As someone who keeps asking for greater battery life and durability out of his gadgets, I have a hypocritical habit of liking extra-thin things. The HTC One A9. The Samsung Galaxy Alpha. The Acer Aspire S7. We've long passed the point of diminishing returns with thinness and lightness of personal tech devices, but we can't resist pushing further. At CES this week, Samsung and HP went completely overboard with their thinness obsession, introducing laptops that are scarcely thicker than a piece of cardboard. Physically speaking, these Windows PCs are pretty much tablets with the keyboard permanently attached.
Why do we do this? It's not like there's some really popular type of messenger bag that only fits laptops you can slice cake with. Nobody needs a 13-inch laptop that weighs 840g / 1.85lb. But I kind of want one. Samsung's Notebook 9 laptops were the first thing to excite me here at CES, exhibiting a lightness and minimalism that feels strangely irresistible. A Notebook 9 is like any other laptop I've used — if that laptop was crushed into a flat sheet of techno paper. It's because it doesn't feel like a real piece of technology — any more than a 2D hologram could feel like a human — that it gives me the sense of being otherworldly and somehow, yes, magical.
This is not a purchase recommendation. I'm not going to advise any friend or family member to buy an ultra-thin Notebook 9 or one of HP's almost-two-dimensional Elitebook Folios. But then I wouldn't advise people to spend their hard-earned money on a Lamborghini either. These are impractical devices whose makers season the basic functionality with a sprinkling of stardust. We like them because we know they're just on the right side of impossible — improbable, but somehow achievable.
This is why people come to CES. With all due respect to the kitchenware designers and engineers out there, nobody is hosting web forums dedicated to comparing fridge or washing machine specs. And, frankly, we're all a little too jaded to care about the latest incremental update to a PC or TV lineup. We want stuff that's out there, like Volkswagen's electric bus concept or the Faraday car. Extremely thin laptops are the happy middle ground: products that look and feel futuristic, but which we can actually attain and buy and sometime soon. In that way, they integrate some of the incrementalism that defines technological improvement over time while still entertaining our primordial urges for creating magical and inexplicable things.