Some mobile broadband providers offer a 'free' or reduced laptop as part of their packages, which can help you get online without having to pay out for a new PC.
A few years ago, most mobile providers offered "free" or reduced laptops as part of mobile broadband deals. However, these days more and more mobile broadband providers are dropping free laptop offers, and others are instead offering plans for tablet computers.
Still, if you do want a laptop for surfing on the move, you do have some options available. It's worth exercising some care though: Michael Phillips, managing director of broadbandchoices, says "Free laptop deals vary in the value that they provide - some laptops would be cheaper to buy outright than get 'free' with a mobile broadband package, while others can save you around £40 on the total cost over two years.
"However, many people find it easier to spread the cost of a new laptop over 18 or 24 months, even if it will cost them a bit extra in the long run. As with all mobile broadband packages, customers should keep an eye on their download allowances as additional data can be costly."
Three free laptops
Three offers a number of laptop deals alongside mobile broadband packages. The company has offered computers from a range of manufacturers, including Samsung, Toshiba and Compaq - both "free" or with a small upfront charge.
The laptop models, and specifics of the deal change regularly, so it's best to check Three's website (www.Three.co.uk) for specifics. However, the deals are typically available on either 18 or 24 month contracts, with varying headline rates depending on the laptop you choose, the data allowance you want and the length of the contract you sign.
3's mobile broadband packages come with speeds of up to 3.6Mb, a 1GB, 5GB or 15GB monthly download allowance and a free mobile dongle or mobile USB modem stick. Additional usage costs 10p per MB.
O2 free laptop
O2 no longer offers free laptop deals alongside its mobile broadband packages.
Orange free laptop
Orange Mobile Broadband (www.Orange.co.uk) does not offer laptop deals anymore. However, it does do deals on tablets, including the Apple iPad and the Orange-exclusive Tahiti tablet.
T-Mobile free laptop
T-Mobile no longer offers laptops as part of its product range.
Tesco free laptop
Tesco Broadband (www.Tesco.net) doesn't actually offer mobile broadband packages over a network of its own. However the supermarket giant does sell packages from other suppliers. In the past, it's offered deals on laptops, but no longer does so.
Virgin Media free laptop
Like many other providers, Virgin Media has stopped offering free laptops as part of its mobile broadband plans.
Vodafone free laptop
Vodafone Broadband (www.Vodafone.co.uk) offers deals on Acer laptops alongside its mobile broadband packages.
Vodafone offers plans with usage limits of 1GB and 2GB. Whichever you pick, you'll have to pay an upfront cost for the machine, and sign onto a 24 month contract.
Are 'free' laptops really free?
Of course not. Nothing is really free, and that includes laptops. To get one of these offers you'll generally be expected to sign a 24-month contract and pay a premium on your monthly bills.
For example, if an offer charged £30 a month for a mobile broadband package with a free laptop, without the laptop you might only pay £15 a month. And over a two year contract that would cost you £360 - more than the cost of many of the netbooks that come "free" with these deals.
What these offers do more than anything, is help you to spread the cost of a new laptop - rather than give you one for free. But this means that you may end up paying out more than the laptop is actually worth.
Are 'free laptop' deals worth it?
What you need to do when considering one of these plans is find out how much the laptop is worth and compare it to the additional cost you'll be paying each month over two years. In some cases this might only be £5 or £10 a month more, which would only be a total of £120 or £240 - and could worth going for.
Alternatively, you could end up paying considerably more, so it's well worth doing the research before committing to any contracts.
Remember- it's always best to try to buy your laptop outright if you can afford to do so. This will allow you to take a shorter contract on your home or mobile broadband so you won't stay tied into an expensive, outdated package long after everyone else has moved onto faster, cheaper broadband packages with higher download allowances.
Think about the broadband too
Make sure you don't forget about the broadband plan you're signing up to in your excitement over your free laptop. Contracts are long - 24 months in most cases - and the monthly payments higher than most standalone packages, so you need to make absolutely certain that the package you're signing up to is right for your needs.
Take into account your monthly download allowance - especially if you're signing up for mobile broadband as some of the download allowances are as low as 1GB a month. You don't want to end up with an even higher bill at the end of the month because you've exceeded your limit.
Also, if you're taking a mobile broadband free laptop make sure you have checked the mobile broadband coverage in your area before signing up, otherwise you could end up paying for a service you can barely use for two years.