How to Buy a New Computer: Part I: Balancing Want and Need
Out With The Old…
My trusty sidekick died for the third and final time on December 31, 2008.1
…And In With The New!
Now its time to get a new laptop. I’m reluctant to buy another Dell. Dell installed nVidia graphics chips on the motherboard. Those nVidia chips have a critical flaw in that they overheat and pull away from the motherboard. Sound familiar? Well, this was the exact problem I was having with my laptop. Apparently this problem has spawned a lawsuit against nVidia.
I’m undecided what kind of laptop I want/need. A netbook? A basic laptop? A high-end laptop?2
Figure out what you need, then figure out what you want
Its all about what you want and what you need. I need a laptop that will let me program, surf the web, listen to music, and send e-mail. This accounts for roughly 98% of my computer usage.
The last 2% of computer usage is comprised of processor intensive activities such as watching DVD’s, video games, video editing, DVD and CD burning, and manipulating large amounts of programming code. For instance, the WCAB legacy number to EAMS number converter involved more than 4.6 million lines of code. 3 My previous laptop struggled with that one. I probably only do these things once every six months or so.
For what I need, a netbook would actually work very well for me.
As any computer user knows, its very frustrating to have a computer that will not do what you want or takes to long to do it. My wants are a super slim, light-weight, battery efficient, computer that has the processing power to deal with large amounts of data and the ability to burn DVD’s and CD’s.
A netbook fulfills the wants of a slim, light-weight, and battery efficient computer. A basic laptop would suffice for the processing power and CD/DVD burning capabilities.
Having it all
When it comes to laptops, sometimes you can have it all – it just depends how you’re going to compromise.
- If money were no object, this would be a no-brainer: buy a high-end light and powerful laptop. These cost $1500 and start climbing steeply after that.
- The other compromise is not so intuitive. A very decent external CD/DVD burner combo drive would probably only cost $75 or so. If I’m only burning discs 2% of the time, this is a very reasonable solution. The bigger problem is the underpowered processors in netbooks. They simply do not have the ability to play new games, handle large amounts of data, or deal with too many simultaneous tasks. The only possible work around here is where you use your underpowered laptop to remotely control a more powerful computer and use that more powerful computer to crunch numbers.4 However, this won’t help with video games. ;)
What am I going to get? I’m going to run down the pro’s and con’s of netbooks, basic laptops, and high-end laptops next time. Stay tuned!