TR regulars will know that I have somewhat of an infatuation with brushed aluminum. The material has proven particularly popular with notebook makers eager to give their products a little bit of MacBook flavor, and we already know it'll be wrapped around Asus' UX-series ultrabooks. One might expect other notebook makers to follow suit with similar designs, but that may not happen due to limited production capacity.
The CNC machinery required to mill unibody chassis from chunks of aluminum is rather expensive, and DigiTimes claims that Apple has gobbled up much of the existing capacity. Carbon fiber is a suitably sexy alternative, but it ain't cheap, and ultrabook makers are already complaining that the systems will be too costly to produce. As an alternative, DigiTimes reckons that fiberglass chassis could become more popular. The site says that three notebook makers have already committed to using the material in their ultrabooks.
According to fiberglass chassis maker Mitac Precision, molding the material with plastic can create a casing with comparable toughness to magnesium-aluminum designs. The result would cost about $20 less than the metal alternative, Mitac says.
While I'd be inclined to pay extra to have brushed metal under my fingertips, notebook makers may not have that luxury. I'm eager to see a little more variety in the materials used in modern notebook chassis, though. Brushed metal has been done to death already. If fiberglass is the next frontier, let's hope it comes with a soft-touch or textured exterior rather than smudgetastic glossy paint.
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