Buying PC Laptops and Netbooks: The Potential Pitfalls

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Buying PC Laptops and Netbooks: The Potential Pitfalls

There are a number of mistakes commonly made by those in the market for a PC laptop or netbook. Some are traps set for unsuspecting consumers by the computer's manufacturer. For example, manufacturers might cut costs by skimping on an important part of the laptop. Others are pitfalls occasioned by computer equipment shops, which ultimately want to make the most of every sale. The extended warranty is a good example of this type of activity. Other potential pitfalls include mistakes made by consumers simply out of ignorance, and not understanding the specifications that are really necessary for one's computing needs.

Thankfully, all of these can be avoided with a little preparation. Understanding everything about laptops and netbooks is really not necessary. It is enough to know what one usually comes up against in the laptop or netbook shopping process. By learning how to deal with the potential pitfalls along the way and how to shop wisely for a laptop or netbook online, one can get a great deal without the lurking feeling that one has been taken advantage of.

Not Budgeting for Peripherals

One of the main things computer users forget when shopping for laptops and netbooks is that they do not include all the peripheral items that are built into desktops. One example is the CD/DVD burner. Other peripherals necessary to protect a laptop or a netbook are a power strip and antivirus software. One may also find it necessary to buy a monitor, keyboard, or mouse for comfort if using the laptop or netbook for extended periods of time. Make sure the laptop has enough USB ports for any devices that might be added later.

CD/DVD Burner

A shopper can easily buy a laptop thinking he or she got a great deal, only to realise that there is no way to create a backup, or system restore disks. Without a system restore disc, it can be impossible to recover important data in case of a total system failure. The other option is to buy a flash drive large enough to create a system image. However, the other major use of a CD/DVD burner is to install software, or rip music onto the laptop. Without CD drive, installing software becomes a major hassle, that involves somehow getting the software to reside on a flash drive first.

Power Strip

Netbooks and laptops are just as susceptible to power surges as other electronic devices when they are plugged in. However, their portability somehow makes consumers take for granted the fact that a power surge would not affect them. Netbooks and laptops should be protected whenever they are plugged in with at least a surge protector. More advanced power strips offer line conditioning as well to eliminate variations in the current.

External Monitor, Keyboard, or Mouse

The same screen that looks so attractive and portable in the store, can become literally an eyesore if the netbook is used for long periods of time. This is easily avoided with an external monitor. Depending on the laptop model, a USB or wireless keyboard, and mouse, can also mean the difference between cramped fingers and desktop PC-level comfort. Netbooks in particular tend to have small keyboards due to their size.

Extended Warranties

Extended warranties are those offered by some stores which protect the buyer in case the computer fails, particularly during the period of time after the manufacturer's warranty has run out. While it is true that computers have a lifespan of around five years, this is not so much because they are expected to stop working in five years. Instead, the short lifespan of a computer is due to the fact that its software and operating system are likely to be outdated by that time, as are the ports and hardware. By paying for an extended warranty, the buyer is basically betting that the computer actually fails during that time period. Usually, this is not the case.

Unmatched CPU and Memory

As with many things in life, cheaper is not always better. Cheap netbooks and laptops are usually skimping on one of two things. Either it has very little RAM memory, or it has a low-quality processor (CPU). A laptop that boasts a fast processor but little memory, is just as slow and frustrating to use as one that has a lot of RAM and a lousy processor. An oft-used analogy is that of RAM memory as desk space. A fast processor and small RAM is like a highly efficient secretary sitting at a desk that only has space for two documents. Although he could be doing many more things at the same time, he is limited by the space he has to work with. Similarly, lots of RAM and a slow processor is like a slow inefficient secretary sitting at a big desk. He might have 15 documents in front of him, but is only able to deal with one at a time, and that being very slowly.

There are only two major brands of processors. These are Intel and AMD. Many netbooks have an Intel Atom CPU. This processor runs at 1.6 GHz, which is perfect for an energy-saving netbook. Laptops should have faster CPUs like one of the Intel Core chips. As for RAM, at least 2 GB is recommended for any netbook or laptop, with 4 GB being preferable.

Waiting for Better Technology

Another pitfall in the laptop buying process, is waiting for the next technological leap to arrive. With the leaps and bounds computer technology makes today, it may feel like a waste of money to buy a laptop that is sure to be outdated in a few years, if not sooner. However, there are also costs associated with waiting too long. For one thing, one has to do without any current technology at all. Secondly, it usually leads to splurging on the next big technology, which might not turn out to be that great after all. Being an early adopter is far from budget-friendly. For these reasons, consumers should shop for the best computer their money can buy at the time when they need a computer.

Fancy Specifications for Regular Users

The last major pitfall awaiting unsuspecting consumers is the marketing strategy of promoting a system, with specifications far above those needed by the consumer. Since many people assume that 'more is better', manufacturers and stores take advantage of this by selling specialised gaming laptops to people who need only a regular laptop or netbook. High-definition resolution and advanced graphics processors are definitely not necessary for the average user. High-end graphics processors can add hundreds of dollars to the price of a laptop.

Similarly, many people fall into the 'high resolution' marketing trap. They think that high resolution is better in every circumstance. Actually, the higher the resolution, the smaller icons and text appear. This is because icon and text sizes are measured in pixels, not in centimetres. The more pixels there are on the screen, the smaller everything appears. While having a lot of desktop 'space' is a benefit for some people, others might prefer to have bigger text and icons. This is especially true when considering the smaller screens of netbooks, and ultraportable laptops. In general, a resolution of 1280x800 is fine for all-purpose use on screens from 13 to 15 inches. For 10 to 13-inch notebooks, look for a resolution of 1024x768 pixels.

How to Buy a Laptop or Netbook on eBay

Buying a netbook or laptop on eBay is often the most convenient way to shop by comparison. eBay makes it easy to compare specifications from the comfort of your home, and check prices from a number of worldwide sellers. You can also make use of eBay's unique feedback system to quickly find reputable and experienced sellers who can help you make the right choice. Since your satisfaction with your purchase directly affects their feedback, eBay sellers are highly invested in helping you get the right laptop for your needs, rather than just making the biggest sale they can.

To find a laptop or netbook on eBay, just enter a search term like 'netbooks' in the search box on any eBay page. Then choose the appropriate category or subcategory, and refine the search by defining the various search criteria provided. These include brand, screen size, memory, price and processor type.

As with buying any electronics, be sure to read the warranty and return policy very carefully. You are always encouraged to ask the seller any questions you might have prior to making a purchase. Also, you can choose to do business with one of eBay's Top-rated sellers, simply by looking for an award icon on the listing. These sellers typically have a long history of excellent customer service.


The path to buying complex electronic equipment, like laptops and netbooks, is fraught with dangers. These dangers prove to be serious pitfalls when the buyer is uneducated regarding laptop and computer specifications. They are also mistakes commonly made by people who buy these items on impulse, without the necessary research and comparison shopping. Before buying a laptop or netbook, one should also budget for the peripheral items that are necessary, like surge protectors, external CD burners, or software.

Buyers should make sure the processor, and RAM memory, are matched for speed and efficiency. Then, by avoiding extended warranties and fancy specifications, and deciding not to wait for the next big technological leap, buyers can get the most computing power for their money. Shopping on eBay is a popular way to compare laptop and netbook models from the convenience of one's home, and has the added advantage of offering the widest selection and lowest prices.

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