WANT TO SAVE SOME MONEY? This cheapskate computer buying guide is for the frugal small business owner and home computer user who wants rock solid hardware that is reliable, easy to repair and cheap! If you are fairly comfortable with computers and want the best value for the least amount of money then read on!
Many consumer-oriented computers and notebooks may not have the ruggedness needed for long-term use. Here’s how to find the best gear at the cheapest price.
For many years, I ran a freelance consultancy designing websites for small businesses. I would spend eight to twelve hours a day using large-screen laptops to create, demonstrate and sell my services. I needed reliable computer gear with low operating costs. My livelihood depended on this stuff.
One year, I purchased two large screen laptops from a brand that markets heavily to consumers. One would be my daily workhorse and the other a backup used only for client presentations. These laptops had eye-catching design and all the latest wow-factor features. However, in less than six months, the latches started to wear out from heavy use, the plastic chrome bits began to wear away, and the keyboard began to fail under heavy use. Neither of those laptops lasted the year without developing problems. Clearly, this consumer-oriented brand was not designed for heavy use in a business environment.
Rugged Computers for Cheapskates
That’s when I discovered enterprise/business class computers. These are desktop computers and laptops designed to run reliably under heavy use in business environments. These are the computers you will see on desks in banks, hospitals, and other mission-critical environments. They must be reliable, sturdy, easy to repair and long-lasting. They tend to be more expensive than consumer-oriented computers when new because they use tougher, more reliable components. However, they are generally replaced by the thousands by businesses in a three-year cycle. These bullet-proof enterprise level computers will be dumped on the refurbished and reseller market with years of usable life left. They typically carry brand names like Lenovo, HP, and Dell.
Enterprise class computers and desktops are built for heavy use in business environments. They are resold on the used market and offer reliable low-cost alternatives to new computers.
For example, I am writing this post using an HP Compaq NX9420 laptop. It is a sturdy, mobile workstation (17-inch screen) first made in 2006, and designed for business use. It will never win a beauty contest against the likes of an Apple Macbook. But it runs forever, the parts are easily available online and it is dirt cheap on the refurbished/resell market. It stands up to heavy daily use. The one I have now (purchased used for $80.00) I’ve owned for nearly four years without a problem. You can find these trustworthy old laptops sold on eBay by resellers/refurbishers for about $100. They are not pretty or lightweight. But, man oh man, are they reliable and sturdy! I also use them for post-processing of my digital camera images, online browsing, everything.
Here’s another benefit of hard-wearing business-class computers. They are designed to be easily repaired and parts are plentiful. Most consumer-oriented computers are designed to look great, have a shorter usable life, and are not designed to be easily repaired by the end-user. With business class computers from Lenovo, HP, and Dell, all you need is a screwdriver to quickly swap out a faulty component. Plus, you will find plenty of sources for those components ten to fifteen years after that computer model was introduced.
Three top business/enterprise brands: Lenovo Thinkpad, Dell Lattitude & HP Elitebook
You will find newer models of enterprise computers on the used and refurbished market than the ones mentioned here as time passes. The key is to seek out the brands and models that are meant for business/enterprise class computing. These are the most rugged and reliable computers and laptops on the market today and will provide the best service for your cheapskate dollar!
Where to Find Cheap Business-Class Computers
How do you locate refurbished and used enterprise/business class laptops and desktop computers that offer great value? Here are three business-class brands to look for in laptops: Lenovo Thinkpad (formerly IBM Thinkpad), Dell Lattitude, and HP Elitebook and HP Compaq. These brands and models are legendary for reliability in business environments. You can start your search on eBay. If you buy from refurbishers and resellers who have hundreds of positive feedbacks and offer a 14-30 day return policy you should find a great deal on off-lease, refurbished and used computer gear with years of reliable service left. The one component of any computer that you may want to buy new is the hard drive (upgrade to an inexpensive new SSD hard drive for a speed boost). Truthfully, unless you lust after the latest tech toys, any computer/laptop from the past decade, properly configured, has the processing power to meet your needs.
Update: The image above shows a refurbished Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z All-In-One Computer I purchased two years ago from a reputable refurbisher on eBay. This serves as my main desktop computer. I paid only $69.00 (with a 60-day money back return policy)! This is a rugged system formerly marketed to the small-business market. All I needed to do was add a mouse and keyboard. I replaced the hard drive with a new one and upgraded to Windows 10 for free using the Windows 7 Pro License key provided on the sticker affixed to the computer. If you buy from a reputable refurbisher, you will always have the Windows license sticker on the computer for the version of Windows that was pre-installed at the factory when new. Never buy a refurbished or used computer without it! For a total investment of less than $120.00, I have an excellent desktop system with more rugged and reliable components than any low-cost consumer desktop computer you’re likely to find in Best Buy or Walmart.
I wrote this article in January of 2017. As of January 2019, I am happy to say that both of my Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z and HP Compaq NX9420 continue to provide reliable service. I’m in cheapskate heaven!