back to article Low-end notebook, rocking horse shit or hen's teeth

A low-end notebook drought is likely coming to a town near you, multiple analysts and tech distributors have told The Reg. NAND flash is one component that has been in short supply in recent months, and glass panel manufacturers are shifting priority to higher margin areas including TVs, sources told us. Tim Coulling, senior …

Is there still much demand for low-end notebooks, when everybody and their mother wants a tablet instead?

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I guess one can use a second-hand mid-range notebook instead of a new low-end model.

Devil is in the details, battery life etc.

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Everybody and their mother already has a tablet.

There was a very prolonged and massive lie-down in the PC market from Windows8 onwards as a result purchases bought with the last Win7 are approaching the time in their life when their battery no longer works properly.

Joe average IT guy and Jill the average user in this case replace the whole machine. While this is nothing like the demand which the PC industry has grown accustomed to over the last two decades it is a steady and pretty much guaranteed demand for 1:1 replacements.

No more growth - it is a mature industry now.

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"Everyone and their mother" already HAS a Tablet... and has no compelling case to buy a replacement.

Tablets and notebooks are in about equal decline...

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Devil

The most compelling case to buy a new one is the battery's impossible to replace as it's engineers have spent several man years coming up with optimal unreplaceable battery solutions like welding it to the CPU pins and gluing it to the back of the screen.

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Wouldn't this include Chromebooks? These are a good, versatile option between a tablet and laptop

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Re: Chromebooks

Shops don't like them - no opportunity to sell AV software and MS Office* on the back of the machine's purchase. Otherwise they great for those wanting a keyboard and a pain-free way of getting Internet access.

[*] Which is actually useful, but the majority of people don't need more than the "free" Google docs or similar.

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RE: Chromebooks

The problem is, most of the Chromebooks over here (Germany) cost more than a cheap Windows notebook! The $199 Acer ARM based Chromebook was going for around 450€ on Amazon last year! With prices like that, it is little wonder than at its peak (2014), there were no Chromebooks in the top 50 most sold notebooks on Amazon and only 2 in the top 100.

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I was very surprised & impressed to see an extensive range of Chromebooks in the PC World store on Leeds Headrow last month. They still sell them online for prices lower than AMZN, ~£140.

I bought a refurb Acer C720P Chromebook on May 27th 2014 direct from the US. Since then it has worked faithfully (about 24h/day) for the needs of one of my teenagers. It is faster than when I bought it. It does school homework perfectly, music/bands/chat seamlessly. I have just needed a replacement charger as the pin falls out when the lappy is dropped, no magsafe.

At same time I bought a refurb MacBookPro8,1 (Apple MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.3 13" Early 2011 4GB RAM 320GB 5400rpm HDD) for a similar teen. The HDD had to be upgraded after a year to a 1TB HybridSSD. It's now going through a 4 ->8GB RAM upgrade and the (PS4 fave) upgrade of a Seagate-ST2000LX001 firecuda 2TB H-SSD, as the user perceives it as 'too slow'.

one of the Lappys cost $221 + €40-psu [=£210], the other cost €650 + €99-1TB + €99-2TB +€49-8GB [=£760], over the 2.5 years, but price isn't the only thing - and surprisingly the cheapest not only has a touchscreen & worked flawlessly, but I did also spend some time resolving the DNS badvertising virusy-thing hijack on the expensive fruity Mavericks which gave quite a bit of downtime. I'd say for an average modern youth, you might be 3.6 times better off buying a low end chromebook rather than a low end apple (from a single datapoint!)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RE: Chromebooks

" Chromebooks [...] cost more than a cheap Windows notebook!"

Might that be partly because no one's paying the Chromebook manufacturers/vendors to pre-install assorted unwanted and unnecessary trialware (AV, Office, etc) which on a Window box is a nice little earner for manufacturer/vendor ? Oh, and if it's an ARM chromebook, there's no subsidy from Intel for putting an "Intel Inside" sticker (or modern equivalent) on it.

Price, and cost. They're not the same.

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Re: RE: Chromebooks

But if they can sell it for $199 in the USA, why does it cost over 2.5 times as much in Germany, when Windows devices have at worst a $1 = 1€ conversion and are sometimes cheaper (when you remove tax).

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Anonymous Coward

A low-end notebook drought is likely coming to a town near you

I don't think consumers will be too much shaken by this development :)

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Anonymous Coward

You'd be surprised the number still selling at PCWorld - why sell a decent laptop when the "punter" won't tell the difference until the they've opened it and can't return it.

That way the other few hundred quid in their budget can go on AV,Office and services (i.e. KPIs).

Oh I forgot howno insurance - i.e. I paid all this money and it's not covered... how no?

As for cheap laptops - the Lenovo b50 i3 with ssd for under £300 has been a great buy for more than a couple of people I know recently, as long as you wipe it that is.

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"As for cheap laptops - the Lenovo b50 i3 with ssd for under £300 has been a great buy for more than a couple of people I know recently, as long as you wipe it that is."

Are they running some flavour of Linux, or do you mean wiping just the Lenovo add-on-to-Windows crud?

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Either will work...

My mum came over to visit and said that my Windows was better than her Windows... She ended up taking my 6 year old notebook with SUSE on it back with her!

On the other hand, I cleaned away the Lenovo crud on another machine and use Windows on it. Without the crud it is actually pretty good.

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Yeah I bought a second hand Lenovo X1 Carbon from FleaBay for the wife.

It came with a pre-installed copy of Windows 10 with no Lenovo crud (or drivers).

Once I'd got the drivers on, it's a really rather nice little machine. Fast, light, long battery life, quiet and nice to look at / hold.

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News? Or "olds"?

I went shopping last year for a replacement for the netbook I had been using for five years (screen issues...). Requirements were easy enough, or so I thought (tl;dr: I found it impossible)

- size (10")

- battery life (8hrs)

- hard disk (500 GB)

- keyboard, so not a tablet-thingy with a rubbery excuse for a keyboard missing essential keys

- runs GNU/Linux, this is for me to work on after all.

Oh, and a decent price. For the old one I paid 300€. The size is important when commuting, try opening anything larger on a train or plane (economy class). HDD because I drag around quite an amount of (work related) data. Went for a poor compromise in the end.

So: yeah, no small, cheap note-/netbooks - already last year.

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Re: News? Or "olds"?

second hand lenovo x250. put samsung 850 pro in it. put the big battery in it (about 60 quid)....apparantly lasts "up to 20 hours". even if its half of whats claimed, its exceptional.

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Zot

Re: News? Or "olds"?

There's no way I'm playing battery swapsies with a Samsung, sorry.

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Re: News? Or "olds"?

x250 is nice, especially if one could get it without a glossy 2 layer touchscreen (yet still an ips lcd). the refreshed x260 mutant is not worth the pricetag.

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Re: News? Or "olds"?

its not a sammy battery....its a sammy ssd

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Re: News? Or "olds"?

got feedback from customer who bought the x250 with the extended battery that i sold her - lasted her from friday afternoon till 3pm monday. dont know exactly what her usage was or how hard she was using it, but she asked for a very long battery life presumably cos she uses it a lot, its pretty impressive.

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And yet PC World are advertising a low end laptops at 150 UK Quid.

Tech distributors trying to talk up the price of new gubbins isn't exactly 'news' is it?

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Nothing New

I've been trying to find a reasonably priced 13" laptop purely as a loaner for employees who travel occasionally, such a thing barely exists now.

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Re: Nothing New

Have you looked at refurbs?

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Still a demand

Used to have an Asus netbook for times of extended travel. Killed off by XP bloat.

Tried to use an Android tablet but it lacks some software available on Windows.

Now have a small HP upgraded with an SSD. This is slowly wearing out (touch screen not reliable so disabled, keyboard starting to be iffy) so presumably a replacement may be required in a couple of years.

The netbook format fills a need where you require support for specialist peripherals only available under Windows, portability and useability on planes, keyboard, works without an Internet connection.

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Re: Still a demand

I think you're right, though I'd qualify that by saying that I suspect Windows 10 will only serve to reduce the demand that remains - apart from the other well-documented problems, it seems like the direction of travel is away from support for legacy software and "specialist peripherals" which are the main reasons for using Windows at all.

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I see these 'stories'..

...of RAM shortages, Flash shortages, storage shortages, panel shortages etc.

And yet...the world continues too turn and supply is fine.

The only one I can remember ever affecting me and others was the HDD flood issue 5 years ago. I think that was mainly due to racketeering and withholding supply for profit.

I would say that the sub £400 laptop market is a nightmare though and has been for several years spec wise. You are better off spending your limited budget on a Chromebook. At least the Chromebook wont have a mega slow 5400rpm HDD in it and might even have a 1080p screen.

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Coat

Re: "mainly due to racketeering"

Yeah, that tsunami was totally in on that. Got 10% if I remember correctly.

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Re: "mainly due to racketeering"

I believe it was the floods in Bangkok that nixed the HDD supply, a city built on swampland with regular floods may not have been the best place to put the factories.

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new entry level laptops

they all seem woefully underpowered. get a 3 or 4 year old machine with a dual core intel, bung a samsung 850 pro ssd in it. if it has 3 or more gb of ram, it will outperforms the new entry level stuff anyway. put win 7 on it, happy days.

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Re: new entry level laptops

Yeah on Amazon refurb you can pick up near mint Dell Latitude laptops with Core i5, decent screens and corporate build quality for £250 ish. Slap in some more ram and a SSD and you are still under £400.

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Re: new entry level laptops

Yeah but a quick check of Dell's own refurb site shows no 13" laptops for less than around £500...and I think that's what folks here are complaining about: that sweet spot of portability, battery life and performance for when you're travelling.

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Re: new entry level laptops

second hand lenovo x250.....put big battery in....20 hours claimed life.

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Re: new entry level laptops

That's Dell. Shop around.

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"demand outstripping supply was a good sign for the market"

Um, did anybody tell him that the PC market is shrinking ? A crash in supply does not mean that the PC market is getting better, it just means that what consumers are left are going to have to pay a bit more a wait a bit longer.

To hear this guy you'd think he's expecting the market to take off again. Sorry, bud, that market had its glory days; now you're in Aisle 12, right before the dog food.

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Facepalm

Re: "demand outstripping supply was a good sign for the market"

Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, said demand for PCs outstripping supply was a good sign for the market – sales have dropped year-on-year in each full quarter of 2016.

I don't know whether doofosity is a prerequisite for becoming "research director" (it sure helps), but that kind of statement takes the effing biscuit. But maybe he is the EVIL Research Director (ERD).

"Sales have dropped" AND "Demand outstripping PC" implies "The Contradiction"

"PC component inventory levels have been at a low given the market weakness. This could either be a sign of short-term adjustment or more significantly point to long-term stability of the PC market around business demand for Windows 10 products," he added.

Random words strung together to generate a semblance of meaning.

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Dell Linux (ubuntu) laptops 200 quid including delivery

I'm not really a Linux guy, but as a result of a reply to a El Reg comment somebody made to me a few weeks ago I have tried Linux. I got confused by all this dual boot which flavour stuff but I found I could get a laptop direct from Dell with ubuntu pre installed.

Overall - well I've saved about 50 quid on what the same would be with Widows 10. Ha, but one in the eye for Microsoft, Apple etc. Eh?

For most people - (who don't need game playing machines) - almost anything is good enough by the time you pay a couple of hundred quid. I bought an Acer Revo from Staples - 119 quid Windows 8.1 - added Classic Shell and plugged it in to a screen. It's GREAT.

For those who paid 400 quid for a BBC micro back in the middle of the last century the amount of computing you get for that money now is terrific. But I just can't type any FASTER AND STILL LEAVE 'kin CAPS LOCK on.

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Re: Dell Linux (ubuntu) laptops 200 quid including delivery

For those who paid 400 quid for a BBC micro back in the middle of the last century

The middle? was it available shortly after the War then?

I seem to remember it being new in the early eighties, I was at the awkward adolescent stage and hence really really wanted one, but settled for something that was both affordable and easier to get.

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TRT
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Funny that...

we've not heard, this year, about scarcity in the component channels as a result of natural disasters, floods, storms, earthquakes etc.

Has the production facility become more resilient or moved somewhere less prone to flooding etc? Are we not seeing the natural disasters hitting production facilities? Has production become more distributed?

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Re: Funny that...

Sounds like the channel adjusting to lower aggregate demand with some component lines being discontinued.

I like the idea of responding to the situation by putting even crappier components in and hoping to make money the mid-range and premium devices. Good luck with that!

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Will this be the death of 1366x768 laptop displays?

Please, if there is a God. Please.

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Re: if there is a God. Please

> Will this be the death of 1366x768 laptop displays?

Then please take out 1080 screen next, why did the whole world need to take one big step backwards?

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Acer are down with the kids

Acer said: "We are aware of some component shortages from some of our suppliers but we are doing our best to minimise any impact yo", like yo, bro'.

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Anonymous Coward

Lack of proper laptop models kills sales

The laptop makers have refused to deliver proper laptop models across the board for the past 5+ years and as such continue to kill sales. They specifically refuse to offer smaller, lighter laptops with quality screens and decent processors. They want everyone to buy a 15" or 17" desktop replacement laptop that is impractical as a road warrior. Despite consumers advising the laptop makers that they desire a smaller well configured laptop, they laptop makers insist on the excessively large models where they can reap a few dollars more profit than on the smaller units. It amounts to the blind leading the clueless and they ignorance continues to sink laptop sales.

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What's the Register coming to?

Where's the once-obligatory Weee Netbook Girl photo?

Did everyone grow up or leave or something? Oh...

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Secondhand Thinkpad X or Dell Latitudes...

...give much more bang for the buck than the cheap new shite. I've got a lovely pair of Dell Latitude e6220s (ooer missus) for me and SWMBO which beat the pants off the cheapo Medions from Aldi (and you can probably drive a tank over them and have them still working too).

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Gave up

I tried to find a small (11") 2-in-1 with a decent keyboard and full HD screen. Nothing doing less than £500.

Instead I have just picked up a 'b grade' (can't see any blemishes at all) Dell Venue Pro 11 for £130 all-in. Vastly better build quality than a consumer version and has the benefit of a replaceable battery, SSd etc.

Waiting for the keyboard to turn up so I should have an i5 powered 4Gb FullHD convertible for less than £250.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually -- DO GO laptop shopping, but it looks like it needs to be soon.

Quote: "A low-end notebook drought is likely coming to a town near you"

Well, the drought is not here yet. A couple of weeks ago I went to Curry's and bought an Acer One Cloudbook 14. Limited machine with no maintainable parts inside and no moving parts inside either -- everything soldered to the motherboard -- battery, SSD, RAM, CPU, eveything.

But it's a lovely, light, cheap (£170) machine with a nice keyboard and a nice 14 inch screen, two USB ports, one HDMI port, and one SD slot. This last helps with the memory spec -- 2GB RAM, 32GB SSD.

So anyway, running Fedora 24/XFCE, there's still more than 12GB left on the SSD after a pretty complete software installation, and that's before using the SD slot at all.

Similar 11 inch display machines are available from HP at similar prices. I would highly recommend this Acer and its cheap bretheren -- before the drought hits Curry's!

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Re: Actually -- DO GO laptop shopping, but it looks like it needs to be soon.

There won't be a drough.

Shenzen MUST generate stuff. There's CAPEX to pay off.

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