How to Buy a Laptop Rather than a Lemon

lenovo-laptopI get asked this so much and having just recently repeated myself yet again; it dawned on muggins that I should blog it for all time sake, so here goes.

The first step to ponder is whether or not a laptop is what you really want. There really are only a couple of reasons why anyone would want a laptop; you need portability, or there’s a space limitation at your place of work or play. But here, either a laptop or a tablet will suffice, so when is a laptop better than a tablet?

When a Tablet Won’t Do

Tablets tend to be rather closed systems with the exception of Windows (full version) based tablets. What this means is you’re quite restricted into installing only apps onto them. If for example you want a specific program not available in an app; you’re up the creek without a paddle. It can bite you where you least expect it too. If you want to put Google Chrome on a Windows Surface RT, forget it! The boffins at Microsoft figured we all want Explorer and Bing! The same kind of maddening limitations are found on ipads and Android devices. If there’s a slew of programs you expect to use on a portable device then a laptop is probably going to be your only point of call. Tablets tend to have limited connectivity, some don’t even have USB ports whereas all laptops have at least two by contrast. Also the screens are smaller. Currently a largest size screen available on a tablet is 12.1″ which is a paltry size compared to the standard 15 inches on laptops. Finally there’s processing power, tablets aren’t designed to give you a lot of computer muscle, so if you need such, again a tablet just won’t cut it for you.

What Brand?

toshibaEssentially; and I’m not making apologies for being opinionated here, there are simply 4 brands you should concern yourself with and many you’d be wise to go running from like you’re being chased by a herd of Rhinos. For Windows based machines in descending order of quality I’d choose Lenovo, Toshiba and then Asus. Apple make great laptops too, but ‘that’s a whole other country’.

Now go into any computer superstore and you’ll see a smorgasbord of HP, Compaq and Acer machines; ‘run away!’. Choose only Lenovo (it’s part of IBM and they’re usually commercial grade and super reliable). If you don’t want a Lenovo machine for any reason, then choose a Toshiba; they practically invented the laptop and make most if not all of the innards of theirs too. Finally if Lenovo and Toshiba aren’t ringing your bells for any reason; an Asus laptop might just fit the bill. Asus have been producing quality components for decades and are my first choice for main boards. Choose anything else and you’re on your own.  Nah just kidding….I’ll still rescue you, ‘when’ not ‘if’ you need it.

What Features?

Basically get the most expensive one you can afford without selling your kids or mortgaging the home. For example if you can manage $700 then look for something around the $600 mark and buy an additional 2 year warranty. Laptops have a limited lifespan; more than 5 years is a bonus, so purchase the longest warranty available.

Finally spend a few bucks more and buy a surge protected power board to plug it into. Laptops like most electronic devices are sensitive to voltage fluctuations and it makes sense to protect your investment.

When is it Better to Replace Rather Than Fix a Laptop?

disasembled laptopFinally as just mentioned, laptops do pass their use-by date after several years, normally only slightly outside of their extended warranty. Depending on what’s died and the brand, some things are worth fixing, others aren’t. As a ball park figure, a screen replacement is around $150 as is a hard drive or DVD drive. Keyboard replacement will set you back around a $120. None of the above take much time so labor costs make up only about half that. The exception to the above is if you want your operating system reinstalled by a professional. But what usually fizzes on a laptop is the main board. These are notoriously difficult to source and even get to inside the unit to swap out. Assuming your I.T. guru can get an exact replacement, (and it has to be an exact replacement) it’ll easily suck up several hours of labor and is probably not worth fixing. Besides by the time it dies it’s likely a bit of a dinosaur in computer terms as is best relegated as a spare boat anchor anyway.

Buy the way as a sort of anti-disclaimer, I’m not affiliated with Lenovo, IBM, Toshiba or Asus, it’s just better stuff!  Please remember to like this post.

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