10 Laptop Features You Can Skip to Save Money

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It happens to all of us—looking to buy a new laptop, you find yourself wanting more of everything. Some of us, however, don’t want or can’t afford every feature offered by laptop manufacturers. Thankfully, they’re not all essential.  Discrete graphics and extra memory, for instance, will increase the cost of your notebook and will likely remain underutilized unless you’re playing games or editing HD video. So what other features can you skip when buying a new laptop? Read on to find out.

Backlit Keyboard

Backlit keyboards are all the rage. For some laptops, such as the first generation Macbook Air, the lack of keyboard backlighting was a sticking point. A backlit keyboard, however, will decrease your notebook’s battery life and is generally only available on more expensive notebooks. If you can touch-type, or want the best battery life possible, consider skipping a backlit keyboard. In most cases, an overhead light isn’t far away.

Optical Drive

Everything is going digital, from movies and music to games and software. As hard drives’ storage capacity increases and wireless connectivity expands—making large files such as HD movies and video games increasingly easy to transmit over the Internet and store on your notebook—the need for a dedicated optical drive dwindles. Who needs a Blu-ray drive when you can stream “Arrested Development” in HD on Amazon.com?

Discrete Graphics

For gamers today, discrete graphics aren’t a luxury, they’re a necessity. Without a GPU, such games as “Skyrim” and “Arkham City” are unplayable, and low-end games such as “World of Warcraft” stutter along. Video editors equally rely on discrete graphics to edit and manipulate footage in 1080p. If you’re not interested in playing the latest games or editing HD video, however, discrete graphics can unnecessarily increase the cost of your laptop; notebooks featuring high-end GPUs routinely cost $200 more than notebooks that use integrated graphics.

Core i5/i7 Processor

For some of us, the need for speed is insatiable, and Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors offer some of the fastest speeds around. Others, however, are just interested in browsing the Internet, listening to music and word processing. For those on a budget or who just want the basics without the frills, the extra $100 spent on a Core i5 or i7 can be an unnecessary expense.

 Kensington Lock Slot

Laptop theft is a serious issue—just ask anyone who has stepped away from his or her notebook for a minute, only to return and find it missing. Enter the Kensington Security Slot, an anti-theft system that consists of a metal-reinforced hole on the side of the notebook, to which a lock and cable can be attached. While anyone who regularly takes his or her laptop to public places can appreciate the added security, it’s probably not necessary for the casual user. Less expensive notebooks typically forgo the slot altogether.

VGA Port

Some of us want the best of both worlds—the mobility of a notebook combined with the screen real estate of a desktop monitor. If you’re someone who can’t get a large enough screen, the ability to attach your laptop to a monitor or TV is non-negotiable—and until recently, that meant your laptop had to have a VGA port. The advent of HDMI and DisplayPort, however, has rendered VGA ports largely obsolete. Unless you need to connect to an older projector, you can get away with newer connections—or a VGA adapter.

ExpressCard/PC card slot

In the days of yore, laptops couldn’t compete with desktops in terms of memory, network connectivity or storage capacity; to remedy this, manufacturers developed PC cards, universal peripherals designed to plug into a notebook’s PC card slot and function as hard disks, modems and network cards (among other uses). Modern laptops, though, boast integrated wireless Internet connections, huge amounts of memory and storage capacities that double every two years. The age of the ExpressCard/PC Card has passed—along with the need for a slot.

HD Webcam

With more than 600 million registered users on Skype and competing services appearing from the likes of Apple and Google, it’s safe to say that the video communications revolution is in full swing. Laptop manufacturers, hoping to stay ahead of the curve, have begun to equip some of their high-end computers with HD webcams. Although they promise crisp images, HD webcams are of little use in densely populated urban centers or remote rural areas where limited bandwidth can put a stranglehold on video quality. Buying a notebook for an HD webcam will likely leave you frustrated when you can’t use it to its full potential.

Ethernet Port

If you’ve ever found yourself without wireless Internet access, an Ethernet port may seem like a godsend. In today’s increasingly wireless world, however, the chances that this will happen seem remote. Wireless connectivity can now be had in cafes, parks and airplanes; and mobile 3G and 4G hotpots such as the MiFi ensure that you’ll never be disconnected.

IEEE 1394 (FireWire) Port

Developed mostly by Apple in the 1980s and '90s, IEEE 1394 (commonly known as FireWire) has been largely replaced by USB as the industry standard for serial bus interfaces. While FireWire offers a number of advantages over USB—chief among them its ability to allow two FireWire-enabled devices to communicate with each other without the need for a PC acting as a bus master—nearly all laptops and peripherals today use USB.


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  • Mohar Says:

    This article was one of the least informative I have read. It offers no help to experienced buyers, and counter intuitive advice for new users. Are you suggesting people narrow their search by Kensington lock slot?

  • anonimus Says:

    I think you said 10 not one

  • TechEnthusiast Says:

    This is probably the most non-intuitive and poorly written tech article ever. Are you joking? To save money you don't need Core i5 or i7? The Core i5, i7, iwhatever is just a naming scheme, that does not reflect performance in the slightest. You have to take into consideration of core count, and clockspeed. By your logic, every i5 processor is off the table, yet a desktop i3 which smashes i5 mobile processors across the floor is still up for grabs. Discrete graphics are getting more important as people's demand for video and games has increased and is required for any serious commitment to gaming. Discrete graphics just plain suck if you look at the benchmarks. If you need to save money, the best strategy is to forget about a laptop all together and build a cheap desktop PC that will outperform even the most highest end laptops. Price per performance ratio is all measured with benchmarks, and not subjective empirical nonsense this article has used as it's foundation of logic.

  • John Says:

    The last six things don't save you money by leaving them out. Every budget laptop comes with VGA, Kensington lock, HD webcam and ethernet. It's rather DisplayPort and HDMI which increases cost by bigger margin.
    FireWire and PCI slots don't exist anymore.

    And other than the first 4, you can save a lot of money by selecting a lower resolution and going to a traditional 500GB hard drive instead of SSD, and YOU DON'T COVER THAT? That's the luxury in there, and students can live without that.

  • kerby ruiz Says:

    how can i get my laptop asus keyboard lit up when i purchase the asus laptop keyboard is regular so i want to make it light up when im on. so can you tell me how to get it done

  • rob Says:

    this list is not vary good most of the items come standard on laptops some don't cost a thing to have like the kensington lock. if you do want a backlit keyboard try buying it after market it will be much cheaper. (i just got mine today) the only thing on this list that i don't use every day is firewire and the kensington.

  • RI Says:

    It sounds to me like you people are just complaining. No where did I remember reading you definitely don't need these features. All it's saying is if you are a casual user then you may not need this particular feature "if" you have to pay extra for it. To the first commenter you are missing something same as the next commenter. If your laptop comes with those features standard than great for you. If not than think if you need it before upgrading. I wouldn't do without some of those features either but didn't think the reviewer made any mistakes. Enjoy.

  • Jeff Says:

    I read this in the magazine at an airport a while ago and I was really disappointed in Laptopmag. It's easier to see this article as "10 things manufacturers shouldn't put in consumer laptops" because I see as many as 8 of the 10 not a buyers option for some laptops (to Presly's 6, I would add backlit keyboard and optical drive and that can be a consumer's option - if they buy it CTO - but are standard on many laptops. But that's not the key point in my view.

    I think the list offers about the worst advice I've ever seen from an erstwhile credible tech publication. At a minimum, the article should have been prefaced by something like: "If you don't ever use your computer for important work of any kind, only use it for web surfing, email and possibly MS Office, trust that you will always be able to get fast Internet signal, don't mind eliminating any convenient feature as long as it will save money and battery life, and so on, and so on. Other than the Firewire port, I have every other feature listed on my Sony Z13 and I have used every one over the past 6 months and am very reluctant to trade "up" to a newer model because they all have eliminated features I really need - even if only a few times a year - and some that I use every day and would be way worse off with a thin mint for a computer that you can't do much with nor connect to many peripherals. Let me give a few examples. I can't type even in poorly lit areas, even in daytime, without a keyboard backlight (I think it, like an SSD, is something you won't do without once you've had it), I've needed my ethernet port at least twice in the last year because of a problem with my wifi card; the port was both the only way I could get net access under a time crunch, and it was also later the way I could download software that was the fix for the wifi card, There are still so many uses for an optical drive - also perhaps more and more rarely, but still essential at times. When traveling - alone or with my wife on vacation - I really like to know I can watch movies I want to see and will not be dependent on the Hotel's Net connection speed or it's Pay Per View offerings, DVDs and Blu Rays are more than worth having for these times along - and even if an external optical drive would work just as well, I for one don't want to have to bring peripheral devices to do simple things (and internal optical drives add less than 0.3 lbs. Oh, and, the optical drive bay on almost all laptops can be converted to house a second HDD or SSD - absolutely awesome where the need arises.

    Again, I guess consumers who do very little with their computers, never have do mission critical work on their laptop, have perfect eyesight and never use their computer in unfavorable lighting conditions and, in my view if they have to sacrifice all 10 in the list, don't travel for their work. Otherwise, the article sounds like it was written by computer company, trying to justify taking all the features out of their new models. I do think that with time some of these features may become increasingly "fringe" features, but it will take some time, and some will actually increase in usage - eg, backlit keyboards. Of one thing I am positive: my computer has 9 of the 10 things you say are unnecessary "today" and I use and depend on every one of them.

  • Candace Says:

    I agree with Eddie. I have a $300 Acer laptop, one of the cheapest laptops available. It has almost all these features on it. I don't see how trying to get a laptop without these features would save you money.

  • Presly Says:

    The last 6 items on this list are not optional even if you buy a configurable laptop. It should be "4 laptop features." Of course, anyone who knows anything about laptops already know those 4.

  • Eddie Says:

    I liked the list until I got to the kensington lock slot and vga port... how exactly does one "skip" these features? a $300 Acer black friday special has VGA, kensington lock, optical, and ethernet... at the other end of the spectrum, the Sony SA, Z1, Z2, etc have all these features as well. Are you saying that I can save money on a Z2 or a $300 Acer by asking for one without VGA, ethernet, and kensington? Am I missing something here?
    Regarding the ethernet port, I am a college student (IMO college students make up the biggest market for laptops), and the only way to avoid bad dorm/apartment internet is to forgo wireless and go wired. So, I don't really see the point of this list... I think if you went to any store asking for a laptop without a kensington lock, they'd laugh at you. If you just wanted to tell everyone what features a Macbook Air lacks, you could have just said so in it's review

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