/ Technology

Are laptops getting worse?

Laptop and speech bubble

It’s a strange concept. The idea that a technology could be getting worse as time goes by seems unthinkable. But I think laptops are, and here’s why.

Consumer electronics is an industry constantly moving forward, and at a rate faster than any other. Tablets, smartphones, smarts TVs – all distant concepts a mere ten years ago, now firmly at the centre of our day-to-day lives and improving every day.

In fact, those three technologies are exactly why the current state of laptops is so noticeably lacklustre. A piece of kit that predates any of them by a good 20 years, laptops seem to be running out of steam.

Cheaper and cheaper laptops

Are laptops literally getting worse? Of course not. Processors are updated every year, displays continue to pack in more pixels, and lighter and stronger composites are working their way to the production line. But these are minor improvements to the average consumer. Compared to smartphones, for example, it’s as if the laptop industry is standing still.

Rather than striving for the latest innovations, laptop manufacturers are doing whatever they can to offer their products at a lower cost. Tablets and smartphones have made an irreparable and eternal mark on home computing. Most people nowadays, whether they are aware of it or not, probably don’t even need a laptop for what they want to do. It seems like the only way computing manufacturers feel they can compete is by slashing prices.

What good is a £300 laptop if it’s flat-out awful, though? Even around the £500-£700 mark we’re still seeing laptops that fill us with apathy rather than awe. Cost-cutting will always impact on quality, and there’s little way around that.

Laptops need a jump start

Which? laptop review scores have taken a noticeable dip over the past six months, and the same problems are endemic throughout all of those poor-testers. Big-name components that under perform due to poor optimisation. Terrible build quality and cheap materials. Dreary displays and muddy audio. It’s obvious that the money you save has been ripped from the production line.

In a time where laptop manufacturers, petrified of their own impending irrelevance, are doubling-down, consolidating, and offering you what you’ve already seen before for cheaper, the exact opposite is needed.

Today, brands like HP release upwards of 100 laptops a year. The differences between them are often indistinguishable, and that market saturation just means that you, the consumer, has a diluted pool of devices to choose from.

Like a shark, if a technology stops moving, it dies. Smartphones and tablets are now the great whites of the market, and it’s only a matter of time until they gorge themselves on the tender, aging flesh of the laptop. A serious re-balancing of priorities is urgently needed.

Do you think laptop manufacturers need to innovate more?

Yes (77%, 1,563 Votes)

I don't know (16%, 324 Votes)

No (7%, 133 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,020

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Useful links:

Which? advice on the best laptops to buy
How to buy the best laptop


OSX is the Apple system, and has nothing to do with M$.

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You didn’t: Derek did when he said “By the sound of it OSX, Linux, Unix (etc…) will be unaffected”. However, owing to the entirely unnecessary threading system my response was moved down several posts.

Sorry Ian, I was just trying to outline the essential key facts mentioned in DL’s post.

If Microsoft intend to lock out W7 users from newer hardware, that should help to encourage all their corporate W7 users to migrate away from Windows to other choices.

For those interested in Linux do a little search for an interview with Linus Torvalds at the TED conference in Vancouver…………..

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DL, see “How to stop Windows 10 sharing your update data” on Which? Tech Daily for a previous expose of this…

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…in which case, I hope you already know the 1st rule of journalism….

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Duncan – thanks for that news.

I enjoyed the twist where it was reported that the Linux Mint website was hacked via a security flaw in their WordPress blog….

I have a very old lap top, and my main problem is with down loads, I am on windows 8, but I keep being asked to down load windows 10 and to be honest windows 10 is the biggest load of B.S. ever, I bought my wife a tablet for Christmas with windows 10 and she just could not get on with it, it caused her a load of grief and many nights of tears. In the end, I down loaded windows 8.1 and she has never been happier. back to my lap top, when windows 10 came out I did try to down load it, it took 3 hours, and at 99% I was told there was a problem and my lap top was being returned to windows 8, this took all night. As a member of my Parish Council, I need my lap top on a daily basis because that is how we as a council communicate so to be without my lap top for so long meant that I missed out on some of our council business. Now I refuse to down load anything, and to date I have over 200 down loads that windows want me to accept, I say no way, leave me as I am, as long as I can get , read and send emails watch you tube and play the odd game of cards, then that’s all I need in my lap top. And windows 10, lets forget it, maybe in 10 or 20 years time when like windows X.P. we had a great system, then once windows get there act together maybe, just maybe windows 10 will be as good. but for now, I will stick to windows 8.

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I have a 4-year old Lenovo L laptop at home, which continues to give good service. I recently had to buy a new laptop at work and chose a Lenovo T model with a much higher specification. Its performance is so poor that I plan to replace it after less than a year (although I have no idea what to buy instead). At first I was impressed with the battery lifetime but I soon realised that this was because the processor ran so slowly. I turned the speed up to maximum and the battery life is now worse than the old laptop but the performance remains unacceptably slow. It often cannot keep up with my typing and I find that I delete things by accident because the software falls so far behind what I am doing. A colleague who bought a similar laptop recently has the same experience. So yes, laptops do seem to be getting worse and this is for professional-level models, not bargain-basement versions. Poor design? The problems do not seem to be related to the version of Windows and both machines have plenty of RAM and disk space.

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exerxes says:
17 February 2018

Looks like there are many high quality laptop machines with interesting capabilities – But they are at a very high price (is this exacerbated by a demand balloon from bitcoin mining processor warehouses?) – too much for me. My 10yr old w7 setup has been cracking up for years but still just works just well enough to carry on with – I will use it as long as poss. Although looking for a new one, I have not seen a product with adequate all round abilities at the right price and am also rather w10 averse (did try it but backed out of it). Am strongly leaning towards going the raspberry route (avoiding w10 and the like with any luck – Linux maybe?) – or one its now considerable number of peer group alternatives, some of which look very tasty and user-friendly and at decent price – might be more interesting and controllable too.

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