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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Laptops need to stop going ‘Pro’

I’ve noticed a very frustrating trend in recent years where manufacturers have slapped the word ‘Pro’ on the end of laptop names, despite the portables offering a basic level performance. 

When talking about ‘Pro’ laptops, I personally think about the likes of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which flaunts a powerful GPU that can handle professional workloads such as 4K video editing and animation. 

However, an increasing number of manufacturers are now adding the term ‘Pro’ to the end of laptop names that don’t even have a discrete GPU. Samsung is one of the most recent culprits, with the newly launched Galaxy Book Pro limited to Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics. Such specs are nothing to be sniffed at, but still aren’t really powerful enough for professionals working with 4K video or creating complex animations. 

I’m not going to put all the blame on Samsung though, as there are plenty of other manufacturers using this misleading naming convention. There’s Huawei with the MateBook X Pro, Microsoft with the Surface Pro 7 and even Apple with the 13-inch MacBook Pro which is only marginally more powerful than the MacBook Air.

You could argue that the connotations of Pro have changed over time. If we’re accepting the marketing terms used by these laptop manufacturers, Pro now refers to a ‘more premium’ laptop in a range with additional features, a more luxurious design and bump to the specs compared to the basic model. This is very similar to how smartphones work now.

It’s not the first time a laptop term has evolved. The word Ultrabook used to be an Intel-only trademark, but is now used to reference any laptop that’s particularly lightweight and thin.

However, unlike the new meaning of Ultrabook, I personally think changing the definition of ‘Pro’ in the laptop space is misleading. It’s not really helping the customer – it’s just a marketing ploy to make a laptop sound more extravagant. 

Samsung Galaxy Book Pro
The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro does not have a discrete GPU

I understand Samsung wanted to use the word ‘Pro’ to highlight the fact the Galaxy Book Pro is a more premium option compared to the standard Galaxy Book, but slapping Pro on the end isn’t the solution. 

So what’s the alternative? The likes of Acer and Dell have coined their own brand names to separate the laptop ranges. The Acer Swift range is made up of ultra-portable laptops, while the Acer Aspire laptops prioritise affordability above all else. Meanwhile, Dell’s most premium consumer laptops fall under the XPS umbrella, and the more affordable options are labelled as Inspiron. 

The drawback of such a strategy is that not everyone is aware of such categorisations. Acer and Dell arguably get away with it because they’ve both built up a strong reputation over time. But starting anew could be a big risk for the likes of Samsung. 

However, other laptop manufacturers have made that leap with some very clever branding. The LG Gram series has an excellent name, as it tells you laptop’s main strength immediately. I also like how Razer has used the likes of ‘Stealth’ and ‘Blade’ for its gaming lineup, but adopted the word ‘Book’ for its productivity-focused portable. Perhaps Samsung can follow suit and reserve the ‘Book’ branding for ultrabooks rather than every single laptop it produces. 

I can see why the likes of Huawei and Samsung embraced the term for laptops, as people already understand that ‘Pro’ means better than the standard model thanks to the smartphone market. But since there’s a huge segment of the laptop market that cater to professional content creators, using the word ‘Pro’ to refer to a laptop without a discrete GPU doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. 

And what happens if Samsung one day decides to launch a laptop with a discrete GPU that’s powerful enough to challenge the 16-inch MacBook Pro? Is it going to call it the Galaxy Book Pro Pro, or the Galaxy Pro Ultimate? Neither option makes much sense, and just highlights how its current naming conventions are confusing. 

Hopefully the likes of Huawei and Samsung will learn from its mistakes in the future, and use more appropriate naming conventions in the future. Or perhaps I’m wrong and still clinging onto the old connotations of a word.

After all, the emergence of powerful integrated graphics have blurred the lines so much that it’s proving difficult to separate the two laptop categories. Sure, the Galaxy Book Pro isn’t a good option for those who want the most powerful laptop, but it’s still very much capable of editing photos and playing casual games. 

Let me know what you think on Twitter. Are laptop manufacturers misleading people by using the ‘Pro’ moniker, or does it make sense to embrace the smartphone terminology for laptops?

Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon. 

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