Notebook design: ten things we love

Notebook design: ten things we love

Summary: We all like to gripe about the technology we use day in, day out, but sometimes designers get it just right. Here are ten of our favourite things about notebooks.


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  • Ambient light sensors
    The screen consumes the most power of any notebook component, so the bigger and brighter the screen, the quicker the battery runs down. Although you can use power management software to set a lower screen brightness level when running on battery power, we like an idea seen most recently in Dell's Latitude E6500 (pictured), which borrows a trick from the mobile phone world: an ambient light sensor automatically sets the screen brightness to an appropriate level for your surroundings.

    Another idea from the Latitude E6500 we like, which is also found in some Apple MacBooks, is keyboard backlighting. On the Latitude E6500 this can be turned on and off manually or set to automatically adjust as ambient lighting conditions change. A backlit keyboard makes it much easier to work in duller conditions.


  • Flexible power management
    For mobile professionals, battery life is vital, and what we particularly value is flexibility over power management. We like notebooks that ship with a second battery, for example — either as a replacement for the main battery when it runs out, or as an adjunct to the main battery sitting in a modular bay. We also like our batteries to have a built-in LED gauge so we can check the charge level without needing to power up the notebook. And the more ways of conserving or extending battery life there are, the better. Many manufacturers provide power management software with their notebooks that goes beyond the basic Windows offering, allowing you to selectively disable system components in order to conserve battery power.


  • Small AC adapters
    The bane of a mobile professional's life is the amount of ancillary kit that needs to be carried in order to stay productive when on the road. One item that can't be left at home is the notebook's AC adapter, and in the past these could be seriously unwieldy 'bricks'. Thankfully, manufacturing efficiencies mean that power supplies can now be made small enough to properly complement the notebooks they're designed to recharge. The 36W (12V, 3A) adapter for an ASUS Eee pictured above, for example, measures just 85mm by 34mm by 26mm and weighs around 150g.

    We're less enamoured about the plethora of ideograms and standards marks that clutter up the label, but that's another story. At some point, AC adapters may become too small to accomodate them — but let's hope that doesn't hold up the miniaturisation process.


Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Reviews

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