It’s been a little while since I’ve answered a question directly in this column—too long in fact. I just want to remind everyone that if you have technology issues, whether they are computer or electricity related, please drop me a line and I will do my best to get you an answer. You can also visit and leave a comment. Those come directly to the ICL staff, so you’ll be sure to get a response. That said, let’s get on with this month’s Q & A.

Echu from Egyptian Electric in Steeleville asks, “I am thinking about purchasing a laptop, but almost every model available in stores now is made in China. In your opinion, do you think it is worthwhile to purchase a customized laptop? The customized ones seem very pricey!”

That’s a great question. 

For last month’s column I finished up a series on purchasing a new computer, but spoke primarily about desktops. Customized laptops are certainly a harder issue than customized desktops. After all, with a laptop nearly all of the parts are already integrated, because they have to be. Otherwise, how would they all fit within the case? 

And, you’re right. Customizing one of them can get pretty pricey. That said, there are a few things you can do to get the price down a bit and still get something better than the standard off-the-shelf computer. 

Let me start by giving you an analogy:

Imagine you’re going to the grocery store to buy fresh fruit. You get there and start picking out your fruit, but how do you know which is the freshest? Which is the newest one on the shelf? They all look the same, right? 

  It’s the same with buying off-the-shelf computers. You really don’t have any idea how long a particular model has been in production, or how long it’s been sitting on the store shelf, back storeroom, truck, etc.

  So, how do you avoid that? Buy one that has at least one part built to order!

  The good news is that you can do that with most laptop manufacturers these days. You can actually order directly, and throw in some customization while ordering. Keep in mind that you’re probably going to have to wait two weeks or so for actual delivery when you order using this method, but the end result will be a computer that’s usually much “fresher.” And, because you buy directly from the manufacturer, the warranty support is usually very good.

  I don’t advocate one brand over another, but I can tell you that I’ve had success ordering from several different vendors. At the end of this column, I’ll list a few of their sites so you can check them out and decide which is best for you. Just make sure that whichever you choose, you don’t take their base model. Change at least one item in the configuration when you order. That will ensure they have to build the machine, rather than just taking one off the shelf.

Of course, there are many others (including Apple) but I think those three should give you a good idea of what to look for in a laptop. Personally, I’d recommend looking at something with a touchscreen if you’re going to get a new Windows 8 laptop. I love mine! I couldn’t imagine using Windows 8 without a touchscreen. But, that’s a story for another time. 

Here are the promised links.

Toshiba direct:

HP direct:

Lenovo direct: