Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

How do you pick your next laptop or technology?

How do you pick your next laptop or technology?

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ibmpc Criteria.  Each of us weigh our wants and needs differently.  Wants are different than needs.  Matt wanted a slim light weight machine.  Who doesn’t? 

The more advanced a computer user, the quicker you can reach a decision.  I had a friend contact me yesterday.  You might recognize his name because it was used in the Server Quest game.  Matt Berg sent me an email that it was time for a laptop refresh and wanted some feedback on the options he was considering.

I’ve known Matt for years now so I knew I could ask a couple of quick probing questions and see where he was leaning.  Here was my first question to him, “What is your preferred laptop LCD screen resolution?” 

Right out of the gate he mentioned 1440x900 was not quite big enough for his needs.  That immediately knocked two of the three machines off his list because that was the max native resolution of the laptop LCD screens on those models.  His third candidate offered 1680x1050 and 1920x200 screens so I told him what I thought about each.

We of course talked about the weight of the machine, size, battery life, performance, etc. but all of that was really a moot discussion at that point.  Don’t under estimate the screen.  It isn’t a place you want to sacrifice your wants versus your needs.

What about a netbook?

We really didn’t enter into that discussion although it did come up yesterday under a different context.  In fact, I have seen a number of interesting discussions in the past couple of days.  Let me ask you a question.  When you buy technology today, what do you expect it’s lifespan to be?

Let me ask the question differently.  When you buy something today, do you expect to upgrade it or run it into the ground?  Here’s more context.  If you buy a $299 netbook, how do you answer the questions?  What about a desktop or laptop?

Until recently many people opted for future proofing their purchases by looking for machines that could be upgraded.  This would help them jump from one generation to the next with something like an operating system.  However, we all make bad decisions or get “burned” by a business decision some other hardware provider makes.  For instance, what if a video chip maker decides not to create a Windows driver for your video card?  It happens.  You bought the card and it worked at the time you bought it.  But 2, 3, 4, or 5 years later they end-of-life the card and you hit a dead end.  Trust me, I feel your pain.  I have a couple of video cards for sale if interested.

I have already started to reset my expectations.  When I purchase technology now, I expect that it will run what it runs at the time I purchase it for a reasonable period of time.  If I purchase a phone, I expect the phone to work with the OS that came on it for the life of the contract.  12 or 24 months, no more.  Video cards I now buy for the here and now. 

What is your strategy?

My computer purchases are typically pretty powerful.  Even for personal purchases.  I know my hand-me-downs will serve my family and extended family well.  But it’s becoming clear that strategy is probably flawed. 

Would I be better off buying cheaper machines up front and expecting a shorter life span?  This is really something you need to think more carefully about as well.  This is especially true if you are recommending machines for customers.  You can look at some recent trends for examples of this.  I’m sitting in a room right now with fifty customers and there are several netbooks on the tables.  Instead of being a device worth thousands, it’s worth hundreds.

The decision that gets made in a larger organization is different.  Usually you are buying thousands of devices so the capital expenditure and amortization schedule is different.  But lifespan, management, future proofing and a dozen other factors are still in play.

I’m interested to know if you have changed your purchase habits.  What is driving it?  The economy or the technology?  How big of a consideration is the the software?

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  • for my own use i just need a 12" laptop thats resonable performance aka X200 with a SSD i cant see myself with a netbook from a performance point of view.

    my old X60 lasted about 18 months before being handed down , think the X200 have about the same staying power

    for work i rely on a server i have hosted for demo and labs , i used to run it on my laptop but got annoyed with performance for anything but a single serve demo.

    and a couple of 24" at home with a resonable spec computer nothing fancy but can play a game for me junior if needed

    ill let time work for me from a performance point of view , a high end machine is midrange at best in 12 months from now

  • What I want in a laptop I apparently can't have:  I want a 15" laptop as thin and sleek as a Mac that runs Win 7.  Nothing produced by Dell, Sony, etc. comes close to the Mac form factor and I wonder why.

  • The falling cost of hardware has definitely changed my habits. Once upon a time, I'd have said it was worth spending the extra £300 on a £1000 machine to guarantee it would last a few years longer, nowadays you can buy a £500 laptop, replace it in a few years with something vastly better and still come out financially ahead.

    It also means I now tend to use more than one computer, my netbook is far from my main computer, but the weight savings make it preferable when travelling. I don't necessarily have to make an either/or choice, I can spend money on what makes sense for particular scenarios.

  • My purchasing habits are much different than many other people.  I do not necessarily travel frequently for work, but I must have something light, yet powerful.  I'm currently running HP-Compaq 6910p business laptop and it's great - light enought to carry without a burden and powerful enough to run Hyper-V and several guest OS machines.

    I would say most people prefer a larger screen, easier on the eyes, etc., but I'm of the school of thought that you can always plop that nice and light laptop in a docking station and run your dual monitors with ease.  In my case, it works best :)

  • I might virtualize one or two VMs... MS Office... etc. My trend for the past 8 or so years was to spend about $400 every two years or so. Means I normally dont have the lastest greatest but meets my needs.

    For clients I work them in terms of product availability. It can be hard for me to get the same models 6 months later.

  • I have been running my Dell M6400 for the past 3 months and LOVE IT! 16GB RAM Quad Core, Two Drive Bays, Win 7 and R2 Dual Boot! I am running a VDI and System Center Demo with room to spare!

  • I went through this exercise in June. I wanted a notebook which I could carry easily and > 1600 res. I ended up buying a refurb hp 8510 (1900x1200) with blue ray and 2.5 ghz cpu with 4GB RAM. The MOBO supports upto 8GB and the cpu is 64bit capable, so it'll probably do good for a couple of years with minor upgrades. About $900 + a extra battery which lets me run it for 5+ hours.

  • @Robin

    you ain't lying, that M6400 is some serious hardware, kudos to Dell for making such a schweet machine.

    I have the Covet Orange M6400 with 8GB RAM, running 2008 R2, with Win7 & 2008 R2 vm's