Six features that should be incorporated in every laptop and five others that should be left out
There is no such thing as a perfect electronic device, but there’s no denying that we’ve come a long way in making them easier to use. Speaking of laptops, over the years we’ve seen certain features in different models that come in very handy. And then there are those features that will not be missed if they are removed. So, call this as an open letter to all the laptop makers if you will, as this is a list of six features that I feel every laptop should have, and another five that are quite an irritant and need to be rectified.
1) LED meter on the battery
They are quite convenient to check the charged capacity of the battery without having to boot into your OS. On the Macbook Pros, they are flushed into the side of the body, which is ideal. But some models from Dell and Samsung have the meter on the battery pack itself. Maybe a little inconvenient to flip the laptop over, but its way better than waiting for 30 seconds just to know how charged (or rather discharged) your battery is.
2) Multi-touch scrolling
Scrolling is an action that’s performed by a lot by computer users – whether it’s for reading through a web page or going through a file list etc. The Apple Macbooks really pushed the limit by having a large track-pad that could recognize an array of gestures for zooming in/out, switching between windows etc. But I’m talking about the simplest of them all; scrolling by simply swiping two fingers across it. In my opinion it is a better and more natural maneuver than the side-scrolling strip found on most laptops. We’ve already seen its implementation in Windows-based computers like the Eee PC. I feel it should be incorporated into every laptop out there.
3) Slot-loading optical drives
This is yet another thoughtful addition. Laptops have been coming with tray-based optical drives for eons now, and it’s time we progressed. Their mechanism makes the laptop thicker than what it could actually be. Also, an accidental hit can damage the tray. Rough usage has also shown the loosening of the tray in some laptops.
Here’s where slot-loading drives can save the day. The drive’s thinner frame allows manufacturers to build thinner laptops. One can simply slide in a CD or DVD through the thin gap provided. There’s no chance of accidental damage since there’s no tray popping out. Also, most slot-loading drives have a fabric covering the door to protect the internals from dust.
4) Ambient light sensors to automatically adjust display brightness
It is now being seen in upper-segment laptops, but is something that could be implemented in every machine. Generally, there is an ideal brightness level for different lighting environments. And it can get irritating at times to keep switching brightness levels as you shift from one type of lighting to the other. Here’s where this feature will come handy. The light sensor gauges the external lighting levels and automatically adjusts the screen brightness accordingly. Not only will it protect your eyes from glaring at a bright screen at night, it will also help in conserving battery life.
5) Chargeable USB ports
Many of us own MP3 players that require being connected to a PC for charging. Laptops like the Samsung R470 can charge USB powered devices like MP3 players or even cell-phones directly without the need to turn the laptop on. Thus, the device will simply draw power out of your laptop battery to charge itself. There’s no extra power consumed by the laptop’s peripherals. Quite nifty, we’d say.
6) Shortcut key to switch off track-pads and Display off button
Many people prefer using a mouse with their laptop than the built-in touch-pad. Some manufacturers provide a key to turn off the track-pad. This avoids accidentally moving the pointer while typing on the keyboard. It will also help save the battery a little. The Display off button also has a similar function. There are times when you’re doing something on the laptop where you want the display to be turned off without closing the lid; like listening to music. Some laptop makers have their speakers built in the interior of the body. Thus, you’d want to conserve power by turning the display off, but leave the lid open to avoid muffling the audio.
After the iPhone, it seems like every manufacturer is cashing in on the touch frenzy. While laptops that convert into Tablet PCs have proved useful to certain people, now we’ve got its ridiculous spin-off. Laptop makers have started incorporating touch-screens into regular laptops, which do not tilt. What is the use of these screens, you might ask? To use multiple fingers to zoom, pan and scroll through your photographs.
Now how many times do you think you’d actually stretch your hands to touch the screen when you can do the same using the mouse? Apart from being a tiresome activity after a while, you’ll only end up smudging your screen with nasty fingerprints.
2) Better quality webcams
Nowadays every laptop out there has a webcam. Many of them boast of high resolution, but what these numbers don’t own up to is the actual video quality – which is quite grainy and laggy. Although one could argue that only a small percentage of people use webcams these days, but if you are incorporating a feature into a device, it shouldn’t consistently be of crappy quality. Don’t play the number game by simply giving higher mega-pixel sensors. Rather give us ones that will deliver decent quality and frame-rate in low lighting conditions, so that we don’t have to go out and buy a REAL webcam separately.
3) Stop with the overly glossy displays
While glossy displays might be useful in enhancing the output quality, they are a pain when you want to use your laptop outdoors. Some overly glossy displays will let you barely read what’s on the screen under direct sunlight, or even indoors without closing the curtains. Not everybody works in a dark basement, you know! Please keep the gloss down to a minimum, or at least offer a matte option if feasible.
4) Place LED status lights at the side where they are visible even if lid is closed
There are some laptops that have the LED status lights placed on the interior of the body. Thus, you will probably not realize that your laptop is running if the lid is closed. In the end, you’d open it up only to know that the battery’s drained out. Placing the status lights on the side ensures that the user is aware if the laptop is on or off, even if the lid’s closed.
5) High resolution on a small screen
More is not necessarily better all the time. This is in context to the ridiculously high number of pixels in a pint-sized screen. While images and video will look really crisp and awesome, remember that it’s a portable computer and not a video player. Reading text on such a screen is going to need a magnifying glass. Reducing the resolution anything below its native figure makes it look worse. Increasing font-size helps to an extent, but is not the ideal solution.
Special mention: HPs mirror touch-pads
This is a jab at Hewlett Packard. Their recent laptops under the Compaq and HP brand have overly glossy, mirror-like touch-pads. They are touch-pads, not vanity mirrors! They are highly susceptible to fingerprints and collect smudges after prolonged usage, thus hampering usability.