PowerNotebooks Interview

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Another view from the “inside” – Joel Kleppinger

Ed Note: In our Laptop Survey article, there was some references made to PowerNotebooks.com. Joel Kleppinger of Power Notebooks has kindly consented to answer some questions about laptops and their products. Check out their ratings at Reseller Ratings.com.

Why do laptops cost so much?

First, when comparing to a desktop, please keep in mind that a laptop includes an LCD screen (usually higher resolution than the desktop counterpart) and a smart Lithium-ion Battery. Laptops are also proprietary designs, and they commonly have to be redesigned from revision to revision to account for different size requirements (cooling systems, battery sizes, module changes, even screen size differences).

Engineers have to fit much technology into a small space while still allowing for proper airflow. That requires a tremendous amount of time for each model. We’ve noticed that the bigger/heavier laptops within the same class often cost less, and we attribute this to the engineering time savings.

Also consider that each part – DVD drives, hard drives, processors, memory, etc. – all have unique requirements for the mobile market. And although this is beginning to get closer to changing, laptops sell many fewer units than desktops so the economies of scale haven’t caught up yet. Put all of that together, and you get the fact that an $800 desktop will outperform a $2000 laptop.

Q: Why is there a lack of standardization in the laptop market?

A: This question is really best posed to Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) not to an OEM, since we don’t control what ODMs do and don’t offer. Obviously, they’d be the ones that would have to cooperate to create a standard and make it work.

Laptops are also more standardized than many people might think. The CD/DVD drives, hard drives, memory, PCMCIA cards, mini-PCI wireless cards, and CPUs are all generally interchangeable. The things that aren’t interchangeable are the motherboard, the screen, the casing, and the battery.

Will you offer a barebones laptop?

We don’t intend to. Many suppliers will not warrant a barebones laptop because you are at the mercy of the user’s ability to build it properly without breaking anything. Laptops can be quite cumbersome to work inside because everything is so close together, and it is easy to make a mistake. Users rarely blame themselves for mistakes.

Laptops have tiny margins like the rest of computer hardware, so the goal is to make it easier and more streamlined for the user so they don’t need to contact support as much. Barebones laptops are the opposite direction.

If I buy a laptop from you and you go out of business, what happens to my warranty?

We are in our 6th year of business. We are a debt-free, profitable company, and always have been. Even if we were to go out of business, our PowerPro warranty is underwritten by one of the largest international computer companies in the world that has been in business for over 30 years.

The Sager warranty is provided directly by Sager, so PowerNotebooks.com going out of business would have no affect on their warranty. Sager has been in business for over 19 years, and they are also a profitable, debt-free company.

How much flexibility is there in designing your own laptop product?

We can offer as much flexibility in the configuration as the products that are available on the market. However, the laptop’s model features and screen choices are set by the Original Design Manufacturers’ (ODM) engineers in Taiwan. The Name Brand article on our website is required reading for this discussion HERE.

What we do for the PowerPro laptops is browse amongst the offerings by the ODMs and select the cream of the crop. We do try to influence some of the design choices with the ODMs, but we do not control the final product. We always push the limits of technology with our requests, and demand quality in our selections.

Do you offer spare parts at reasonable prices?

Yes, just check out our Accessory Store HERE. Keep in mind that laptop model parts are proprietary and cost more than their desktop counterparts.

Do you include a maintenance manual?

We include a user’s manual that describes how to use all the features of the laptop and how to swap the hard drive and memory. Sometimes a few other internal swaps are also described (extra hard drive, optical drive, TV Tuner, or that sort of thing). Assembly manuals are rarely available to provide to the user.

Why do you charge ~$50 for Arctic Silver?

As everyone knows, Arctic Silver is not that expensive. However for a user to install it themselves, partial disassembly of the laptop is required. Then the thermal pad (which has now melted on to the heatsink) has to be removed and the heatsink has to be cleaned. Then the proper amount of Arctic Silver has to be applied. Too much or too little will make the cooling system less efficient than with the thermal pad, and could possibly even be fatal to the system.

While we’ve never had this problem before, it is possible that a warranty claim could be denied because of misapplied Arctic Silver. For those that are “do it yourselfers” this may not be a big deal, but for most of our customers, the $50 is worth it for them to not have to take their time to do the application, and offers them peace of mind.

Joel Kleppinger
PowerNotebooks.com

877-711-1777 Sales and Admin
877-774-1911 Warranty and Tech Support

Thanks again to Joel Kleppinger for taking the time to answer my questions. If readers have any other questions, drop me a line and I will do my best to get them answered and posted for others to read.

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