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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 …

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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...

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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@ Mikeyboosh

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

It's a Macbook Pro.

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Meh

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.

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Thumb Up

@mikeyboosh

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.

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Rob
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Re: @mikeyboosh

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

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

Well mine is a Dell Precision M6500

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Re: @ Mikeyboosh

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

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

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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!

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Yag
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Trollface

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Boffin

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.

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keyboiard?

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)

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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

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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.

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Gimp

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.

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Stop

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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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Boffin

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.

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FAIL

Re: @ Mikeyboosh

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

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Facepalm

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

The whole thing (trackpad) is a button.

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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?

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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... )

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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.

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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...

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Pint

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?

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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.

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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 ~

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WTF?

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.

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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.

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Stop

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.

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Boffin

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pint

Good Friday article

+1 beer

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