Cheap Laptops: Not Worth the Hassle

Buying a laptop that lasts over three years may mean spending a little more up front.


Matt Mets - Computer on Fire

A couple of years back, I was helping my parents choose a new laptop. Their one criterion was:

  • Sub $500 machine

Right there, you can see an issue. When making a large purchase, price should never be the sole determinant. There are other elements, such as reliability or speed that depending on your use case should be considered.

Needless to say, they picked up a random HP Pavilion something or other at Costco, and over the past two years, this machine has been more of a nuisance than anything else.

So far:

  • Failed battery, out of warranty, which no longer charges
  • Hard drive which is throwing errors when checked with Crystal Disk, also out of warranty

Ultimately, to save a couple hundred bucks on a computer they ended up paying more than that, in terms of cost of replacement parts and technical support time (even if they weren’t directly charged for the latter). They would have been much better served buying a higher end, more rugged machine. A Lenovo ThinkPad, or any business class laptop, really would have been much better purchases. When you put price over all else as your key purchasing determinant, your future self may be the one footing the bill. You pay less upfront, but over the long run, you’re no further ahead.

In replacement part costs, the HP Pavilion is now on par with my nine year old desktop. For a machine that is largely used for e-mail and browsing the internet, that is entirely unacceptable. If you use something daily, it might be worth considering spending more in that area. Be it shoes, a bed, a computer chair or even your laptop.

I’m not advocating consumerism, or hedonistic purchasing. Those are largely wasteful and don’t necessarily lead to increased long-term satisfaction. What I’m saying is, sometimes you have to spend a bit more to make sure you get your money’s worth.

Make your money work for you, don’t buy junk, and save the family computer technician a headache or two, or three!


If you’re looking for a laptop, here are some useful resources:

Laptop Magazine’s Best Business Laptops

PC Magazine’s Best Business Laptops of 2017

The Wirecutter – What Laptop Should I Buy

Header image by Matt Mets – Computer on Fire // CC by 2.0

Author: sylint

I'm a business analyst, working in Information Management and Information Technology. Technically, I'm a librarian, though I prefer to think of myself as professionally varied.

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