The Cheapest Laptops – Three Reasons to Avoid them

I’ve been asked to find the cheapest laptops available by several clients over my time as an IT consultant.

When I was first starting out in business and perhaps a little too eager to please, I went out of my way to oblige, spending countless (often unpaid) hours trying to save a little extra money. I quickly learned that buying the cheapest laptops is a false economy for any forward thinking business. Now, in all but exceptional circumstances, I strongly recommend spending at least a little more.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. The Cheapest Laptops are Cheap for a Reason

A £400 laptop simply isn’t going to have the build quality of a £700 laptop. In short, it probably won’t last as long, and definitely won’t prove enjoyable to use.

More importantly, the cheapest laptops always come with the most limited warranties. This usually takes the form of a “return to base” guarantee, which means if some hardware goes wrong, the whole laptop must be sent away for repair – and this can take a week or more. And on a cheap laptop, this warranty will only be for one year.

The Cheapest Laptops

Suddenly that £300 saving doesn’t seem so worth it. A hard drive failure can mean having a member of staff unable to do any work. Fudging in a temporary solution or a quick replacement is stressful and time consuming, and will often cost far more than you saved.

While reducing costs to the bone in the start-up phase makes logical sense in some areas, it doesn’t when it comes to one of the key tools a business uses to function.

  1. The Cheapest Laptops Usually Come with a “Home” Operating System

Microsoft release Windows in an annoyingly complicated range of variations. To a point, Windows is just Windows…until you want to do something “business grade,” such as encrypting your hard drive (something we always recommend, as per this article).

If you buy a cheap laptop, it will usually come with a “cheap” version of Windows. Then, when you come to switch encryption on, Microsoft will want money for an upgrade. We will also want money to come in to perform the upgrade. It will all take time, and adding up what it all eventually ended up costing will irritate you immensely.

  1. Cheap Laptops are Often Woefully Underpowered

Some inexpensive laptops have so little memory (RAM) and processing power that they start to creak by the time they’re running a Web browser and an antivirus package. I’ve seen laptops that are literally “slow from new” and struggle to even run Word and Excel at the same time.

It’s amazing how quickly people can become accustomed to the speed of the technology they have to use (both fast and slow), but think of it this way:

If your laptop holds you (or your staff) up for 10 seconds once every few minutes, you’re looking at about half an hour of lost productivity on an average working day, plus the frustration factor. Extrapolate this as you please – by members of staff, or over the course of a year. Whichever way you do the calculation, is it worth skimping on your hardware to save a few hundred quid?

All of this is why I now always suggest opting for at least a “mid range” laptop for any clients serious about their business, and something with an on-site warranty for hardware, as no IT consultant is capable of magically fixing a faulty motherboard or a fried power supply.

And yes, I know PC World sell laptops for £300, but the reasons above are why I don’t think people should buy them. The general rule is that a laptop will last about three years. After that point, technology will have moved on to the point that it will feel slow however well it’s been maintained.

Even if a laptop costs £1000 to buy, that’s still less than a Pound a day over this realistic lifespan – or approximately a third of what it costs to pop into Starbucks daily on the way into the office. Do you still think opting for the cheapest laptops is a good idea?

At Responsive we’re always happy to spend a little research time on identifying the right hardware for your budget. Contact us to find out how we can help you.

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