/ 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


I would agree with that , the modern laptop although having high speed CPU is let down by the build quality. Although I use a PC I have a very old Samsung laptop that I bought at a jumble sale for £25 it had Win Xp on it and the battery was dud ,but it did come with a PU . I removed Windows and installed one of the very lightweight LInux distros on it . These are specially chosen for old/slow PC,s/laptops and make a big difference in speed but the point is it is built like a tank -drop it it dents the floor ,parts dont fall off it ,it is totally reliable the buttons/keys are firm the whole case is solid . No they dont make them like that anymore !


I also would like to say the lead article is right the future isnt PC,s or laptops but mobile devices . MS is shrewd enough to recognise this that is why Win 10 is the last main Windows system which will be kept alive (in the future) with paid updates . They predict that in 10 years things will have changed dramatically and they are right . In the business community PC,s will last longer due to not just the amount of power available but the ability of high powered video cards for use in graphic design etc but integrated CPU/ Video chips are catching up but there will still be a need for large screens so in the future mobile devices would have to be able to power them for hours for work to be done so they would need to be mains PU supplied unless battery technology is way ahead of today . And yes new battery technology is on the horizon as well as CPU,s using organic means of communication and light travel .


Desktop and laptop PCs are now a mature technology that is used for many workplace applications. I can’t imagine they’ll go away any time soon.

They may continue to fall in price, as did calculators.

Most of these PCs are built to last. That is great for sustainability but not the best news for their manufacturers (or for “technophiles” at Which?, eager to review “sexy” new products?)

Personally, I haven’t needed to buy a new a home desktop since the days of Vista (and I’m still using it). My newest laptop is from the Windows 7 era, but I prefer the build quality of my Vista era machines.


Your mention of calculators made me think of this image…


PS. This image embedded itself all by itself just by using the image link… handy if you’d also like to include an image in your comment!


Thanks Patrick.

My work calculator is the one shown in your 1999 & 2011 images – I’ve had mine since 1996; it still does everything I need and more.

I’ve not yet had an audio player chip implanted into my brain (as depicted in your 2011 audio image?) so I’m still using headphones as per the 1999 image. I have moved on from CDs though….


I have both tablet and laptop and use both as needed. I have to say though I do like my Acer laptop and would not do without it. It had Windows 8.1 on it when I purchased it but have now converted to Windows 10. I currently do everything from banking to recording on my laptop.


I too have an Acer laptop (new) and it is an appalling unit. It is very slow and will not allow Windows10 to be removed and if one achieves this then it prevents other operating systems from being installed.


Delparc- If Windows 10 comes pre-installed -ie-OEM and not a retail bought version of win.10 then you are stuck with it as MS knows your Motherboard serial number so you cant transfer it to another computer . If you are “upgraded” by a download you have a certain length of time to remove it and revert back to an earlier version . Some manufacturers are in league with MS financially and make it hard for you to install another system . But it should not be impossible to remove it they cant create a monopoly by blocking installation of say-LInux on a bought electronic product unless it is one like a smartphone that runs on a Windows system . What is the full model number of your Acer and year bought so I can help ?


I think the world might miss Sony Vaio’s. A premium laptop brand that’s cheaper Macs. I still have mine (despite a penchant for over-heating).

Also, aren’t laptop manufacturer’s innovating by producing tablets or tablet/laptop mash-ups?


My Sony laptop does all I want (a bit slow at times, but who’s in such a hurry) and it is 10 this year, on Vista. However I realise I have been lucky for it to last this long.
Maybe I would go for a mobile device to replace it, but I’d still want the facility to link a large screen (apart from CAD, why shrink documents and spreadsheets unecessarily?), and a decent keyboard when I use it at home. But I’m not sure what is meant by a “mobile device”. I’d regard up to an iPhone as mobile, but not a tablet.

Anyway, what should I replace my ageing laptop with? Is Apple the only durable answer? (I like durable).


I believe there are some other good “business grade” laptops out there, but I have no first hand experience of any recent ones. I have seen several favourable reviews on the Dell XPS 13. In some ways that is quite a surprise, because my experience of mid-range Dell business laptops from a few years ago was that the machines were basically fairly sturdy but were let down by poor keyboards. Pretty much all the Vaios I’ve seen had great keyboards – and most of the Toshibas were good too.

I also have an old XP/Win2000 era Compaq that is “built like a brick outhouse” – it really is very sturdy.


Well Malcolm – Valhalla or the Land of Your Dreams has arrived — in the shape of MS Continuum (registered trademark ) . This will allow you to connect a brand spanking new -top model Windows Smartphone to a large screen and do all the things you dream of (at a price -ie==Lumia 950/950XL . MS has big things in store for its- “spy of the year ” Windows 10 system . You wil of course be forced to upgrade to 10 (in a not so nice way ) as it stil acounts for not more than 10 % of windows systems – 1 % LESS than XP . You name it it will happen voice control with translations into foreign languages DIRECT as you speak to a Chinese gentleman through its vocal spying app and you will be “helped to make decisions online Vocally . There is a long host of downloaded “updates ” to its system that will enable smartphones to act like a PC – quote- we will offer FULL Windows desktop experience ,and will allow handsets to be connected to keyboards ,mice+ monitors ,whatever is on the screen will be mirrored on the monitor so allowing for an effective computer to be stored in your pocket . BUT total control of “your”–aka THEIR smartphone/PC and total info will be uploaded to MS . Milions wil love it unless you are like me and dont want targeted ads PLUS on screen ads +pus “help ” in EVERY action you do . There is a lot more but this is enough for now.