Gorgeous Gadgets: The 10 Best-Looking Mobile Devices Of The Last 10 Years4:00 PM EST Wed. Aug. 01, 2012
Recently CRN looked back at the last 10 years to find some of the ugliest technology products in recent history. Now we turn our attention to the most beautiful products of the last decade. Mobile devices such as a smartphones, tablets and ultrathin laptops have sparked a renaissance of technology design, and here are 10 of the best examples of that trend.
Apple's game changer was preceded by considerable hype and speculation, and it turns out the product was worthy of the buzz -- and then some. The iPhone debuted in 2007 and quickly changed the way consumers and business users interacted with their mobile devices. The iPhone's slick, easy-to-use touchscreen became the interface of choice for smartphones. Sure, the apps are great -- but the iPhone's conquest began with its elegant, attractive form factor.
Sure, the clamshell smartphone look is now pretty much extinct. But, the clamshell was once the go-to design for mobile devices, and no company made it quite as good as Motorola. The Motorola RAZR series was originally positioned as a high-end fashion phone when it launched in 2004, but the alluring clamshell design -- the thinnest in the world at that time -- proved so popular that Motorola lowered the price and introduced additional models and versions of the smartphone. The Motorola RAZR dominated the clamshell smartphone market and sold well over 100 million units before the design went out of style.
Apple helped introduced another design renaissance in 2008 with its ultrathin MacBook, which at the time was the world's thinnest notebook computer. The original MacBook Air measured just 0.16 inch at its thinnest point and weighed a paltry 3 pounds. Ditching traditional notebook components like an optical drive and hard disk drive, the Air relies on lighter solid-state drives (the original MacBook Air had an optional 1.8-inch HDD, but current models feature only SSD options). And like all recent Apple products, the Air sports a sleek yet simple modern design. The introduction of the Air spurred computer makers to adopt thinner and lighter laptop designs.
The MacBook Air led to Intel's Ultrabook, right? Well, before the Ultrabook, there was the Samsung Series 9 notebook, which was launched in 2011. Samsung's sleek, ultrathin Series 9 notebook is essentially the PC equivalent of the MacBook Air; it measures just 0.64 inch and weighs less than 3 pounds, making the Series 9 not only one of the slimmest and lightest PC notebooks around but one of the best-looking as well. The dark chassis is composed of duralumin, which Samsung says is twice as durable as aluminum and is the same material used by an "advanced aircraft." Advanced, indeed.
Lenovo took the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show by storm when it unveiled the eye-catching IdeaPad U1 hybrid, which combined the laptop form factor with a tablet. The Windows 7-based IdeaPad featured a detachable screen that operates a separate touchscreen tablet device, powered by Qualcomm's ARM-based Snapdragon chip and running Lenovo's own Linux flavor, Skylight. The response to the U1 was so overwhelmingly positive that Lenovo re-introduced it at CES 2011, with Lenovo's Android-powered LePad tablet replacing the Skylight tablet. Sadly, Lenovo never released the IdeaPad U1 in North America (it was only available in China), but the product helped remake Lenovo's image as a major PC force and led to further innovations like the IdeaPad Yoga this year.
HP teased its first "premium consumer Ultrabook" in a viral video prior to CES 2012, and the product lived up to the hype. The Envy 14 Spectre is a unique offering -- its most notable feature is the "midnight black" scratch-resistant glass that covers its exterior cover as well as the wrist rest. The Spectre also boasts a brilliant 14-inch edge-to-edge display underneath that Corning Gorilla Glass. While it's thicker and heavier than a standard Ultrabook, the snazzy Envy 14 Spectre is still easy to carry, despite its glass frame, and much better looking than your standard gray or black box.
Apple once again set the standard for design aesthetics with its tablet. The introduction of the Apple iPad in the spring of 2010 shook the foundations of the computer industry, and it all started with the device's simple yet irresistible design. The 10-inch tablet measured just 13 mm deep and weighed just 1.5 lbs, boasting a 9.7-inch scratch-resistant touchscreen display and a smooth yet durable aluminum back. While subsequent generations -- and competing tablets -- went even thinner and lighter, they're all pretty much descendants of the original iPad's design.
Asus didn't wait long before adding a twist to the popular tablet form factor with its Eee Pad Transformer series, which boasts a docking keyboard that seamlessly connects with the 10.1 tablet, making it look like an ultrathin laptop. The Eee Pad Transformer was first launched in March of 2011, but Asus wasted little time improving the design by introducing the Transformer Prime last December. The Transformer Prime is even lighter (20.7 ounces) and thinner (just 8.33 mm) than its predecessor, and it features an even sleeker metallic spun finish that connects comfortably with the keyboard dock. A sexy design for a worthy iPad competitor, the Transformer Prime is one of the top Android tablets around.
Nokia isn't exactly known for having sexy-looking devices, and the company's best days may indeed be behind it. But, the E7 deserves praise as not only the most alluring Nokia product ever produced but also one of the best-designed QWERTY smartphones on the market. The E7 looks like just another alluring smartphone with a 4-inch touchscreen, but it's got a trick up its sleeve -- or rather underneath its display. The touchscreen slides up and sits at a comfortable angle, allowing users to interface with the spacious keyboard underneath. Convertible gadgets can often be clunky with ugly designs, but the E7 manages to combine both a sleek touchscreen and a user-friendly keyboard together in one, smooth device.
There are a lot of good looking Ultrabooks out there, so it takes something more than just being thin and light for one to stand out. And Asus' Zenbook series definitely stands out. The computer maker designed the original Zenbook UX21 (11.6-inch display) and UX31 (13.3-inch display) to resemble hand-crafted luxury watches, and while they're not quite that flashy, the Zenbooks still turn heads with their slightly reflective aluminum chassis and circular spun metal finish. The inside of the Zenbook is also impressive -- an elegant embedded keyboard with aluminum key caps that match the Zenbook's exterior and a larger, incredibly smooth trackpad that's designed to match the 16:9 aspect ratio of the display.