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Design fail! Our top 10 PC product peeves

Some products are so poorly designed that you have to wonder what the manufacturer was thinking

Bad industrial design can single-handedly ruin an otherwise solid product experience. Whether it results from the cardinal sins of sloth or greed, sheer disregard for users, or simple stupidity, it can drive me into a Hulk-smash rage.

The following aggravations made my top 10 listor should I call it a worst 10 list? Hit the comments section below and sound off about the product features you love to hate.

10. Twist ties that cant be reused. These fasteners were once made from coated wire that could be re-used again and again, but now many companies are wrapping annoying plastic twist ties around cables when they package their products. The newfangled ties are exceedingly difficult to extricate from the cable theyre wrapped around, and when you finally manage to unwind them, they remain sprung and utterly useless.

9. Ethernet patch cables that arent labeled as to whether theyre CAT5, CAT5e, or CAT6. Call me a pedant, but these categories exist for a reason. Youll want to use at least CAT5e cable to move data over your network at gigabit speed. CAT6 cable is better at reducing crosstalk (electrical signals bleeding into adjacent wires), and it can support throughput up to 10 gigabits per second. CAT6 is backward compatible with CAT5 and CAT5e.

8. Glossy, lacquer-like finishes that show every fingerprint and speck of dust they collectand then suffer from scuffs and scratches when you try to wipe them clean. This is especially annoying on hardware thats meant to be handled frequently and on products that are horizontally oriented. Ive seen these fragile finishes applied to everything from routers to speakers to all-in-one computers with touchscreens. Note to manufacturers: If you must wrap your product in yards of thin plastic film to protect it from the cardboard box you ship it in, youre using the wrong material!

7. Buttons located right at the edge of a laptop, monitor, or other device, so that you inadvertently press the button every time you pick up, move, or reposition the hardware. The optical drive trays on laptops are particularly vexing. Maybe PC manufacturers follow Apples example and make the eject button a key on the keyboard.

6. Laptop keyboards with spacebars that travel so deep into the well that your thumbs slam painfully against the edge of the well.

5. I/O ports and optical drive bays that are difficult to access, because theyre recessed too deep, are in a hard-to-reach spot, are partially blocked, or are covered by a flimsy plastic panel that gets in the way when you plug a cable into one of the ports (and eventually breaks off, leaving those ports exposed).

4. Power bricks and AC adapters that arent labeled with at least the name of the company that manufactured the device theyre intended to power. Ive resorted to writing the product names on strips of gaffer tape and affixing them to each adapter so I know what goes with what. Ugly? As sin, but its better than guessing wrong and destroying hardware by connecting the wrong power supply.

3. All-in-one computers, laptops, and tablets plastered with difficult-to-remove stickers bearing various manufacturers logos. Look, I knew there was Intel Inside the laptop when I bought it. I dont really care that this all-in-one can decode Dolby. And you mean to tell me this desktop rig runs Windows 7? Amazing!

2. Keyboards with unconventional layouts. Theres a reason I learned to type by touch. If your improved design forces me to look down at the keyboard to find something as essential as the arrow keys, you have failed.

1.  Bet you saw this one coming: Power adapters that consume more than one spot on the outlet strip or wall receptacle. In this example, I was able to plug just three adapters into a seven-outlet surge suppressor. Granted, the angled plugs would take up just one spot each if the receptacles were oriented differently, but if the plugs were narrow and talllike the plug on the endit wouldnt matter how the receptacles were stacked. The plug on the end would be perfect if only its USB port were located on top of the plug, instead of the side.

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