Laptop makers fight back with bargain buys

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Jon Wilcox
Technology Correspondent
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Forced on to the back foot by the boom in tablet computers, traditional laptop manufacturers are fighting back with powerful business machines at very favourable prices. Jon Wilcox reports.

When it comes to portable computing, everyone seems to be fixated on tablet PCs, whether that’s Apple’s iPad and the temporarily reprieved Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (or the innumerable other Android-powered tablets) or similar devices from traditional PC manufacturers like HP and Dell.

Traditional laptops seem to have been pushed aside in the tablet frenzy. However, it’s worth remembering laptops often offer a greater amount of horsepower and functionality than tablets – and your money will definitely go further if you don’t mind passing up the chance to look like you’re carrying a prop from Star Trek…

And for bread-and-butter accounting work, PCs are still the profession's main workhorse. In recent weeks, several AccountingWEB members have come forward looking for replacement laptops. With that in mind, here is a selection of laptops currently on offer for prices similar to those of an Apple iPad or premium Android tablet.

So with that in mind, here is a selection of laptops currently on offer for prices similar to those of an Apple iPad or premium Android tablet:

This is not an exhaustive list of all the laptops out there. Remember it does pay to shop around, not just for the best price, but for the best specification for your budget. Feel free to add your own bargain laptop suggestions.

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18th Aug 2011 12:24

Solid state drives & MacBook

A year ago our IT support company said that they were looking to start moving over to Solid State Drives (see Vostro summary above).  Even though they are currently expensive the increase in speed & boot up time plus extended battery life/lower energy use means I'm sure that they will become the standard in a short time.

Samsung also do an ultra thin SSD machine that looks good but I went for the MacBook Air and after 3 months am a complete convert to Mac.  Again the cost is an issue (£1,500) but several of my clients own MacBooks that are years old (2 to 3 times the age of a PC laptop) plus, as I was told by so many people, Macs just do it, no security probs, no constant updates, throw or plug anything into them and they work.

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18th Aug 2011 13:27

Useful advice on 32-bit v 64-bit Windows 7

There's been a new Any Answers question following on from the ones that inspired this article.

As Paul indicates in his pean to Apple above, the software that drives a computer has a big part to play and PC buyers these days are faced with a choice between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows. The main worry here is that some older applications won't work with the 64-bit version (increasingly remote - and there are workarounds), but the consensus seems to be 64-bit Windows 7 is OK, but stick with 32-bit Microsoft Office.

The full conversation is very instructive if you want to learn more about operating system compatibility issues.

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19th Aug 2011 10:59

HP is pulling out of PCs...will you pull out from HP PCs too?

HP has announced plans to sell off its PC division and focus on IT services, software, and the Cloud, but how does this affect your plans for PC refreshment? Are you put off from buying a PC made by a company looking to offload its personal computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones? Or do you see this as an opportunity to drive a hard bargain?

Let us know!




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21st Aug 2011 11:32

Apple converts please be ware

Sadly, apples do go wrong.  They have long been plagued by dodgy hard drives that just give up the ghost.  they frequently change the name of their operating system which is just a disguised way of updating it and cleaning up the bugs and security loop holes.

Many people think Apples don't get viruses or other nasties.  Sadly this too is wrong and as the Apple format becomes more common there will be more viruses written.  This all became more common when Apple realised that they really couldn't produce good chips and compete with Intel.  Now that Apple uses the same Intel chips as PC's there really is no need to think that they are going to be any faster and again the Intel Chips opened the door to more security problems.

It is all about return on investment and performance for me.  Apple looks good and some of the functionality is very simple and common sense based.  However, their machines cost two or three times as much as the equivalent PC and don't make me work two or three times better or as fast.  They do look very pretty so if you prefer style over substance or you are aspirational in that way then they will satisfy that need.

One other thing to consider for a business machine is support.  There are thousands of IT support companies out there but very few of them can help you with Apple problems.  If your machine or software goes wrong how quickly will it be dealt with and how much will it cost?  Everything to do with Apple commands a premium price.

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21st Aug 2011 12:08

Noted Mark

Yes I did research the hype and read of some unhappy Mac users and am only too aware, after nearly 30 years of being targeted, that most  ICT marketing must be taken with salt. 

My reference to "no security issues" was in relation to the experience of other, long term, users and you are right to point out the increase in potential however, given how much time and effort I, and most other PC users, expend in keeping them updated and "safe" or just waiting for something to happen or wondering why the next bit of software or kit doesn't load up like the manual says it should, the Mac has been a breath of fresh air (pun intended) and so I'm only too happy to take a bit of extra risk.

With regard to price/effeciency, if as experienced by other users, these machines lasts me 2x to 3x as long as the equivalent pc then "no gain no loss", however, again, from my experience of the past few months in meetings and loads of remote working the Mac has been a godsend rather than a burden.

Your point about servicing is a good one and so I took out 3 year "care" and for any quick looks I'm fortunate to have a Mac servicing & repair business up the road.  Again though, given my  experiences of getting PCs repaired and serviced, at worst it's "out of the frying pan".




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21st Aug 2011 18:00

This shows the power of a great brand

There is no reason why any Mac should last any longer than a PC if you compare like with like. For example, if you bought a Sony which is almost as expensive as a mac I would expect the Sony to last longer, it is better built from higher quality components.  If you compare your £1,500 mac air with a £300 Del laptop then maybe the Del will give out first.

However, I guarantee you will buy your next mac long before it is worn out or broken.  The one thing Apple is best at is marketing or as you put it hype.  They will persuade you that you current mac air is old and out of date within two years.  They deliberately hold back things that are already available just so they can make the next version like for example the iPhone 3 with no video and then the 3GS with video and the only difference was the software.

I think Apple is a wonderful sexy brand and they make lovely tactile user friendly machines that people fall in love with.  My point is that it is all a bit of a con.  None of the software will make you work any faster.  All of my security software updates itself without me doing anything.  I could by 4 laptops for the price of your air book.

You are right, you will look very good in meetings and it will fire up quickly and the battery lasts a long time.  Having been in the print industry for twenty years I have been surrounded by macs, many of them having to operate through windows based servers and use windows based rips because those are two very unsexy areas that Apple didn't want to get into.

I look forward to hearing about your air book when it is as old as my server.

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22nd Aug 2011 02:02

OK Mark

You have clearly had a great deal more experience than me with Macs however you have made assumptions about me that don't fit the discussion. 

I have been able to ignore Apple marketing for 30 years, so this is not a fashion accessory. Your guarantee is not needed, the average age of the kit in our office is 5 years.  Having said that, the last laptop I bought  2 years ago is just not suitable for lugging about and takes a coffee, toast & a visit to the loo to boot up, so will replace my 8 year old workstation.

I am planning to be in semi-retirement in 2 years and so the Mac will do me just fine, it's like greased weasle poo in processing images (the other reason I bought it), plus, email, remote desktop (all my work is hosted), internet surfing and even use of the 3G dongle are quicker than any PC I've ever used, which is probably down to the SSD and the fact it's not constantly accessing the internet for updates, churning through virus checking and firewall or going off on whirring hard drive trips for no obvious reason.

In other words after buying my first pc in 1983 and putting up with them ever since, it's time to try something else and I now wish I'd done it years ago.

On the original topic, my own feeling is that laptops are bargain basement because the writing is on the wall and, as you assumed about my purchase, I'm inclined to think that a bargain basement laptop bought today is likely to be superceded in a couple of years.

My Mac is clearly not bargain basement but, as well as the Mac brand, I'm paying for the SSD and so looking at the Dell V131 above, if I customise it to get as close a match to the Mac as poss the price is £779.

I'll call it a day there but will PM you in a couple of years.


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22nd Aug 2011 11:45

Interesting comparisons

I think that the bargain basement laptop and the netbook have a long time to love yet.  Many people do not like typing on screens like the iPad and other tablets.  One of my customers brought his Google book in with him the other day.  This machine is as light as a feather, boots instantly and switches off just by closing it.  Super fast and a 12 hour battery life.

You have gone for a very high spec and therefore expensive mac so you can only compare it to other high spec and expensive machines apart from the operating system which is the only clear and significant difference.  Apple doesn't make the screens or the chips any more.

It would be like saying I used to have a £20,000 diesel Ford Mondeo which was rubbish compared to my new £100,000 Audi R8 which is much faster and goes round the corners quicker.

Lastly, please do make sure you keep your security up to date and have some form of fire wall for your mac if you want to keep it fast.

I do actually take your point and macs are lovely, they do boot quickly and they will load pictures quickly.  Mind you, so will a linux machine and they are dirt cheap.  Good luck.

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