When was the last time you connected an external monitor or projector to the VGA port on your notebook computer? Have you done it more than once this month? If so, then you're certainly in the minority. The VGA port is one of the many anomalies that have yet to be eliminated from our portable computers, and it's something of a mystery to me. One would have thought that the VGA port would have vanished before the optical drive, but this is clearly not the case.
Looking at the Sony Vaio E Series up above, I can see why there would be an Ethernet port, HDMI port, and two USB ports, but why the 20-year old VGA port? This is a relic like the serial and parallel ports that vanished from our computers a decade ago. Truth be told, I fully expect the HDMI and Ethernet ports to vanish in the next year or two to be replaced by USB adapters as USB3.0 is "fast enough" for non-professionals who want to get a bit more speed out of their devices ... or connect a projector for that ugly 55-slide PowerPoint presentation. It's true that external dongles are neither pretty nor desirable but, for the most part, it's just another cable that we'll throw in the laptop bag and forget about until we need it.
Other Items That Notebooks Don't Need
Some of the other items that I'm surprised haven't completely disappeared from notebooks include:
- superfluous bits of plastic trim
- touchpads with buttons
- 3D displays
- non-powered USB ports
Are these things really necessary? I understand that touchpads are still horrible on Windows1, but there really is no need for separate buttons anymore. Non-powered USB ports? Don't make me laugh. Most notebooks have such a horrible battery life that draining it faster while charging our portable devices won't make much of a difference. Aside from some ridiculously overpriced Japanese notebooks, I've yet to see a desirable portable computer that can honestly give more than 4 hours of life when running Microsoft's Visual Studio developer tools.
I know that I typically ask a lot from notebook manufacturers but it would be nice to see someone, anyone, create a very minimalist notebook that didn't have silly extras for the sake of occasional functionality or marketing to call the unit stylish. A computer is a tool. Tools don't need to be cute or stylish, they need to be functional. People who want a cute computer can spend $400 and get whatever the heck it is that a company wants to slap in a cheap plastic case. Anything that comes with a sticker price higher than $800 should focus more on function and weight than edge cases.
Just imagine how thin a notebook could be if manufacturers didn't have to keep enough space for a full-height VGA or Ethernet port ....