This article is part of my Computer series, click here for the list of other entries.
Today there are so many features on laptops. For most businesses they simple need a good laptop that works for a long period of time and at a great low price. So when they look at laptops they see units that are almost exactly the same with huge price differences. Many upgrades and things in the laptop world simply are not logical and not needed. I will talk about many of them and tell you the secret to finding the best prices.
For example 250 GB hard drives are fairly new, and 320GB laptop hard drives are still very rare. The standard is a 160GB hard drive. The larger hard drive, can ad 100-200 dollars to the price of the laptop, for just a bit more space. The average business customer uses less than 40GB of space so it is crazy to pay extra for this space.
One thing that you should know about laptops is that all laptops sold are really only made by 7 companies, and all of these companies are Chinese. Every brand you see is really a laptop from one of these companies branded with the company logo. Dell uses 5 of these 7 companies. Because of this you will notice laptops from different brands that look exactly the same, you will also notice laptops from the same brands that look totally different. The only one of these makers that sells laptops direct is Acer, but their laptops are usually very low quality and it is usually better to pay a bit more for better quality.
In the world of computers the price of something is more about how many of them are being sold and NOT about how good or complex the item is. The main cost in any item is the designing of the item and the equipment to make the item. For a CPU for example it costs up to a billion dollars to design a new chip and may cost less than $10 to actually make the chip. So if you make 20 million of these chips the cost is $60 per chip, but if you make 500 million of them your cost is $11 per chip. You even get more savings that that when you build a lot of the same item. Because of this many newer, better and faster things are much cheaper. Many CPUs are much higher in level than what you are buying but the maker just takes the higher ones and disables some higher features and sells them as a lower unit because it is cheaper to do this than make the lower unit any longer. RAM is also the same way, DDR2 is much better and faster than DDR but because it is made in much larger amounts it is cheaper. This is called “Economy of Scale” and it hold true from everything from your TV to you Car.
In the world of laptops this idea works all over the place. In my opinion HP and Toshiba make great laptops and because they sell so many they are actually better and more updated than laptops made for the same price by other companies. Because Sony is so much more money they sell less, and have a higher cost, a bad situation to be in. By far most laptops that are sold have a 15.4 inch screen, so laptops with this size are also the lowest priced of all laptops. Touchpads are by far the most popular and their price has plummeted so they now have the lowest price and are now the only choice most companies offer. DVD burners do everything you would want an optical drive to do, and because they are built in such number now they are cheaper than all of the lower types to put in, thus every laptop you will see has a DVD burner, because it is cheaper and has a larger perceived value to the customer.
The choice of CPU, Hard Drive, Optical Drive and many of the other parts of a laptop, and computers in general are based on this idea. Now to get the best deal you need to look at many different laptops and notice the trends. A laptop that floods the market may be $100 less than the others and yet be much better. This is why people hire my company to find their next laptop, we know the trends and we have a very small markup. They can pay us and still end up with a faster and better laptop and pay LESS money than if they went to wherever they normally go for laptops.
What Exactly to look for in a business laptop.
When you look for your laptop simply compare the specs from one laptop to another, but it pays to have a huge source and look at large lists of laptops because you will often find a better deal on that list.
Balance: When you look for any computer look for balance, too much CPU power at the cost of everything else will result in a slower computer. Also think about what you want to use the laptop for. If you want to play high end games then insist on a laptop with a higher end video card, it may cost $100 or more extra but will do what you want. With computers running vista you really need at least 2GB of RAM to do things efficiently. If you find a great deal on a laptop with only 1GB, buy it then upgrade the RAM later, it may be much cheaper. Don’t spend the extra money getting a much larger hard drive, first 90% of all users never use the space, second if you need more space you can get an external hard drive later, but mostly that extra bit of space really costs a lot of money in most cases. Almost every laptop comes with Vista Home Premium. This is ok for about 90% of the people out there, but if you expect to join a domain be sure to get the business version. Also if you really need XP you are looking for a older out of production laptop, these would have been sold at a much higher price to the seller and they will be asking more for them, and you get less new features than a Vista laptop.
Battery Life: Also think about battery life, for the road warrior out there it is important to have that computer last a long time. So this is what you should look for, first you need to have a processor that can scale back and use less power when you don’t need full power, but can scale up as when you do need the power. The AMD Turion is the best AMD chip at this job, but Intel really dominates this concept with their Core 2 Duo and their entire Centrino line. Companies have spent a lot of time and money focusing on power saving, so newer technology chips are much better at this than older ones. For any laptop the MAIN use of power is for the screen, usually it is hard to find the power consumption of the screen, but again newer technology is better. To get all this best technology be willing to pay for it.
Size: For many people, the size of the laptop is very important, they want a smaller, thinner and more portable laptop. Because of economy of scale there is a common size that most makers make, small enough to sell in huge number and large enough to not be too much money to make. When you want to go smaller you fight economy of scale and also the fact that smaller parts cost more. Because of this smaller, thinner laptops cost much more. Every now and then a company will make a really small laptop in a large quantity and if you find that you can get a great deal on a laptop just the way you want. Don’t get the smaller laptop unless you really have figured out how much you are really paying for that option.
Laptops also change really fast. Think about how they are made. The design of the laptop, and making the first one is over half the cost of the entire run. So companies will make the really hard analysis to decide how many of a laptop design to order from the places that make them. Once the production run is over that laptop is usually never made again. Because it takes so long to build a container of laptops, maybe 2 weeks, then 2 more weeks to ship them it these companies have to predict upfront how many may sell. Usually the production run is less than a few full shipping containers. So the company, lets use HP, designs a laptop, orders 10,000 of them. They are made and shipped, they arrive in the US and are quickly sent to wholesale warehouses and retail stores all over the US. Amazon buys some, Wal-Mart buys some. Before the container even lands in the US HP will try to have it all sold. If it is all sold they may order another production run of 10,000. Almost every week a new, better chipset or CPU or something comes out, and often for a better price. So the designers are always looking to go to the next thing. And that brand new, popular design is now put out of production, never to be made again. Most designs are already put out of production before the first customer even gets one. It is a harsh business with huge risks and huge investments. This is also why only a few companies are really players in this business.
Every now and then a design is produced in a larger amount than that which can be quickly sold off. When this happens they slash the price and dump it on the wholesale market. Sometimes they just sold this computer for $700 to Wal-Mart and have only 500 units left and the design is no longer made so they dump it for $500 or less. Most wholesale companies only mark up parts 10% or less because there is huge competition. Only computer companies can usually buy from these wholesale places, this is exactly what we do here at Emerald Computers. We look for the best of these wholesale deals, select them and we post an online flyer and send email updates to our customers. If you are not getting our email you really are missing some great deals.
So what would I do it I was going to buy a laptop today? You choice for a laptop or any computer is based on what you plan to use the computer for and your personal habits. Here is the logic that I use, if you need help choosing a laptop then email me your phone number and I will call you and help you with the process. Lets make it fair and give me a budget of under $1000. First I would budget in a Microsoft Wireless Laser Optical Laptop Mouse. They are really a must have for me for long usage, and at under $25 they are a bargain. Next I would look for a Turion based laptop unless I could find a special on a Intel based one. The Turion ones are usually at least $100 less for the same speed. I almost never go a long time on battery power so for me personally batter life is not much of a concern. What is a concern is a high resolution screen. I would stick to a 15.4″ size simply because it is just the right size for me, 17″ it is a bit to big, but I try to get at least the 1440×900 resolution, maybe the 1680×1050 (WSXGA+). I would not get the very common 1280×800 because for me and my eyes I can see much better than that and I need the space. I don’t game on my laptop so an average video card is good for me. And I have a few external hard drives, and most of my data will stay on my main computer so a 160GB drive is ok for me. I like to multitask so I would need 2GB of RAM, I would not get more than 2GB because it takes extra power to run that extra ram, and I almost never go over 2GB, also I like to hibernate my computer and more RAM makes that much slower. When a new OS comes out I may upgrade the RAM. I would still look at computers with 1GB because I know can upgrade the RAM very cheap on my own. I do watch DVD movies and I like to have good sound so I would look for a computer with a nice DVD drive and good speakers. I would also look at a picture of the laptop first, different makers have much different styles and I only like some of them. I also like black better than silver, but that will not kill the deal. I found a laptop just like this for only a bit over the budget. You need to look for one based on your needs.
So when you are ready for your next laptop you now have much more information, you will probably have more than the employee selling the products. I wish you good luck, and if you ever need help feel free to email or call my company, we will be happy to help you.
CLICK HERE FOR THE UPDATE I WROTE ABOUT MONITORS