Edge of Innovation

8 things new laptops are consigning to the tech scrapheap

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

New laptops have changed dramatically over the past few years. Gone are the bulky machines that tried to mimic desktop systems. In have come thin ultrabooks, lightweight Chromebooks, Cloudbooks and 2 in 1 devices that can flip between laptop and tablet modes.

Along the way, this mobile evolution has consigned some popular technology and accessories to the scrap heap, a place where you’ll already find mountains of ZIP disks, RS-232 interface leads and old trackballs. Joining them are…

1. Spare batteries — Thanks to power management improvements in the latest processors and larger battery cells, new laptops now last considerably longer between charges.

How long? Laptopmag.com’s guide to Laptops with the Longest Battery Life sees the Core i5-equipped Lenovo ThinkPad x260 top the list with a whopping 17 hours, followed by the budget-friendly, Celeron-powered Acer Aspire One Cloudbook at over 14 hours. With laptops like these, there’s no need to carry around a spare battery.

laptop bag
Who needs a bulky laptop bag these days? Image copyright Shutterstock/IgorXIII.

2. Laptop bags — No spare batteries means no need for a bulky laptop bag. You know the sort of thing — multi-pocketed, black nylon, uncomfortable shoulder strap. It’s a design that doesn’t seem to have changed in 20 years. Considering today’s lightweight, ultra-thin, long-lasting notebooks, you’re just as likely to keep them in a simple protective sleeve.

3. Passwords — Buy a laptop with a RealSense camera inside and you can use Windows Hello to log into a laptop instead of a traditional password. No need to worry about remembering a string of upper and lowercase letters with the odd special character thrown in for added security. With Windows Hello, your face is your password.

4. Cables — Today’s portable PCs have already eliminated the need for Ethernet cables, printer cables and wired USB mice. Next, technology like Intel WiDi will banish DisplayPort, DVI and HDMI cables, while WiGig will provide a wire-free solution for all manner of USB peripherals.

There are even plans to do away with power leads. Future laptops will take advantage of wireless charging technology like Rezence.

Rezence wireless charging
In the future, wireless charging could eliminate laptop power cables.

5. Optical drives — Thanks to superfast broadband and wireless networking, the DVD/Blu-ray combo drive has also become a thing of the past. We just don’t need it.

Any software we want can be downloaded via the internet; our favourite movies and music can be streamed. Besides, considering how thin modern laptops have become (the Samsung Notebook 9 is only 1.4 cm thick), there’s no room for an optical drive.

6. Hard disks — With the advent of streaming services and cloud-based document storage, hard disk space is less of a selling point. In fact, most new laptops have ditched the SATA HDD in favour of the SSD (Solid State Disk), which offers superior speed and reliability.

7. Cooling fans — Remember when laptops used to have fans? You’d be working quietly, no sound bar the tap of the keys as you typed and the soft tickety-tick of the hard disk.

But then the laptop fan would kick in, blasting air out of the back of the machine and roaring like a tiny jet engine. Nowadays, thanks to low-power CPUs like the Intel Celeron and Core M, passively-cooled laptops like the ASUS Zenbook UX305 don’t need fans. They are wonderfully, perfectly quiet.

ASUS ZenBook UX305
The ASUS ZenBook UX305 with a Core M CPU doesn’t need a cooling fan.

8. Windows — Laptops are even consigning Windows to the scrapheap. The Microsoft OS has been around, in one form or another, for over 30 years.

But Google’s Chrome OS can provide a decent alternative for today’s knowledge workers. According to the latest numbers, Chromebook sales have surpassed those of Mac laptops in the US for the first time. Devices such as the Acer Chromebook 14, powered by Intel Core chips, are proving attractive thanks to their sleek designs, zippy performance and rock-bottom price tags.

Even the classic clamshell design of the laptop is under threat from twistable, foldable, detachable 2 in 1 devices that can be both portable computer and tablet PC. Chances are, the next time you buy a new laptop it will look a lot different to the one you own now.

Main image copyright: Shutterstock/S.Dashkevych

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