As published on the Dunwoody Patch website.
By Adam Freedman
The number one question I get around the holidays is "Hey, Adam, where do I buy a new laptop and which one would you buy?"
I like Costco. 90 Days to return electronics, no questions asked. 2 Year hardware warranty instead of your standard 1 Year and no super aggressive sales guy trying to sell you another year. Also, if you buy with an American Express or some other credit cards, you get an additional year of warranty. They usually have 5 or more laptops to choose from. Big HP retailer, but they also have Toshiba, Lenovo, Sony and others. None I would really stay away from solely on brand. Remember the same company that makes the Corvette also makes the Cruze.
Because you're an uneducated buyer (if you were educated, you wouldn't be calling me for advice), I don't recommend the MicroCenter and Fry's unless you know exactly what you want. Why? You are a 'mark' in a used car lot at those places. Every laptop is going to be looking better than the previous ones to you. You'll be at the mercy of the sales rep, who at MicroCenter and Fry's is 100% on commission. I'm just sayin'. I don't recommend Best Buy because I don't think their prices are all that good and I probably have an unconscious grudge against the boys at Geek Squad. I wonder how many people use them and then never shop at a Best Buy again.
No matter where you go, there's some basic specs that you need to examine about laptops.
1. screen size. Bigger screen shows more stuff (and some times brings along a numeric keypad with it). But, the bigger the screen, usually the heavier the laptop. You're not just schlepping the laptop, you're also bring along the mouse, power adapter and cable, and a case/bag.
2. keyboard feel. This is important. I know that some people get enamoured with a brand online like Dell, only to get the laptop home and they don't get along with the keyboard. HP did this a couple of years ago by making their TAB and CAPS LOCK oddly shaped which threw off all the other keys. Lenovo is famous for putting the FN key in the bottom left where the (DON'T LOOK!!!!) Control key deserves to live.
3. processor. don't get an AMD Sempron or Intel Celeron. don't ask me why. just don't.
4. bluetooth. not necessary. I have it in my laptop and the technology stinks so I use a traditional wireless mouse with a really short USB connector.
5. camera. up to you. are you really going to use your laptop to skype anymore ever since you got the smart phone with the camera?
6. software. all computers will come with Windows 7. They will also come with free versions of Word and Excel called Office 2010 Starter. They will do 100% of what 95% of everyone needs to do with those products. I bet you have no idea what a pivot table is. Well, guess what, this version won't do it. If you have any versions of Office 2003 or 2007 around still, they will work just fine in Windows 7. Don't believe the sales rep. He is lying to you.
If you look online, there are some great web sites that have information about deals to be had. Slickdeals.Net and FatWallet.Com are two of the most well respected sites. There are also Black Friday specific web sites but I don't care. I can buy online anytime and save 7% without doing anything special (sales tax). Why would be be up at 5am risking life and limb at Wal-Mart when I could be sleeping in a carbohydrate induced coma? There are plenty of web sites that have the best online deals for stuff like GotApex.Com (heavy on Dell deals) and techbargains.com. And just by putting LAPTOP DEALS into Google, I got this Black Friday nugget from PC Magazine without even breaking a sweat: "Looking for a PC? Walmart is offering a 15.6-inch, dual-core HP laptop with a 320GB hard drive and 3GB of memory for $248. An HP laptop with a 500GB hard drive and 17.3-inch screen will be $388. An HP dual-core 500GB desktop with 18.5-inch monitor, integrated speakers, mouse, and keyboard will also be available for $298. A 15.6-
inch Compaq Presario laptop with a 250GB hard drive will be on sale for $198. "
The easiest strategy is to set up an account at eBates.Com (rebates without the 'R'). When they ask who referred you, put my email address (if you don't know it, read on!). eBates is the king of exploiting referring marketing on the internet. Did you know that when you are looking at a web site, like ESPN, and you click on a Dell link, if you buy something, ESPN gets a referral $$ from Dell. What eBates does is allow you to click through to Dell (and tons of other merchants), and then splits the kickback with you, via a quarterly paid check to your paypal account or paper check in the mail. I've made over $1,000 in refunds over the past several years by starting my shopping at eBates.