Why don't we have waterproof laptops already?


Image: Bob al-greene/mashable

I still don’t know how it happened.

One minute I was sitting down at my desk, glass of water in hand. Seconds later I was watching helplessly as the contents of the glass seeped into my MacBook Air. My screen went black almost immediately.

As I walk-of-shamed my soggy laptop down to IT, I started going through a mental checklist of what was backed up and what wasn’t. Just how screwed would I be if the thing ended up being totally unsalvageable?

Luckily for me, almost everything was backed up somewhere. Luckier still, IT was able to successfully dry out the laptop and return it to me within a couple days (thanks Norman!) with no sign of the incident. 

Still, the whole thing was more than just a reminder to be more careful (or, at the very least, to use cups with lids). The whole thing got me thinking about why, of all the waterproof gadgets we have, laptops — arguably one of the most important pieces of our digital lives — so rarely have any water resistance at all. 

Think about it. Water resistance is becoming the norm for flagship smartphones, including the iPhone 7. Want a waterproof camera? Take your pick. Even smartwatches, which have long been slightly water resistant, are becoming waterproof. 

But look for a waterproof laptop and your options are depressingly limited. You’re pretty much stuck with a handful of “rugged” notebooks designed for regular outdoor use. These thick bulky bricks are not only offensive to look at, they aren’t at all practical for anyone not working in the middle of a forest. Just look at this 10-pound beast from Panasonic: it could probably survive the apocalypse but I wouldn’t be caught dead with a laptop that looked like that.

Panasonic's Toughbook is fully waterproof and 100% hideous.

Panasonic’s Toughbook is fully waterproof and 100% hideous.

Now, I get that making a laptop capable of withstanding a lot of water is no small engineering feat. But it seems like there should be some middle ground. It’s 2017, after all, at the very least I should be able to spill few drops of coffee on my laptop without panicking over whether it’s going to destroy my digital life. 

Surely, this is a solvable engineering challenge. I would even be willing to sacrifice a bit of thinness if it meant I could take my laptop into a crowded coffee shop without anxiety. 

So, OEMs (especially you, Apple), please take note: add just a little waterproofing, okay?

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