Laptop Death

Short article with some interesting numbers on laptops. Apparently, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 3 laptops die within 3 years. What they mean by “die” is unclear, but considering how cheaply modern electronics are made, I would imagine anything worse than a hard drive crash would be grounds for hucking the old portable into the (politically correct) hardware recycling bin. Of course, like any product, there’s two reasons for this: If it was an inexpensive product, its not worth it to repair when you can simply buy another one. And, if its an inexpensive product, constructed from lowest-bidder-grade pacific rim crapshoot chips, its probably more likely to break. Welcome to consumerism.

Happily, I see that the manufacturer of my laptop, Toshiba, came out favorably ranked in reliability. And I’ve noticed the Toshiba laptops aren’t appreciably pricier than the HP or Acer units, though those manufacturers seem to add loads of superfluous bells and whistles that probably draw in the supposedly value-minded consumer.

Rugged as my Toshiba has been, after 6+ years the touchpad has died (probably from my greasy, trian-fixing mits attempting to use it) and the charging circuit occassionally fritzes out, leaving me with a dying battery. I’ve replaced the battery once, and bought a $10 external mouse, but other than that its been a decent unit. I’l probably replace it sometime within the next two years, and it’ll probably be with another Toshiba.

8 Responses to “Laptop Death”

  1. matt says:

    One of the things you have to remember is that classing stuff together by manufacturer isn’t really fair. Someone like Panasonic, who only manufactures industrial-strength laptops, is going to fare a lot better than HP, who makes both really nice “corporate” laptops and complete crap for the Walmart/Office Depot market.

    Also, I think Toshiba has stayed out of the “netbook” market, which is dominated by $200-400 machines that fall apart in a few years. Essentially, disposable computers.

  2. Pitt says:

    The article didn’t list panasonic units, probably because of that reason. I would love a toughbook, but 3 grand for an obsolete processor isn’t exactly a great draw.

    We use IBM Thinkpads here at work, which have been pretty decent, and Dells, which are also pretty good. I have an older Dell at home I bought used for 200 bucks, and its been a stable, if unoutstanding computer.

    Toshiba does make Netbooks. I’m torn on netbooks- on the one hand, I like the smaller, lighter, more portable and better battery life idea, and I don’t really need much processing speed for what I do with a laptop. And I figured the lower price wasn’t as much because of cheaper component as it was simply reduced functionality. But, I’ve heard the Netbooks don’t even support Microsoft Office apps, which I would like to have on my portable. So, for now, I’m doing the safe thing- nothing.

  3. matt says:


    Netbooks are basically just lightweight, small notebooks built with cheap components. The power consumption is low, so the battery life is pretty good. The original Asus EEE was a stroke of genius — they just built a laptop using a cheapass 7″ screen from a portable DVD player and an obsolete processor.

    They’ll run Office, though I wouldn’t want to run a version of Windows newer than XP on the current crop. I bought a Dell Mini 9 for Sue back in the spring, and it’s been fine. The only thing she doesn’t like is the blindingly stupid touchpad design, where the buttons are integrated into the pad so it’s really easy to inadvertantly move the pointer when clicking.

  4. BrianN says:

    I wonder if ‘death’ includes OS death. My thinkpad quit just last month. I was able to copy the data off of it and re-install Win XP with no trouble (the OS is stored on the hard drive, so it’s just a matter of selecting the ‘kill your current computer’ command from the BIOS). In fact, it now runs better than ever (it was already a few years old when I got it).

  5. matt says:


    I would imagine “death” means any condition that caused the owner to pitch it. When computers cost a few hundred dollars, and Best Buy or whoever is charging $80-100/hour for repair work, it’s usually a wash. If you can’t fix it yourself, just buy a new one.

  6. Pitt says:

    This is why I wonder if more expensive goods are often considered “more reliable”, since the cost of repairing them is less likely to exceed the cost of replacing them. Even if the failure rate may not be less. This goes for simpler to fix vs. more complex goods, too.

    Then again, you see a metric ton of old Saabs and BMWs on the used car ads for really cheap because the cost of fixing that busted sunroof or some niggling engine fault or, in some cases, even buying new tires is more than the current owner cared to put into it.

  7. BrianN says:

    @Pitt… Funny place to use ‘metric ton’ as hyperbole. I mean, isn’t a metric ton of saabs like 1.5?

  8. Pitt says:

    Not after 2 or 3 Western NY winters. They barely cast a shadow then.

    I was going to say “metric f*** ton”, but decided to clean it up. You know, for the kids.

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