Confessions of a computer snob
I'm writing this on my mother-in-law's new laptop. It is a Compaq
system running Windows Vista Home Premium. The laptop is rather
run-of-the-mill. An AMD Sempron with 1GB of RAM, 120GB HD, a DVDRW,
decent integrated Nvidia graphics, and a lovely 15" 1280x800 screen.
The most remarkable thing about this system is the price: It was
$449CDN. After taxes it was $512. Quite a contrast to the floor-model
MacBook I'd picked up a week before. It had half the RAM, half the
disk space, a smaller screen and cost my $850CDN. To this, I've added
a $200 warranty, $120 worth of RAM and will likely throw another $200
at a bigger hard drive. Despite this, it was the better option for me.
I'd like to thank my sister for pointing out the $449 Compaq. Not that
I would buy it, not that I regret my MacBook purchase, but because it
pointed out a sad fact: I've become a computer snob. I work in the CS
department at Queen's. As a result, I see the best of the best. The
newest, the smallest, the biggest systems all the time. For me, the
size of the Compaq, the build quality of it, the layout of the
keyboard, all of these things rule it out for me. When it comes to
computers, I've only been buying ThinkPads and Macs. Why? The Macs
are elegant and of extremely high quality and the ThinkPads are tanks
that run Linux beautifully.
When my sister, who had been in the market for a laptop for a while,
pointed out the Compaq I realized that I was projecting my requirements
on her. Frankly, the $500 Compaq is a hell of a deal and is good
enough for most people. Yes, I find it too noisy, the battery too
weak, the size too large, but it turns out that most people don't care
about this. In fact, not everyone wants elegance or a tank. In fact,
lots of people only want a computer that can surf the web, play YouTube
and music, lets them get their homework done, and plays back DVDs. You
know what? If this is what you're looking for, you're not going to do
better than this $449 wonder.
I maintain that the MacBook is competitively priced for the money and
that if you compare it feature-to-feature with other laptops it fares
quite well. However, it isn't a low-end machine and there are cheaper,
better options for people who don't care about Bluetooth, webcams,
FireWire and the slickest user experience out there. Not everyone
wants something as small as a 13.3" laptop, lots of people would rather
have a 15" screen with the same resolution as my 13" screen, and very
few people want to shell out $2000+ for a 15" MacBook Pro. (Myself
Now, to the point of this little blurb: Computer People of the world:
Don't let your requirements colour your judgement. People ask me for
advice on what to buy all of the time. It turns out that, by not
keeping my options open, I was doing a disservice to my sister and
possibly to other people that ask my opinion. It turns out that my
advice to get an off-lease ThinkPad over a low-end new laptop maybe
wasn't the best advice for everyone. In fact, even though Vista grates
on my sensibilities, it runs pretty well on this $449 laptop.
Moreover, my sister seems to quite like it. So thanks, Gal.