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Thin and Light Laptops Could Have Design Flaw

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July 3, 2009 1:06:51 AM

Wait, so you mean they built laptops and then found out they were cracking? Haven't any of these Engineers heard of SolidWorks and other methods of finding this out before you build it?
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Anonymous
a b D Laptop
July 3, 2009 1:24:54 AM

Well as a experienced used of Solidworks and others (also as a mechanical engineer), i'd say that the actual strain on the plastic structure (from the pc weight itself) isn't whats causing the cracking, but the wear from the grabbing, opening, carrying and laying around. Heat (even in small amounts) can shorten the lifespan of such plastics. Solidworks (with cosmos or ansys u name it....) doesn't really simulate such mix of "uses" in a thin laptop. On the other hand small objects such as these are not a great concern in terms of resistance testing..
The problem should be the tendency towards the use of lowcost materials. With high grade ABS this probably wouldn't happen.
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a b D Laptop
July 3, 2009 1:26:04 AM

weird i had laptops before and none of them "cracked"
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July 3, 2009 1:28:58 AM

why not just reinforce some parts with metal?
that should prevent cracking from the sensitive points
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a b D Laptop
July 3, 2009 1:48:06 AM

This just in - things that are thin, flimsy, and cheap break easily.

This has been another update from the common sense brigade.
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July 3, 2009 2:07:01 AM

How to cut cost of manufacturing a cheap laptop? Use cheap plastic case part.
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July 3, 2009 2:20:19 AM

New material and put all this behind you ? Well that is my prediction.
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July 3, 2009 2:34:21 AM

Or just do what Apple does.. Send out a new generation of iPhones that burns the plastic cover when you use it too much.. Than send out a new version with that "issue" fixed. :) 

Joking..

Anyway, I would love to see new laptops using aluminum and some hybrid mix of plastic/metal through the case. This would give us new looks and the color of those different materials would be something that can catch our attention and desire.
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July 3, 2009 2:49:28 AM

frozenleadThis just in - things that are thin, flimsy, and cheap break easily. This has been another update from the common sense brigade.


I Lol'd.

But as a structural engineer myself I can see that fatigue is most likely the cause, after all, constant heating-cooling cycles combined with very erratic load patterns can impose quite a strain on brittle materials.
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July 3, 2009 2:51:04 AM

How bout this thin laptop users? Dont drop your laptop.
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July 3, 2009 2:54:22 AM

Double post (everybody is crying for an edit feature, yet the people at Tom's is't listening).

I ment to say I can see why they would crack and I'd guess that fatigue is most likely the cause, as opposed to strain caused by the laptop's weight.
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July 3, 2009 3:29:04 AM

That's cool.I posted the first comment on this article, "lol cracks" and now its gone. Hmm....
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July 3, 2009 4:00:43 AM

aspireoneloverwhy not just reinforce some parts with metal?that should prevent cracking from the sensitive points


I agree, just put where the most weight is or where two pieces of plastic join.
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July 3, 2009 4:41:48 AM

umm this is news get real plastic laptops have been cracking for years
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July 3, 2009 4:55:23 AM

Apple and other manufacturers are just now realizing this. Wowwwww
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July 3, 2009 6:47:16 AM

Easy, collaborate and design easily molded carbon fiber casing :) 
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July 3, 2009 6:56:50 AM

TGhere is also another flaw, that was probably made intenational. Everyone who has ever seen old Thinkpad notebook took apart, will notice its rigid steel frame and housing. The plastic used is much harder than today products could have - mostly from weight's point of view, I suppose, but there's one thing more. The plastic is used to COVER the notebook. On the contrary, modern hardware bolts mainboard and other components directly to plastic 'frame'. Beside the fact, that it makes the whole net/notebook little fishy to handle correctly, every strain put on the body instantly stresses the mainboard, causing big chips like north/southbridge, GPU (if present) and CPU (if soldered directly) to crack the balls in ball grid array (BGA), loose contact and can easly lead to bricking device. Many cheaper video cards suffer from similar faults - heat and/or badly enginereed cooling solution, bending PCB - and it's done, forever. I do own notebook, but its one with steel body and magnesium cover. I can't tell anyone to go ditch you current hardware and buy used P4 laptop that weights around 9 pounds, like mine, but if you have new netbook or other lightweight machine, please consider buying external case (for example plastic crystal case) that rigidifies the body of a computer. Larger notebooks (e.g. 17" and more) should also be handled with little care - try not to put in on your knees nad use flat surface (like desk) when it's powered on. This will surely lenghten its service time. I have contact with many electronic service centres and I've heard enough stories to verify what I've written here. Hope I helped someone :) 
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July 3, 2009 9:48:53 AM

I work as technician for a big brand name laptop maker, you would not believe what kind of problems early (revolutionary) models experience, cracking panels, low quality hinges, shortages on main board... etc.
Almost every single one was due to low quality material and poor but shiny design
They(manufacturers) know about that and every single one hides those information from general public.

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July 3, 2009 11:34:23 AM

I have an 14" Acer but it is a cheap one and is not thin compared to other pricey ones. It is very solid and does not seem to flex at all even when I grab it by the corner with one hand. Press on the plastic, it does not give, must be thicker than some others. I say before you buy check them out for flexing, Best Buy always has display models to try before you buy.
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July 3, 2009 11:57:30 AM

Its understandable that thin & light notebooks (such as Apples AIR) can have such problems. But some people are confusing this problem with normal Notebooks and netbooks.

Thin & light are VERY VERY thin notebooks (because 1" is just too damn thick) so there is less structure to work with. Also such notebooks have a 13" screen, usually no optical drive, but the ThinkPad X300 does.

The Netbooks are very small overall and very light-weght and shouldn't have the issues of its more expensive cousins.

Want a notebook thats going to last, get a ThinkPad. They have a FRAME under its skin and other features that make them tougher than most other notebooks. And they aren't as expensive as they used to be, starting at $550... yet they do have their $2500~3500 17" dual screen models :) 

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July 3, 2009 12:11:43 PM

1ceWait, so you mean they built laptops and then found out they were cracking? Haven't any of these Engineers heard of SolidWorks and other methods of finding this out before you build it?

It's all perfect in SolidWorks. (CAD makes the most impossible things look plausible.) Aside from the fact that you may have meant Ansys or Comsol or even Mechanica, it's often an accepted compromise between requirements (thin/stylish) and associated cost. The latter often wins, as we know from the Microsoft ads.

Either way, it's pure marketing to push structurally not sound designs with cheaper manufacturing methods as 90% are cared for properly. My wife, on the other hand, needs every bit of reinforced casing she can get. Either way, this is not exactly news and take DELL as an example. Though quite improved in quality and durability, they're still very "fragile" in comparison to others (i.e. Apple, Sony, even HP) ... but not because DELL is stupid. They simply value cost over durability as many customers.
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July 3, 2009 12:14:06 PM

I have to disagree with the rather narrow minded statement in the first sentence. I am typing this on a dell latitude notebook and I am absolutely positive that is has a magnesium-based chassis, and I'm quite confident other brands have a similar durable (metal) construction for their high-end notebooks, as also noted by Vatharian. It can be gold and still not glitter, you know.
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July 3, 2009 12:41:01 PM

InneandarI have to disagree with the rather narrow minded statement in the first sentence. I am typing this on a dell latitude notebook and I am absolutely positive that is has a magnesium-based chassis, and I'm quite confident other brands have a similar durable (metal) construction for their high-end notebooks, as also noted by Vatharian. It can be gold and still not glitter, you know.

Agreed, a plain plastic housing wouldn't stand a chance in any application. There is a (typically) Magnesium sub-frame in most laptops to give it basic rigidity. Nevertheless, most housings around that frame are plastic.
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July 3, 2009 1:04:39 PM

doomtombApple and other manufacturers are just now realizing this. Wowwwww

Apple, of all companies hasn't been using plastic, all their new notebooks are the uni-body aluminum chassis. I do believe even the Macbook Air is made of aluminum, there's one for the competition :) 
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July 3, 2009 3:18:25 PM

Quote:
Aside from the Apple MacBook Pros and select premium PC notebooks such as the Voodoo Envy and Dell Adamo, nearly all computers today are made from plastic casing.

Which means that these expensive thin-and-light systems are usually resistant to the structural integrity issues discussed in this article, which is specifically talking about low-cost thin-and-light platforms.
InneandarI have to disagree with the rather narrow minded statement in the first sentence. I am typing this on a dell latitude notebook and I am absolutely positive that is has a magnesium-based chassis, and I'm quite confident other brands have a similar durable (metal) construction for their high-end notebooks, as also noted by Vatharian. It can be gold and still not glitter, you know.

Re-read the fist sentence again. It says aside from...select premium PC notebooks..., nearly all computers today are made from a plastic casing. But a magnesium case/chassis is a more exotic, premium feature, and does not fit within the context of this article (
laptops built keeping low-cost first, performance and durability/quality second in mind).
doomtombApple and other manufacturers are just now realizing this. Wowwwww

BelardoIts understandable that thin & light notebooks (such as Apples AIR) can have such problems. But some people are confusing this problem with normal Notebooks and netbooks.

Now you guys are just blindly pointing a finger at Apple when their solid-aluminum-bodied/framed products do not have these issues, except the regular plastic MacBook, but they've known about its faults since at most a few months after it was first released. But even that has a metal frame underneath the plastic skin, so the damage is mostly cosmetic, which is unfortunate for a manufacturer so bent up on looks. But I do agree with Belardo that people are confusing "affordable thin-and-light" with "netbooks", and that a ThinkPad is the way to go for a durable notebook in general. That said, you get what you pay for, and your not paying for much when you buy a cheap thin-and-light made of plastic.
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July 3, 2009 4:19:37 PM

those laptops that cracked were early production units..
also, these were thinner than average laptops, thinner than what you have now.
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July 3, 2009 4:28:08 PM

I thought Carbon fiber which i thought was used in the Voodoo Envy was strong...although i guess not super rigged
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Anonymous
a b D Laptop
July 3, 2009 4:57:05 PM

or strengthen them with fiberoptic stuff like carbon fiber or so..
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July 3, 2009 7:11:37 PM

Seen this sooo many times - pull the guts from a cheap laptop, dell, hp but especially compaqs and you're left with a case that flexes with very little pressure. The conclusion? The mainboard / cd drive / hdd caddy etc are being used as structural load-bearing components by design no wonder the things break.
As other posters have noted, buy a thinkpad - apart from the usual 'I dropped it...', 'the dog ate it...' and 'I split a glass of dooleys in it' (dooleys - it evaporates to, literaly, toffee and is the absolute death of laptops or keyboards) incidents I've never, in nearly 20 years, had to fix a thinkpad.
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July 3, 2009 11:33:15 PM

Quote:
Seen this sooo many times - pull the guts from a cheap laptop, dell, hp but especially compaqs and you're left with a case that flexes with very little pressure. The conclusion? The mainboard / cd drive / hdd caddy etc are being used as structural load-bearing components by design no wonder the things break.
As other posters have noted, buy a thinkpad - apart from the usual 'I dropped it...', 'the dog ate it...' and 'I split a glass of dooleys in it' (dooleys - it evaporates to, literaly, toffee and is the absolute death of laptops or keyboards) incidents I've never, in nearly 20 years, had to fix a thinkpad.


Either you are not a PC repair technician, or you are lying, in a little less than 15 months selling and repairing Dell and IBM business grade machines I had no fewer hardware related repairs on the Thinkpads than the Latitudes, when adjusted for the fact that the Dells sold 2-3 times as much due to lower cost for equal or better performance. The thinkpads are good but not THAT good. IMO their good reputation is more due to the utter crap they are compared to. Acer, HP/Compaq, and Toshiba full sized (14" or larger, non-thin & light) do not ever use reinforced frames for structural stability, at least Dell offers the option of cheaper inspirons or higher quality latitudes.
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July 4, 2009 11:25:06 AM

IzzyCraftI thought Carbon fiber which i thought was used in the Voodoo Envy was strong...although i guess not super rigged


Carbon-fibre is stronger (re more rigid) than steel and weighs less, hence why F1 cars and supercars are built from it. Also used in aerospace engineering.

It's also really expensive :( 
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July 28, 2009 11:02:39 PM

People... you need to be realistic, in budget laptop casing is usually around 50$ at tops, no fiber or carbon can fit in that price range, but if you add some texture to the laptop u usually have quite strong and cheap end product like old Toshiba L30.

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July 29, 2009 4:02:59 PM

BelardoWant a notebook thats going to last, get a ThinkPad. They have a FRAME under its skin and other features that make them tougher than most other notebooks. And they aren't as expensive as they used to be, starting at $550...


Things change... check this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8sOO-8LP4E

That's why the aren't as expensive as they used to be.
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