When “Thin” Goes Too Far

It’s not really a secret that computer geeks go ga-ga for anything skinny.  Anime girls, MMO characters, and especially their electronic devices.  The urge to make everything as skinny and flat as possible has helped us make some pretty cool gadgets; LCD monitors, TVs, smaller game consoles, and computers.  However, there is a point at which it simply doesn’t make sense anymore.

macbook-airPerfect case in point; the MacBook Air.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the thing is gorgeous and a major technical achievement.  The CEO of my company just bought one and I got to spend a week with it, setting it up for her.  It runs Windows better than it runs OS X (and I’m not just saying that, it really just FLIES under Vista), and can do anything you’d expect from a larger computer with ease.

So why bring it up at all?  Well, it has some major shortcomings that are solely from trying to cram as much as possible into a tiny space.

  • The battery life is crap!  You can’t look at the thing and think it’s going to last for hour after hour after hour; there’s no space for such a battery!  Worse still, the battery takes forever to charge and cannot be swapped for a fresh one.
  • There is only one USB port.  ONE!  “Well,” you might say, “with such an ultra portable machine, are you really going to want a load of things plugged into it?”  That’s a good point, but let me remind yo that no one walks around with a laptop all day.  Many of us actually put it down on a desk at some point and start to ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING.  You want to use your flash drive?  Put it in the USB port.  You want to read a CD/DVD?  Plug the optional drive into the USB port.  You want to use the gigabit LAN in the office?  Plug the Ethernet-USB adapter into the USB port.  You want to do any two of those things at once?  Too bad, you’re screwed.
  • The thing can start fires.  I’m not kidding here, it really gets that hot.  The inverter where the power adapter heats up.  The inverter that runs the LCD screen heats up like crazy.  After a week of use, the CEO asked me to take a look at it because it was no longer performing as well as it had.  At first, I assumed she had downloaded something that was gumming up Windows.  Took only a few moments for me to notice that the hard drive had gotten so hot that it had locked up.  In fact, it was so hot that I was able to turn it off, unplug it, take it down the hall to my boss’s office, and still burn an Apple-shaped brand into his arm with it.  As it turns out, the thing has no fans.  It uses the aluminum chassis of the laptop itself to act as a heat sink.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but my hands get tired typing on it.  Try this exercise at home; find a flat spot on a table or desk, put a packing envelope in front of you, pretend to type on it.  Now, do that for a few hours.  I understand that repeated typing on any surface or keyboard will make your hands sore, but it feels like doing so on a hard, flat surface that’s so low makes it even worse.  Again, it might just be me.

However, as I said before, I’m not here just to rag on Apple.  The fact is that the MacBook Air really just a wild piece of technology to play around with.  When you take the thing’s price into account, though, it suddenly makes those complaints I pointed out nearly insufferable.  If you’re going to spend $1500 on a laptop, you’d be better off with one that is faster, more capable, expandable, and that doesn’t cause you bodily harm.

But it gets worse.

See, once one company does something different, other companies try and follow suit.  Instead of focusing on the Air’s obvious usability issues, Dell decided to make a laptop that was even thinner!  Even though it’s ultra thin (and GORGEOUS), it hasn’t ever really been advertised which is kind of funny.  It’s called the Adamo (uh-dah-mo), and is 0.65 inches thick throughout the entire case.

dell-adamo-pc-laptop-01A couple things about this little number just scream “YES” to me, where the Air left me annoyed:

  • Multiple ports. USB, ethernet, SIM card, and headphones are all covered.
  • Edge to edge glass screen.  Mind you, the screen itself isn’t edge to edge, but it still LOOKS incredible.
  • Completely flat design; means the dumb thing isn’t rocking back and forth like the Air.
  • It has fans!  Instead of transferring the heat into your legs/arm/desk, it actually just blows it out the rear vents.

Of course, the thing IS only 0.65 inches thick, which means it’s going to have some of the same pitfalls.

  • The battery (which Dell claims can last 5 hours) can barely make 2.  Apple claims theirs can last over 4, but I have yet to see it last 1.5 with only doing office work.  The battery is also built in, so cannot be swapped.
  • Since it’s smaller than the Air, it’s also more expensive . . .  and it’s performance sucks.  It’s 2009; your CPU should not lock up at 100% when opening a web page!  While the $1500 Apple gave you a 1.8GHz CPU, the same priced Adamo gives you only a 1.2GHz.  That’s one LARGE step down there.

One could be content to say that we’ve hit bottom.  That those two systems alone are enough to prove my point that thin is only good up to a certain point.  But where’d be the fun in that?  Now introducing the Dell Adamo XPS.

adamo-xps-1

As reported by the folks over at Engadget report (and provide a couple more pictures as well), Dell is being rather tight-lipped about the laptop.  At 9.99mm, it’s actually thinner than an iPhone.  I can only shudder at what the price and performance are going to be pegged at, however.  As cool as something like that may be, I’d hate to think of the type of person that’d buy it over an actual computer!