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Time to Upgrade My Computer

Updated on August 12, 2014

AIO PCs

The Situation

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.


Laptop Damage

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.


Computer Shopping

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?


XPS 12

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

ASUS Transformer

Dell XPS 18

Tabletop PCs

Final Thoughts

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.


About DealForALiving

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.

Most Sincerely,

DealForALiving

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    • DealForALiving profile image
      Author

      Sam Deal 3 years ago from Earth

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for writing! I'm a big fan of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 but I'm hesitant to dive in 100% on a device with a touchscreen keyboard. The Pro 3 has a detachable keyboard accessory which is decent, but in testing it out, I still had trouble typing as fast or as mistake-free as I usually do. I think over the long term it might drive me a little cuckoo so while I think it's an awesome device, it might not be the perfect fit for me.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 3 years ago

      Right now I am staying with my desktop - plus I have a 2nd one in case I need it. The Hub was interesting though but I was curious about something you had said. I read what you said about the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 keyboard and even after Googling it, I still did not see the keyboard. So I wondered in what way would it slow you down?

      I felt that the Hub was good and full of detail. I voted it up, shared and pinned it.

      Kevin.

    • DealForALiving profile image
      Author

      Sam Deal 3 years ago from Earth

      It has been a real learning experience while researching an upgrade to a new computer. Every month or two there's some new technological breakthrough that either makes the computer faster or gives it better battery life. I'd like both so I'm waiting on the sidelines until one of these machines quits.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago from Texas

      I don't know what I will do when it comes time to replace my Desktop PC, the problems I had with it in the last two week seem to be from a dead mouse.

      This is some information that would sure be useful when I do decide to replace my PC.

      Voted up, UAI and shared.

    • DealForALiving profile image
      Author

      Sam Deal 3 years ago from Earth

      Thanks for stopping by Snakesmum. I too am holding off for the moment as my 2 machines are still going strong!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Recently I've been considering upgrading my netbook to a laptop, but have been putting it off, because it still works well. It's really only a backup, used for travel, and really I should save my money, because my HP desktop is great. Enjoyed your thoughts on upgrading though.