Consumers today care as much about how a laptop or notebook looks and feels as they do about the components inside and the operating system that drives it, a trend that has prompted most computer manufacturers to rethink their design priorities. The result is that the dull, heavy notebook is rapidly becoming a historical artefact.
That’s according to Diana Hughes, business unit manager at Tarsus Distribution, who says consumers are becoming increasingly unwilling to buy chunky, grey notebooks when they can choose from a growing selection of sleek and stylish products. Factors driving this shift include changing consumer expectations, the slimming-down of computer components, and a desire among PC manufacturers to find new ways to differentiate their products, adds Hughes.
The relentless march of technology is one of the biggest reasons for the arrival of really good-looking notebooks over the past three or four years, she says. More energy-efficient processors from the likes of AMD and Intel have enabled computer makers to put more power into a small notebook with much less need for cooling.
What’s more, as display technologies have improved over the years, PC manufacturers have managed to trim the bezel around the screen to such an extent that it has all but disappeared. The result is that today’s notebooks can offer the same screen size as one from five years ago, but in a much smaller form factor.
These trends have enabled computer makers to come to market with new form factors such as ultrathin, ultralight, ultraportable designs, and hybrid two-in-ones with detachable touchscreens that can serve as notebooks and tablets. “Today’s slim, ergonomic device can weigh less than 1.5 kilograms and be as thin as 12mm,” says Hughes.
Another factor driving design in the PC market is a change in end-user expectations, Hughes says. Having become accustomed to smartphones and tablets that are small and beautiful, consumers expect to see the same user experience in other gadgets and devices, she adds. “People say, our smartphones are beautiful, so our notebooks should be, too,” Hughes says.
This is especially the case as younger consumers shop for computers. Research from Deloitte in the UK indicates that many youngsters are opting for notebooks or laptops rather than tablets. “They have grown up with phones and tablets as lifestyle devices, so they expect choice, personality and looks when they shop for a notebook,” says Hughes.
It is in PC manufacturers’ interests to deliver attractive, versatile notebooks since classy design can still be a point of major differentiation, she says. ASUS, as one example, is focusing on design through its ASUS Design HQ in Taipei, which employs over 100 designers from around the world. “There is a relentless focus on areas such as material development, mechanical design and industrial design, with influences from the worlds of fashion and consumer products” Hughes says.
“Technology has been cold and functional for so long, but we are seeing a bigger and bigger focus on designing for humans. The experience isn’t just about how the notebook performs, but the way it looks, how it feels, whether people love using it. Today’s computers must be aesthetically well-crafted in addition to running well,” Hughes concludes.