A friend asked about buying a notebook computer in Thailand and I’d been meaning to write something up. I got inspired and wrote this.
Glad you asked about notebooks. You wouldn’t believe how much there is to consider when buying a notebook here in Thailand. WHICH one to buy?
1st consideration- Brand.
In the USA I loved Toshiba. Never had a bad one. I’ve owned about 15 notebooks over the years, starting with an IBM 25/4. 4 Megs of RAM! hahah No joke. It cost $1000 usd back in 1993 I think it was. It had a 1200 bahd modem. I would connect to a local bulletin board and download porn jpgs and show friends who were absolutely amazed. So was I!
I’ve owned Toshiba, HP, IBM, Sony, Compaq (before bought by HP) and after. I liked them all.
Anyway- these are the brands I consider “good to great”.
Toshiba, IBM, Lenovo was bought by IBM – yes?, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Sony. I feel like I’m missing one or two – drawing a blank after these. IBMs/Lenovos are usually very solid. I love that. I don’t care how heavy they are, I want solid. I’ve dropped my backpack I carry my notebook in about 20 times off my motorbike. I’m clumsy like that. Getting a solid notebook helps me. You may not need it.
Acer notebooks in Thailand – are built like a house of cards. They have a very weak chassis. I have had many store owners themselves tell me THEY steer away from them. I know they wanted me to buy a higher priced Toshiba or Sony in most cases, but I have a friend that sells notebooks – he says Acer’s “no good”. I did feel the nice newly designed units and they feel better – but still, nothing like this Compaq I have now – like a tank.
Buy something STRONG. It shouldn’t feel like plastic – though it will be. Compaq V3000 series makes some nice notebooks – I have one. I bought it because it is very solid and it has a humidity tolerance higher than my last notebook. In Thailand that number is very important since it’s basically like the inside of a boiling pot of water here, super hot. Super high humidity – all the time. Add to that the fact that you’ll be taking it from air con to hot -and the probability of condensation happening is high (100%).
So, this notebook has a humidity operating range that maxes out at 95% which made it a better choice than other notebooks I saw with 90% humidity max. My last Compaq had a 90% humidity rating and worked for over 2 years, though maybe it died on the guy that bought it from me? No idea. I always sell notebooks (any electronics) after 1-2 years as I get to thinking something is about to break. Better it breaks on someone else – not me. I sell.
For this reason – don’t buy used electronics in Thailand, you don’t have any idea what environment it’s suffered through.
2nd consideration – Color, believe it or not.
3 yrs ago I got a Compaq 2630TS I think it was. Silver one – all silver, widescreen, Centrino mobile technology. Nice as hell. In 2 years it looked JUST like hell. Why? The silver collects the sweat and salt and discolors where your palms rest. I bought for 39,000 baht with 1GB RAM. Wasn’t worth it because i had to sell for 14,000b I think.
Lesson learned – buy nothing other than black in Thailand if you’re going to be using in non-airconditioned environments.
The Acers have NICE design. I was almost fooled into getting one – but that tan color killed it for me. Just can’t get one since I’m almost never in Air Con and my hands sweat without me even feeling it much.
3rd consideration – Condensation.
Going from air con to the hot humid air of Thailand is hell on the computer. Here’s how to solve it.
Buy an Ocean Pack 10 waterproof diving/snorkeling bag by Karana at the local sports chain. I forget the name there in Ubon – but it’s the huge sports store that has all fake stuff from China. Apparently these Karana bags are made in Thailand – and mine has lasted 3 years now and only starting to develop a leak. They are about 400 baht maybe – can’t remember.
In the bottom of that bag place 5 (or more) of the dessicant bags that soak up humidity in the air. Then, put a rolled up shirt over top of it. When you place your notebook computer in this bag – to go into your backpack presumeably put the computer in carefully. Don’t put the DVD ROM drive on the bottom, keep it at the top – they’re very sensitive and the dumb things will break quick…
Going from hot air to air conditioning – is not a problem, just open your bag, fire it up and go. But, upon leaving and going from air con to the outside environment you’ve gotta put your notebook in the waterproof bag with the dessicant or you’ll get droplets of water form inside your computer. That’s no good. Even putting it in the bag – you’ll STILL get some, but much less.
Now – the key is – once you go from air con environment to outside heat… you CAN’T take your notebook outside of the waterproof bag UNTIL the temperature of your notebook has equalized with the outside temperature you’re going to use it in… Or, you’ll get lots of water in your notebook. You won’t SEE it. It will be there, trust me. Do that a few times – and you’ll be using 7th consideration. Never do it – and your notebook will last much longer than everyone else that doesn’t do it.
4th consideration – Notebook bag.
I have an amazing backpack from “DaKine” in Maui, Hawaii. It has more padding than any bag I’ve ever seen anywhere. It was $140 back in 2002, but it’s made it 6 years and will go another 3 it appears.
Don’t skimp on bag. Make sure it’s padded not only on the sides, but most importantly – on the bottom! Very few bags are. I even roll up 2 more shirts and put in the bottom of my bag to keep it safe. I put my bag on the foot area of the Yamaha MIO and it gets a lot of vibration. Make sure you cushion your baby or you might rattle something loose. I doubt it – but, possible in theory maybe.
You should find some bags with a pocket for your notebook that will hold the notebook in the waterproof bag and keep it up off the bottom of the bag – like an envelope pocket type deal. That is fine – since you may not find anything with padding in the bottom here in Thailand.
5th consideration – Price.
I bought my amazing Compaq V3000 series at Tesco. It has everything I want – a Gig of RAM, 1.7MHZ processor, WIFI, Stereo speakers built in, DVD/RW, Modem, RJ-45 connector (for LAN – local area network), mic and headphone jacks, 3-USB 2.0 ports, firewire connector and other stuff. The battery lasts over 2 hours which is all I expected. The DVD holder is weak – and if I apply too much pressure – my DVD goes away from “My Computer” until I push it in and restart computer. A bummer, but I’m living with it since everything else is great. Note: I did need to install WIN XP Pro myself – and it was a nightmare – the computer is made for Windows VISTA but I love XP so I forced it. Took 3 days and 8 headaches – but, works wonderfully now. DON’T ask me how – it was much too much work. Please just install Vista instead.
I would definitely not spend more than 20,000 baht for any computer in Thailand unless you’re getting a Panasonic TOUGHBOOK which can handle the humidity here much better than other notebooks. But, you’ll spend about 60,000 baht for a late model unit. In the USA you can buy decent notebook computers now for $400 USD. 18,000 baht is about $600 USD. So, already we’re paying a premium. No reason to pay 30,000+ baht.
6th consideration – Where to buy?
I felt safe buying my notebook in Tesco. It’s UK owned and they had a huge number of them, the boxes were all opened – as they put in their own drivers disc and they upgraded the RAM from 500MB to 1 Gig. I still felt safe… why? Because they had over 100 units I could swap from if mine turned out to be hosed. And guess what? The first one was hosed. I returned it – showed them it powered up sometimes, sometimes not – and they found me another one. That’s the one I have now. Buy from a small shop – that might be the ONLY one they have – and they might not want to swap it out. Tesco gives 7 days to exchange. No refund – as there are NO refunds in Thailand basically. You probably know that.
I wouldn’t buy in Pornthip plaza or some electronics warehouse in BKK or anywhere else. I probably wouldn’t buy off any mom and pop store – though I did with my first Compaq. I wouldn’t again. Small stores can do anything they like. The sellers in BKK have a history of removing brand name components from the new systems and replacing them with JUNK – and you haven’t a clue since it’s all on the inside.
I think much better to go with Tesco, Big C, or that electronics store with the big yellow sign – man, can’t remember the name. They have many notebooks though. Not Sony – another huge building usually – and separate from a mall – they are a standalone building. Blue and yellow sign. Darn – will update this post when I remember the name of the place.
7th consideration – Warranty work.
I’ve never needed to use this – but someday will I’m sure. I think ALL computers get sent to BKK for repairs. This Compaq has a 1 yr warranty, that’s standard. If you do send your computer to be fixed – use your girlfriend’s name, friend, whoever – so they think it’s coming from a Thai. Of course be VERY careful about what info you leave on your computer’s hard drive when you send it in. Credit card numbers have a way of spreading around the world once your computer goes to get fixed somewhere.
Send computer with EMS at Post Office – and get extra insurance as there is a limit to what EMS covers by default.
Hope that helps. I feel like I”m forgetting something – but probably because I just banged this out in 10 minutes and need to run – so I’ll post it right away. If there’s something I missed – someone will email me I know.
Good luck buying your computer in Thailand – let me know which one you choose and why if you get the chance.