The new litter of thin, cheap laptops, as we've seen from Lenovo and Dell, is inherently charming, making the experience of using a cheap, portable laptop bearable for people put off by netbook tininess. There's just one problem.
CNET caught up with Doug Freedman, an analyst for AmTech who has been speaking to device manufacturers:
Early production units being built in plastic, with the bottom case being plastic, are cracking...So, to get that really thin form factor that they're after, they're probably going to have to go with a metal case.
The obvious issue here is that they can't go with a metal case, or else they'll almost certainly cease to be "budget" laptops. As Mark noted in his review, the MSI X340—on the high end of this particular category already—suffered from an alarming flimsiness. Switching the case to aluminum would solve this problem; it would also push the laptop's price even closer to the MacBook Air, effectively eliminating its entire reason for existence.
To be fair, most of the laptops announced in the category haven't even started shipping yet, and problems like this could conceivably be conquered with some clever industrial design wizardry. Sometimes, though, there's a reason a particular product niche—especially an obvious one like this—hasn't been cracked before. [CNET]