Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why is it ok that laptop computers are so expensive yet so disposable?

Over the years my two kids and I have experienced the fury and frustration and time-wastage and data-loss of constant laptop failures!

My computer tech says the lifespan of various parts of a laptop, including the hard drive, can't be expected to exceed two or three years! We've had trouble with the charger jacks, keyboards, monitors, hard drives, and the upshot is that we're furious with them all. Well, except Hannah thinks her Mac is good - but then, she hasn't had it very long.

Saw this graph in Consumerist this morning. Currently my son and I have Lenovo laptops and have had miseries with them. I see here the least-unreliable machine is an Asus, maybe we'll try that next?


At 6:56 AM, Blogger Mary said...

Not to defend the companies that probably do want your laptop to be disposable so they can keep selling you more, but from an engineer's perspective...

Think about how complicated a laptop actually is. How many things have to all be working at the same time. It's pretty amazing to me that they work as well as they do at all. The amount of technology in the display alone... millions of little tiny cells all with individual voltages applied across tiny liquid crystal pockets to rotate the polarization of the light from behind, so so that it does or doesn't make it through a pair of crossed polarizers and a wavelength filter... Not that long ago something like that was just a quantum mechanics experiment. Now your screen is made of millions of tiny quantum mechanics experiments. Same with your hard drive, with its tiny magnetic domains, or DVD drive, which relies on laser diffraction... When you think about it, it's pretty amazing that it all works together like it does, and that what usually fails are the moving parts like the hard drive motor or the fan... The things we've known how to make for a hundred years.

At 7:15 AM, Blogger Chapel Hill Fiddler said...

Hi Mary, I agree about the miraculousness of the technology. But according to my repair guy, the things that go wrong are usually cheap parts that could have been made better for pennies more. IE the hinges, the jacks for the power supply cord, etc.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Mary said...

I agree with your laptop repair guy. It's usually not the amazing parts that fail. But still, part of the reason laptops fail more than desktops is the inherent challenge involved in taking the same technology and shrinking it all down... Or maybe I mean that's the reason they're less repairable, really.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger peteguts said...

we see relatively few Mac`s donated at the Purple Elephant..mostly technology has left them behind rather than broken parts..hard drives are easily replaceable on both PC`s and Mac`s,,the cheapest place to purchase one is a place called Microcenter where they have a 2.26 ghz 13.3 laptop for $799.. pickup only.they have a bunch of stores north of here, Va, Pa,NY(yonkers) and Boston(Cambridge).. i use a pc too and have found the Dell`s to be a decent is now 14 yrs old and the other is 3..just bought an acer netbook which i like very much so far.


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