Read enough laptop reviews on PCWorld and other sites, and you might notice a pattern: This laptop was almost perfect. If not for one major problem, it would have been nearly flawless. My PCWorld colleague Hayden Dingman called the Razer Blade Stealth “near-perfection,” if not for subpar battery life and a couple of smaller complaints. Whether it’s a weak battery, a low-resolution screen, an uncomfortable keyboard, or another failing, laptops can’t ever quite tick all the boxes.

But how much of that fault lies with laptops themselves? Certainly, reviewers (and consumers) should evaluate products with a critical eye. But perhaps we’re misusing the idea of perfection, setting unrealistic expectations about what’s actually possible. Let’s look at the major categories of imperfection and see what’s legitimate—and what’s subjective, or even a stretch. 

Legitimate imperfection: Technical failures

gigabytealmostperfect Jared Newman / IDG

In some cases, a laptop falls short of perfection because the manufacturer legitimately messed something up.

Examples might include the constant, mechanical clicking noise in HP’s Pavilion 13-b102TU (NDTV: “One Flaw Keeps it from Being Perfect”) or click detection and trackpad lag issues in HP’s Spectre x360 (Mashable: “An almost perfect Windows 8.1 convertible”). Last year, PCWorld’s own Gordon Mah Ung encountered this kind of brush with greatness while reviewing Gigabyte’s Aero 15 (“A near-perfect power user’s laptop”), which struggled with extended keyboard combinations and emanated an “odd harmonic, almost Kazoo-like sound” at maximum GPU loads.

Such issues don’t have to be exclusively hardware-related, either. Last year, for instance, Wired’s David Pierce gave high praise to Google’s Pixelbook laptop, but said it was “marred by just one flaw,” which was that “Android apps suck on Chromebooks.”

The common thread with all these reviews is that the laptop maker failed to achieve its own goals for the product, from tolerable noise levels to broader potential software applications.

Subjective imperfection: Feature flubs

slashgearalmostperfect Jared Newman / IDG

Laptop reviews shouldn’t just evaluate what’s in the box. They should also look for omissions, especially compared to other products in the same category and price range. But in doing so, they doom a greater number of laptops to imperfect verdicts.

Should every high-end laptop, for instance, have a full-sized SD card slot? Slashgear’s Brittany Roston thought so when she reviewed the “almost perfect” Lenovo X1 Carbon last year. Should laptops use HDMI instead of Thunderbolt for video output? The answer is yes, according to Networkworld’s Bryan Lunduke, who decried the latter as a “mostly useless hole” in his review of the “nearly perfect” Dell XPS 13 Developers Edition.

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