Down With Port Flaps and Covers! Keep My USB 3.0 Ports Blue!

School guidance counselors always tell their students  ”don’t hide your light under a bushel.” Let’s  put them in touch with LG, HP, Samsung and all the other interface-ashamed OEMs who bury their ports under giant rubber doors or deliberately mislabel them for “aesthetic reasons.” The more plugs your product supports, the more freedom your users have to attach other devices and make the most of them. So why on earth would you seal the connectors behind a wall like the victim in an Edgar Allen Poe story?

Lately, we’ve seen more than our fair share of phones and notebooks afflicted with port doors. From the Samsung SF310, which places two USB ports and an HDMI connector under a springy door, to the LG Revolution, which annoyingly positions its mini-HDMI out and microUSB ports under a rubber flap, this senseless epidemic has to end. We spend more time fighting these flaps than actually plugging things in.

OEMs have two terrible excuses for their port propriety: safety and aesthetics. The first argument assumes that by covering connectors, we’re protecting them from damage. This argument might fly on fully rugged notebooks being taken into war zones, but it makes no sense on mainstream consumer laptops such as the Samsung SF310 or business portables such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1. These notebooks aren’t nuclear submarines that need to batten down the hatches, and your living room is not part of The Hunt for Red October.  And if rubber doors provide such great protection, why do these notebooks only cover a few of their ports while leaving the others exposed?

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Ports and Samsung SF310 Ports

Even lamer, companies claim that hiding ports behind plastic or rubber doors is more attractive to users. Really? When is the last time you were hanging around Best Buy and heard someone say “I’d buy that notebook if only it had fewer holes in the side?”

All technology is beautiful and deserves to be shown off. I want a translucent notebook chassis just so everyone can see I have a Core i7 inside. I need a loud, clicky keyboard with so much tactile feedback that the keys jump up and punch me in the face after each stroke, just to remind me I’m touching a powerful machine.  A pox on quiet fans and passive cooling; I want my system to blow small animals across the room at gale force speeds, just so I know it’s working.

Ports are particularly pulchritudinous, because they show us that we’re using a device pregnant with possibilities. HDMI-out allows us to connect to a TV or large screen monitor, while VGA gives us backward compatibility with millions of old-school projectors and monitors. USB lets us attach to external storage, pointing devices, scanners, monitors, even refrigerators and rocket launchers.  On phones, USB lets us charge or exchange data directly with a computer.

An even more horrifying trend than simply hiding ports is dyeing them the wrong color, as we’ve seen on numerous USB 3.0-enabled systems. Ever since the first SuperSpeed USB compatible-systems shipped last year, we’ve been able to identify their USB 3.0 ports by the light-blue plastic that surrounds the connectors. However, it turns out that this light-blue plastic is just a recommendation from the USB Implementer’s Forum, not a hard requirement.

“The Blue (Pantone 300C) color used to identify SuperSpeed USB ports is a reference guideline within the USB 3.0 specification,” USB-IF President Jeff Ravencraft told us. “It is an option and not a requirement for companies to use that Pantone color.”

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on the kindness or good sense of notebook vendors. Samsung  uses black USB 3.0 ports on its Series 9 notebook and then hides them behind a door, while HP  stealthily places two black USB 3.0 connectors on the Pavilion dv6t, apparently because they both think the blue color will clash with their chassis.

Samsung Series 9 and HP Dv6t USB 3.0 Ports

Give me a break, Samsung and HP! You should wear your Pantone 300C colors proudly, because USB 3.0 is theoretically 10 times faster than USB 2.0. Even if I had a USB 3.0 port installed in the middle of my forehead, I wouldn’t try to hide it. I would tattoo a light-blue box around it so all my friends would know that they could plug an external SSD into me and transfer data to and from my cerebral cortex at over 200 MBps.

You have to be proud of your ports.


AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. andri Says:

    while the port doors may be annoying for you, many people have no problem using them on a day-to-day basis. maybe you need to stop biting your finger nails.

    as far as the aesthetics of port covers go, its an attempt by manufacturers to make a more sleek and solid looking product, in line with consumer expectations.

    the computing experience you describe to be enjoyable would not be for the majority of users, who would find extremely inconvenient and distracting. much like how you feel about unnecessarily blue usb 3.0 connections and port covers.

    theses are all aesthetic design choices that have little impact on the functionality of a computer. many options are available, you likely have a computer you find agreeable.

    while I appreciate the need of Laptop Magazine to generate content, this type of article reflects poorly on the website.

  2. MesonW Says:

    @andri – miserable blighter, it’s all rather tongue-in-cheek; you clearly didn’t read it properly as you think he doesn’t like the blue in the blue USB connectors.

    I for one agree with Avram; my brand new Acer Aspire 5750G is leaving me wondering if it has USB 3.0 ports at all… it’s supposed to, and the manual suggests as much, but they’re not labelled any differently and are not coloured blue.

  3. itsVance Says:

    Port covers on cell phones keep lint out. Its much easier to get lint in a cell phone port than a laptop port considering which one fits in the pocket. When lint builds up in the ports, you cant plug anything in securely. You can also damage your port by trying to dig the lint out.

    Its too bad more people aren’t selling charge port doors like the first one in your picture. The only one I could find is here:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=330839314950

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