You walk down the aisles in your local Electronics Store or sit in front of your old laptop considering your next purchase, you think that with the way prices have been going you can get a great deal but are these deals really so great? With the cost of laptops and ultra-portable computers sinking as low as $299 it is easy to think that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a new laptop, but are you really sure you are getting what you’re looking for?
When you go out to buy your next laptop or notebook you are bound to come across great deals that are just too hard to pass up but maybe you should. In the last 5 years portable computers have become so inexpensive that it is very hard not to think that you can get away with the cheapest one, after all technology has come a long way and you still get powerful technology in the inexpensive products right?
Well you are somewhat correct with that assumption, yet it is an assumption and there are a few rather large loopholes in it. All the manufacturers such as; Hewlett Packard (HP), Samsung, Acer, Asus, Apple, Compaq, Gateway, Sony, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo, MSI, etc have their so called netbooks or inexpensive ultra-portable laptops which are priced around the $200 to $600 mark. One thing I want to clear up is that these note… sorry netbooks are not bad little devices however they are purpose built and that is important know before you end up buying one to replace your current laptop.
Looking at the specifications in today’s laptop market has become even more confusion than before, while the performance (ex. Speed is measured in Gigahertz) seems to be always very high the products will perform substantially different from one another even if their speeds seem to be similar. The problem which now occurs for the consumer is that the chipmakers use multiple different Chip Descriptors however all of them can have similar speeds. This isn’t made any easier by the sheer number of these descriptors such as Intel’s i3, i5, i7, Pentium, and Atom Chips as well as AMD’s FX, A-Series, Phenom II, Athlon II, and Sempron Chips. Now as a consumer you can only hope that this ends here but it doesn’t as now each descriptor has sub descriptors such as Intel’s 2xx0M, 2xx7M, etc. and AMD’s A4/6/8/10 series each one with their individual speeds and again additional variants. Confused or overwhelmed yet?
You’re not alone but this is just the start… We haven’t even covered the memory or ram as it’s called or storage (the hard drive). Well I won’t go into all the details but the biggest issues that hit all the manufacturers to some extent are usually the longevity of their products.
It is not really a secret anymore but to many the term “built-in obsolescence” still is quite new. What it represents is the expiry date for your purchase. Owners of electronic devices have long suspected that the scenario of their device breaking down, a week or a month after the warranty expired, to be some sort of conspiracy by the manufacturers. Well there is no conspiracy just sound business strategy as unbelievable as it may seem. Wikipedia refers to built-in obsolescence as:
Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time.
Gone are the days when you bought something and it lasted forever, well with electronics to be fair they are pretty much outdated when you buy them however you still hope to get more than 2-3 years out of them. (You may have noticed the expiry dates on HP’s Ink cartridges but more to that later…)
One of the first questions I ask my clients these days is: “How long do you want the device to last?”. A little macabre I know but it is important if I want to recommend the right product for their needs. Knowing the expectation of my client allows me to present them with the right products and assemble the appropriate budget required to cover all the needs of my clients. While I had to ask these questions for business renovations and larger scale projects until about 5 years ago I did not have to ask them for just normal home office computers and other devices but I digress…
The longevity of a product is not just governed by its lifetime in its original state, upgradability is a big question today to ensure that your laptop can just live a little longer. Almost every manufacturer places some sort of upgrade limits on their inexpensive machines however in my years servicing Laptops none have had as many limitations as Sony. Just recently I had a laptop, which performance wise would have still been usable for a couple more years “if” the ram/memory could be upgraded. However Sony limited this to an amount, which was not even sufficient for Vista for which this particular laptop was originally designed.
When it comes to buying electronics and with the wide variety of offerings you can find yourself quickly in a jungle of low cost opportunities that rarely are in your best interest. So while the basic specifications tend to tell you a relatively (un) clear picture the behind the scenes information is just as important in making your buying decisions. Some of the questions you should ask yourself and the sales rep are;
- How fast is the product?
- What type of processor is in the product (and how does it compare to others)
- How much memory/ram does it have?
- How much storage does it have?
- How fast is the storage/hard drive (5400rpm/7200rpm faster is better however can reduce battery lifetime)
- Battery life time, how long does it run on battery and what are replacement costs of the battery (batteries can fail/loose life if improperly charged and also are excluded from many warranties)
- Is it meant for basic web browsing and office work or does it allow for some media/gaming?
While these questions require some understanding of the products, I highly advise educating yourself before you go into a store and talk dollars. Try to understand the device and don’t buy it right away, similar to car purchases it doesn’t hurt to wait a little and research a particular product before buying.
If you still don’t feel confident in buying your laptop without impartial advice you can call me at (250) 448-5341 or email [email protected]. I do charge for consultation on purchasing your laptop and provide phone consultations for those consumers outside of my service area (see about us page). I will also try to find retailers near you and will call them on your behalf to ensure that all the accessories and items you may require are in stock/can be put away for you to make your buying experience a painless one.