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Free laptops: a buyers guide

Laptops are bigger, better and faster than ever before, and are no longer an expensive luxury. Manufacturers now provide models for students, entry-level consumers, and mobile providers have started to bundle them in with their mobile and mobile internet packages. Bundled deals make sense in terms of convenience as well as cost.

Free laptops are unlikely to be top-end powerhouses that would make a NASA tech jealous - they're much more geared towards the regular user. You can expect them to charge through office programs, photo and video viewing, Facebook, YouTube and basic online games.

However, if you want something that is a professional 3D gaming machine, or something that calculates Pi to billions of digits, a free laptop probably won't cut it.

Compare all our best-selling free laptop deals at our dedicated free laptop comparison page

At uSwitch, we try to give you a snapshot of the best free laptop with mobile broadband deals on the market at any one time. We state the RRP of the laptops and tell you how much you can download from the internet a month to help you make your decision.

Types of free laptop deals:

There are two main types of free laptop deals – those with a separate internet connection, and those with the connection built-in (integrated). The internet connection will be the same type for both, using 3G technology to connect, and broadly speaking they will have the same capabilities.

The only variable is from provider to provider, for example coverage, network charges or data allowances. On the whole, speeds will be very similar, hitting a 3G max connection of 7.2Mbps with industry-recognised averages of around 3.6Mbps.

Free laptops with built-in broadband

These deals offer laptops with mobile broadband built in, meaning you don’t have to plug in a USB modem to get online. Everything you need is installed and ready to go out-of-the-box. You can still use other internet connections, although these will need setting up individually.

Pros

  • Convenience – you can just pick up your laptop and go, without worrying about a separate USB stick, or SIM card, or any connection details.

Cons

  • You can’t take the internet connection anywhere else – it is locked to the laptop, so if you have another laptop you need another connection.
  • You can’t troubleshoot, upgrade or replace them separately

USB stick and laptop combo

These deals are the most common, simply because they offer greater flexibility. A laptop is provided with a separate USB connection dongle. Although this is more in the way of hassle, paper and devices, it gives the flexibility of a completely mobile USB connection.

Pros

  • You can share the USB stick with another device (PC, Mac, laptop etc.)
  • You can upgrade either the laptop or the USB separately
  • You can troubleshoot problems individually

Cons

  • More to deal with. Lacks the convenience of having a laptop that “just works”

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