Blog Post

Yet another gripe: MacBook Hinges

mbp My main computer is an Apple Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro. It is a beautifully designed piece of technology. Since I spend so much time on my notebook (remember, it’s not a laptop), I have plenty of gripes.  I’ve already mentioned my annoyance with the notebook’s heat, but today I’m focusing on the hinge.

When I first got the MacBook Pro, I noticed its hinge right away. It was extremely different than my Titanium PowerBook G4’s hinges.  The hinge allows the bottom of the display to be very close to the keyboard, which gives the MacBook a very unique look. However, the MacBook’s display cannot be flattened out to extreme angles. I am not certain why Apple notebooks cannot have a different hinge that allows for a flattened display.

Now why would I care about such a thing? Why would anyone need or want a notebook display that can lay as flat as the keyboard?  There are times when I could benefit from another ten degrees of rotation from the hinge when I am sitting with the notebook as a laptop so I can see the display better. There are other times where I am showing something to another person and the best way for them to see is if I flatten out the display. I just tilt my wrists to compensate for the lack of flexibility of the hinge.

I am also a big fan of repurposing computers and I have a hard time letting go of older systems. Repurposing laptops into digital picture frames is a popular new function for old laptops. I know it may sound like sacrilege to use an Apple system for such a mundane purpose, but in a couple of years, I’ll get a new system and my current computer will feel old, sluggish, and underpowered.  Mounting a laptop in a shadow box enclosure would be an easy way to reuse the system. However, the hinge of the MacBook does not allow for a shallow shadow box.

Yes, it’s a small gripe.  Yep, it does not greatly hinder my OS X experience.  However, I can still gripe about it.

17 Responses to “Yet another gripe: MacBook Hinges”

  1. Katie

    This is one of the first things I noticed about my new MacBook. I keep wanting to push the screen back to get more depth to the image, and I can’t. Having last used a Toshiba (which was stolen) I thought I’d try Mac, but this little ergonomic issue is an annoyance as is the fact that the keyboard also is not easy to use at certain angles. While I like the closed integrated system of the Mac, I am thinking, should I take it back and get a PC?

  2. Kendall Tawes

    I still use a Titanium PowerBook and while I had to replace my hinges twice (damn) I do like the ability to flatten it out. But hey at least you PowerBook’s screen has never been held on by wires alone.

  3. This poorly-designed hinge (one of the very few things on anything Apple that is poorly designed) is one of the reasons why I sold my MBP and went back to a MB C2D. Those 10 to 15 degrees of extra monitor angle make a world of difference.

  4. Steve

    the problem for me is that since I came from a dell that went all the way flat when i first started using my macbook pro i had a tendency to push the screen back to far and i was afraid i would forget and push to hard and it would snap off. I am also afraid that someone who has a screen that goes all the way back will be using it or sitting in front of it and try and yank it down.

  5. Peter v.

    In regards to the “digital picture frame” re-purposing: don’t you think the 100+ degree MBP will cause a huge fire? Yes, I don’t think that enclosing this notebook in wood is the safest idea ever. . .

    . . . I’m just saying. And I’m not even complaining about the heat, I know that Apple choses design over good heat dispersion. You want a cool running laptop? That’ll be an extra inch, please?

  6. Peter Durkee

    The MacBook hinges are pretty much the same as recent Powerbooks and iBooks, so they’ve been around for awhile. When they came out originally, the advantage cited was that, because of the hinge design, the screens don’t stick up as high when opened, and therefore fit much better on airline seat trays, especially when the seat in front is reclined.

  7. I think this is a big corner use case for the product designers. Keeping the Macbook Pro around 1 inch thick had to be a big requirement (thankfully), and certainly more important than being able to open the notebook completely flat. Slow news day, indeed.

  8. Matthew Smith

    I have an 800 MHz powerbook and the hinge is having problems that cause the screen to cut out unless it’s at just the right angle. Also, the hinge is very loose. My friend has one of the newer 1.67GHz powerbooks and its hinge is so much more sturdy. I did notice the limitation on how far it can open, but I think that’s a small price to pay for sturdiness.

  9. Another reason why I would want my screen to completely flatten out is the following;

    What do you get when you plug into a laptop all kinds of accessories via USB, like mice, keyboards? You get the whole desktop experience!

    So then, why not hang your big all hooked up 17″ on that wall in front of you and you almost have an iMac.

  10. I’d like to add that I believe the hinge is too loose. I’m used to being able to tip a notebook up so the keyboard is near vertical, but if I do it with my 17″ Core 2 duo MBP, I get a slammings on my digits… or across the nose, whichever is in the way of the screen as it swings near shut. I’ve had to give up some of my favorite lounging positions.

  11. It’s a fair point – headless TiBooks make for some really neat mods.

    All in all though, the tradeoff for a much, MUCH sturdier hinge was well worth it. In my days as a repair tech I saw more broken TiBook hinges than nearly anything else. It was a design disaster from a durability point of view.

  12. I completely agree! My biggest complaint about baout my MBP is exactly the limited hinge angle. Call it a slow news day, but in my opinion, this is something Apple needs to fix. This is more than an inconvenience. This really limits users’ ability to use their laptops in their laps.

  13. another gripe? *sigh*

    But I do agree. My main box is a 15″ MPB, and I’m curious why they didn’t increase the hinge angle even to par the G4 PB. It annoys me when I’m standing giving presentations with the laptop on the table in front of me.

  14. Although I hear your point, I think the old titanium G4 hinge was prone to breaking. Once one of the hinges was broken, the wires from the base to the monitor were exposed, allowing even more problems to arise. It costs more than 300 to fix the hinge. The newer hinges seem to be sturdier and less exposed in case of a bump or drop.