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Protecting Your Investment
According to the latest information, the average price of a laptop computer is around $600, and it has hovered around the market (plus or minus about $25 on either side) for the last few years.
$600 isn't a lot of money for a laptop, and will generally limit you to Intel Core i3 and AMD laptops with integrated graphics. However, this relatively low price still represents a major investment for your average buyer. For many, losing a $600 laptop to a defect within the first few years of ownership is simply unacceptable.
Virtually all laptops come with a manufacturer warranty. However, the length and the terms can vary depending on what you buy. Let's have a look at the different options available.
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The Standard One-Year Plan
Currently, the industry standard for laptop coverage is just one year. Your typical one year manufacturer plan is provided free with the purchase price of the laptop, and it is termed a "limited warranty." This term must be used because there are many scenarios that the warranty won't cover.
Generally speaking, manufacturer warranties only cover defects that relate to the design and production of the laptop.Let's say, for example, your laptop's display randomly stops working after a few months. That's covered. If you spill a soda on the laptop and the display goes out, however, you won't be covered because the manufacturer wasn't responsible for the defect. That's considered accidental damage, and it's usually only covered if you buy a separate accidental damage plan from the manufacturer or from a third party.
It's also uncommon for a manufacturer warranty to cover defects that don't impact operation of the product. Let's say, for example, that some silver trim along the side of your laptop is peeling. Some companies won't cover this unless the trim somehow impacts the function of the laptop. It's important to take a careful look at what any warranty does and does not cover, and you can do this before buying by visiting the support websites of the various brands.
Usually a manufacturer requires that you ship in your laptop for repair, a process that can take some time. Apple has received praise in this regard because the company's retail locations can do some repairs, cutting down on the turnaround time.
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Extended Manufacturer Warranties - For Free
The vast majority of laptops are covered for one year. This includes not only inexpensive laptops, but also those with a substantial price tag. However, there are some laptops that have additional coverage.
ASUS, for example, recently introduced a longer coverage period for some laptops. ASUS calls it a two year global warranty. As was explained in our reliability article, ASUS has one of the lowest failure rates in the industry. It seems the company is using that advantage by providing additional coverage, fully aware that it will make their laptops more attractive to consumers.
Three year plans are standard with a handful of laptops - usually high-end models built for professional use. Panasonic Toughbooks and HP Elitebooks are some examples of models that ship with three years of protection. The terms of theses longer warranties are sometimes different, as well. Some will offer services like on-site assistance and repair, which are features you won't find in a typical one year consumer warranty.
ASUS deserves mention yet again for providing a service that, to my knowledge, isn't replicated (for free) by anyone else in the business. Some laptops are shipping with a one year accidental coverage plan. This protects against drops, spills, fires, and other such calamities. Yes, that's right - ASUS is offering free protection against accidents. That's rare, and adds significant value.
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As you can see, while most laptops do have the same one-year plan, there are some other options available. Never take a single year of coverage for granted, because while that's certainly normal, you don't have to settle for it if you don't want to.
Always consider the coverage provided before buying, as it can offer significant value. If you're comparing two laptops that are similar in many ways, but one has a longer warranty, then that will obviously be the better purchase because you'll be protected from calamities that would otherwise force you to buy an entirely new laptop. As companies strive to stand out in a crowded market, free extended manufacturer coverage is one of the tactics used to stand out.
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Smidgen PC - What's the Best Laptop Warranty? http://smidgenpc.com/2011/03/15/whats-the-best-laptop-warranty/
Wall Street Journal - Rising PC Prices Buck the Trend: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704681804576017883787191962.html
All images are from author or from manufacturer press materials