Sat. May 18th, 2024

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Everyone knows what a laptop looks like, right? Well, the classic clamshell we all know and love today didn’t start out that way, and laptop makers are still trying to reinvent the wheel to this day. As a case in point, here are 10 of the wildest attempts at messing with the laptop form factor.

1 Toshiba Libretto W100

A frame from a Toshiba Libretto press release video showing the dual screen laptop running Windows.

I debated whether this should go on the list at all because laptops with two screens and no keyboard are having a bit of renaissance lately, but in the context of the time the W100 from Toshiba was released back in 2010 no one could take it seriously. To this day, anyone who wants to do a serious amount of typing will run full speed in the opposite direction of a touch-screen keyboard, but most of you probably don’t think the W100 is quite as mad today as people did when it came out.

What’s maybe more impressive is that this little laptop is really nearly a handheld PC, running Windows 7 on a single-core Intel CPU and a battery life of (wait for it) two hours, unless you attached a high-capacity battery pack to it, which promised four hours of run time.

2 Acer Predator 21X

The Acer Predator 21x

It’s easy to joke about how some high-end 17-inch or even 18-inch gaming laptops are basically just slightly more portable desktop computers, but they’re svelte and portable compared to the Acer Predator 21X with its 21-inch curved screen and fat bottom half that looks like it came straight from what the 2000s though the future would look like. How big is this laptop? Well, you could get it with it’s own custom luggage.

Predator 21X with luggage

Say what you want, but I’d like a 21-inch screen option today too!

3 Asus ROG Mothership (GZ700)

ROG Mothership laptop

Is the ROG Mothership even a laptop? Designed to address the major performance sticking points of typical gaming laptops, the Mothership literally flips the script. The keyboard section detaches, and the screen section, which actually houses all the components, stands upright with a kick stand. This allows the system to run much cooler, and perform better.

It was far too expensive, and not quite practical, but it sure was cool!

4 HP Omen X 2S

HP Omen X 2S laptop showing it's secondary screen above the keyboard.

The Omen X 2S isn’t wild because it has a second screen above the keyboard deck. Laptops like the ROG Zephyrus Duo have that design sewn up. No, it’s wild for HP putting such a tiny 6-inch screen in the middle of all that wasted space. At least ASUS had the sense to put a screen that fills that entire gap in their laptop. The way HP approached it with the Omen X 2S just doesn’t seem worth the trade off.

5 ROG Zephyrus Duo

The Rog Zephyrus DUO 16 with a second screen on the upper laptop deck.

The laptop so nice, I mentioned it twice. Yes, this is the way you should do a dual-screen setup. Whether you’re a gamer or content creator, this is an aspirational laptop that sadly just isn’t hitting any sort of reasonable price point. However, just like all the Ferraris and Lambos of the world, we can drool over images if its cool hinged system that lifts that second touch screen into position when you open the system up.

6 Panasonic Toughbook FZ-55

Panasonic Toughbook FZ-55

It’s not the external appearance of the Toughbook, or its military-spec ruggedized capabilities that get it on this list. In fact, it harkens back to laptops from the late 90s and early 2000s at face value. No, what’s wild about the FZ-55 is its modular xPAK system.

The laptop has no fewer than six user-removable expansion areas where you can swap in a different xPAK in three of them and either upgrade what you had or add new features to the system. This means the laptop can be customized for lots of different jobs, and has a longer potential service life.

7 Framework Laptops

A Mainboard inside a laptop enclosure

The Toughbook might be customizable in the sense that you can adapt and change major components, but for Framework laptops, that’s not nearly enough. These systems are designed to be completely modular. You can change virtually anything on your laptop, and keep upgrading it piece by piece as the years go by. This is the closest that a laptop has ever come to matching desktop systems for flexibility, and if Framework’s designs ever take off as the market standard, it could be the future of personal computing as a whole.

8 Alienware Area-51m

Aleinware Area 51M

Oh, so you thought we were done with the chonky luggable desktop laptops? No sir! The Area-51m is Alienware’s attempt at throwing everything and the kitchen heatsink at the problem, and this pudgy wedge of a laptop sure makes you work for the privilege of moving it around. It’s all about making enough room to cool those components to the point where you don’t have to throttle them down. Honestly, this should have been named the “Mothership” instead of the ASUS.

9 Sony VAIO UX Micro PC

Before the Steam Deck or ROG Ally, or all those GPD Win handheld computers. there was the Sony Vaio UX PC. First brought to market in 2006, its design is iconic and it packs an honest-to-goodness x86 Intel CPU in that tiny handheld frame. It looked so futuristic, that you’ll see John Conner hack some Terminator technology in Terminator Salvation with it. Which is impressive considering it only runs at about 1Ghz and had half a gig of RAM. I guess Skynet was no match for the might of Windows XP.

10 Lenovo Yoga Book

Lenovo Yoga Book laptop with keyboard detached.

We round of this list of madness with the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i Gen 8. This is a fairly recent dual-screen laptop that comes with the works. There’s a detachable Bluetooth keyboard, a stylus, and a folio stand. Unlike something like the Zephyrus Duo, you can choose whether to have your “screen” above or below the keyboard deck. You cant turn it sideways, put it into tent mode, or anything really. So for once the “yoga” name really means something.

I’m all for laptop manufacturers releasing at least one or two whacky models every year. Laptops aren’t the most interesting devices in the world, but who knows? Maybe one of these outlandish models will become the new standard design, just like the classic clamshell was once the rebel outsider to luggable computers from the early days of portable computing.

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By John P.

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