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Thin and Light Laptops Could Have Design Flaw

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.

While plastic is a good material for notebooks because it is light and easily molded, it's not particularly rigid. This is a problem that some computer manufacturers are now finding, according to comments made by Broadpoint AmTech analyst Doug Freedman.

CNet quotes Freedman, saying, "Early production units being built in plastic, with the bottom case being plastic, are cracking. … So, to get that really thin form factor that they're after, they're probably going to have to go with a metal case."

Computer makers are currently trying to make thin and light laptops based on Intel's CULV chips (consumer ultra low voltage), which pave the way for affordable thin and light notebooks. The problems aren't to do with the chips, however, but rather the form factor that the new hardware facilitates.

With apparent problems with using plastic, switching to metal would likely drive up prices of the notebooks that were meant to come into a price point that's affordable for the mainstream consumer.

It'll be interesting to see the type of design solutions that ODMs and OEMs come up with to try to solve this problem.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • 1ce
    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?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • alvine
    weird i had laptops before and none of them "cracked"
    Reply
  • aspireonelover
    why not just reinforce some parts with metal?
    that should prevent cracking from the sensitive points
    Reply
  • frozenlead
    This just in - things that are thin, flimsy, and cheap break easily.

    This has been another update from the common sense brigade.
    Reply
  • war2k9
    How to cut cost of manufacturing a cheap laptop? Use cheap plastic case part.
    Reply
  • crisisavatar
    New material and put all this behind you ? Well that is my prediction.
    Reply
  • ricardok
    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.
    Reply
  • SirCrono
    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.
    Reply
  • Gin Fushicho
    How bout this thin laptop users? Dont drop your laptop.
    Reply