The country's largest electronics retailer created something called the
line of laptops and other electronics. Best Buy's idea was as to brand modified versions of certain gadgets, from major makers like
. And then make them unique to Best Buy by branding and marketing them, providing decent service, tossing in add-on gimmes and kicking in a discount or two.
Best Buy is branding modified versions of laptops from major makers like Toshiba, Dell and Sony.
At first blush, Best Buy appeared to have a non-starter on its hands. Remember, Dell's laptop computers essentially invented mass customization in electronics a decade ago. So what on earth could the value-add be to a small business in having someone else decide what you or your firm needed.
But now, with these devices having been on the market for a while, I have been able to test a few. And it turns out, lo and behold, that for small businesses, Best Buy's Blue Label line meets a need. It also represents a solid nugget of value in the crowded laptop market.
What you get:
A reasonably priced, high-quality business laptop at a good price.
What Best Buy has done here is isolate a few reasonable techno sweet spots for laptops and then bundle them with add-ons, service and support. Processors are beefy. The Toshiba E205 ($899) that I tested had a reasonable 2.5GHz
chip built in. The machines come with good displays; my tester unit had a surprisingly nice 14-inch LED screen. And all came with enough memory and add-ons, like a nice wireless TV adapter and anti-virus, to make the computers stand up to most any small-business task.
And considering that, these days, buying a computer takes a degree in computer engineering, having an easy-to-buy notebook serviced with a legitimate national footprint is attractive.
Plus, there were some nice touches. My test Toshiba was done a neat professional blue. And I liked how the unit turned any old TV into a sexy second display.
It took me some time to see it, but the Best Buy computers were good value for the money for business use. They just are.
What you don't get:
Anywhere close to the lowest price or custom set of features.
Best Buy is selling convenience and support here, not price. The value here is in having to do zero research. You can run into any store, get a good computer, pay for two years of service and never have to worry about your business machines again. But, this is Best Buy so it won't be cheap. If you want low cost, try buying directly from off-brands like
. These units now pretty much lead the price war.
For sure, Best Buy's Blue Label line is not a traditional IT purchase. Price and Best Buy's mostly consumer focus preclude that. But for the sole proprietor or small firm, Best Buy represents a quick and easy route to a good business laptop. Just be aware that you step outside those parameters at your own risk.
Yes, the Blue Label line is a sleeper small-business PC, but it is a solid pick indeed.
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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.