No Upgradability Advantage
One of the nice things about building a desktop is being able to upgrade it. Nothing is worse than opening an OEM machine only to find some wonky proprietary mechanism that makes a cheap and effective upgrade or repair impossible. Ok, lots of stuff is worse, but it is pretty disappointing to have to replace an otherwise upgradeable computer because someone cut a corner to save three bucks a unit.
The thing is, laptops require a certain degree of proprietary wonk, and it is not the OEMs fault this time. There is just no single, best, way, to configure a laptop from a physical perspective. PC’s come in four size specifications: micro, normal and extended ATX, plus ITX. And ATX motherboards will fit in the same size or larger ATX case. How many laptop screen sizes are there? Keyboard and touchpad setups? Number of speakers and their sizes?
We can argue that HP, Dell, and Acer don’t consider user upgradability in consumer laptops, or desktops, for that matter, or that if they do, it is with engineered obsolescence as the goal. But if there was a good way to make a user configurable laptop and selection of graphics cards, Asus, MSI, OCZ, and other manufacturers with enthusiast lines, would be doing it.
The only upgradability advantage these companies have been able to build in to their barebones (and some other enthusiast type) laptops is ease of access. Since these laptops are meant to be opened up and worked on, doing so is a bit easier than with an average laptop. While that is nice, it doesn’t increase the upgrade options dramatically. You can upgrade the same things, but installing them might be a bit easier.