We’ve just started 2021 and have already had a couple of rant sessions here at Techaeris. A lot of technology has passed through our collective hands over the years, and there are a few hardware choices that continue to boggle our minds. It is 2021, after all, and it’s time for hardware manufacturers to step it up and make these three hardware improvements sooner than later.
1. USB Type-C for charging
USB Type-C is finally being widely adopted. However, while some products like laptops, headphones, and controllers adopt USB-C charging ports, there are still many more that aren’t. Many laptops still use a proprietary charging port, even when including one, two, or more USB Type-C ports for data.
Peripherals are another category that still use Micro-USB for charging or connecting to systems. Last year I started docking half a point for design if a peripheral uses Micro-USB to charge or connect to a computer. This goes for keyboards, mice, headphones, wireless earbuds, or anything else you use with a computer. I’m okay with a USB-C to USB-A cable, but I’d much prefer a USB-C to USB-C with an included USB-C to USB-A adapter if the company is dead set on using USB-A. What really gets me sometimes is having products from the same company, in the same line, where one uses Micro-USB, and the other uses USB-C. Talk about being inconsistent… Oh, and if you’re using USB-C for charging, let me use my device while it’s charging!
1.5. BONUS: 3.5mm audio jack
Oh, and while we’re at it, how about killing the 3.5mm audio jack for computer headsets and use USB-C instead? A lot of smartphones are killing the 3.5mm audio jack, so why not the PC?
2. 720p webcams
For years now, laptops have boasted HD webcams. The problem is, 720p is technically HD. Many external webcams are FHD (1080p) or even UHD (4K) resolution. Given the amount of streaming and video conferencing that goes on these days — not to mention working from home due to the pandemic — it’s high time more laptop manufacturers start putting 1080p webcams in their systems. And kudos to those who already are.
3. 2.4GHz-only devices
This request is a bit trickier. But I still think it’s valid, and again, it’s something that products from the same company differ on. While 2.4GHz gives you a wider ranger, 5GHz gives you faster speeds. Typically speaking, I used to put the devices I wanted to use more bandwidth on my 5GHz network and the rest on 2.4GHz networks. However, many IoT devices only support 2.4GHz networks, which can be frustrating at times.
What’s even more frustrating is when you have multiple devices from the same OEM and one supports 5GHz while the others don’t. For example, I have three outdoor Wi-Fi cameras and only one supports 5GHz while the other two only support 2.4GHz networks. Being cameras, I want the higher bandwidth for better video quality.
Sure, 2.4GHz has its advantages like distance and better penetration through walls. However, many non-connected devices like phones and garage door openers use the 2.4GHz frequency as well, causing interference with connected devices. With Wi-Fi routers getting better and smarter these days, there’s no excuse for devices not supporting 5GHz bands. Just to try something different on the latest router I’m reviewing, I enabled the Smart Connect feature which does make things easier when it comes to having a mix of devices that only support 2.4Ghz and others that support 5GHz. No longer do you have to pick and choose which network the device uses, but the router will pick the best one (for 5GHz devices) based on the distance from the router and the speed the device is getting.
We fully understand that these hardware improvements will likely drive the cost of devices up slightly, but really, who wouldn’t pay an extra five or ten dollars for these changes. I know I would.
What do you think about the three hardware improvements we think OEMs should make in 2021? Is there something else on the hardware front you’d like to see OEMs make sooner rather than later? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook, or MeWe.