Let's be honest, finding a decent gaming laptop that fits everyone's needs is next to impossible. Welcome to Part 2 of this three part series where I'll be taking a closers look at what the different companies have to offer and incorporate responses based off the previous post. Last time I took a look at Sony, HP, and Dell gaugeing purely on specs. Today, it's time to get into the nitty-gritty.
Price is always a concern: "how much will this cost me?" Personally, I can spare a kidney, I think 75% of my audience could as well. Though, in the end, we always want the best price and best quality available. Since all the parts are the same, it really doesn't matter who you order from unless you have a special need, which I'll discuss a little later.
Get the BEST Deal
If you are simply looking at hardware, your best bet is to stick with the cheapest computer. In fact, if you just want to surf the internet you can buy a cheap machine for under $600 at your local computer store, however that's not the purpose of this series. For everyone else, make sure you get the best price.
Online deals are great, but in purchasing online consumers must beware. Warranty information and discounts may not be readily available. This is why it's an excellent idea to consult friends, employees, and the internet.
1. Look for Employee, Student, Government Discounts - If you teach, work, or learn, your company may have a discount program setup already. These programs can provide up to a 20% discount in some cases on major brands including Apple, Sony, Dell, and HP.
2. Search For Coupons - Very often just Googling "Computer Coupons" will pull up an assortment of Computer Coupons for major brands. Perhaps off-sites may be a little bit more difficult, but when available discounts can go as high as 30% (that's $900 on a $3000 machine).
3. Work With Sales Reps - Sales reps are perhaps the most important resource in purchasing a new computer be it laptop or desktop. They have access to features, configurations, and discounts that you would never think of. Ask what they have available. If you're willing to negotiate the specs, you may end up saving up to 30% off the original value without sacrificing the quality of the purchase.
What's in a Warranty?
Quite a bit actually. Taking a cheap route out may seem like a great idea at first, but down the line you may need that accident insurance for when you spill a drink or 24/7 phone support when the thesis is due in 12 hours and you haven't slept all night. This is very important because there are third party insurance policies available to purchase, but this option is not for everyone. Make sure you read the contracts to obtain the best warranty around.
I've dealt with Dell and HP support, and know from firsthand experience that I like working with them; however, Sony, though they do have well priced machines, has a very difficult support team to work with. Sony fails to support replacing hardware, even if it's their own brand. A few years back, I bought a DVD-RW for an old 1.8ghz Sony that was still under warranty, and they refused to help get it working (they even refused to replace the original in the first place). HP and Dell, both have a policy to cover malfunctioning equipment so long as it is under warranty.
Computers As an Art Form
In checking out computers at stores, there are several major brands to look at: Asus, Compaq, Dell, Gateway, HP, Sony, and Toshiba. Each come with their own style and flare. Asus, Compaq, and Gateway tend to be straightforward boxes, nothing too terribly flashy. Dell, HP, Sony,and Toshiba, however, have taken computers to a new line where computers are no longer just a piece of hardware, but an art form as well.
Some people will find this to be an important feature. This can quickly eliminate many available options, and in some cases even increase the cost of the machine. In going this route, you must be willing to pay a premium if necessary. Some companies will charge as much as $400 just for the color difference from the base (usually black, grey, or white).
The End Product
At the end of the day, your machine will be the same as everyone else's. No matter what brand you buy, what parts are inside, they all come from the same place. The only true difference in your machine will be the casing. If you don't care about the art, then the decision is simple Cost > Style. If you do care then be prepared to pay a premium.
My Final Call?
After looking at numerous sites, comparing numerous models, and different specs I have decided to go with the Dell XPS 1530 RED in a custom model for $2570. It features a sporty red case, similar to my cell phone, and a 320gb (7200 RPM) hard drive.
In coming into looking at current computers, I had no clue what I wanted. When I knew what I wanted, I looked at every site I knew for the best price, features, and warranty. In the end, Dell has it all. I paid $2570 for $1920 worth of equipment plus a four year warranty (Tech Support, Accident Insurance). If you ask me, that's a bargain. This includes numerous discounts as well as a 12% student discount.
I did check out the online suggestions provided by readers in the previous post, and there really are some great buys out there. In some cases, the online retailers were able to give a better quote than my final machine without the student discount. Here's the final pricing on my specific features in each model:
Dell: $2570 (Savings: $900)
HP: $3100 (Savings: 12%)
I'm pretty certain that if I had worked with any of the other companies I could've made it below the $2,500, but Dell had two things I care about: style and quality. After seeing the HP and Asus computers up close, I knew that I didn't want either. Asus doesn't have the sleek style I desire, while HP computers feel cheap and plasticy (which is something this Toshiba gets marked down on by G4; thanks Cursedsei for the link). The express card TV Tuner is also an added bonus that I really appreciate. Unlike other companies that offer an external Tuner, Dell offers an express card TV Tuner that I appreciate a lot. It may not be great for playing a console on, but it's still great for OTA and cable TV.
Stay tuned for the final part of Laptop Lifestyles and Their Finest sometime next week as I take a closer look at my purchase and determine whether or not the XPS 1530 RED was worth it.