For all the effort that's put into laptop design, the entire experience can be ruined by something as simple as a cheap and flimsy feeling keyboard or trackpad buttons.
So it is with interest that we've been watching the keyboard and trackpad layout on the new Windows laptops and Ultrabooks arriving in our test lab lately. For anyone put off by the shiny black, stickers and chrome plating common in Windows machines, the new look for 2012 is a breath of fresh air. As you can see in the photos below, the trend is towards clean lines, less stickers (though we still spotted a few), and a more minimalist approach.
But what about the keyboards and trackpads? Today we were given a brief tour by Microsoft of some of the latest machines, including a few yet to hit the market in Australia, such as Dell's XPS 14z and the Acer U300s.
While we weren't able to get top-down comparison photos for all these machines, the photos you see below give you some idea of what these machines look like. We'll have more in-depth on some of these machines later as we get a chance to put them through our test lab, but for now, here's some images:
Click to enlarge photos.
This is Acer's "Hummingbird", otherwise known as the S3. The lack of touchpad button makes this laptop one of the most Mac-like of all the Ultrabooks we've seen. Note the grey stickers. Starts at $1199 for the Core i3 version with 320GB.
Another standout is Lenovo's U300s. Again, note the lack of trackpad buttons and glass touchpad. The machine has a one-piece aluminum shell and Lenovo claims a 10 second boot time.
This is the ASUS UX21. Note the squared off edges on the keyboard keys. This machine has a distinct tapered design - it's almost sharp at one end when closed.
This isn't technically an "Ultrabook", but it's impressive nonetheless. It's Samsung's Series 9. Unlike the others you see here, the Series 9 has a distinct black finish made from "Duralumin". At 1.31Kg the 13.3in version is almost on par with the MacBook Air for weight
Finally, this machine isn't in the same ultra-thin class as the rest, but it's still interesting. Dell's XPS 14z isn't on sale here yet, but the gun metal look and minimalist styling puts it a class above what we're used to seeing from budget vendors. The XPS 15z starts at $1299, so we'll be interested to see how much this machine costs. Note the stylised keyboard font.
Also read: Enter the Ultrabook: making the Windows laptop v MacBook decision
Also read: Windows laptops: they're getting sleeker