New V: The hard choices

Hi community,

Today we need your input as we have some hard choices to make!

Having your cake…

Throughout the development process we often ask you what you think of certain specifications or features, and of course we always try to implement as many popular features as possible in the products we create. But every now and then, it’s not as easy as adding function A and function B and calling it a day. Some things come at a cost. That can be an increase in the product price, but sometimes that cost is the removal of some other requested feature. We’ve tried to get as much information as possible ahead of time, so we can tell you what the trade-offs are. Now it’s time to see where the community’s priorities lie!

Ports and bezels

Over the years, phones, laptops, monitors and just about everything with a screen, has been getting smaller and smaller bezels. Because of this, a high screen-to-body ratio (how much of a device’s surface is covered in screen in stead of bezels) is often seen as more modern. Of course it also means that devices can be made smaller with the same screen size, or that larger screens can fit into a device of the same size, which is great when dealing with mobile hardware.

So obviously we want bezels that are as small as possible, and one needs but look at modern smartphones to see bezels all but disappear. So why do all design concepts for the new V still have thicker bezels than other devices?

Well, they’re not there without reason, of course. The top bezel houses things such as cameras and speakers. The bottom bezel allows for the keyboard to be lifted at an angle. The side bezels house things like the USB ports.

You may have noticed that the headphone jack has been pushed to the top of the device on these concepts. This way it can be hidden in the top bezel, which already allows for smaller side bezels. We’ve tried coming up with a design that does the same with the USB Type-A ports, the next largest component, but the bezels are simply not large enough to make that work.

Now, when we surveyed the community about ports, we were surprised to find that over a quarter of respondents said to no longer need USB Type-A ports. This got us thinking… Replacing the Type-A ports with more Type-C ports allows for smaller bezels. Of course, we would never do that without running it by our community first, so here’s the deal:

We can have 2x USB-A, 2x USB-C, and larger bezels, or we can have 4x USB-C, and shrink the bezels by up to 25%!

  • I need USB Type-A ports, losing them is a dealbreaker for me!
  • I prefer keeping the Type-A ports
  • I don’t care either way
  • I prefer up to 25% smaller bezels
  • I need up to 25% smaller bezels, large bezels are a dealbreaker for me!

0 voters

The cost of custom

Keyboards are always a challenging topic, as everyone has their own preferences. Especially in a laptop keyboard where space —and therefore the number of available keys— is limited, compromises must be made that not everyone always agrees on. Which keys to cut, and which to leave in? Which keys are allowed to be moved or resized?

Our suppliers have offered us some keyboard modules that had us scratching our heads, wondering if whoever designed them had ever actually used a keyboard. But even among the good ones, we were not able to find layouts better than the ones we used for the first-generation V. But we feel that it should be possible to do better, and judging by the passionate discussions about keyboard layouts going on in the community, we think that you feel the same.

If an off-the-shelf keyboard module doesn’t tick all of our boxes, we can develop our own. This will allow us to add additional keys, avoid some of the challenging trade-offs, and fix some of the quirks we’ve come across. And of course we’ll do a deeper dive with you guys to make sure we get everything just right. But ‘good’ versus ‘awesome’ isn’t much of a challenge, and this is a topic about hard choices. The cost for this improvement is paid in cold, hard cash.

Creating a custom keyboard module is a costly endeavor, from research and development all the way to the custom tooling machinery. We’ve tried to get a good estimate of the cost as to best reflect how this will affect your wallet. Keep in mind that the final cost per unit will depend largely on how many units are ultimately sold. It may turn out that the cost is lower than this, but we can’t make any promises so we’ve gone with conservative estimates.

  • A good keyboard layout is good enough for me, I don’t want to spend extra
  • I don’t care either way
  • I’d pay more for a better keyboard layout, but it’s not worth $ 40 to me
  • I’ll happily pay up to $ 40 more to get a better keyboard layout

0 voters

We’re not there yet

As the project goes on, there are more decisions to be made. And of course we will continue to call on our community to make sure we nail all the hard choices!

nlbanner

13 Likes

Smaller bezels allow for more screen space; larger ones are better for people holding the tablet and using finger swipes/ a pen; so naturally we want both. Perhaps the solution is to incorporate a software based bezel - ie option to shrink the screen by 1cm all round when used as a tablet?

16 Likes

I agree with you that we want a balance between screen-to-body ratio and holding experience. :yum: Base on our estimation of the bezel width, the USB Type-C only Project: V with trimmed bezels has sufficient room for holding the tablet comfortably with our hands. Therefore, a software solution is not a necessity.

6 Likes

I have… too many usb-c adapters lying around my place right now. So getting rid of USB-A isn’t a big deal for me. However does this post imply that reducing the bezels also means getting rid of the headphone jack?

I’m on the fence about that. On one hand, it will definitely reduce the bezels but I’ll lose connectivity with my IEMs. On the other hand we are getting 4 usb-c therefore plenty of ports for me to plug in a dongle. Plus I have an es100 anyways when I’m on the go. Hmm…

  • Thinner bezels but no headphone jack?
  • Slightly thicker bezels with headphone jack?

0 voters

Also what’s happening with the SD card slot. I thought we’re keeping it or is also going away (if we are to reduce the bezels)?

3 Likes

Hey, @arkery!

Reducing the size of bezels does not affect the presence of a 3.5mm Headphone Jack by any means. We have hidden the body of its component within the top bezel to make the side bezels slimmer, i.e. the headphone jack has been moved upwards. We applied this design in both Project: V bezel demos regardless of the existence of USB Type-A ports. Meanwhile, the full-sized SD card slot remains the same due to its low thickness.

9 Likes

out of curiosity, with thinner bezels are we shooting for a bigger screen size or a smaller device body?

6 Likes

USB C only version still has imo quite big bezels, not sure why, as they are not affected by headphone jack nor USB A. Is there any option that without USB A, bezels will shrink more, and look more like this? image
(Bezels on current iPad Pro 2020)

5 Likes

We are aiming for a smaller device body (lighter, higher screen-to-body ratio). We have reviewed many potential displays from several suppliers, and no 13" screens (increasing screen size) are available for us.


:ringer_planet: (Typing the following on an iPad Pro) We would love the new V to look as sleek and modern as the current iPad Pro line up. However:

And there is one more reason which we are not ready to reveal now. We will provide more insights to you guys once more things are settled.

6 Likes

For bezels: I know, we talk about that many time but to have both of option, increase thickness or use OLED display can be useful for many user

4 Likes

Would the new V have the same bezels as the old one if we decide to opt for USB A ports?

1 Like

With the presence of USB-A ports, the new V has about 25% bezel size-reduction comparing with the 1st Gen V. If we merely adopt USB-C ports, this number can become up to 40% (side bezels only).

3 Likes

Sounds great! So if we adopt USB A ports we’ll have uniformly-thinner bezels right? Nice :smiley:
While I’d rather keep the USB A ports, it depends on what everyone else requires as well. And with most companies straight-out dropping USB A ports from their designs, it’s something we need to consider as well.

1 Like

Smaller bezel, C to type A female adapter solves that dilemma. $6 on Amazon. Think future not past! Ship with one if that’s easier.

6 Likes

USB-C is the future. The sooner everyone moves away from USB-A the better. Go with the thinner bezels, but keep the headphone jack.

3 Likes

I don’t feel like there’s a good option for the keyboard layout for me to vote.

As a developer and touch typer, I’d love:

  • home
  • end
  • proper sized ] and \ keys

However, I don’t need the right CTRL key.

While page up and page down keys are great, I personally hate it when it’s hard to find the arrow keys. The off-the-shelf keyboard design makes it easy to find the arrow keys. Adding page up and down keys would make it difficult. Also, please don’t do the Apple arrow keys design with the left and right buttons being the height of up and down keys combined - that again makes it difficult to find the keys by touch/feel.

9 Likes

I think for a good way to fix the keyboard layout issue, is potentially offering a hotswappable version of the keyboard as well. Many enthusiast keyboard users have sets of their own switches and keycaps they would prefer to use anyway. So if there is a way to create a secondary model that is hotswappable and available as an option, similar to how there are several variants available of your new monitors, many enthusiasts would be willing to pay a little more for such an interesting project with the potential for further customization. I myself would happily pay to 40$ surcharge mentioned in this or even a little more for hotswappable switches and potential for varied layouts!

1 Like

I think a USB Type-A port would be important, even though adapters exist. For example using a small mouse dongle with an adapter would be fairly inconvenient as most people probably keep it always connected to their device. Also as Type-C only reduces only the side bezels, if I’m understanding correctly, I don’t know if the smaller side bezels would have a greater benefit to the aesthetics than Type-A would have to usability.

2 Likes

Mentioned it before on a previous post but I do not enjoy using devices with small bezels. I have bigger hands and small bevel devices, even on phones, are not usable. Smaller bezels look nicer but I prefer usability over looks. Also I use USB-A everyday still and would not get a device for work if I need to attach adaptors to plug in an external or flash drive.

3 Likes

My biggest issue is the need to connect a mouse and sometimes full keyboard. This can be done with a USB-a wireless connector but if we jump to only usbc I’ll need a dongle. Have you thought about including an adapter to go USB type a to type c?

3 Likes

It’s past time for type-A to die. I can’t think of a single use-case scenario in which using a type-C-equivalent cable would not be possible. That said, the unit looks objectively better with equal bezel sizes all around. Since the connectivity implications don’t mean anything to me, between the slimmer side bezels and thicker equal bezels… hmm. I don’t know. Thinner side bezels might be nice for media consumption, so I’d put my money there, if narrowly.