LG P1 Express Dual

Discussing product design, a Sony spokesperson once admitted there’s hardly any difference in the capabilities from one device to another in today’s increasingly concentrated market. The only point of difference technology providers have to bank on, she reasoned, is the way their products look, how their products do tasks compared to the competition and if all else fails, brand loyalty.

That theorem can certainly be applied to current mobile computer technology. You wouldn’t buy a laptop computer today for less than $2,000 and not expect Bluetooth, wireless built in, a high quality graphics card and a DVD rewriter.

So what else can a laptop maker offer you? Product design is one of the last frontiers that separates the men from the boys, and it means a lot more than just how a thing looks. As a device to do things, a computer has a lot of functions, and accessing them easily and comfortably is a benchmark against which all manufacturers should measure.

By that yardstick, the LG P1 Express is as advanced (or better) as any other laptop you’ve seen over the last year. By some inexplicable convention, many of the other manufacturers all use black keys with white figures applied. It might not sound like a big deal, but the human eye responds to light rather than dark colours, and the key you’re looking for is that much harder to see against a black background. That’s especially the case on laptops, where the function keys are usually tiny and there’s seldom an extended keypad (the calculator-shaped series of buttons on the far right of a desktop computer keyboard which usually accompany the arrow, home, end, help and page up/down keys).

White bodies and/or keyboards are the reason the Sony VAIO range is among the most comfortable laptops to use, and LG have taken a leaf out of the same book. For the same reason a dark room seems smaller and a brightly coloured room larger, a laptop with a light-coloured body feels unconsciously more spacious.

So if you’re used to using a 15 inch system (which most laptops are), the illusion of spaciousness will make you believe the P1 Express is 17 inches or above. LG have made fantastic use of the desktop space with a keyboard that stretches right to the edges (and yes, includes the blessed extended keypad, a layout that tricks you into thinking you’re using a much wider computer than you are.

Together with clearly marked volume up and down buttons (usually they’re hidden on function keys, engaged by holding down the Function button, which can be found almost anywhere on the keyboard from one laptop to another), this is the most comfortable computer you’ll use in a long time.

There’s also one huge limitation to mobile computing the industry has failed to unshackle itself successfully from — current processing technology is power-hungry, especially with games and high-graphics applications eating up more battery power, and despite claims from manufacturers of battery life up to 4 or 5 hours, a machine that gives you more than 2.5 to 3 hours of solid work time is rare.

Under test conditions in a graphic design studio, performing a mixture of graphical and office tasks, the LG P1 just wouldn’t run out. Closing in on five and a half hours, we finally had to pack up and go home and it still hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down. With a standard 6-cell battery, the usual amount of RAM and Intel’s up to the minute dual chip processor, the machine’s life was quite inexplicable even as it grew more amazing by the quarter hour.

And considering it has all the latest and greatest technology, The P1 Express also performed, apparently not scrimping on battery power. Using Adobe Photoshop to create an automated gallery of almost 30 photos went like lightning, a process that took less than 20 seconds which would take any other computer older than a year or so at least 60 seconds to labour through.

There are two single midrange speakers at the front of the P1 Express, and the loudest volume is far from earth shattering but it’s only a subwoofer away from being a self-contained multimedia hub. It does however include software called the SRS surround sound system, the theory being that you can connect it to a hi-fi system.

It’s a flat and uncluttered machine both inside and out with a stylish, pleasant colour scheme that makes it a joy to hold and work with. Compared to some other machines that make a heavy, clunking statement by wearing their technical design on their sleeve, you almost forget you’re working with high technology.

Like Sony, LG’s a self-styled lifestyle provider, as content to sell you an air conditioner or a blender as they are a computer. While the company runs the risk of spreading itself too thin doing everything, its strategy is undoubtedly to simply encourage consumers to fill their homes with LG products, almost as if they believe there is still such a thing as brand loyalty. But the best way to ensure that sort of loyalty is to make every slice of their digital lifestyle as desirable as possible. If LG fridges and toasters are as good as the P1 Express Dual, it’s a goal that’s well within sight.

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