We are reaching a point of interest in the world of hardware engineering and industrial design.
For decades desktop computers have dominated when it comes to advanced productivity.
But the world is mobilizing and work is becoming less and less local. Desktops are also huge energy consumption devices, and a lot of people may not even understand that their desktop computer is probably overkill for their specific needs. The desktop computer is slowly dying, but its being replaced by mobile devices. Of course I don’t expect them to completely vanish because software is also getting more advanced and will challenge today’s systems quite a bit down the road.
I am really excited about this change. The days of needing a ten thousand dollar rig to do something ground breaking are coming to an abrupt halt. We’ve seen a lot of companies try to build upon a this concept. 2in1 Ultrabooks and laptop workstations are two categories that are pushing towards this mobile future from to opposite sides of the spectrum. Workstation laptops pack the punch of a relatively powerful desktop machine. From Xeon processors to 32+ GB of DDR5 Ram and in some cases packing advanced rendering and graphics cards, Workstations while powerful come at a price….
Weight and battery
Power requires energy. All power has to be generated from a source of energy, and in this case that energy is delivered electrically. Lithium ion batteries are today’s standard for battery use. They are rechargeable, getting cheaper and cheaper, and they can operate in many different extreme usage cases. But the power needed to drive a workstation calls for a hefty battery setup, which of course is the main addition to weight and battery in any machine. The battery industry is not progressing as fast as the CPU industry. And so we expect improvements in energy efficiency to come from the chip manufactures. And it has. Every year intel, Nvidia, AMD, and QUALCOMM unveil their newest chipset architectures which always manage to pack more power while saving more energy. At this point it’s expected and the community largely points to Moore’s Law as a justification for this consistency in innovation. Some people theorize that Moore’s Law is slowing down, but there is still a lot of room left in the suitcase before we pack up and head to Quantum computing. We are reaching the point where Intel’s atom core M processors will be capable of running most heavy load programs. And dual core i5 and i7 can now blaze through 90% of professional tasks from Adobe’s creative apps to Visual Studio to Autodesk. Combine this with the trend of offloading intensive processes onto the cloud, and you already have a good chance of building a slim and light workstation that has tablet level battery life.
This is not only possible, it is happening.
Take the New Razer Bade for example. Its as thin as a dime, literally, and manages to run a most games at 1080p with ultra settings using its GTX 970m processor. The battery life is decent, somewhere around six to 8 hours of regular use. But its quad core i5-i7 processor, up to 16gb of ram, and Tri-HD multi-touch display are top of the line specs for a serious workstation. Nvidia is a key player in this movement as well. They’ve recently blown the competition of the water with their new GTX 1080 and 1070 GPU’s. The (m) variants of these two that will come will inevitably offer significant jumps in performance while operating at significantly cooler temperatures than the 980m and 970m. The gaming and design communities are dependent on powerful GPUs, and for the first time in history they wont need to sacrifice portability and battery life for an elite experience. All of this in a thin and light package is pretty revolutionary and it speaks volumes about what can be achieved with a future form factor.
What is a future form factor?
Microsoft did not invent the 2in one form factor. I will credit joint efforts from Asus and Intel during the Ultrabook shift that Intel pushed for. Asus’s transformer books were famous for housing part of the computer in the display, and the other half in the keyboard…. and then you could detach the display and use it as a tablet. This concept has been refined by Asus and the rest of the industry, but perhaps Microsoft is the first to really hit the nail on the coffin with the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. The form factor is the perfect fit for the paradigm shift that we outlined above. Both GPU and CPU size and operating temps are so low that you can modulate the two processes by putting the CPU in the display and the GPU in the keyboard along with some more battery. For those who don’t need a super GPU, you can attach a super slim keyboard cover to the tablet and benefit from a super light configuration without sacrificing any of the power you’d expect from your desktop workstation, in theory. The Surface Book does this expertly, but it has its short comings.
Microsoft teamed up with Nvidia to customize a graphics chip the Surface Book. My thinking is that Microsoft was concerned about smashing a 970m in the SB’s super slim keyboard and overheating the machine. Regardless, their custom architecture gives the SB a huge boost in graphical performance, but it still has trouble doing more arduous tasks like editing 4k video or playing a Battlefield 4 at max settings. They are perhaps closer than anyone else to finding that sweet spot between power, portability, and versatility.
Stylus support is a necessity for a perfect computer. Writing and drawing is so integral to human productivity. For me, it completes the circle of usability: Keyboard, mouse, writing, viewing, speech input, and touch.
So I think I’ve justified the specs I’m about to drop for what would make a perfect all around computer.
- 16.5″ 3×4 5k OLED edge-to-edge display
- Perfect for designers, artists, and people that do a lot of multitasking
- Gorilla Glass 4/5 (curved edges)
- Anti-reflection and anti-glare coating
- 10 point multi-touch
- 100% sRGB and 100% Adobe RGB color space
- great for content creators and visual artists
- 75Hz Refresh rate, overclock to 120Hz for gaming
- Gamers would love this
- Pressure Sensitivity
- think force touch
- this adds pressure sensitivity range to the stylus
- Active Digitizer
- Haptic Feedback (under display)
- 130degree Kickstand on the back
tablet rear camera
- great for unexpected photos
- MS Preview digital image processing
- 5-axis OIS
- essential for a tablet of this size
- Digital Image stabilization
- more is better
- LED RGB flash
- Focus light
- 4k 60fps-1080p 240fps recording
- great for recording content during a lecture or a class
- also great for recording for motion experiments or for scientific labs
tablet front camera
- selfies or self portraits 🙂
- Digital image stabilization
- RGB flash
- 4k 30fps- 1080p 60fps video
- 4k 30fps-1080p 60fps streaming
- Window Hello login sensors
- 3.5mm audio input
- Dolby 7.1 audio
- DJ’s and musicians would appreciate this
- 4 front facing speakers under display
- Mini-subwoofer under back logo
- why not
- Dual HD microphones
- Magnetic power connector
- Pen magnet holder
- 2xThunderBolt 3
- you could connect the tablet to an eGPU and run games up to 4k in ultra settings.
- Data transfer at 40GB/S !!
- Connect a beast I/O port
- Charge other devices super quickly
- Connect to external storage or external battery
- Power button
- Volume rocker
- Intel Kabylake QaudCore i5-i7 with integrated graphics
- Optional Core M for a fanless design with 12+ hours of battery life
- great option for artists and students
- Optional Core M for a fanless design with 12+ hours of battery life
- 256GB-2TB PCIE storage
- 8-32GB DDR5 RAM
- 35Wh Battery (or 7 hours of web browsing)
- Micro liquid cooling (like what is found in Lumia 950xl)
- Circular fan holes for more intensive processes
- 802.11ac WiFi – a/b/g/n/ac dual band
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Water Resistance and Dust Resistance
- Micro S + Nano sim combo slot
- Folding magnetic cover and stand
- think iPad air cover
- this would be great for people that just want to use the tablet as a note taking machine, media consumption device, and a sketchpad on the go.
- Comes in different colors and material, including leather.
- Keyboard cover
- Think surface cover
- 5.5inch Gorilla Glass 4 touchpad
- pressure sensitivity
- haptic feedback for clicking (new MacBook, awesome feature)
- NFC charging and data transfer on wrist wrest
- 100% RGB individual backlighting for keyboard (i.e. Razor Blade 14, awesome feature)
- OLED display above keyboard (upcoming MacBooks)
- this will be customizable to show notification, house the taskbar, or show advanced live computer performance stats
- 6xThunderbolt 3
- 40GB/s speeds
- eGPU support for ASUS and Razer external rigs
- Thunderbolt 3 I/O adapter included in box
- 3xUSB 3.0
- 3 HDMI out
- 2 Ethernet
- Magnetic Power connector with fast charging
- Can be charged without tablet
- Can customize charging priorities
- 3.5mm audio out (great for DJ’s and musicians)
- 2 Full SD card slots (great for pro photographers and videographers)
- 95Wh battery (or 10 hours of extra web browsing)
- this totals 17 hours when connected to a the tablet and up to 22 hours if using Core M processor!!!
- NVidia GTX 1080m-1080m SLI
- Holy smokes, lets just say 5k ultra settings city…. and if you have them in SLI, you should get over 80fps on average with the full res of the tablet display.
- Optional 2 or 4 TB HDD
- Great option for gamers and photographers/videographers.
- GPS (track location if you loose keyboard)
- Subwoofer under keyboard
- Vibration motors
- could add to gaming experience
- Dust Proof
- 3 month rechargeable battery
- Induction charging when connected to the side of the tablet
- 3,000 levels of pressure sensitivity
- tilt sensor to 20 degrees
- Pixel Sense (found in surface pro 4)
- RGB LED light
- Shows battery life when tapped
- transitions from bright green (100%) to orange (50%) to red (0%)
- Shows current color being used by the pen….
- for example, if you switch the color to bright blue, the light will transition to the exact shade of blue that you are using
- this would be great for people that want to use multiple pens at the same time so that they can switch between different colors like you do with real pencils.
- Shows battery life when tapped
- Haptic feedback
- Magnet for mounting
- Programmable eraser clicks
- 1 click, 2 clicks, 3 clicks, press and holder
- Pocket clip
- Programmable capacitive touch + click button
- 1 click, 2 clicks, 3 clicks, hold, swipe left/right/up/down
- Pen tips (6 options)
- Paint brush tips (5 options)
- Eraser tips (3)
- Art box
- Includes pen tips, paint tips, eraser tips, and pen case
Ok so that was a lot. This is an ideal device. I’m sure there are a ton of engineering dilemmas with this configuration, but its not impossible, and I honestly believe that such a machine is pretty close in view…. I mean like a year or two away. So many manufactures have made major leaps in performance over the past few months. We haven’t seen anyone converge all of the latest technologies into one package quite yet, so there is a lot of room for innovation over the next year. I would guess that Microsoft’s Surface team would be the first to try something like this out, but who knows, right?
Thanks for bearing with my extreme geeking session.