A Complex Answer To A Simple Question: What Laptop To Buy?
Yesterday's Web chat had an interesting, somewhat contentious exchange between a reader and myself. It began like this:
Fairfax, Va.: So I'm buying myself a new laptop this holiday season; what's my best bet for a great value? I don't play games on it; I'd want to easily be able to watch video clips on YouTube and DVDs, listen to music, view/edit photos, and do all the standard email, internet, Microsoft Office stuff. Advice? Thanks!
Rob Pegoraro: Um, ANY Windows or Mac laptop on sale today can do all those things. Sorry, I need a query that's a little more specific (this kind of question is like asking Tom Sietsema for a restaurant recommendation by saying "I'm hungry. Where should I eat?")
The poster sounded a little irked in a follow-up query:
Posting again re: simple laptop: My point is that I don't need any bells and whistles. I don't need video editing capability, I don't need room for video games or the highest speeds for online WoW playing. I want to be able to easily watch clips like on YouTube; easily watch DVDs; surf the web quickly, and have memory for Microsoft Office plus probably some photo editing software. To use your Sietsma example, I'd say to him "Where's a good place to get a regular American meal, nothing fancy, just something that's pretty tasty and won't cost a lot." I don't want to pay for a lot of stuff I don't need on a laptop.
I answered by saying that I'd need to know what else mattered in this laptop quest, and suggested screen size, weight, Mac vs. Windows and price as possible criteria, but I didn't hear back. (In case there were any hard feelings, I asked Sietsema what he'd recommend for a "regular American meal" and posted his answer at the end of the chat.)
This kind of back-and-forth seems to happen a lot, especially at this time of year. Maybe it's because people have older computers and don't realize how much technology has progressed lately; maybe it's because computers really are becoming a commodity. Maybe my own computer-shopping advice wasn't helpful enough. Either way, I'd like to be of more help the next time around. So if you were thinking of sending me a question like that, please consider these other factors, and whether they matter to you or not:
* Size and bulk of a desktop computer: Does a large, vertical tower case bother you?
* Do you have any interest in ever editing digital video? If so, you'll want a machine with a FireWire port.
* Do you or anybody else at home play any fast-paced 3D games? Then you need to get a computer with a higher-end graphics card.
* How often do you add -- or uninstall -- programs? If your answer is "not much" or "never," then a machine with a good set of bundled programs (i.e., a Mac) will work better for you.
* Are there any programs you run now that you don't think you could live without? This could override the answer to the prior question.
* Who in your family do you call for help with computer questions all the time, and what kind of computer do they use?
I'm sure many of you gotten the "what's a good computer?" query from friends, family member or co-workers. What other follow-up questions have you asked them to help focus their choice?
December 12, 2008; 1:23 PM ET
Categories: Computers , The business we have chosen , Tips
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