/ 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

Loading ... Loading ...

Useful links:

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

Comments
Member

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 !

Member

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 .

Member

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.

Member

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!

Member

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….

Member

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.

Member

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.

Member

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 ?