Sunday, 25 August 2013

Computers and jaguars

The little Acer Extensa 4630Z that I am typing this on is starting to fail, after more than 4 years of faithful service, many hours a day. It got serviced once, when the cursor froze and stayed frozen. It has done the same thing again and more frequently, but a restart gets things moving again. However, it has now stopped acknowledging its USB ports. That's it, time for a replacement. NOW. 

OMG! The choices! The dilemmas! Back in 2009 it was easy: get the cheapest and be done. Right now I still have a bit of money in the bank, so if I really want to I could get a higher end model. 
I love computers, even though my own use of them is quite basic. Email, social media, the odd youtube, blog, organize photos, listen to podcasts. 

No designing, no office work, no gaming, no downloading movies, rarely downloading music. The Extensa has been perfectly adequate.  

I am considering a $369 machine that has twice the RAM and hard drive of my present one, which I got for $450 in 2009. The price of bread keeps going up, but the circus is getting cheaper. Why not just get it? It is all I need.

It just occurs to me: I love computers the way some people love cars. A Honda civic may get them through life just fine, that doesn't stop them from drooling over a Jaguar.
I drool over my son's Macbook Air. I go "aaaww..." at the sight of tiny netbooks. 

Is that enough reason to splurge on an ultra book, instead of a regular laptop? I'll get back to researching and agonizing.
A day later. Thinking out loud here. This is for personal use, boring, don't bother reading. 

I am nowhere near a final choice, but I decided on a medium splurge. This is something I use daily, especially in the cool seasons. If an extra $300/400 makes me smile every time I pick it up over the next 3 or 4 years, that's a lot of pleasure for $ 2 a week. We are not talking top of the line, just middle instead of lowest.

I am getting a lot of help from this buyer guide. 

When reading reviews, know what is important to you.

I type with 4 fingers, so who cares if the reviewer gets 52 words per minute instead of 63? However, the quality of the touch pad is super important. I don't do mice. Some Asus machines were nixed because that was their weak spot. I might get a touch screen or not, though the thought of swiping a vertical surface does not appeal. But with Windows 8 becoming the new normal  the quality of the touch pad becomes even more vital. 

Display: I waste enough time on the net without gaming, regular is good enough. There are no roommates on the couch wanting to share, so viewing angles also don't matter.

Weight: The laptop will be exactly that. It will be moved from room to room, but will not be carried in a backpack to office or campus. The Extensa has a 14 inch screen. I really like that size, though I am not wedded to it.

Battery life: since we stay at home anyway, it doesn't matter much. This faithful beastie has no battery life at all. 

Design. While colour will certainly not be the defining factor I love Gerda's remark below about the car that was the wrong colour.  Brushed aluminum makes me smile.

Optical drives are getting hard to find. We have pictures on CD/DVD that never got uploaded to the net yet. 
On the other hand, I can use the old machine to do that.

I can't believe how much time I have wasted on the search for the perfect compromise. Apart from cooking a good lunch, being an ear for a friend on the phone and vacuuming the living room this is all I have done all day. Time to end the agony.

I ended up ordering a silver 14 inch touch screen HP sleekbook for $599.

P.S. This whole episode has been a perfect illustration of the Paradox of Choice. 


  1. Hi Ien,

    I would recommend that you get the computer that meets your needs with the lowest price. With a few things in mind. A larger screen is better on the eyes and may not be that much more. Computers go obsolete very quickly. If you only use it for the above those are my recommendations.

  2. If it were me, I'd buy the cheap one, but I can't see in your heart how much you care for the sleek one. The first (second hand) car I bought had the 'wrong' colour, but hey, it wasn't too expensive... Still, I continued to see the 'wrong' colour all the years I had the car. If I have the money I won't go for a 'wrong' colour any more..

  3. So sweet of you to advise me! @drKat: a larger screen is actually cheaper. The 14 inch is harder to find than the 15. I hear you about the eyes: I wish I had bought a 10 inch tablet instead of the Nexus 7 I treated myself to. Young reviewers don't take old eyes into account. @Gerda: I certainly won't go for super expensive, but I love the idea of something really thin and sleek and silvery.....Like your car colour!

    1. I like the car colour of my present car as well (that's the one you were in). I set out to buy a red one, came home with this one, LOL! But I still love it every day!

      For use at home or holiday cabin I would've preferred a 10 inch tablet as well, but my 7 inch tablet did come in very handy during our last vacation because it fits so well even in my handbag.

      My niece has that same sort of sleek laptop, I saw it a week ago. I can understand why you're getting it, it is a lovely thing. I even held it to find out it's weight, but for traveling it is indeed an issue. Enjoy it!

    2. I just noticed only the outside clam shell is silver, the part you work with all the time is plain black plastic. Oh well. Would you believe I cannot remember what colour your car is? I have the same issue with the tablet, love how portable the 7 inch is. I could imagine collecting computer devices....I won't though. See next blog about going back to normal frugality.


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