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Why some people are buying MacBook Pros with broken displays

Have you ever thought "I love my laptop, but I wish it didn't have a display?" You're not alone.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Tim Robberts/Getty Images

Ever heard of the term slabbook? What about slabtop? 

No? Until today, neither had I.

Over Slash Gear, there's an interesting report about how people are buying MacBooks and MacBook Pros with broken displays. They'll rip out the display, and then use the display-less laptop -- either with a separate monitor or by connecting to a display using AirPlay.

The idea is that a laptop is a compromise when it comes to ergonomics -- a horrible compromise -- and that it's not possible to use it in a way where the display and the keyboard are both in the optimal position.

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It's an interesting idea, and one that really isn't all that new.

As the article points out, back in the dim and distant 1980s, we had systems -- such as the Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and the Apple II -- that were essentially the same thing: a computer packed into a keyboard, and you have to supply your own display.

And if you can get your hands on one, a system such as the Raspberry Pi 400 is much the same.

But I have questions.

Does this mean that when I head off to my favorite coffee shop to work, I'm carrying a separate display and stand? Or am I AirPlaying to their TV? Is this display going to be mounted in the perfect ergonomic position for my body?

I'm not convinced.

What about at home or in the office? Where's this display? And how is this now any different from a desktop computer?

Again, I'm not convinced.

Sure, an M1 MacBook has phenomenal battery life, and that would be even more awesome without the display. But how am I powering the display when I'm at my coffee shop?

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There are also a bunch of caveats.

Some of these are listed in the article: For example, you lose the webcam, the Wi-Fi antenna in some MacBooks is built into the display, and if you need to use the MacOS recovery mode, you have to use the built-in display, otherwise, the system is dead in the water.

And if Apple decides to add some "check for a display" subroutine to MacOS, then your slabbook fun comes to an end.

It's almost as if the benefits of the design of the laptop outweigh the negatives.

People seem to love to modify MacBooks, and this reminds me a lot of the ModBook from the last decade, which was a MacBook that was Frankenstein-monstered into a tablet.

Also: This laptop case has saved me thousands of dollars in MacBook repairs

I'll be honest: There's a part of me that wants to build my very own slabbook. But if I was going to do this, I'd probably find a Windows laptop to convert. They're cheaper, easier to modify, and generally less fussy than MacBooks.

For that matter, I could pick up a mini PC (you can get them for under $200), modify it to work off of portable power, and add a tiny Bluetooth keyboard. I'd still need a display, but I'm sure there's one at the coffee shop I could use.

Or I could make something work using a Raspberry Pi. Or buy a Raspberry Pi 400

The possibilities are endless.

But then I'd remember: I'd still need to find a display, get bored, sweep aside the slabbook, and pick up a laptop or tablet.

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