Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

Summary: I was blindsided this week with the realization that the appearance of laptops, more importantly how 'good' they look, is one of the top criteria that many folks use in the purchase decision.

SHARE:
41

Fugly

Fugly

I was blindsided this week with the realization that the appearance of laptops, more importantly how 'good' they look, is one of the top criteria that many folks use in the purchase decision. I like attractive gadgets as much as anyone, but I have never used that as a major factor for buying one laptop over another. That's not true for a lot of people according to reactions to 'ugly' laptops.

This all got started when I published the review of the ThinkPad X1 laptop. It is a ThinkPad with a black boxy design typical for the line, obviously to appeal to the corporate world at which these laptops are aimed. When this review went live, the reaction to the laptop was what I see for all ThinkPad reviews: this thing is 'fugly'. Not just unattractive, but so much so that the common reaction was "I would never buy one of these."

This online reaction had me turn to Twitter where I posed the question of how important the attractiveness of a laptop is in the purchase decision. The answers I got were overwhelmingly that ugly laptops would not even be considered for purchase. Several respondents on Twitter admitted that laptops are "fashion accessories" like clothes and phones, and must be attractively designed to be considered for purchase.

Pretty

Pretty

Fashion accessory? That's not the first thing that comes to my mind when looking at a laptop, but I can see how some folks might think so. They are seen in the coffeeshop tweeting on the laptop, so I suppose it makes a statement about who they are. It certainly explains why Apple's laptops are so popular, they set the bar for attractive design.

Laptops for me are still productivity tools, I appreciate nicely designed models but it's not way up on the list of important factors for consideration. I am more interested in how portable and powerful it is to help me get my work done in a mobile setting. As a writer the keyboard on a laptop is far more important than how good it looks, but that's just me. Attractive design is a benefit, but not a requirement. How about you? Let us know in the poll how important laptop design is in your purchase decision. [poll id="6"]

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

41 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

    Triumph of style over substance, and we wonder why America is going down the toilet!
    wkulecz
    • Wait, clothes also do more than just keep you warm.

      What is wrong with that?
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

        @DonnieBoy

        Form follows function. Too many people are interested in the skin cost image and not the foundation. Ever look at the construction of many new homes. Sure they LOOK pretty, but underneath they are a pile of crap.
        7mgte
      • 7mgte: And, people are willing to pay extra to have a house with both.

        There ARE house houses that both look great and have a great foundation. There are houses that look like crap, and ARE crap underneath.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

        @DonnieBoy

        You don't need them Donnie as you still can't see through the emperor's new clothes.
        tonymcs1
      • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

        @DonnieBoy

        As the old comedy song goes,

        "It's not the clothes that make the man you know, It's the man that makes the clothes."

        Fashion for the sake of fashion is a total waste of resources. Yes, clothes do more than just keep you warm or dry. But, dressing for appearance only will often not even make you warm.

        Your clothes also make a statement of what is important to you. A 1000 Dollar watch doesn't keep time any better than a Cheap digital watch, but it does make a statement that you think you are better than other people.

        The problem being pointed out here is that it seems that the Apple people are more concerned with the case than the performance of the laptop.

        Personally, I don't care about the case. I would love a top end Lenovo, with Debian installed. Power and performance with portability. What do I care what it looks like.

        Like Architecture, style is very temporary. With time, what works well will come to be considered attractive.

        Or, as one Senior Architect once told me, "This years prize winner is next years eyesore!" Fashions change quickly. Consider the design of a hammer. Hasn't changed much in over a Century. In two years, that 'stylish' Macbook will be sooo Lasy Year!.

        BTW, I am typing this on a 5 year old HP laptop with WinXP. I just tried to replace the dual boot 3 year old Xantix with the new Ubuntu, but busybox hung with it half installed. Oh well, I'll probably settle on Mint. I value performance and usability over flash.
        YetAnotherBob
  • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

    I have never considered looks as a factor when I bought a laptop. It was always about the functionality of the laptop and layout of the keyboard and mouse.
    LoverockDavidson
    • I think we knew that. You also have a pocket protector, and glasses with

      large black plastic frames.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

        @DonnieBoy
        And, what is wrong with that???
        eargasm
      • windozefreak: well, absolutely nothing wrong with it. It is what we expect

        from lover boy.
        DonnieBoy
  • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

    It is not triumph of style over substance. My rolex looks good and keeps accurate time, my mercedes performs well on the road and looks good. I want both.
    txscott
    • Looks good to you, or somebody else?

      @rshol
      Maybe that's the thing here - who are people trying to impress, and why do they need to spend so much more on something to impress others?
      Will Pharaoh
      • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

        @Will Pharaoh

        How about impressing themselves? When you go to purchase a new car, and you check out the styling of the interior, the color, the seats, the feel of the steering wheel. Are you doing so to impress someone else or to suit your own personal taste?
        dave95.
      • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

        @Will Pharaoh <br>The answer is yes, I do it for my personal tastes and those are often formed and informed by the people we associate with. Nobody lives in a vacuum.<br><br>Some of the most obnoxious people I know go around bragging about how much they didn't spend, and vice versa.
        txscott
  • I Think

    I think comparing Lenovo to Mac will get you those kinds of reactions/comments. Lenovo's have not changed much since the IMB Thinkpad days, all their laptops are pretty much the same no matter what's inside. Even my old P3 Lenovo which was not widescreen still looks exactly the same as my current Centrino Pro.

    Take a look back at Apple laptops, 10 years ago you had the Titanium laptop which to this day still looks great...

    Steve Jobs always wanted you to open a product and say WOW...
    Hasam1991
  • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

    It's not one over the other, both style and substance plays a part equally in my purchasing decision. A laptop is something one carriers with them everywhere, places it on their desks and stares at it all day. Why wouldn't style be a factor? When we purchase a new car, we are not only purchasing it based on how well it performs, if that was the case then all cars would look the same.
    dave95.
  • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

    "When we purchase a new car, we are not only purchasing it based on how well it performs, if that was the case then all cars would look the same. "

    Don't know where you are, but around here they all pretty much do -- three types dominate. Pickup trucks, SUVs, and sedans. Until you can read the logos, they all look about the same as the others in their class.
    wkulecz
  • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

    When I bought a new laptop this year, I actually had to argue with the salesperson who kept pointing me to a "pretty" unit. It had a slower AMD processor and the DVD burner didn't have Lightscribe capability. The only thing better was a slightly bigger HD (but those can be upgraded fairly easily and I store my data on external drives anyway). I got the <b>fugly</b> model and am very happy with it.

    Someone mentioned vehicles--I have the same problem with car buying. Why do sales people think women only care about how "pretty" the car is? I freaked out the sales guy when I bought my last car because I kept asking about things like maintenance requirements, recall percentages, real vs. projected mileage, etc. when he wanted to talk about the color package and radio choices.

    Not everyone is swayed by a pretty face...
    AttackComputerWhiz
  • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

    An interesting study was done on clothing logo's (LaCross, Hilfiger (?), etc.). A label that is expensive and exclusive sends a signal of trust me (sex!) as long as the wearer is presumed to have actually paid for the item.

    So a private owner of a MacBook Air sends a message of success (aka sex!).

    A wearer of an exclusive label that was given to them (if the wearer is foolish enough to say that) communicates no more trust than a label-less garment (no sex!).

    What does that mean for MacBook Air in the corporate world?

    And since only upper management gets the ultra-thin laptops. My guess is the message from a user of an ultrathin Lenovo or Sony is ... (sex!)
    Daemeon.Reiydelle9
    • RE: Laptops: Fashion accessories or productivity tools?

      @Daemeon.Reiydelle@...
      Here is something about labels for you to chew on for a minute.

      Several years ago I visited a popular sweater manufacturing plant in Busan Korea. They made sweaters for many department stores including the upscale ones. While walking through the plant, I noticed several bins of prenamed labels. I asked and was told they make all the sweaters the same and put labels on them, according to quoatas. So much for labels!
      eargasm