Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
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.
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?
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.
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.