Amilo Dalmatian and the sorry state of laptop design

Fujitsu Siemens updated the design for their line of their laptops. Unfortunately they are still keeping the Amilo name (it always seemed sad and hopeless to me), albeit with a new styling, and the new font is not helping at all. On first viewing it reads “omilo”.

The design itself is all angular with soft corners and black and white. It’s like the bastard child between an Apple Macbook and an IBM Lenovo Thinkpad. The concept, as explained on their site, is interesting but in the end just a gimmick: the black stuff represents technology (all ports and jacks are on black), and the white is “the human interface” (keyboard, power button and cover).

All in all the design isn’t bad, but it just comes off as another computer company trying to crack the “stylish” market, and when you put it next to the latest Dells, Vaios (you know, Sony’s Amilo), HPs and even Toshibas, it really doesn’t stand out from the crowd that much, if at all.

Sony Vaio


Dell Inspiron

Dell Inspiron


HP Pavilion

HP Pavilion


Toshiba Portege

Toshiba Portege








I guess the Vaio comes the closest to the laptop that they are all trying to emulate, the Macbook. Now I’m not saying that all laptops should look like Macbooks, far from it. For example I like the look of the new Lenovo IdeaPad (hate the name though). I actually think it looks the way Thinkpads should be looking, instead of the dated design they are still having so many years later.

The big flaw all of these machines is trying to look like some other laptop (whichever that may be). When the Macbook was launched (actually the iBook G4, Macbook’s precursor) it looked like nothing else (even though the first iBook was much wilder in design), and that’s what mattered, that’s what made its design timeless. Everyone trying to reproduce that very same laptop is just producing knockoffs.

WARNING: “Apple is the greatest thing in the world” type rant follows. If you have a low threshold for “Apple fanboism”, consider this post over and out.

It’s really not that complicated to make a really good laptop. Take the very Macbook example, subtract the design, and just look at the process. Find a nice shape, and then refine the hell out of it. Make sure everything looks perfect from any angle. Make sure you don’t have stupid stickers on it. Make sure the blinking blue lights don’t become a pain in the ass after only 10 minutes of use. Make sure that the back of the laptop doesn’t look like something from Alien 2. Pay lots and lots of attention to detail. Forget focus groups. Not having every possible button for every possible feature is a good thing. And pay lots and lots of attention to detail at each step of the process and in between.

This is what separates the Macbooks from the rest, not the design itself, but the execution of that design. Stuff like the overall simple and unobtrusive look of the thing, the way the sleep light glows less powerful in the dark and stronger in the light, the way the back of it is designed to look good even if you put it upside down, the perfect alignment of the ports and connectors, the magnetic power connector, two finger scrolling etc.

See how easy it is? This is really what bothers me when I look at a Windows laptop. It tries to look all designed and fashion-y and stylish, but fails brutally when it comes to the details, and more specifically to the lack of attention to details that “went” into it. A stupid screw somewhere very visible. Too many seizure-inducing LEDs. Those dreadful Windows and Intel stickers (easily fixable fortunately). Manufacturer specific buttons (such as the “go to” button – is anyone really using that button?!). 

Anyway, the list could go on forever. The Macs have their own flaws, but at least the effort that went into the process  of refining them is very palpable. I went into this “Macs are the greatest thing on earth” ranting mode and I really think I should stop before I get the Mac Mac label. Yes, Macs do piss me off sometimes, they crash as well, apps get stuck. But they do it while looking so much better than the rest.


One response to “Amilo Dalmatian and the sorry state of laptop design

  1. Sony VAIO VGN-CR409E/T 14.1-inch Laptop
    This color is perfect for my wife, she’s really into pink lately. She has an older version of Vaio, black one, now it’s mine after upgrading to the newer one. The software is fine, there’s some junk you have to remove / uninstall to make it run smoother, but now-a-days any computer you buy from a name brand store comes loaded with junk software. Spend a few hours to unload and it’ll make your system run much smoother.

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