various pad and cellphone devices which really aren't all that useful yet. Because they are more convenient to carry about.

    People will put up with a lot in return for something they can always have with them, instead of something that is an effort to carry around. I wish I had an answer to the tradeoffs between portability and functionality.

  62. Fink-Nottle


    "let me tell you how frustrating it is to be unable to preview - let alone design - a portrait page on a laptop at actual size. To be able to do this, I’d need a vertical resolution of 1024 plus another 60-or-so pixels to accommodate the software’s title bar, etc."

    It's a little known fact that they did attempt build a laptop with the extra resolution.

    However, the people who design the software used to preview a portrait page at full resolution said they also needed a further 60 pixels to run *their* software at full screen.

    Then the people who make the application needed to design the software used to preview a portrait page at full resolution said they required 60 more pixels to run *their* software at full screen.

    Following this, the firm that develops the software that allows the people who make the application needed to design the software used to preview a portrait page at full resolution ...

  63. larokus

    Somewhat Disagree..

    Somewhat disagree...

    My 3 yeard old gateway FX has a 1980 x 1200 led screen, full keyboard with number pad, 2 Hard drive bays ALA 1TB (upgraded) and a 1GB 9800GTS nvidia card (top shelf at the time) with hdmi/vga out for additional monitor support. Oh did I mention it was 799 Canadian THEN ? Trackpads are a frustration which is why I always carry a wireless mouse with nano dongle, and a belkin 7 port usb hub in my Laptop bag to address the other issues you mentioned. To sum it up The article is a bla.ket statement making it ultimately false.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Somewhat Disagree..


  64. Andsetinn

    I agree with 1-7

    I agree with most of the reasons from 1-7 and I want to add my 2c.

    * Newest monitors are absurd. They are way to low and wide to allow people to do decent work. As I'm typing this about 20% of the top and the bottom of the screen (together) are unusable because of address bar, tabs, etc. And because it is so wide, about 40% of the space on the sides is black emptiness. Put this together and 30-40% of the screen is unusable because of its proportions. Granted they are good for watching videos, but I use my TV for that.

    * Any monitor over 14-15" makes the laptop to big to be carried around comfortably.

    * If I use laptop with numpad, my hands are not centered in front of the monitor when I type so I have to sit in uncomfortable position.

    * The keyboards are uncomfortable, too flat and even.

    About the only thing I like about laptops is, that as I'm typing this, my laptop is using about 30 watts. My desktop PC and its big monitor use over 100 watts doing the same thing. Although the desktop PC is much more powerful and the desktop monitor is much bigger, I usually use my laptop to browse the net because of the power savings.

  65. Crok

    Dell XPS M1730

    My laptop has a 1920x1200 display and a numerical keypad. The 300 gig RAID 0 array is sufficient for a Vista/Linux dual boot and I have a NAS for all my personal files. Also, it has enough USB ports that I can plug a mouse in one side, a card reader in another and still have two sockets free for charging my PDA and phone.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Everything is crap

    So much better in my day - Golden Age, cricket on the green, cream teas with Nanny, etc.

  67. This post has been deleted by its author

  68. CNXTim

    Notebooks ARE still crap

    I'll add another point; (9?) since i live a beautiful but somewhat dusty part of the world this itty bitty, fiddle farty notebook case needs to be dismantled and cleaned (by a man with smaller fingers and much more patience than i) twice a year to stop it overheating, and as for the footprint, my old cheap and nasty case is still UNDER not ON the desk.. Apart from the two additional screens i also use an external 5 button mouse and keyboard.

  69. robin penny

    Current laptops are still C**** 1 picture is worth 1000 words.

    I wouldn't but any of the laptops on the market at the moment. Although resolutions have improved, the vertical screen size is still too small, it's no good being able to see more lines if you have to strain your eyes to do so. The big problem is that laptops with widescreen displays are cheper to make than the older 4:3 layout, so that's why they are foisted upon us. This is probably also another reason for squashing USB ports together (shorter base).

    Unlike the author I think most of us don't use numeric keypads, which on full size keyboards are unergonomic, pushing the Mouse hand too far to the right. A trackpad is fine for me too, particularly if it's a Synaptics one with coasting.

    The future is clearly a 4:3 tablet with external keyboard. Well more than that, something like the Asus Transformer with a 4:3 screen/tablet that can be attached in portrait layout (tablet runs Android, or perhaps Metro, Base runs Windows), but how long are we going to have to wait for it?

  70. mark 63 Silver badge

    bigger laptop

    Why has no one made a laptop bigger?

    Who decided it has to be A4 sized? - you could have one the size of a 24" screen and it'd be as good as a desktop to use without all the extra wires - and still portable when you needed it to be.

    The limit on portable isnt A4 sized and 400 grams

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the iPad could never be "better" than a notebook.

    …….to say otherwise is ludacris.

    Of course if you’re developing an iPad app, an iPad would be better! W O W Obvious!

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I see your problem

    you like cats.

    Really though, the ideal laptop would have a gigantic display, say around 6000 pixels by 1550 or so. Haven't seen one yet, it would be like a surfboard. But we do use multimonitor off laptops here, not quite as good but better than being stuffed into a single laptop 1920x1200 display...

  73. Paul 135

    16:9 Sucks balls

    At the very least we need to demand 16:10.

  74. sorry, what?

    Utterly pointless article

    The above says it all. Why did I bother to read it? D'oh!

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Finally someone has acknowledged the awful truth. I post this 3 days late because I was holed up in a disaster recovery exercise all last week and forced to use a laptop for all non-DR related computing -- which got old really fast. One point can't be repeated too many times though: as bad as laptops have always been, the imbecilic decision to force wide screen displays down all our throats was the final straw for me. Wide screen displays are not just useless for those of us who have to do *real* work with computers, they're debilitating. Of course the work desktop I'm typing this came with a 19" wide screen display as well because "that's what our vendor offers".

  76. Derek Clarke

    My current laptop has 1TB of disc and 6GB of RAM, but I didn't buy it like that.

    Just because it's a laptop it doesn't mean that you have to be satisfied with what the manufacturer installs.

    I never own a laptop without upgrading the hard disc and RAM at some point in its life. The most complicated one to change was a Sony where you had to remove the keyboard, but most modern laptops have one or more handy hatches on the bottom to help with this.

  77. Fading

    I miss my....

    1400x1050 on a 15.1 inch display was perfect for working on. I haven't found a screen as good and if it hadn't died on me I'd probably still be using it (even if it would have been 8 years old).

  78. Rob Davis

    Love my 9" Toshiba NB100 XP machine

    Dinky versatile swiss army knife of a machine.

    Three years old running Windows XP home on 2Gb and a 1.6Hz Atom, 120Gb HD and still a swift little work horse.

    Carry it around like a hardback book on the move. At home it hooks up to my 22" 1920x1080 display for extra space and I then forget I'm using a sub-notebook/netbook. Love it. Best of both worlds.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like