The Washington Times - June 13, 2008, 12:18AM

Alan Stafford is the executive editor of PC World magazine, one of my favorite publications. But Mr. Stafford is only telling part of the story when he tells BottomLine Secrets, an e-mail newsletter, that laptop computers aren’t tops for many folks. One example: so-called hidden costs.

 

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“Laptops no longer cost a great deal more than desktops — the price difference might be less than $100 for a comparable, mid-priced machine when the cost of a desktop monitor is added in — but you will notice a bigger monetary difference if your computer ever breaks. A tech-savvy family member or someone at the neighborhood computer store can solve most of the problems that pop up with desktops,” Bottom Line summarizes from Mr. Stafford.

“Laptop problems can be more expensive to correct. Many of their components are integrated, meaning you cannot replace the part that has broken without also replacing other components. Laptop parts also tend to be proprietary, so replacements must be purchased from the manufacturer, which generally means paying a premium. Often only authorized service centers can handle laptop repairs. Repair bills of several hundred dollars or more are not uncommon,” the newsletter adds.

 

Yes…but. The repair rates for some laptop brands are equal to, or less than, those for desktops. Extended warranties aren’t always overpriced and offer a great deal of protection. And, you can change out even some of the toughest parts, such as the display screen.

Mr. Stafford says laptop keyboards might be hard for some people with arthritis, or for those who need a numeric keypad, something found usually on 17-inch models, if then. Again, true, but only to an extent: an arthritis sufferer might recoil at any keyboard, and there are voice-activated programs available. Separate numeric keypads can be found at Staples and Office Depot.

The big benefit, in my view, of a portable is, well, its portability. I hope to review some new notebooks from Hewlett Packard that might surprise even Mr. Stafford. Stay tuned.

Mark Kellner, The Washington Times