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#1
Old 06-14-2004, 02:39 AM
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why can't you buy an "empty laptop" to build your own?

Everyone knows it's cheaper and better to buy an empty PC tower and your own components and put together a system from scratch than it is to buy a pre-made one.

Why can't you do this with laptops? Why don't you see empty laptop "shells" for sale?
#2
Old 06-14-2004, 03:00 AM
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My guess is that it's because laptop parts are delicate and hard to assemble. It's just too easy to screw up.

There are a ton of tiny parts crammed into that case, with strict requirements for heat flow and power consumption. Laptops don't use the same CPUs, drives, or memory as desktops. The screen is very expensive, easy to break, and must fit the case exactly. The motherboard must also fit the case and have all the connectors in the right place - with a desktop, you can put your USB, firewire, speaker out, and other ports wherever you want, but in a laptop you don't have movable PCI cards and you can't run a bunch of cables around the inside of the case.
#3
Old 06-14-2004, 03:09 AM
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Cramming stuff into a tiny space makes it a lot easier to use proprietary interfaces and cooling devices. No one has bothered to make a standard yet, so there's no way to source components from different manufacturers and put them together.
#4
Old 06-14-2004, 03:22 AM
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What he said, plus an elaboration to say that laptop parts are still somewhat proprietary. An IBM power supply won't work with a Dell or vice versa like it would with a desktop.

And just for the record, it hasn't been "cheaper and better" to build your own PC for at least 2 years now. I can't compete with whatever PC Dell is selling for $499 this week, and you can't either. If you wanna go high-end that's another thing, but building PCs is mostly about the fun of putting it together yourself and\or getting just the components you want.
#5
Old 06-14-2004, 08:44 AM
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Sure you can.
#6
Old 06-14-2004, 09:30 AM
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Rex, I have to respectfully disagree. It can still be cheaper to build your own than to buy whatever Dell's best deal is. Even with Dell and the others slashing costs and offering great rebates, I can still beat their price. I just can't beat it by hundreds of dollars at the low end.

The price savings isn't significant enough to justify the effort for most people unless they also want the fun of putting one together, but Dell can be beaten on price. And if you go for a higher end computer (better graphics card, better audio card, more RAM, better speakers, DVD or DVD/CD-RW combos, etc.. it gets easier and easier to beat them on price.
#7
Old 06-14-2004, 09:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperNelson
This link just shows a fully configured notebook computer for sale, not a case or parts.
#8
Old 06-14-2004, 09:50 AM
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I just got a new Apple laptop, and it's a great machine!

I bet you couldn't one of them by yourself!
#9
Old 06-14-2004, 10:32 AM
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I believe rex is correct since you have to figure in a $150 OS (or even more) to your price and a monitor.

On the high end things of course, Build Your Own is much better. The top end selection of hardware is excellent and mostly personal taste (sure, ATI might be a touch faster but I like Nvidia's drivers etc).

And BYO is also better for upgrading since if you start off with a top-notch mainboard upgrading things like videocards and CPUs can be much cheaper.

For the OP, laptops don't have a standard yet except for basic things like hard drives and memory (and even then, sometimes it's not standard on some laptops).
#10
Old 06-14-2004, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeschines
I just got a new Apple laptop, and it's a great machine!

I bet you couldn't one of them by yourself!
Nice. Absolutely irrelevant, but nice.



As people have noted, the basic problems with do-it-yourself laptops have to do with the lack of standardization and the need for miniature, low power parts. This is one of those areas where you really have to buy in volume in order to get decent prices.

Just consider the screen -- you have to get a high resolution LCD panel that will satisfy your resolution requirements and the physical limitations of your "empty" laptop. (Unless the screen comes with the case, in which case it isn't empty, is it?) LCD screens are horrendously expensive (less so now than previously, but still expensive). You just can't get one off the shelf for less than Dell pays.

Same thing with the CPU -- a laptop CPU is designed for low(er) power dissipation so you can't just fling in any old CPU chip. Same thing will all the other parts -- chances are that they are specially designed so that they can be squoze into the laptop case. The only really standard off-the-shelf parts are the memory chips, disk drives, and DVD/CD drives. And the "thin" versions of these tend to be pretty expensive, so you're not saving a lot by rolling your own.
#11
Old 06-14-2004, 11:09 AM
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Another very viable route to go with desktop machines is to go to one of your "custom machine" integrators who let you choose the components you want, and put it together for you. Often, they don't really charge very much above the price of the components to do this, so you still wind up cheaper than the price of a comparable system in a name brand, and you have what you want. For instance, you can see to it that you have a good case and power supply, things which the name brands are liable to cut corners on. Having them slap it together and burn it in saves you a day of inserting cards, dropping little machine screws which roll inconveniently underneath something, trying to fold the extra 3 feet of ribbon cable into an out-of-the-way configuration, etc. Not to mention being a form of insurance against defective components, if not your own screwups. If the video card is defective, you still have to take it back, convince them that you didn't mess it up, and get a new one. When it happens to them, they just say "shit", and go get another one out of the back room.

As noted, laptops often contain proprietary and custom designed components. Part of the custom design may be odd physical form factors tailoring it to fit precisely in the space intended for it. And on top of that, the custom components will probably have to be assembled in some special sequence or require odd tools. The choice of shell severely restricts the range of components you can use. You don't have the interchangeability you have in your desktop case.

That said, I believe there are some places you can buy "generic" laptop shells, and assemble components into them. But it's not common, and you will have a severely restricted choice involving specialized components that you can't trot down to your corner computer store and buy. And you might not be happy with the result. It might be a bit clunky compared to the Sony or Toshiba you were thinking of buying, which is full of custom components designed to fit together in a way which compacts them into the smallest, lightest package possible. The packaging and ergonomics is so important in laptops that it's difficult to "genericize" it.
#12
Old 06-14-2004, 11:38 AM
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There have been several companies over the years that made laptop parts that could be mixed and matched like desktop parts. They have never done all that well in the market place. The companies that have made them have never really agreed on one "industry" standard, so each companies parts were only interchangable with parts made by the same company. Without competition between companies, and probably also due to the parts being small and more difficult to manufacture, the costs of these types of systems tended to be a good fifty percent higher than what you could get for an off the shelf laptop.

I haven't seen a company still making interchangable laptop parts for a couple of years now. I'm not sure if any of them are still in business.
#13
Old 06-14-2004, 03:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leenmi
Rex, I have to respectfully disagree.
Hell, many IT shops out there can't even repair PCs anymore. The company I used to work for in Charlotte charged $85/hour to work on PCs (no trip or travel charges) and for most wipes\reinstalls, it was almost always cheaper (or more cost-effective) for the customer to just buy a $499 Dell special than to fix their older PC. Of course, if the PC was relatively new or had important data on it, that’s one thing. But for most general office workers, the $300-$350 we’d charge them to put Win98 back on a Celeron 500 just wasn’t worth the time and effort when they can get a machine three times as fast for $100 more. Even adding RAM and putting XP on it – something that will fix 99% of the problems these folks were having – is cost-prohibitive. And if we charged any less than our standard rate, the company wouldn’t make any money. And it’s not just us – CRN and other whitebox\VAR magazines complain about this with more and more frequency.

Sure you can build a PC cheaper than getting one from Dell or a Mom & Pop, but they huge savings just aren’t there anymore. I saved several hundred dollars building my P2-300 box back when that was top-of-the-line. I saved even more by building a dual 466 Celeron box back when a 900MHz P3 processor cost over $1000. But my latest PC – a 3GHz P4 with 1GB of RAM only – I had the rest of the parts – actually cost more than what I would have paid for a slightly lesser PC complete from Dell.

Hardware is a bitch.
#14
Old 06-14-2004, 04:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leenmi
RexIt can still be cheaper to build your own than to buy whatever Dell's best deal is. Even with Dell and the others slashing costs and offering great rebates, I can still beat their price. I just can't beat it by hundreds of dollars at the low end.
I think that you are better off to build your own after you are set with a monitor and printer. When you buy from Dell and they throw in the monitor, there is almost no way to beat that price, at least from what I have seen. The last machine that I built, not low end but not state of the art either, came in at roughly the same price as a comprable Dell that came with the monitor.
#15
Old 06-18-2004, 04:26 AM
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Several reasons why filling in an empty PC desktop case is a relatively popular endeavor, and why laptop housings are generally unavailable for such tinkering:
1. The display. After you get your desktop up and running, you can cherry-pick a monitor of choice. A laptop LCD is a completely different story, and replacing it should you come to dislike it (or if it breaks) isn't just a matter of picking it up off your desk and trashing it.
2. The other peripherals. You want a wireless optical mouse, you say? An ergonomic keyboard? No problem--with a desktop. On a laptop, though, as with the display, good luck replacing the built-in keyboard/trackpad should they burden you.
3. Less room for error. Let's say you manage to build the laptop from scratch and get it up and running. You test it out on the road, but dang it, that 15-volt battery runs, oh, say, hot enough to make it look like you played a mall Santa to Satan's eight-year-old kid. Just one of many snafu that could arise, even if everything else seems to be going alright.
#16
Old 06-18-2004, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kefra™
You test it out on the road, but dang it, that 15-volt battery runs, oh, say, hot enough to make it look like you played a mall Santa to Satan's eight-year-old kid.
Could happen
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