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In depth: 10 truly inspiring PC and laptop designs


PCHF Tech News
Jan 10, 2015



Whilst most hardcore PC users are more worried about what's on the inside of their machine, plenty of consumers are far more bothered about the design on the outside. Lets face it: who doesn't like to see the look on their friend's face when they lock eyes with your newest PC setup?

With so many PC manufacturers out there vying to make us part with our hard-earned cash there have been plenty of design icons over the years that have hit the heights and defined the following 12 months of laptop/PC design.

We've whittled this down into a list of 10 truly inspiring PC and laptop designs that would grace any PC fashion catwalk worth its salt, so strap in for the ride!

  • In partnership with Microsoft, powered by the HP Spectre 360
The Apple 2


It was the first time we really got to see that iconic five colour piece of fruit plastered across pieces of Apple hardware.

The Apple I family of devices, which kicked things off for Wozniak, Jobs and company, looked incredibly wooden and downright boring compared to the Apple II that followed at the end of the 70s.

The machine itself didn't break down any barriers in terms of the way it looked – it was as boxy and off-white as the best machines out there – yet the Apple logo with a chunk taken out of it appeared on a machine for the first time and hasn't left Apple's designs since. Now there's an icon.

IBM ThinkPad


A true design classic, the ThinkPad first reared its black-clad casing in a time when PCs were firmly in the grip of the light grey and white era. It was one of the earliest efforts to bring tablet computing to the mass-market (and not particularly successful to that end) yet the design itself is something that has lived on to date.

The machine's red dot touch-scroller in the middle of the keyboard along with accompanying buttons has become a byproduct for enterprise productivity the world over and Lenovo, the new owner of the range, is continuing to use that same design.

It has even won design awards since moving over to Lenovo and this shows that the ThinkPad's style has well and truly adapted with the times.

Alienware Area 51


When you look at an Alienware PC you immediately know that the iconic design is serious about gaming. There's something about the angular design that makes some people think you're weird for buying one. Then they learn of the price tag and are even more sceptical, yet the design is so ridiculously eye-catching and iconic that it is lauded over and above most other machines out there.

The almost diamond-like design together with the light blue lightning that adorns the latest creation has become a true classic for hardcore PC gamers that don't fancy investing the time in creating their own machine.

All in all if you've got the cash and want a machine that looks and acts the part you can't go wrong with Alienware.

Apple MacBook


When we talk about iconic and inspiring PC/laptop designs, Apple is never far from the conversation. Whether you look at the original colourful and bubble-like iMac or the sleek sliver MacBook Pro/Air of recent times, Apple has always been up there. That's why it's high praise to say that the next big release in the MacBook range is the most iconic yet.

Apple has done away with much of the bezel surrounding the screen, fitted the laptop with a Retina display and slimmed everything down so there's just a keyboard, screen, touchpad and not a lot else. Less is very much more.

That isn't all as Cupertino has managed to cram batteries of all shapes and sizes into the casing as well as a motherboard that contains all the components necessary to run the machine. That's before you even think of the colours that make it possible to finally get a gold computer from Apple.



Before the 486 and the ThinkPad came the original daddy of the personal computer world that defined a whole generation of early users of PCs.

When the IBM PC first came out it had a partnership with Microsoft on the software side of things, and in terms of looks it inspired a whole glut of PCs under the IBM banner and from other vendors as well.

It did this with a grey box and monitor setup with a keyboard nearby that then became the standard for most IBM machines for the next decade and further out. This is even before you consider the influence the actual hardware innards of the machine had.

Apple Mac Pro (2013)


Asking around it sometimes feels like the Mac Pro's black cylindrical design is a bit like a jar of Marmite in that it splits the market into Apple lovers and Apple haters. Though looking at the Mac Pro and calling it a wastepaper bin is a little far off the mark.

The machine fits most of the usual brief we've come to expect from Apple in that it's very pricey but has a design that constantly makes you want it on your desk.

Apple also worked to make it just 9.9-inches tall and 6.5-inches in diameter meaning that it fits snugly on the desk of any power user, and knocks any Windows equivalent out of the ballpark in the design department.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro


In a 2-in-1 convertible laptop market where many companies have failed miserably at attempting to create a viable alternative to a laptop, Lenovo has stepped up to the mark with its Yoga Pro 3 that knocks the socks off everything else in terms of design and convertibility (apart from possibly the Surface Pro 3).

What you get with the Yoga 3 Pro is a powerful machine, crystal clear screen and alongside all that is the nifty set of modes that can cater to any situation. You might not think that you want to use the tent or stand modes any time soon, but they are a nice addition in the style department that make this device stand out from the rest of the sometimes slightly bland convertibles around.

What Lenovo has achieved is a solid convertible that promises to inspire many others looking to stretch the form factor boundaries above and beyond the competition.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3


Doomed is a word that was floating round in the vicinity of Microsoft when it came to the firm's early efforts to bring a convertible tablet PC to market.

The Surface RT, the first in the line of Microsoft-made devices, famously bombed and caused a huge write-down to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Since then it has changed course ever so slightly and produced what is the best convertible out there right now: the Surface Pro 3.

What's under the hood is impressive. What's on the screen is impressive. And the best part is that it looks really nice. The design hasn't changed a huge amount since the first iteration and there are many who complain that the touch cover is simply too expensive, but this is one machine that had me seriously considering whether to kiss the MacBook Air goodbye, and to inject some real style into my work day.

Sony Vaio


Sony may have decided to spin off its Vaio arm last year, but the range has served up some corking designs over almost 20 years since it first released a PC in 1997.

It's hard to single out one Vaio machine for particular praise as we've seen everything from PCs with built-in Walkman settings to super-svelte laptops that pushed competitors to make their offerings even thinner.

Vaio started going super-slim with the PCG-505 back in 1997 and carried that on throughout the next decade with the likes of the Vaio Z, X505 and the X series that all came with slimmed down designs. Apart from the designs themselves there is of course the trademark shiny Vaio lettering on the back of every case that will continue to be iconic for years to come.

BBC Microcomputer


Primary school kids of the 90s would be lying if they didn't recognise the beige and black box with orange and black keys that adorned the BBC Microcomputer.

Before RM began foisting its PCs onto schools countrywide, the BBC Micro had its pride of place in each school and although nothing takes any cues from the machine nowadays, it was still an icon of its time.

The machine inspired a whole generation of British kids who had no clue about computers, and taught them that these things had a place, were pretty cool, and would likely get better in the future – which they inevitably did. It may not look like much now but boy did the BBC Micro have its moment in the sun where style was concerned!



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