Most of the people I work with are on a budget and trying to make every penny count. The vast majority of people who call me looking to upgrade their old machines are doing it on a fixed income and looking to either get their old machine fixed or replaced with as little out of pocket expense as possible.
Usually money is a big issue and all they are trying to do is either get their old machine running the way it was or replace it with something that is capable of doing the same things they were able to do with their old machine.
When I wrote my column last week on getting a laptop over a desktop I wrote it with the cost factor in mind - I wasn't thinking about the "power user" or people with cash to burn, I was thinking of the people who call me day after day who are thinking about replacing their old XP or Vista machine and are worried that a new machine will still be able to do what they were able to do on their old system.
With new machines starting at around $300 these days computers are no longer the high end purchase that they were ten years ago. It is no longer necessary to go and spend $1,200 to $2,000 just to have a machine that will surf the web, send and receive email and do the book keeping. Even video conferencing with programs like Skype (which is a pretty resource intensive task) is well within the capabilities of today's entry level $300 machines. And (as I wrote in my last column on the subject) a laptop - even the entry level ones - usually come with everything one needs to perform all of the basic tasks that nine out of 10 of the people who call me are trying to do.
Right out of the box the entry level machine will run circles around the ancient XP machines and even some of the "newer" Vista machines that are out there. And with the price of a machine so much lower than it was 10 years ago, sinking money into an old sick machine doesn't make sense after a certain point like it does with a machine that cost five times as much. A $300 repair on a $1,500 machine is somewhat reasonable. A $300 repair on a $300 computer? Not so much. We live in an age where computers have become practically disposable.
OK, so let's say you're one of the rare ones that call me and have money to burn and are you're also a "power user." You run graphic intensive programs like video editors or maybe you're a serious gamer. Your requirements are going to be much higher than the average user who just uses their machine for email and surfing the web.
Once we get past the entry level requirements and stare getting into "power user" territory, then things like upgrading components (like a new video card) and adequate cooling become much more of an issue. With a laptop, you really don't have the flexibility that you have with a desktop - adding a high end video card for instance isn't going to happen and running resource intensive programs (like some of the newer shoot-em-up games that are out now) aren't going to work as well as they will on a desktop. The desktop's larger size does allow for better cooling, component level repairs and better performance.
But let's go back a step and look at the calls that I get on a daily basis.
The person who calls me looking for advice on the purchase of a new machine is usually running an old machine. Most of the time the machine they are looking to replace is older than five years (frequently eight to 10 years) and they use the system to log into AOL, Yahoo or Outlook Express for their email, Internet Explorer to log into their online banking and maybe they are wanting to run Skype to talk to their grandkids. They don't have a lot of money to burn and are OK with the idea that the machine won't last forever. With requirements like those, a big desktop machine with upgradable components and better cooling is overkill. The entry level laptop will work just fine and even if it dies in five years that's OK, at this point they are indeed disposable.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at 888-752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens!)