Overspecced Laptops Are A Waste Of Money

Overspecced Laptops Are A Waste Of Money

The average retail price for a Windows laptop is about $600, but PC manufacturers are building laptops that cost even thousands of dollars more than that — hoping you’ll fall for premium features you might not need.

Photo by terrenceistheman.

Laptop Magazine reminds us to buy a laptop based on our needs, not on what the laptop can do.

Most PC vendors seem to think that, if they just pop a faster CPU or discrete graphics card into the same cheap chassis, they can jack up the price and consumers will gladly pay it. However, a plastic laptop with a stiff keyboard that starts at $400 still looks and feels cheap after you add a Core i7 CPU and increase the price to $800.

I like White Castle as much as anyone, but I’m not going to pay $25 for a slider with Kobe beef inside. I don’t care if the meat costs $300 a pound.

Reconsider if you really need a discrete graphics card (if you’re only playing casual games, a laptop with an integrated graphics card will be just fine) or a touchscreen (if the laptop isn’t a 2-in-1, you probably don’t). And don’t pay a premium for an ultrathin laptop if you’ll have to trade performance or usability as a result:

Laptops like Lenovo’s LaVie Z and the LG Gram 14 make you pay a hefty premium for their lightweight chassis, but both suffer from poor battery life and uncomfortable keyboards. Other ultraportables are so thin that they don’t have room for a full-size USB port, like the MacBook, or trade a full-size SD Card slot for a microSD slot.

The article linked below points out features that are worth splurging more on, for most people: things like an SSD, high-resolution display and a better build quality and keyboard.

The main thing, though, is to focus on the features that will give you a better computing experience every day.

Splurge or Purge: What Laptop Features Are Worth the Money [Laptop]


  • Uggh… buying a laptop. True, you don’t want an over-specced laptop, but neither do you want a cheap one. I would never purchase a $600 laptop as the frustrations are endless. Wifi not quite working nicely, trackpads not quite designed/placed intelligently, somewhat dodgy keyboard. These all make for a quite frustrating experience.

    Give me a more expensive, business grade laptop any day. Or even a second hand business grade laptop.

    • Business grade doesn’t mean the same as it used to. Supply contracts have cut the premium out of business and many are now worse than what is in JB-HIFI. Granted that while in the warranty period the OEM will send someone on premises to fix the broken laptop. Premium consumer is where it is at now. Microsoft Surface, DELL XPS, Lenovo Yoga, these are the products to buy.

      Even if TFA means $600 USD excl. tax, you probably want to spend at least $1500 AUD.

  • As an IT professional I’m a trusted source of feedback for friends and family when it’s time to buy a new computer. The issue I’m often faced with is price and longevity.

    To me buying something a little more beefy than your initial requirements might push your price point, but will hopefully aid in an extra 1yr etc. Software is developing all the time and going to maximize the hardware available to it. If you spec to your requirements today it’s great for 12 months, but when the next upgrades come out your PC begins to feel sluggish and in turn you’re frustrated.

    Over spec things like CPU, RAM, SSD etc. will hopefully give you the extra power you need to push through 2 or 3 life cycles of software development.

    • Bingo. I’m in the same boat as you in terms of job and friends, and this is exactly what I tell them too.
      Most $600 laptops are absolute rubbish anyway and barely last the year they were purchased in, especially for less clue-y folks who install anything and everything etc.

      But this is exactly what the issue with the NBN and everything else tech related really, budget for the future, not for the present.

  • Got a gaming laptop because it suits my needs. (Yes I’m aware a desktop will run far better for far cheaper. Most people who give a damn will know this.)

    It’s served me well so far and I’ve no regrets of my purchase.

  • Hey guys check out the graphic used in the article it’s got an ancient IBM think pad from God knows when. Story is about not over doing it with buying a computer but hey let’s try and keep it within this decade right 🙂

  • What a crappy article, if someone doesn’t know what they need in hardware they should wait until they do, the problem is the specs that should exist don’t, it was extremely hard to find a 1080p screen on a system that had a 256gb SSD and a dedicated GFX, 98.4% of laptops & ultrabooks have a 1366×768 screen, which is CRAP and unusable for anything important like Photoshop, 3DSMax, even browsing the web has the pages cut off as 768 is too short. When you do find one with a better screen it is over $2000 because they add crap you don’t want, like QHD, Touch screen, 16GB ram, 512 SSD no lower end specs available, it’s bloody strange that they don’t want to sell laptops, they are sitting there wondering why PC sales are falling, yet they think it 2003 and 1366×768 is all people want/need, NO it is the reason sales are not happening, nobody can get by on such a low res screen except for facebook users who view recipes occasionally. If they don’t step up their game and sell something useful I will not buy one ever again, instead I’ll just make do with what I already have as it is 5 years old but a manual SSD upgrade and I have my perfect system with full HD.

    I did find a Ultrabook for my son after weeks of hunting, it’s a ASUS UX501JW with FullHD and was $1300, it came with a Touch screen, but you don’t have to touch it and it’s handy when your using the touchpad instead of the external mouse. I looked into the Dell and HP range but the prices were way over the top and the build quality was a joke in the newer range. ASUS Zenbooks are my pick for a balance or price, features and quality.

    There is no point in buying a 4k screen when nothing I own can capture or stream 4k smoothly, so the laptop would be the last thing I’d upgrade with support for it.

    Lets just hope that once USB Type C, OLED, PCIE SSD and WiFi ac are all mainstream that they don’t do the same thing and only make certain configurations including only some of each feature or it’ll be a pain during the next upgrade cycle too. I am hoping Wireless Charging doesn’t take off as it’s so very wasteful to transmit power across air instead of through copper, you can charge a Li-on battery for under $20 a year to run a laptop, but I’d imagine that price would go up to over $100, just so you can be cord free.

  • Windows laptop manufacturers and retailers are killing their own market. I work in I.T. support and in recent weeks I’ve done 3 jobs for people with new high spec laptops that compained they were dead slow. They were dead slow. My 8 year old modest spec laptop running XP I take on jobs with me creamed them. The problem? Each and every one had been oversold Norton AV by the retailer, which they then installed on top of the vendor installed McAfee. Each and every one (1 Acer, 1 Asus 1 Toshiba) was chock full of total garbage apps set to load on startup, each had at least a DOZEN useless bloatware apps from the manufacturer loading. When I deleted Nortons and all the bloatware they ran like a dream but were literally unusable out of the box. If the manufacturers and retailers keep this up they are doomed to have Mac reign supreme, My experience is the cheapest low spec laptop with 4GB RAM minimum is more than adequate for everyone except hardcore gamers after you clean up the bloatware and cut it down to bare Windows with an AV program.

    • “I work in I.T. support and … My … laptop running XP”

      This doesn’t inspire confidence. If it’s your employer’s, then I hope it’s either airgapped or on an extended service agreement. If it’s yours, well …

      • It’s under extended support, firewalled, windows updates up to date, running antivirus and a number of my own anti intrusion tools. It’s rock solid secure. You’d be one of those people who say something like “dude XP?, run linux and be secure” What a laugh. Any PC and OS is secure if the operator knows what they are doing. Any OS and PC is insecure if the operator doesn’t have a clue, like all the people making negative comments about XP.

    • Yesss.. The XP this is troubling….

      Having said that Laptop’s for years and years and years have been adding bloat ware to consumer products. It’s always the first thing I do when I get a retail lsptop.. Delete or even clean reinstall from an ISO.

  • When I was buying my laptop early last year, I heard a Harvey Norman salesperson tell an elderly couple they needed to upgrade the laptop they chose to 12GB RAM at least, but preferably 16GB, as the 8GB it came with isn’t sufficient to do the things they wanted (which they mentioned to him were – “mainly write letters, and use Facebook”). I told them not to listen to him, and that 8GB was fine. He didn’t look very happy at me.

  • When shopping recently, I had an SDXC card in one hand (with pictures and video from my Nikon camera) and a WD portable drive in the other.
    My goal: the cheapest system that copied files from the card to the drive. Bonus points if the pictures could be viewed / edited.
    I ended up with a cheap Dell runnning Ubuntu.
    My point: make sure a laptop is right for YOU. How much bias you put on weight, size, shape, ports, etc. is up to you.

  • The main thing, though, is to focus on the features that will give you a better computing experience every day. …… And so the price goes up if you want above standard specs.

    The strangest thing for me, and lowest bang for the buck, are the really low-end-new-laptops. I own a few low end laptops myself and assumed as time went on (from the early 2000s) you could walk into a computer store and get more for less money. Higher spec systems. How wrong I was.

    In the early 2000s I believe, a typical low end machine was a celeron for example. In 2016 they are still sold today at the low end range. So why cant we have a i5 as a low end machine or starting point ? Personally now I go second hand for a good upgrade. From Wikipedia : “Introduced in April 1998,[2] the first Celeron branded CPU was based on the Pentium II branded core.” Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celeron

  • Specs become important if better/pricier gives lower power consumption and less heat production. So it’s worth splashing out for the latest generation mobile specific CPU, SSD and so on.

    Thereafter it’s bells and whistles that are genuinely useful. My must-have is a WWAN card. This avoids the inherent risks of public WiFi and the inconvenience of tethering. Plus a business data only plan is much cheaper per Gb than any phone plan.

  • Just because a processor is branded a Celeron today doesn’t mean anything about it’s capabilities compared to a decades old Celeron. It’s just a brand name. A skylake celeron is just the bottom rung of the skylake architecture.

  • I’d like a gaming laptop but I’m not too fussed about battery life as I would use it in a motel and have mains power.
    I once used a portable fridge battery in a backpack in a cafe but only got 90 minutes game playing with headphones.
    I don’t expect much from the laptop battery and have considered removing it to make the laptop lighter.
    Not keen on some reports which mark down a laptop because of poor battery life as it’s irrelevant to me.
    I’d like a SFF desktop but there are no good SFF half size graphics cards. Although I haven’t looked recently.
    One thing I haven’t done yet is take the 27″ monitor so I can ignore the screen size of the laptop.
    That arrangement is best if I’m in a motel for several days like over Easter.

  • Mac laptops are also a waste of money. Underspecced, overpriced, all for a shiny Apple logo. It even lights up!

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