If you’ve been considering signing up for a mobile broadband tariff, you may have come across deals that claim to be ‘free laptop contracts’. But what’s the truth behind this impossibly generous claim?

Of course, just like there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s no such thing as a free laptop. However, that doesn’t mean you should overlook these offers – they can still be a real steal. If you’re looking for a new laptop or netbook deal, this may well be for you.

So what is a free laptop deal?

While you won’t be getting a free laptop, what you will be getting is a shiny new laptop upfront. Instead you’ll be paying for the cost of the laptop in monthly instalments as part of your contract, which will usually be a two-year deal.

This is great for two reasons. One, you get the laptop up front and two; it essentially works as a hire purchase scheme without having to pay any interest. So, if you’re in the market for a new laptop or netbook anyway, this can be a great way to get one – especially for youngsters, or students.

Will I get good value?

Again, there’s good news – in almost every case, you will get great value from a free laptop deal. Because the contracts tend to be two-years, you’ll be rewarded for this loyalty to the mobile broadband provider by getting good prices, data allowances and extras.

Keep an eye out for special offers too. If you shop around, as well as getting the laptop up front, you may find anything from free months off your deal, high street vouchers or other gadgets thrown in for free.

Downsides to free laptop deals

While all this sounds great, there are some possible downsides, which mainly revolve around the length of the contract. By signing yourself up for a two-year deal, or maybe more, there are certain consequences to this.

First, you are committing to this mobile broadband carrier for a long time. If you move to a new area where this company has no coverage, for example, you’ll be out of luck. Or if another carrier suddenly gets ahead (say with 4G), you won’t have the opportunity to move over to this service.

Secondly, if you’re the kind of person who likes the latest gadgets, or for whichever they don’t have a long shelf life for you, remember you will be paying for this item for the next two years!

Things to remember

Be careful of the other parts of the deal, such as download limit. It’s important you don’t let that nice new laptop blind you to the fact you’re getting way more data than you need – that’s just throwing good money after bag, so be careful you’re getting use from what you’re paying for. And be sure your mobile broadband supplier has good coverage in the areas you’ll be using it most.

Finally, when the deal ends, be sure to contact your mobile broadband supplier and move onto a different monthly tariff (if you want to stay with them, of course). You’ve been paying quite a bit extra each month for the laptop, so you should see a very big discount in your monthly price.