MSI X340
MSI X340

The surge in popularity of netbooks has led computer makers to change the way they think about PCs. A few years ago, you’d pay a premium for thin and light laptops, while larger and heavier machines inevitably cost more. Today, we’re starting to see companies put out thin, light, and cheap machines. Of course, like netbooks, these low cost thin and light computers tend to have relatively slow processors and other cheap components including cheap plastic cases.

According to a CNET article, analysts are starting to notice something rather surprising obvious: These cheap computers aren’t as durable as pricier models. But you know what? They weren’t meant to be. If you purchased a $400 laptop under the impression that it was just as good as a $1200 machine you either made a big mistake or had a really inept salesperson.

That said, there’s cheap and then there’s cheap. CNET quotes an analyst who says that the plastic cases on some of these cheap notebooks are cracking. In order to build a sturdier thin and light machine, PC makers are going to want to use metal cases — which would drive up the price.

It’s not clear from the article if the cracking is a widespread problem; if there’s a way to deal with it without using metal cases; or if the cracks occur on their own or only after users, say, drop the laptops on concrete. So I’m going to reserve judgment about the severity of the problem for now. But in general, you get what you pay for. If you want a powerful, portable, and problem-free machine, you’ll wind up paying a premium price.

via Gizmodo

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14 replies on “Shocking discovery: Cheap laptops have cheap build quality”


    I’m sorry, but those so-called ‘analysts’ are shills for the computer industry who want people to stay away from netbooks and nettops. It all about “Gosh-golly! Look out folks these scary, nasty netbooks are gonna break on you. Then a meteor shower will fall on your child, and then you’ll get mesothelioma and will cough up blood!!!”

    I’m sure there are some very bad netbooks being made, but most of those never hit these shore and are in the asian market of mainland China. And I’m sure there are some models that are more likely to break then others…just like say an iPhone. Do you know how many people bust their damn iPhones ever damn day. Maybe these ‘analysts’ should look at how many iPhones are breaking due to drops, but wait that will NEVER happen just as nine out of ten XBOX 360 machines breaking will never get huge coverage.

    This story is a non-story planted buy the industry to create just enough doubt to keep the whole market from shifting to a razor-thin margin marketplace for the next six years.

  2. $1000 white MacBooks are notorious for case cracks–of 150 I purchased for my school, about 60-70% of the ones I have checked so far have case cracks. Guess they don’t have to be cheap to be “cheap”.

  3. Wasn’t real impressed with the build quality of my Asus 1000H, especially the keyboard. OTOH, my 8.9″ Acer Aspire seems to be quite well built.

  4. over 30 netbooks spread around the company, all sorts of brands and models. Not a single issue in terms of hardware.

    Anyone who thinks that the manufacturers want to keep the prices low is delluding themselves. Most are trying to add costs (increase their margins) under the guise of more power and other functions.

    I think if you look around we seeing a general increase in the price of most netbooks. When the price gets close enough to standard laptops then drive to adopt netbooks will reduce significantly.

    Then we will be back to the bad old days of paying for power that we don’t use. Lets hope the few netbook makers out there who really want to offer these at competitive prices keep up the pressure.

    Samsung NC10 owner and loving every day with it.

  5. most of these netbooks, notebooks or laptops are made from cheap material, unexperienced workers, not handmade and not finally checked out. My tip: buy Fujitsu – they are handmade in Japan and quality controlled!

  6. The ASUS units I’ve had (Surf 4g, 900A, 1000HE) are rock solid. In particular I’d argue that the 4g and 900A are considerably more robust due to the lack of moving parts and fragile HDDs and Optical drives. And the present prices (<$200) for 7" and 9" SSD Linux models (my preferred units) make them very easy to amortize.

    Back in the 70's calculators were very expensive, as a result they were built to last like the HP-41C. Complete tanks, expensive and very nice. But generally a severe case of overkill. As technology advanced, a $1-$20 calculator was more than enough for all but the most demanding needs. Now everybody has a few cheap calculators that are cheap commodities. Losing or destroying even a moderately nice scientific calculator isn't a big thing, just hit the drug store and grab another.

    The next wave of ARM units are basically the equivalent of that for netbooks (and nettops). Nearly disposable and good enough to do most anything you need to do. (and in a few years more powerful than those $1,200 boat anchors) Hence all the FUD.

  7. If you purchased a $400 laptop under the impression that it was just as good as a $1200 machine you either made a big mistake or had a really inept salesperson.
    What a touchingly naive view of commercial nature 🙂

  8. Asus EEE PC 900 No cracks

    Dell mini 9 No cracks

    An action class against CNET failure ?

    What else ?

    1. I’m pretty sure they’re talking about larger CULV-based machines with
      12 and 13 inch displays. Still thin and light, but more surface area
      than netbooks.

        1. That Q45 is a two year old ultraportable that’s no longer available,
          but which I believe sold for over $1000. The CNET article is talking
          about machines more like the MSI X320/340.

          But the article certainly could have been more clear on this point. I
          think the analyst CNET interviewed was probably reluctant to point out
          specific models.

  9. EeePC 701, no cracks. Samsung NC10, no cracks.
    These guys just want everyone to spend $1200 to check e-mail and surf the web while on the move.

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