In one way, a laptop is a single entity; it’s just a standalone computer. Another outlook is that it’s a combination of PC components and peripherals stuck together for portability. That’s the beauty of laptops; we don’t need to carry our monitor and keyboard around with us. One company is taking this point of view to its extreme by imagining a future where your computer is the phone in your pocket and a laptop is just the thing that lets you take your desktop PC anywhere.
The NexDock looks very much like a MacBook but costs around £85 instead of £1000. It has a 14″ screen, a decent sized keyboard, a big battery, speakers, and ports for everything useful. The absurd price difference comes from the fact that it isn’t really a computer. There’s no processor or RAM. For all intents and purposes, it has no brain. Instead, it connects to your smartphone and uses it as the computer.
If you connect most smartphones, like iPhones and Androids, the screen can be mirrored on the laptop display and the keyboard can be used for productivity using Bluetooth. The NexDock becomes much more useful with phones like the Lumia 950, which runs a stripped-down version of Windows 10. The Continuum feature on the newest Windows phones lets them connect to monitors and peripherals for almost full PC experience.
The product won’t make sense to some people and that might be because it’s thinking ahead. The creators image a world where we always carry our computers around with us in the form of our smartphone. When you want to get work done, you just sit at your desk and plug the phone/computer in to be more productive. Some people already carry small Bluetooth keyboards around so they can work on the train using just their smartphone but it’s hardly an ideal solution to be typing on such a tiny screen. The NexDock tries to make it more comfortable to use your phone as your computer.
What has us most excited is that the NexDock works with the £30 Raspberry Pi computer. This is especially interesting since the new Pi has built-in Wi-fi and Bluetooth. Combining these products would make the NexDock a fully-functioning Linux laptop for around £100; something that schools might be interested in. We don’t exactly dream of carrying around a laptop with a Pi stuck to the back but it would be great to free it from its desktop life once in a while. Imagine always working on Pi projects in an office at a monitor and keyboard etc. With the NexDock you can detach the Pi from its normal environment and continue working in the kitchen or living room.
It’s hard to say if the concept will catch on. It’s easier to imagine in the future when our smartphones become as powerful as desktop PCs. You could be working at a comfortable desktop set-up at home that runs from your smartphone, then walk to work and use the exact same computer at a different set-up just by connecting your phone. As for now, it’s probably not going to go mainstream. That said, there are people who use their phones as a portable computer and spend quite a lot of money on portable Bluetooth keyboards. At just £85 this might be perfect for some people, especially those with USB Mini PCs or the Raspberry Pi. You can see it in action here:
The NexDock is a working prototype right now and is campaigning for funds on Indiegogo. The target is $300,000 and they’re halfway with a month to go. The early bird specials allowed you to preorder for just $79 (£55) but the cheapest option available now is $119 (£85). The exact shipping costs are to be confirmed at a later date but for Europe will be approximately £17.
All images © NexDock