So I’m looking over the daily deals this evening, winding down from a 14 hour pre-dawn to post-dusk day of trying to catch up from my insane life, and I ran across the following deal:
OnSale.com has the 6.1lb HP Business Notebook nx6110 Celeron M 360 1.4Ghz, 256MB/40GB, DVD/CDRW, 15in screen, 802.11g wireless, 1 yr worldwide limited warranty on sale for $499 after rebate. $11.70 shipping. Limit 5. Item 200292 (tip o’ the hat to www.techbargains.com).
As most of you know, I like the personal laptop as a concept. Heck, I like it enough that I have two of them, plus a couple of servers I work with every day. In my estimation, this is a great deal. First off, it’s business grade hardware. For those of you who are non-techies, there are various grades of computer hardware. Those of us with a little gray hair remember the venerable Packard Bell PC’s – now they were cheap. Inexpensive yes, but cheap. More than one techie pulled their hair out because of proprietary hardware and other things that drove us nuts about these doorstops. (full disclosure: I owned one, and swore a lot when I had it). Packard Bell was the Yugo of computing – cheap, flimsy, and inexpensive enough that everyone could own one. On the other end of the scale is the latest and greatest business grade hardware. It’s over-engineered to allow for better performance, and the service on it is a dream. When I think of my old Dell Latitude 600 laptop (got it in 1991), I think of this class. Lightweight, takes abuse, and generally comes back from a diet coke spill with some help from a hair dryer. And for $3,000 each, it darn well ought to do all of that, plus toast your breakfast bagel and slather cream cheese on it so that it’s ready when you wake up Generally, you either get something fabulously cheap, or you get something that’s good quality. The HP Compaq line of laptops is a place where these criteria meet (disclosure: I use a tricked out HP Compaq nx6125 laptop, the sibling to this deal, so I have a little experience with the Compaq Business line of hardware. For the record, I also work with an HP xb31 projector, a HP Color Laserjet 2550L, and an HP Officejet 7310. It’s all good stuff).
The other nice thing about business grade hardware is that it’s easier to replace parts with standard gear. An example: I have a home grade laptop which I bought for cheap, and I got what I paid for. While it meets my needs for most things, adding RAM or replacing the hard drive requires removing no less than 20 screws, removing and reinstalling five crimped cables, and doing all of this without letting static build up on it. We’re talking about something that’s a serious pain in the hind quarters here – it takes me about an hour to swap drives on this PC. Needless to say, it’s probably on the move list soon. Business grade hardware is different. With my HP Compaq nx6125 notebook, I mount the spare drive on the rails for the notebook chassis with four screws – one time. I remove two screws, slide out the old tray, slide in the new tray, reinsert the two new screws, and I’m ready to go. Five minutes if I’m talking on the phone and taking notes while I do the swap – my Mom could do hardware work on this laptop. Same thing with the RAM on the HP Compaq – two screws in and out, and it takes three minutes if I’m distracted.
The cases are also very different. The cheap laptop has a thin plastic case, and is flimsy. It feels like I’ll break it if I ever drop it off of my lap while surfing on the couch. The HP Compaq is different – it’s a little heavier, but it feels much more substantial. Mind you – this is a 6 pound laptop here – so it’s not one of the laptops out there which should come with a free visit to the Chiropractor so you can get over carrying the darn thing around – but it will take some abuse. My notebook got about 40,000 Delta miles last year, and it’s going to get around 100,000 this year, so it definitely takes the abuse.
A final difference in Business grade hardware is the quality of the components. The computer companies use a metric called MTBF to track the expected life of a piece of hardware. Most business grade hardware has a much longer MTBF rating than the home grade hardware. This is why your hard drive on your home PC has gone out twice in the last seven years, while your office PC has only gone out once, even though your use your office PC five times as much as the home unit.
The display on this one is 1600×1200 according to the site, and 15″. Trust me – it’s awesome. Mine is 1400×1050, and it’s so clear my blind eyes can see it from far away. And I’ve got enough screen real estate to get some serious multitasking done.
Anyway, back to the deal. In this case, HP is selling these business grade laptops inexpensively. Now don’t get me wrong – you CAN buy a home grade laptop from Best Buy or Circuit City for the same price with better specs, but this one will take more abuse, and will complain less about working all of the time. Additionally, you can pick up things like dock stations on the cheap from corporate customers as they phase them out. Admittedly, it’s not for the gamers in the audience, but for the budget-conscious family on a budget, this is a decent deal. If you’re going to do online banking, Word, Excel, and some internet surfing, look at this deal. You do need to jack up the RAM in the device (I’d look at taking it to 1GB RAM, which you could do for around $100 or so – check salescircular.com for your state – but this seems to just work better).