These days consumers are even more suspicious of them than they are of most 'free' offers. Clearly there's no such as a free laptop, just as the there's no such as a free lunch.
In the case of lunch the ulterior motive is usually a word in your ear. In the case of the laptops it's even more tangible - the cost is simply built into the monthly price.
But is that always true?
If it were the case then you'd be able to take the cost of the mobile broadband away from the overall cost and be left with the cost of the laptop. However, performing this calculation will sometimes bring surprising results.
In a recent Samsung R530 Review the reviewers found that - even taking away the price of the mobile broadband - it was still around £140 cheaper to get the laptop in the deal than to buy it on its own.
This is rare but just to show it's not an isolated incident, it's also true of a Compaq cq61 laptop deal.
That laptop is around £120 cheaper when it's in the deal.
Presumably, in these cases, the mobile broadband company had chosen to buy the laptops in bulk and dramatically slash the price in return for their customer's loyalty. In any case these examples show the importance of doing your sums when it comes to these free laptop deals.
This is true even within the same free laptop deal. There can be very different results depending on the type of mobile broadband bundled with the laptop.
For example, the samsung N130 netbook is a better deal with 3GB a month of mobile broadband allowance than than it is with 1GB (even though the 1GB deal is cheaper). Finally, the calculation is not infallible.
The big problem with is it that laptops can look like a great deal just because there aren't discounted at retailers. Since retailers tend to discount their top choices, or the laptops that they rate most highly, this can be misleading.
It's not just whether the free laptop is a good deal that consumers need to check, then, but the specifications of the laptop itself.
- Free Samsung R530 laptop with Windows 7.
- Generous 5GB usage allowance.
- Great value for money: this offer is £143.58 cheaper than buying the laptop and mobile broadband separately.
- 14-day money back guarantee.
- Includes free Huawei E1750 USB Modem.
- 200 inclusive web text messages.
- Get cut-price MS Office 2007 when you sign up and a free upgrade to Office 2010
3 mobile broadband review: Free Samsung R530 & MobileThis free Samsung R530 laptop packs a punch and though - like all free laptop deals - it's not exactly free, it's actually significantly cheaper here than buying the laptop and mobile broadband separately.
Is the Samsung R530 any good?
The Samsung R530 has just been released as part of Samsung's 'good all-rounder' R-series.
It's slim and fairly light at just 2.56kg but with a 15.6" LED HD display this is no netbook. It's also pretty good looking, especially for a free laptop, with a dark red outer case and silver surrounding the keyboard.
You'll get 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard disc drive, again, more than we're used to in the free laptop market.
We're also intrigued by the laptop's SuperSilent Mode which slows down those noisy system fans that will be familiar to anyone that's tried to use a laptop in a library recently.
For when you want to be a little less silent the Samsung R530 packs a punch with 3 watt speakers and SRS 3D sound effects. Those extras, plus the laptop's tip top screen, make watching movies on the Samsung R530 a real pleasure.
There's a six-cell battery which should offer a good few hours of computing on the move and the Samsung R530 laptop also comes with the brand new Windows 7 operating system installed, just so that you can tell everyone it was your idea.
In all, the Samsung R530 is just slightly slicker than your average: good spec, a great size and a fresh look.
It's worth noting that 3 have a money back guarantee so you'll have 14 days (from the date of delivery) to change your mind.
You'll also be able to get Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007 with an upgrade in 2010 at a discounted price when you sign up (£59.99 - formally £110) which is nice extra if not exactly a red-hot offer.
MS 2007 is available for a few pounds more in many other places and Microsoft are offering the upgrade to everyone.
5GB of mobile broadband a month
Three mobile broadband has one of the most widely available and reliable services in the country. While it's always worth checking your local area for coverage on the Three site before you sign up you've got an excellent chance of finding a signal wherever you are.
You'll also get a free Huawei E1750 modem capable of speeds of up to 7.2 Mb/s (although actual speeds are likely to be much lower).
5GB of monthly usage will be enough to browse webpages for 50 hours or watch about an hour and a half of video.
Is the free Samsung R530 laptop a good deal?
At £35 for 24 months the free Samsung R530 laptop deal from Three will cost you £840 overall.
3 mobile broadband 5GB for 24 months will cost you £360. A new Samsung R530 laptop with 4GB of memory and 500 GB hard disc drive, just like the one in this offer, will set you back £623.58 from Amazon.co.uk. So, that's £983.58 overall.
That makes it an amazing £143.58 cheaper to take this offer than to buy the laptop and mobile broadband separately.
Of course, that assumes that you buy the laptop from Amazon. However, although we found the laptop cheaper at other less well-known retailers, it was still even cheaper to get it as part of the mobile broadband offer.
All in all