Small is not Beautiful

In other words, size does matter to me. I am, of course, referring to the slew of small laptops that have hit the market recently: Asus eeePC, hp MiniNote, Thinkpad X3000, Macbook Air, Aspire One etc. (What did you think, you yellow-yellow-dirty-fellow?)

I am probably one of the few techies who doesn’t salivate when some of the small laptops are mentioned. I know a lot of famous bloggers do: Sidin has been pleading with the missus, Lorelle has been shopping for one, Scobleizer doesn’t need an excuse.

But not me. Not that I am a famous blogger, but that’s not the point. I am not fascinated by these playthings, mainly because it’s packed with exactly all the features that I don’t need!

I don’t need the portability, that such laptops will have, atleast not the sub-kilogram kind of portability. And nor do you, mate, unless your work involves extensive travelling, and you could end up with a serious case of spondylitis if you have anything heavier than 2 kgs.

Most of my friends use the computer at their homes and offices, even if they work for uber-hippie companies such as Google or Yahoo!. They definitely don’t need their laptops when they are commuting. On the contrary, dear readers, such people, if they need anything, it’s heavier laptops. Atleast while they are commuting, they can work on their curls, crunches or anything that will help them combat the battle of the bulge.

The work-as-you-go culture hasn’t yet caught on in India, or anywhere else in the world, except in the States. It never will either atleast for another 10 years. Nowhere else, have I heard of people going to a cafe for work, and spend hours on end on his laptop, accumulating calories like my laptop does dust, rather than chatting with friends or sipping on coffee.

My laptop either stays at home and occassionally travels with me on flights. Me buying a laptop for portability, is like buying an airconditioner for the occassional heatwave in Greenland. Even the average Joe blogger from India, doesn’t blog on the run.

This portability, I don’t need, costs something. If it doesn’t show up in the price, it shows up in the kind of stuff that goes inside. Do you know how they make mobile phones small, and yet they manage to remain so cheap? They use smaller processors which are slow. The same kind of stuff goes here too. Which means, it’s too slow for pretty much anything you want to do.

The small form factor affects pretty much everything on the laptop. The screen is barely bigger than your mobile phone, only it’s more inconvenient to carry it around. It has got marginally more diskspace than your mobile phone. So you can just about install a proper OS, and have space for nothing much else.

The only plus is that some of the models have flash memories instead of conventional hard-disks, to reduces the weight and power consumption. But that only makes it ridiculously expensive, and you don’t really get your money’s worth in memory. The disk access speed that you would expect out of a flash disk, is definitely nothing to write home about.

The slower processor, and solid state drives combine to give you lower power consumption, so you don’t need that much battery power for the same time, which significantly lightens up the laptop. But most of them have inefficient cooling systems, leading to complaints of toasted laps, and burnt delicates.

This laptop takes you back to the 1990s when you had hard-disk memories the size of RAMs now, only that you have much more processing power and you are more frustrated, because you can’t use it productively.

On the rare occassion, that this baby laptop would induce me to write something, I will be brutally reminded of the way this laptop has been set up to incapacitate me. My fingers render all my touch-typing skills useless, since all my fingers cover all three rows of the keys, all at once. What appears on the screen when I type is mysteriously close to rot13. And gives me nightmares about the fat-finger syndrome.

Of course, I would make out what I am doing wrong, if I could see what was happening! I can’t wonder why the manufacturers can’t take a hint from the reason why the portable DVD players didn’t sell. With that screen size, you can’t pretty much know what is going on. Browsing the internet at that resolution is quite a pain, making you scroll endlessly.

Of course, if you want to make it remotely useful, then you need to carry around with you a portable HDD, a wireless mouse, a portable DVD drive, an extra battery, etc., making the total cost prohibitive, and it’s biggest advantage of portability is rendered useless.

At which point, you would realise you were better off with a normal laptop.

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6 responses to “Small is not Beautiful

  1. I have monster computers of all sizes, but I needed something that took off the weight when traveling. I’m down from 35 pounds for my carry-on to 15. I’m a much happier traveler.

    It all depends upon your needs. In my office, I’m sucking electricity to too much computer gear. On the road, I want the weight to be nothing.

    Good luck with your searches.

  2. You hit the nail right on the head, Lorelle! That was the point of my post that small computers are great for people who travel, and require that kind of portability more than anything else.

    I mean those UPS guys would be happier with something like iphones rather than tablet pcs, because it’s easier to take them around. But most bloggers in India aren’t the hardcore travellers like you. For them, buying these laptops would be overkill.

    In that scenario, sacrificing usability for portability, just because it looks cute, is foolish.

  3. I blogged on the run šŸ™‚ I always do. Uploading is different though. And Movies you forgot movies šŸ˜¦

  4. I did mention a slight reference to movies in portable DVD players. šŸ™‚ Of course if we had to meet that rubric, we would need portable projectors or something šŸ˜‰

  5. Nitish Saraf

    I wouldnt agree with the technical bashing Vivek… The small machines these days are much faster than my 2 year old 15.4 laptop.. if you go and see the configurations for a IBM X series tablet, or a Sony Viao 11.1″, or a Dell XPS 11.1″, they have a better config than my 2 yr old state of the art HP 15.4″ . gone are the days when small laptops were crapper performers. These come with a full dvd drive, a good HDD and good processors too now. and FYI, the IBM X series and Dell XPS i know have a full size keyboard, same as on a 14.1 or 15.4 . Just the way it is packed is slightly different. Sure the screen is smaller, but thats the portability. I dont need one right now, but my bosses already are using them. But i know i will need one 2-3 yrs down the line when i have to work on the go. You are an MBA.. wait till you are walking about with a blackberry or a palm in your hand all the time. Which will turn into one of these very soon (if you go up the ladder a bit)

  6. Saraf, 14.1″ is a big laptop! I was talking about the tiny form factors that are in the market nowadays. You must have seen the Asus eeePC, that one particularly typifies the kind of stuff about which I am talking about.

    I mean they have combined a lot of keys on the keyboard, and the screen is about 8″ only. Some of them even are barely 6″. That is tiny.

    And most of them use Intel Atom. Which is known crap. šŸ˜›

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