Wait Until Next Year

Joe Citarella recently wrote an article about needing a laptop and getting one.

He’s not the only person on this website who’s been looking. So have I.

If nothing else, this article shows how one answer really doesn’t fit all and why.

Joe’s Needs

Joe fairly often finds himself away, usually on a different continent, and has found that you can’t rely on an Internet cafe being down the block or even in a town most of the time, but you can rely on finding an electrical plug.

Joe’s computing needs on the road are very basic; essentially Internet access, email, and those few programs he needs to work on the site when he’s not onsite aren’t very computer-intensive, and if one is, he’ll wait an extra second rather than shell out extra money.

So having something was essential. Once the need was established, the priorities were light weight and low cost. Performance and battery life weren’t so important.

My Needs

Over the past couple months, I’ve been looking for a laptop too, but for a much different reason. I live in a older house that has limited power line capacity, a few 15A lines. Upgrading that is not a short-term option.

The main computer is in the basement. I can run it on top of everything else off a power line. I can run an air conditioner off the same. I cannot do both.

Right now, I can be cool, or I can be computing. I’d rather be cool AND computing. However, I don’t need this like Joe needs a laptop when he’s far, far away.

I won’t be vaulting continents, so weight is no big deal. However, sometimes I’ll have some reasons to take a notebook on the road, and not necessarily to another plug, so battery life will be important.

If I buy one of these things, I want it to last at least five years. So I want a machine with serious oomph, not so much for now as for later, and some CPU upgradability would be a very good nice-to-have.

Looking down the road five years, the only innovation likely to make my notebook at least somewhat obsolete sooner rather than later is x86-64 and/or Longhorn. That’s now likely to become the standard over the next two-three years, so it would be a good idea to get that.

The Main Dilemna

Wanting x86-64 would seem to suggest buying an Athlon 64 notebook. However, battery life is rather shorter on these machines than I would like.

The Pentium M machines are far more like it when it comes to battery life, but they don’t have x86-64.

The power situation with the Athlon 64s will probably rather improve when the 35W Athlon 64 models start to be used in notebooks, but it looks like that won’t happen until towards the end of the summer, which does me no good.

On the Intel side, I’d rather have a Dothan than a Banias CPU, and those are only slowly starting to show up.

Additional Complications

Most of the time, these high-revving boxes come with slow to very slow hard drives. I want a 7200rpm hard drive, and I would rather not have to get rid of what some OEM gives me and buy a (pretty expensive) new one.

Yes, Dell will let you have one as an option, but the user reviews of their notebooks lately indicate that there’s something rotten in the state of Dell, and it’s not just outsourced techies.

Normally I don’t care about warranties and protection plans, but given the increased costs of many notebook components, I’d rather be safe than sorry. That increases the cost of any notebook substantially.

I’ll have to add RAM, too, and while I’ll go third-party on that, another 512Mb means another $125+. Setting up a wireless router for the house is another (though rapidly decreasing) additional cost.

Did I Mention I’m Cheap?

My gut and wallet would like to get all this for $1,000-1,200. My eyes tell me otherwise, especially after all the add-on costs.

A more realistic figure is $1,500, but even then, when all is said and done, that figure is likely to be exceeded a bit, and I still wouldn’t get quite what I wanted. Close, but not quite.

Of course, if I had to have a machine, I’d get an Athlon 64 notebook and swallow the excessive cost and battery life compromises. It would probably be OK enough.

But I don’t need a notebook quite enough to swallow those pills, especially when it seems very, very likely that by this time next year, somebody is going to have exactly what I want at a slightly less painful price.

On the AMD side, there ought to be a pretty low-powered 90nm mobile chip that ought to rival Dothan power capacities, and if it can handle a 90nm chip, it ought to be able to handle any single 90nm mobile chip later on.

Whether x86-64 will be available in mobile Intel chips is much more questionable, but they might. That would be icing on the cake, but if Intel doesn’t deliver, AMD almost certainly will.

If I come back next year and say I want a dual-core notebook, shoot me. Little chance of that, though, I’m finicky, not ridiculous.

For me, it’s compromise vs. sweat. So far, sweat is winning. 🙂

A Difference In Values

Joe found what he wanted for less than $500. I can’t find what I want for less than $1,500. Who’s right?

If you sided with either of us, you’re wrong.

Do you know why?

The machine has to make the owner happy, not anyone else. Joe has one set of priorities and values; I have quite another. He bought something that satisfies his; I’m looking for something to satisfy mine.

Now Joe disagrees with my view of an ideal machine, and I disagree with my view of his. However, all that says is that we don’t want someone else’s ideal machine.

But so what? I won’t have to wait around waiting for his machine to respond, and he won’t have to pay for or carry around mine.

Nor are either of us delusional. Joe doesn’t think he has the fastest machine on earth, and I might find a three-pound slow box a lot more appealing after carrying a ten-pound wonderbox far a few times.

The point of all this is that so much dispute and bickering in the computer world (and indeed, much deadlier versions of this outside of it) is simply due to different people having different needs and coming up with different answers to meet those needs.

Much of the time, my answer won’t be your answer, and so long as you don’t have to live with my answer, that’s OK.

I mean, really, how am I hurt in any possible way by Joe’s choice in notebooks? It does not affect my life in any way.

Contrast that to those who sound like they’ll die before sundown if somebody else doesn’t buy “their” CPU or video card or platform. Yes, sometimes people make false claims about “their” product, and people can argue about that.

But the vast majority of the time, the disagreement isn’t with the product, but rather the priorities and values of those using them.

Joe and I want much different things not because one of us is misjudging the product. We want different machines because we want much different results and benefits from them.

If I had Joe’s priorities and values, I’d buy his machine. If Joe had mine, he’d be looking just like I am.

People ought to remember that before starting fights.

Your good choice is not necessarily mine.


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