Corded Innovations

It’s time for a new laptop. In the recent past I’ve owned/used:

  • Dell m1330
  • Apple MacBook Pro (late 2007)
  • Lenovo X60 Tablet
  • Asus EeePC 1000HE
  • Apple Powerbook G4

All have been great machines but they have been lacking. The Dell m1330 has the audio jacks on the front edge, which makes using headphones on the couch an impossibility and the plasticy bits are glued/taped on, lots of power and battery life. The MacBook Pro is missing an SD card slot, the battery life is mediocre but the MagSafe connector and overall industrial design are winners. The Lenovo is a tablet which means it’s overpriced and under powered, it’s a good solid machine. The Asus EeePC has great battery life, but it is too small the keyboard is tiny.

I really like the MagSafe connector on my MacBook Pro. It has saved the laptop from an excessive number of falls (though the frame is now dented and bent from the few falls it’s had). I was wondering why we haven’t seen other manufacturers attempt to innovate around the power connector. Sure the easy answer is because Apple owns a patent for a Magnetic connector for electronic device. However, there are other patents with similar ideas and different implementations.

There is the Replug connectors for headphones (see photo). This combined with the MagSafe connector would provide break away connections for the 2 items often plugged into my laptop.

But why has no other vendor innovated on their power connections? Do consumers just not care? Is this feature non-essential in the selection of a laptop? Or is it like many of the features on a Mercedes S-class as described by Jeremy Clarkson,

“When a new S-class hoves into view, you need only look at the technology that lurks under its vast bulk and you’ll know precisely what will be fitted to the Ford Fiesta 10 years down the line”

It’s a look at the future of laptops. As much as I like hardware hacking, I’d rather not have to hack my power connector with a DIY solution (which is strangely similar to my desire to not add aftermarket products to a car).

7 thoughts on “Corded Innovations”

  1. A lot of the market is obsessed with reasonable quality, cheapest price. Still, some of the vendors and models should still be innovating with cords. Dell uses a little pin in theirs that is prone to breaking.

  2. Sounds to me like you're in the market for a new MacBook Pro. It's still go the Magsafe, but now it also has an SD Card slot and a much longer battery life.

  3. That, and all the models from 13″ to 15″ to 17″ now have the SD card slot and firewire, so you've got some flexibility on the portability factor, while only making slight processor and graphics compromises.

  4. I've wondered the same thing and it also bums me out that Apple's locked down the market on the MagSafe.

    I have another question about laptops and power connections – why is the connection normally on the side? (ignore technical & engineering issues for the moment, I'm focusing on usage) I tend to sit cross legged when using my laptop (a Dell m1330), which means that I often put pressure on the power connection point, sometimes just knocking it out and sometimes breaking it by permanently bending the cord.

    To you post I'd add that I wish that the power connection was located in a better place.

  5. Somedays I wish I could just sit a few OEMs down and patiently explain to them the proper way to design a laptop.

    I'm pretty happy with my Dell D430 right now, it has almost everything right: 12inches (not 13, I hate 13″ screens). WXGA which is just enough resolution to be fairly productive. 3lbs, lighter the better. It accept a modern/aftemarket SSD (I've done this), it has a internal 3G (apple what were you thinking with the MBA to skip WWLAN?) and an SD slot.

    The D430 a couple fatal flaws though: no backlit keyboard (ARG), no magsafe of course, no webcam oh and it's a dell so it's ass-ugly.

    The SSD was the most amazing upgrade, got a blog post on that coming. (fyi: never buy the crap SSDs the OEMs will offer you at ridiculous prices)

    But otherwise, still searching for that perfect machine myself.

  6. Hey Tom,

    Which SSD drive? Why 12″ verus 13″?

    I'm looking at the Asus UL30A-A2 because of the 16 hour battery life and price point. However, it's a 13″ screen. And has a 500Mb 5400rpm drive, that I'd love to replace with an SSD.

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