How Smartphones and Tablets Are Changing Laptop Design—The laptop world is changing, but nobody knows exactly what it will be. What is clear is that $350, 8-pound Windows behemoths with slow spinning hard drives and low-resolution screens are not popular.

Why not? First, Apple’s MacBook Air revolutionized the laptop industry by putting enough power into a handsome, thin, and light case. Second, when tablets like the Nexus 7 with a 1280 x 800 pixel screen and powerful software are sold for $199, heavy, slow, and clunky laptops are no longer appealing in comparison.

How laptop manufacturers take on these two challenges varies, but here are some general trends we will be seeing in the coming year.

Laptop Story Image

Better Screen Quality

With 1080 pixel screens becoming the norm on high-end smartphones—some screens measure only 4.7-inches (HTC One)—1080 pixels will be the new minimum on all laptops. This rule also goes for laptops on the cheaper end of the spectrum. On the expensive end, pixel density is even higher, such as the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s 2560 x 1600 and the new 13-inch Google Chromebook Pixel’s 2560 x 1700 resolutions. With consumers getting used to quality screens on their mobile devices, laptops no longer get a pass.


Not only do tablets and smartphones push laptops to ship with better screens, they also bring touch to laptops. Windows 8 is specifically designed for touch, applying even more pressure to evolving laptop features. Mobile devices train consumers to be touch-orientated and manufacturers are beginning to catch on.

Better Hardware Design

The success of Apple’s MacBook Air and Google’s new Chromebook Pixel show that users expect good hardware design. Both models have great trackpads and keyboards, critical features that are the main hardware differentiators between laptops and tablets.

Although these three trends are clear, other questions remain opaque. For instance, what is the future relationship between smartphones, tablets, and laptops?

I see one future where the three discrete units are independent but function together in the manner of Google’s Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Chromebook Pixel. A second scenario has a unified laptop and tablet such as Dell XPS 12 and Lenovo ThinkPad Helix. Still a third possibility sees the smartphone as the central computing hub that is docked into peripherals with larger screens and other input devices much like the Asus PadFone.

These new and creative devices haven’t yet shown us the future, but they tell us that there’s still exciting developments ahead for the laptop.

Based in Southern California, Seth Heringer is an IT pro, PhD candidate and a senior editor at He also is co-host of the cult classic podcast, Attack of the Androids. Follow Seth on Google+ and contact him via his account there.

Jeremy Lesniak
Based in Vermont, Jeremy Lesniak is managing editor at and founder of Vermont Computing, Inc. and Email him [email protected]
Jeremy Lesniak
Jeremy Lesniak
Tags: Gadgets & Devices,Technology