For years now every time I bought a new computer for my personal use I bought a laptop. I left it to others to buy my computers for the office and didn’t pay particular attention to what was purchased for me. I knew that PBI’s IT folks looked at me as something of a power user and would be certain to buy what I needed in terms of both software and hardware. That said, for a long time now, my computer use hasn’t required PBI to purchase me anything particularly special. The basic computer purchased for the rest of the staff has caught up to my needs.
Well, the day has come, I need a new computer for my new consulting gig. Since most of my blog posts come from what I do (or see) I thought I would take a few moments to write about the process I went through to buy my machine, as well as desktops v. laptops. in general
Laptop v Desktop
I have tried using laptops as my general work machine. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends how much I am willing to spend and how hard I am using the machine. If I find myself traveling a lot I am never happy with a desktop replacement. It is too heavy and not really meant for traveling. If I am not traveling much I find desktop replacements fine but expensive.
When picking out my own laptop, if I don’t require a desktop replacement, I often purchase a bottom of the line machine or close to bottom of the line. I really just need something for email, Internet use and to connect to my desktop computer. I also need something on which I can do presentations. I don’t want a large monitor since that is where the weight comes in.
I generally spend about $700 for a laptop and pay attention to the memory and speed as much as anything else. No reason to spend a crazy amount of money, especially as often as laptops need to be replaced; I tend to replace my laptops every 2 years. Otherwise I find them frustratingly slow for my needs. I am unwilling to purchase a more expensive laptop because I have seen too many of my laptops destroyed through spills, being dropped and just unreliable technology. A long warranty can end up costing quite a bit of money for a machine that will become outdated quickly. I might add, I am rarely the cause of the destruction.
I know that if I want a laptop I can keep for a long time I am not just talking several hundred dollars more than a bottom of the line machine. I am talking $1500 to $2000 more. That is just how laptops work.
The $700 laptop won’t fit the bill for my consulting work. Ellen and I didn’t even have to discuss whether we would purchase a desktop or a laptop, we both knew I needed a workhorse of a computer, and that would be a desktop. Laptops are great, the portability is wonderful, but you have to spend a lot to get a good one that will last a while.
Unless and until I manage to have enough money to enable me to buy one of these laptops, I am unwilling to risk my entire business’ productivity on such a delicate piece of equipment as a laptop. It was one thing to have a laptop at PBI, there was always an extra computer around I could borrow. That isn’t the case anymore. I can’t afford to risk being out of business when I have to send a laptop in for repair. Notice, I say when, not if. I know from experience laptops always have to go in for repair at some point. Just how they work.
Picking Out the Computer
Ellen and I are both very busy and we don’t have the time or inclination to sort through a lot of computers, price matching, comparing each part, etc. I used to do this, I would worry over every component and take forever to make a choice. No need to do this any more, computers are just too powerful and good to worry about it.
This is what we did:
- Looked at Dell, HP and Lenovo to see what specials they had. I also looked at Costco because they often have good deals
- Found that Costco allows customization of HP PCs and has good prices
- Exchanged some emails to make certain I would be meeting all of my needs with a customized HP/Costco PC
- Decided Costco was the way to go
- Got online together using gotomypc and purchased the computer
With a few minutes of discussion, a lot of joking around and $1500, we purchased a solid new computer with a lot of memory, speed and hard drive space, and two monitors. Why two monitors? Since I do everything electronically I often need to compare documents on screen. I also do a considerable amount of coding and graphical work with copying and pasting back and forth.
We expect the computer to last about 3 years. How long it lasts will depend as much on changes in technology as anything else. Since desktops sit still, if kept clean (both hardware and software,) last well. Unless there was a weakness on the line in creation of a specific component chances are good I won’t have much, if any trouble. Except we all know I have now cursed myself and my new computer.
I should add that I still, of course, have my laptop, and actually, I have the laptop I purchased before that one. So this means I will have 3 computers. Can I use 3 computers? You’d be surprised. I’ve always kept the older laptop in my bedroom and the newer one in my living room. Now I’ll have the desktop in my home office. Yes, I am on computers that much. 4 computers, now that will be silly, right? At the end of 3 years, if I need a new computer we will re-purpose the old one for use as a training machine. Oh, let’s not forget I also have a smart phone. I wonder if I glow at night.
The Bottom Line
These days it just isn’t very hard to buy a computer. If you find yourself needing a new one, set yourself a reasonable budget ($1500 for a desktop, $2000-$2500 for a laptop,) think about what you need and have at it. If you get a laptop get yourself a good warranty and consider including spill/break. Laptops and smartphones are the only times I suggest those extra warranties, given the cost of fixing those devices and the ease with which they get damaged. I try to get a 1-2 year warranty on my laptops, since as I noted, I tend to keep them for 2 years. Sometimes the cost of the extra year isn’t worth the price of the warranty, it depends and you have to check.
Don’t stress over every component, don’t stress over what brand. Just make sure you get yourself a solid computer that can do what you need it to do. Get yourself a lot of memory, a big hard drive and a fast processor. Be sure your monitor(s) are good, you will be staring at them a lot, but monitors aren’t very expensive these days. Both of mine are included in the price I noted above.
It is very easy to be overwhelmed by the choices available when purchasing a new computer. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to go with the most expensive machine out there. Unless you are a major gamer (graphics, graphics, graphics) or doing intense mathematical equations (processor speed and memory,) you don’t need a high end machine. Low to middle of the road will be plenty for you. Don’t let the folks at the store convince you otherwise.