Show Pony Vs. Workhorse: How Important Are Laptop Aesthetics To You?

Show Pony Vs. Workhorse: How Important Are Laptop Aesthetics To You?

Once the sole domain of Apple, the “luxury laptop” market has really kicked off in recent years, with most major vendors offering über shiny high-end models that place maximum emphasis on style. But does anyone actually care about laptop aesthetics, or is portability, functionality and battery life all that matters?

Earlier in the day, we took a look at the Toshiba KIRA; a 13.3in Windows 8 laptop that has been dubbed by its creators as an “aspirational” ultrabook. The launch event centered almost exclusively on the look and feel of the unit which is spearheaded by a ‘honeycomb-structured’ magnesium alloy chassis.

Here’s what Toshiba’s marketing bods have to say about the product:

Meaning ‘beam of light’, KIRA is the epitome of Japanese workmanship – every element designed and crafted with beautifully considered precision…Its construction, using the same magnesium alloy found in high-performance race cars, gives KIRA the edge when it comes to life in the fast lane. With its quiet beauty and unprecedented precision-engineering, KIRA Ultrabook propels luxury into a league of its own.

You’ll note that the actual computing specifications take a back seat here — it’s all about the sleek ‘n’ sexy surface. This got us wondering about whether anyone really cares about this stuff?

Obviously it’s nice to have an attractive piece of hardware, but is it something you actively seek out and are willing to pay a premium for? And when are laptop aesthetics more important — at home or at work? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


  • I’ve had two laptops. One was a 465,500kg behemoth that looks about as sexy as Sarah Jessica Parkers face, and the other was this modern and sleek pinnacle of design and aesthetics and I didn’t care which I used so long as I could get my work done.

    • Did you have to travel much with either… ? If you travel and go from chunky Dell / Toshiba to an Apple/Dell “ultrabook” you’ll never go back.

      • I’ll take my square, “business” Lenovo 15″ travelling any day before I take my slick, smooth looking ASUS 17″ – it’s lighter, more portable, and less likely to get stolen 😉

  • 1. Function
    2. Style

    When shopping for a laptop, we have always have certain things in mind. The first thing for me is price. I will always try to get the best specs for my money. I also have a preferred brand, OS and architecture, but sometimes I can be swayed.

    I usually go looking for an Intel cpu and NVIDIA gfx. Not because they are the best, but often they are the best supported in software. I live in a Windows/Linux ecosystem, but I would buy a Mac if the price was right.

    The last thing for me is the style. If a boxy looking Lenovo meets my specs and price range, I might be tempted by a sexier looking design from Acer, but ONLY if it meets my specs and price range. Not a HP though. I’ve had too many bad experiences with overheating.

    My laptop spends most of it’s time in a dock anyway. It’s rarely goes on the road with me. I still buy 14-15″ sized laptops though, just in case I need to travel.

      • lolz.

        I meant second hand though. I’ve picked up some good 6 month old lap tops from Cash Converters for around $400. Nothing wrong with them at all. Just formatted the drive, did a new install of Win 7 and dual boot Ubuntu. They were worth over $1500 new. I haven’t seen a Mac down there though.

  • I look for a machine that has the grun to do what i need, reliably for a few years, and is light, compact and has decent battery life. I also prefer the mac OS – which typically leaves me with a shiny “stylish” laptop anyway

    I currently have an 11″ macbook air, and it is extremely small and light, perfect for carrying everyday – it has plenty of grunt to so photo editing – even fairly heavy PS work (although mainly crop,colour,caption,FTP)
    The battery lasts long enough for a day of moderate use – i also have a bigger heavier 15″ macbook pro that has more grunt, better battery life, and is perfect for working in a media room, or in the car.

  • The thing I appreciate about my Macbook Air 13″ (light, well built, slim, sturdy, powerful, full size keyboard, awesome trackpad, SSD) are what comes from fancy design aesthetics really… that it looks great is nice, but what made me spend the $$$ was the feature-boxes it ticked for my use-case. That I couldn’t find in other machines.

  • I’ll settle for a cheap ordinary looking light-weight 13-14″ laptop with a full feature set including non-reflective 1080P screen and good backlit keyboard.

  • I don’t really know too many people who do serious work with a laptop. If it’s all about processing power, graphics and sound (which it is since I work in Media) I’d rather use my desktop.

    • Your version of ‘serious work’ is different to mine. I assume you mean getting the laptop to do serious work, because there is a very big world outside of media.

    • What about workstation laptops, eh? Desktop replacements?

      For all intents and purposes, I’m working on a desktop that goes where I go.

      And yes, I did have to get used to carrying around a damned brick in my backpack. HP EliteBook workstations are not light things!

  • Most people would agree Macbooks are the most popular laptop around, yet if i wanted to switch over to a PC, which Windows Laptop sees the most light? Is there one that stands out? I’m finishing up with uni and going into fulltime work yet do also enjoy my gaming here and there

    • I’m going to be honest here, if you like what you see with the Macbook’s, and can afford it, then they actually make fantastic Windows laptops, too. They run Windows 7 natively through bootcamp, driver support is great, and performance is too. I’ve even read test reviews online toting the Macbook’s running Windows *better* than a lot of “PC” hardware.

      The Macbook retina’s are a good pick because they are light, and have better specs than the Macbook Air’s (dat screen res). Very pricey, though.

  • Brand > Thinness > Specs > Price > Appearance

    Brand is most important to me, even if I pay a premium for it. I’m not gonna get some cheap dell I know will just cause problems later on.

    I also avoid those huge chunky ‘power’ laptops like Alienware etc. Which leads onto the next point.

    I’m not gonna shell out a huge amount of money just to get desktop-like specs in an over-priced bulky laptop. I’d rather just get a cheap tablet and a powerful desktop for the same price.

    All that being said, appearance isn’t too important as long as it’s not butt-ugly. I’m also not gonna pay a premium just to get a mac look-a-like.

    Macs are just way too overpriced, end of story.

    • I’m surprised you view Dell as a cheap junk brand, most people I speak to seem to class them as a premium brand. I’m upgrading soon, what would you recommend that offers better value the apple, I’ve had a look around and spec for spec I’m having trouble finding a cheap brand ultrabook. The samsungs look nice but you’re still paying $1600-2000 for something similarly specced to a macbook.

      • What size screen are you looking for? If you are fine with the black box look, thinkpad has a 12.5in laptop that you can pack in 32gb of ram if the mood so strikes you.

        • lol probably won’t need the 32GB of ram. I guess between 13-15 inch would be the sweet spot. I currently have a 13″ MBP and find that a good size. I’ll check out the thinkpads, thanks.

  • For me:

    Thin and lightness > specs & features > battery life = price > looks

    If I’m buying a laptop, it’s supposed to be mobile; not point in bringing a back breaking machine if a smaller, lighter version can do the same thing. I won’t settle with a machine that is not capable of sustaining fluid operation in normal tasks. If it’s light and thin enough, a charger isn’t a problem, but obviously we are talking decent battery life to begin with (5 hours use at least).

    Price for me, isn’t too much of a problem. A laptop for me is to be replaced when it literally dies or becomes unusable. This usually seems to be a long term so it seems an alright investment for me.

    Looks aren’t that important if it gets the job done. It’s the lowest priority and is only considered if I have multiple machines with the same previous requirements and same price.

  • I’ve got to have a numeric keypad. There’s so much extra functionality it allows me.
    After that it’s a good screen, if it’s an IPS screen then I’m all down for that, mind you I pay for the privilege.

  • Function > Form

    Often they are related, e.g. you want something small and light if you’re travelling around with it a lot – and in these cases form still follows function. But in the end, I don’t care how boring the machine looks so long as it does its job.

  • Function > form
    Realised too late that my shiny new Dell XPS convertible lacks an Ethernet port for fixed connections at work and only has 2 USB connections. It’s not a big deal, but it is annoying!

  • I use my 13″ laptop as my desktop (connected to a monitor and external keyboard) most of the time and carry it places just occasionally. And yes, aesthetics and design are important. It sits on my desk, it’s in view, it dominates the work space. So it has to look good. I subscribe the William Morris view re not having things around you that aren’t beautiful and useful.

    The way I see it, unless your needs are for an extraordinarily powerful machine, then nowadays there are many choices that will meet technical specs across a range of brands and design philosophies. So often the choice will boil down to budget. Because I value aesthetics in the things that are dominant in my life (I care a little less about the appliance that I might use once a month), I’m willing to pay a little more for something that is well-designed and stylish to look at as well as meeting my technical needs.

    And yeah, I’m a Mac user. But if I were to move into the Windows ecosystem, I’d still be seeking out good design in my laptop.

  • For me and my computer geek friends it’s definitely function over form. Most of my other friends seem to prefer form over function though. A lot of them have bought expensive Macbooks and don’t know/care what’s under the hood.

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