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Free laptops with broadband deals: a false economy?

by Tarinder Sandhu on 6 September 2008, 04:00

Tags: Acer (TPE:2353), ASUSTeK (TPE:2357), MSI

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qao72

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Is it really free?

 

Laptop Current price, if bought Form factor Broadband provider Type Usage limits per month Speed (up to) Cost of laptop Cost per month Contract duration Total cost, including laptop 
ASUS Eee PC 900 16GB £199.99
Netbook Orange Mobile (dongle)
3GB
1.8Mbps
Free
£25
24
£600
Acer TravelMate 5320 £329.99
Mid-size T-Mobile Mobile (dongle)
3GB
4.5Mbps
Free
£30
24
£720
HP 550 Core 2 Duo £349.99
Mid-size 3 Mobile (dongle)
5GB
2.8Mbps
Free
£30 £35
24/18
£720/£630
HP 2133 mini-note £199.99
Netbook 3 Mobile (dongle)
5GB
2.8Mbps
Free
£35
24
£840
HP dv6910 £499.99
Mid-size 3 Mobile (dongle)
5GB
2.8Mbps
£49.99
£40
24
£1,009.99
VIA C7-M webbook** £199.99
Netbook Orange Mobile (dongle)
3GB
1.8Mbps
Free
£25
24
£720
Acer Aspire 5315** £279.99
Mid-size T-Mobile Mobile (dongle)
Unlimited*
4.5Mbps
Free
£30
24
£600
Fujitsu Siemens AMILO 2727** £269.99
Mid-size AOL Home (dongle)
40GB
8Mbps
£29.99
£19.99
24
£509.76
Toshiba P300-148** £399.99
Mid-size AOL Home (dongle)
40GB
8Mbps
£199.99
£19.99
24
£679.75
Toshiba U400-13R** £499.99
Thin-and-light T-Mobile Mobile (dongle)
Unlimited*
4.5Mbps
£249.99
£30
24
£769.99


* unlimited with respect to adhering to a fair usage policy.

** all these laptops are listed at Carphone Warehouse, and the various mobile/fixed-line packages are similar.

Analysis

The one mobile operator conspicuously missing from the list is Vodafone. Perusing the website shows that the company doesn't believe in gifting laptops, rather concentrating efforts on pushing USB-based dongles.

Mobile broadband costs, on average, around £15 per month, running on a 24-month contract, and download speeds are reckoned to be up to an optimistic 7.2Mbps - the maximum quoted figure representing parts of London.

Knowing what Vodafone offers and using its package as a benchmark, the bundled laptops, almost irrespective of contract length, are a false economy for most: you end up paying for them through inflated contract outlays.

The situation is remarkably, and understandably, similar to mobile-phone contracts, with higher-priced handsets attracted inflated monthly charges.

For example, Orange's ASUS Eee PC 900 16GB offer looks good on first glance. Add in the £240 extra you'll pay for the contract, over and above Vodafone's, and the laptop is paid for in one form or another.

3 offers a decent range of laptops, and the HP 550 Core 2 Duo on an 18-month contract isn't bad, we suppose, but we see little point in shelling out £249 for a laptop, as is the case with the Toshiba U400, and then still paying through the nose for the contract. Chances are that the rate won't drop after the two-year period is up, lulling lazy customers into expensive Internet provision.

The mobile providers are keen to limit the download capability, too, with a wrap on the knuckles if you regularly download >10GB per month.

Folks looking specifically at mobile broadband need to consider just how well-covered they are by a particular provider, and you can see the maps for Vodafone, Orange, O2 (input required), T-Mobile (input required), and 3 (input required). In particular, HSDPA coverage for mobile carriers is important in delivering consistently high speeds, and 3G appears to have the edge here.