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Time to Upgrade My Computer
So, before I dive right into what I'm looking for in a computer replacement, let me give you some context.
I am a technology person. I have spent my fair share of time disassembling machines, upgrading, destroying, and tinkering away. It's part of my lifestyle, and now that I consider my newly found interests in money and budgeting, it produces a real conundrum:
The kid inside, the tech enthusiast wants to spend $2000 on a gaming laptop that can do everything. The personal finance enthusiast wants to spend $400 on a refurbished machine that will do just enough that I don't regret the purchase.
And there's also the other important context -- what do I do with my computer/s?
Well actually I have two that are both on their last legs, and that's part of my problem. I don't know whether I need one computer that can do all things, or two computers with silo-ed abilities. Here's what I have:
- Desktop PC with Athlon X2 processor. Used as home theatre PC and used mostly for media consumption like Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, etc. It's been making a lot of awful sounds the past few weeks and despite some upgrades to RAM, 3d card, and hard drive, it's clearly getting close to the end.
- Laptop PC with first generation Intel dual core processor. OK, it's a netbook. It's fast enough to do quick spreadsheets and word processing but chokes up on 1080p video. As most laptops do after 4-5 years, it is physically starting to fall apart. One of the fan vents has collapsed and I'm counting down the days until I have a full meltdown.
Primary Contender 1: Ultrabook
I've spent the past few weeks looking at the market, examining the deals, and thankfully, I like a lot of what I'm seeing. Given my light usage, pretty much anything out there will do the trick. It's just a matter of figuring out the right form factor and deciding how futureproof I want to make my computer situation.
Ultrabook - It seems like the latest "hot chick" are these Intel ultrabooks and Mac equivalents that are less than an inch thin, usually 3-4 pounds, and yet faster and more efficient than anything created in the past. It is a good time to be looking at a computer! Since I have to replace two machines, I like the idea of a lightweight machine that can do a bit of everything. Now that battery life times are in the double digits in some cases, it's finally become hip to get a laptop again instead of settling for an underpowered tablet. In this class I'm thinking:
- Macbook Air - Back and better than ever with the 2014 model in 11 and 13 inch versions. I've seen a late generation deal for $750 which is pretty awesome given Apple's reputation with their computer products. Macbooks last a long time and it looks sweet too.
- ASUS Zenbook - Just as thin and light but PC friendly, I like almost everything about the Zenbook. Except of course that it's an ASUS.
- HP Spectre - The touchscreen ultrabook may be the be all, do all device. Now that Windows 8 and 8.1 are so touch-friendly and touch-dependent, this would probably keep me from throwing my laptop out the window in disgust when the trackpad isn't working right.
Primary Contender 2: Convertible
2-in-1 Convertible - Along the lines of the ultrabook, I'm also thinking about the devices that transform and allow you to not only have a laptop, but also a heavy tablet experience. I think it would be really cool to leave the device in the tablet orientation and then flip it, or transform it when I need to really get into work mode with the keyboard. It looks like the deals for these have really started kicking in too, so maybe this is where I'm leaning. Contenders:
- Dell XPS 12 - This convertible has the flippy screen in the middle so you can work on something on the touchscreen, and then flip it so the person in front of you can see it. It feels really gimmicky, but all the reviews say that it's a solid convertible that is OK to use as a tablet for short stints. I've seen this for as low as $550 for a refurbished model.
- Lenovo Yoga 2 - The original bendy convertible with 4 different modes. Whereas the original Yoga was limited and somewhat slow, Yoga 2 has an ultra-HD screen and has the always original tent mode which I like. I'm a little hesitant about getting a Lenovo, but it has to be better than ASUS, right?
- Surface Pro 3 - Really exciting new product from Microsoft where it's got laptop brains inside a tablet body with a funky clip-on keyboard. I like everything except the price and the keyboard. When I really need to get work done, I just have a feeling that the keyboard will slow me down and not register as well as a regular one. And because the product is brand new, no sales of note are available. Maybe in a few months?
Final Contender - All-in-One Tablets
All-In-One Tablets, or Tabletop PCs - Closer to the desktop side of things are the tabletop PCs. They've got the power of a small tower desktop PC but have giant touchscreens and can be used for short amounts of time as a tablet/laptop. It does sound ridiculous to move around a 20 or 27 inch tablet around (just like lugging around a monitor of the same size) so it's probably ambitious thinking that I can use it for a laptop replacement. My favorites so far:
Lenovo Flex 20
Lenovo Horizon II
HP Envy Rove 20
Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27
Sony Vaio Tap 20
Dell XPS 18
Wow, who would've thought that taking the time to write this would be so educational and clear things up for me. I've now gone ahead and eliminated the AIO PCs since that's not going to be able to replace my laptop, which is closer to destruction.
Between ultrabooks and convertibles, I have to side with the convertible. I'm going to keep an eye on deals so that I can report back with a great buy under $600 that will be my only computer for the next five or more years.
I believe that being frugal and making smart money choices is like any other exercise. As we continue to practice good habits in saving money where possible, finding deals for what we want, and having a good time at it, then we become better at dealing for a living.
I'm committed to sharing my experiences with getting the most out of using credit cards, saving and spending tips, and I might even add a slice of perspective without trying to be a psychoanalyst like some other personal finance folks out there.
Please let me know what you think and if you'd like to hear my take on a specific topic.