For us, laptops are almost there in terms of satisfying our tech-lust — but there are still a few tweaks we'd love to make.
Every now and then a feature turns up on a laptop that's so great we wonder why these temporary blips haven't attained permanence across the entire laptop pantheon. Then there are the niggles and frustrations that still haven't been addressed that drive us barmy. Join us as we Frankenstein our top features from all vendors in order to create our perfect laptop.
1. Better battery life
Everyone should have Apple-like battery life or better. Love them or loathe them, the Cupertino company has one of the longest battery lives in the business by a good margin.
Oh, and please stop telling us you have "all day battery life". When your laptop will play 3D accelerated games or even 720p video for 24 hours straight without dying, then you've earned the right to that little gem.
2. The MagSafe power adapter
Sure, Apple likely has this patented to within an inch of its soul, but when it comes down to it, it's just magnets. A clever use to be sure; if ever you trip over the power cable, it just comes cleanly out, not dragging the laptop off the table to smash on the floor. Samsung's already proved it can. Get to it, you Windows-based laptop scallywags.
3. Backlit keyboard
This seems reserved for gaming laptops and those models at a manufacturer's whim, with even high-end laptops often missing out on this wonderful feature.
4. Significantly better sound
The standard uber-whiny speakers are just not enough. Most vendors flirt briefly with better sound options, but limit it to multimedia offerings that quickly fade away. Others throw on stickers like "THX" and "Dolby" that mean absolutely nothing since the speakers are nothing short of horrible.
Dell's been doing it right lately by throwing JBL speakers into a large portion of its laptops, and we can only hope others follow suit.
5. Better screens
The viewing angles on laptop screens are abominable. While IPS panels are starting to make their way into budget desktop monitors, and even the iPad gets one, most laptop screens have yet to make the jump out of even TN, presumably due to economy of scale. Still, there's some out there if you know where to look.
6. USB 3.0 ... maybe
While some vendors have put the telltale blue-tongued port in their laptops, these are running off third party chipsets. See, Intel simply doesn't have USB 3.0-capable chipsets yet, meaning the likes of Apple haven't bothered. The conspiracy theorist within wants to blame Thunderbolt, and now we wonder if USB 3.0 is a lame duck almost from the beginning.
Still, surely they can't ignore the vast scores of existing Universal Serial Bus devices out there, right?
7. Large multi-touch touchpads that work
Yes, it's an Apple feature again. You'd be surprised, though, how many teensy tiny touchpads are out there, and we've yet to see a single multitouch touchpad on the Windows side that performs as advertised. While the two finger scroll is passable, they mostly get confused on other gestures, doing exactly what you don't want.
The shame of it is you can get identical hardware to the Apple solution on the Windows side — it's just the software that lets it down.
But keep the separate hardware buttons. Apple's "click to press" element simply doesn't work on the PC, thanks to the whole two button thing.
8. Higher quality webcams
Seriously, now: most laptop webcams are beyond abominable, and that's even with good light conditions. Sure, the video chat revolution has been supposedly coming for decades and hasn't quite happened yet, but let's get things in place by inserting better quality cams across the gamut. This is another area that Apple was already getting right, and then made it better by upping the resolution on its latest MacBook Pros.
9. Gigabit Ethernet
For reasons beyond our comprehension, laptops are still being sold with 100Mb ports. Time to put these to pasture.
10. Dual channel 300Mbps wireless N as the entry level
Yes, there are still laptops being sold with only 802.11g in them. Or budget laptops that are sold as wireless N, but can only cope with 150Mbps connections or won't connect to 5GHz signals at all. We'd love to see 802.11n, 5GHz, 300Mbps capable chips become the baseline.
11. SSDs that don't suck
We fully appreciate that SSDs are still in the realm of the enthusiast, with dollars per gigabyte massively outstripping mechanical drives. We also appreciate that most vendors build a laptop to a pricepoint, and squeezing in an SSD can be a difficult task. Mechanical drives still very much have a place, too, with their much larger capacities.
But all SSDs are definitely not created equal, and what we don't appreciate is just being told that an "SSD" is inside a laptop. No brand, no specs, just vague promises of massive performance increases.
Buy an included SSD these days, and you'll likely be wasting your money on a drive that's comparatively a dud. You're better off buying the laptop with a mechanical drive, and then inserting your own Sandforce-based drive after the fact.
Bonus: Things that should not be
Air vents on the left or right, potentially toasting the hand of the poor person who wants to use an external mouse. Flaps that cover ports. Touchpads that sit flush with the wrist rest so that you don't know where the edges are. Highly textured touchpads. Left and right mouse buttons molded into the one piece. The abomination that is Windows Starter Edition. Capacitive buttons that inevitably fail. Blazing LEDs that you can't turn off that glow when the machine is asleep, meaning that you don't. Quickboot operating systems that no one will ever use. Software bundled on DVDs when your machine doesn't have a DVD drive. Machines that get hot enough that their fans sound like hair dryers and the base sears your lap finer than a Texan steak.
Then there's the biggie: crapware. Replacing perfectly fine Windows programs with worse, more confusing tools, in particular anything networking. Annoying vendor tools that obscure the screen like docks and sidebar gadgets. Pointless, countless popups to register some bloody program we don't care about, or to sell something else the vendor has decided to vertically expand into like storage, games, photo printing or otherwise.
We get that inserting all that crapware on our machines subsidises the final cost, but by golly, we'd love an all in one button to remove the hideous junk.
You could even generate massive goodwill by completely honestly calling it "Speed up my PC".
What do you think? What's missing from laptops these days that you'd like to be standard? What's there now that's annoying? Leave us some comments below.