September 15, 2007

Buying a Laptop in SE Asia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I caved. I've gone and added more burden to my back.

After an arduous decision, this morning I ended up purchasing a Twinhead H12Y from Networld Computers, inside Low Yat Plaza. Although the same laptop was being sold at similar prices around the mall, these people won me over by recognizing/ remembering me from the day before; greeting me with a smile and handshake at their established storefront; answering all my questions confidently, professionally, and correctly; charging only 2% for credit card transactions (as opposed to vendors who try and get away with 3% or 4% on such things); and willingness to accommodate my power cable needs (explained below).

I was on the bubble about how to pay for this thing. On one hand, I wasn't sure if I could withdraw enough money from an ATM to cover expenses (without using one of the two axillary cards I travel with, tied to a different accounts). And then there was the possible inability to withdraw money from a cash machine in Cambodia when I arrived several hours later.

On the other, there was a 2% fee when using a credit card—money spent that need not be. And of course, leaving a record of my credit card details is something I've never done while traveling abroad—I never, ever, use a credit card; always cash.

Ultimately I decided to use the card, as I rationalized that the 2% fee was my peace of mind insurance. If something screwy was up with the laptop—such as being short on system components or defective in some way—then I could contest the charge with my credit card company. If I paid cash, that was it—I walk out the door, get on a plane, and there's nothing I can do short of flying back to Kuala Lumpur if the thing eats itself within the first few hours of use.

Malaysia power plug comparison

I could care less about freebies like carrying cases and web cams; what I wanted with my purchase was a standard American three-prong plug on the end of my power cable. Malaysia uses these massive, God-awful British plugs that look like something my washing machine sported back in the States. If I was stuck with one of these plugs, I'd have to pop on an equally large adapter every time I used the thing. Thankfully, the staff didn't protest much—unlike another outfit that told me to buy it myself elsewhere. I left them with the original in the event they could use or sell it.

I'd told the staff I had a flight to catch, as I wanted to stress the time factor I was on this morning. I arrived in Low Yat Plaza to find them open just before 11 a.m., but that left me with about an hour to test the system and wrap up the purchase before I had to be back at the hotel to leave for the airport.

Twinhead H12Y box specs

The intelligent kid who was in charge of my sale knew what I wanted to do before I even asked it of him—a real pleasure. The young man opened the boxed, verified the system color was correct (graphite) and the accessories were present. Then, without asking, plugged in the system, booted the computer, and entered into the system's BIOS, so that I could verify the screen was free of dead pixels and that the components inside the machine (processor, hard drive, and memory) were as advertised.

The bummer about the laptops for sale in Malaysia is that they're sold without operating systems. This cuts a few hundred dollars of the price tag for consumers, and typically results in a sales staff that's willing to install a "Malaysian version" of Windows if you ask them to. Naturally, the Malay version of Windows is pirated, and won't accept the online Windows security updates and the such from Microsoft. This wouldn't do.

The real problem with purchasing a laptop without an operating system is that I can't check out the machine properly—speakers, video card specs, WiFi, Bluetooth, and an assortment of other internal system components that need to be verified as functional. Above all, it was vital that the CD/DVD drive worked, as I'd be unable to install anything if it was defective. To make me feel better, I had the kid fetch an installation disk that booted off the CD-ROM, so that I could see that it would actually read disks.

There was no time to install an OS, and for some reason I didn't feel like paying a few dollars to take an installation CD with me. So, until I get some place where I can buy or download an OS (probably Bangkok), my new laptop is essentially just a useless brick in my backpack.

For those interested, the specs of the Twinhead H12Y, purchased for US$720 (with credit card processing fee and without an operating system):

  • Intel Centrino Duo Mobile Technology
  • Intel Core2 Duo processor (2CPUs)T2080 (1.73GHz, 2MB Cache)
  • Intel Pro/Wireless 3945ABG (802.11a/b/g) + Bluetooth
  • Main Memory 1GB of RAM
  • Hard Disk Drive, 80GB SATA
  • Optical Drive (Super multi) DVD Dual Layer Reader/Writer
  • Display Clear, sharp 12.1-inch WXGA TFT LCD screen (1280 x 800)
  • Integrated 4 in 1 media card reader
  • One Express Card Type II slot 34/54
  • Intel High Definition Audio, Stereo: two 2W speakers, Internal Microphone
  • Three USB 2.0 connectors
  • One IEEE 1394 port
  • One 15 pins D-Sub connectors for external monitor
  • One Line-Out phone jack for external speakers
  • One Mic-In phone jack for external microphone
  • One RJ-11 jack for internal 56Kbps V.90 modem
  • One RJ-45 jack for internal 10/100Mbps Ethernet
  • Slim, ultra light design—Weights only 1.75Kg
  • Runs on battery power for up to four hours, 6 cells 4400mAh Li-Ion battery (long battery life)
  • Dimensions 297mm (W) X 213mm (D) X 33.3~36.5mm (H)

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Comments:

Erik

October 30th, 2007

Glad you got one with 1GB memory. 512MB seems like plenty but really not so much anymore, so might as well get 1GB to start rather than upgrade later. Especially if you end up slapping Vista (shudder) on the thing.

802.11 a/b/g - important for travel. If you weren't a nomad, B/G would suffice. However, I've encountered hotspots in my travels with only 802.11a available.

My vote for an OS? Ubuntu! At least dual-boot the thing with *NIX and Windows variants.

Makes me realize I need to visit Malaysia next time I'm in the need for a new laptop though.

Vietnam

Craig | travelvice.com

October 31st, 2007

For those buying a laptop in the U.S., and living there full-time, I typically say 'Get the extended warranty.'

Such things are totally useless and a real scam on most purchases (such as televisions and desktop computers), but when something breaks on a laptop it really costs a lot to have it serviced.

As for me, I have no illusions that if something breaks on this thing, it'll be me trying to order parts off the Internet (and having them shipped abroad?), or dropping the unit in the dumpster. Hopefully such a thing won't happen anytime soon.

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

November 6th, 2007

Although Ubuntu would be a neat alternative OS, I don't have the experience with UNIX necessary to fix something, should I be out in the field w/o access to Internet to help resolve it. I do know exactly how to fix Windows, though, without blows from a bat. :)
I've opted to purchase a copy of Windows Vista Home Premium. The thought of dropping US$240 for a OS is something I wasn't interested in, but found an alternative.

An OEM version of Vista Home Premium can be purchased online (from vendors such as NewEgg.com) for US$117, with shipping. This is basically just the installation DVD, without the packaging, and a slightly different license agreement (can't install it again on a different machine, once installed).

Although I haven't legally purchased a much software in my lifetime (I demoed a pirated copy Vista, 'till the activation requirement kicked in), the price seems to be worth the peace of mind.

Australia

chelsea

March 8th, 2010

im going to maylasia in april and planning on buy a laptop there, at either imbi plaza or somewere near it. is it worth it? and how much would it cost in ringgits?

your help is apprecitated
(living in aus)

The United States

Craig | travelvice.com

March 8th, 2010

Howdy Chelsea,

Things have changed a 'lil bit since the netbook category came into its own (in '08) and exploded. Low Yat Plaza is going to be the best place in Malaysia to buy, and will be cheaper than Thailand. It's no longer necessary pay $600-700 USD to get a travel-sized computer — expect to pay around $400 USD for something you'll be happy with.

Malaysia

mike

March 8th, 2010

For current price, u can visit http://www.lowyat.net and download the pricelist at the left hand side of the website.

Azerbaijan

David

October 4th, 2010

Nice article!
Reading through these tips also helped me much to buy my first laptop: http://www.howtobuythings.com/computer

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