Know what you don’t know

I bought a new laptop. It has a keyboard. And a screen. It has a bunch of “ports,” which is a fancy laptop-type word for a place to plug things into. It has a good battery so you don’t have to, you know, always plug a plug into a port.

After the laptop love of my life died, I shopped around for a couple weeks, weighing the plusses of more RAM and quad-core processors, trying to figure out FHD and UHD and VHS (maybe that one wasn’t in there), looking at “specs” and seeing what was worth what. And, after all that …. yeah. I have a new laptop. It works. Yippee.

Like all my technological crushes, the trip was better than the destination. I get so hyped up about how these new gadgets are going to change my work habits, my goof-off habits, my life, and in the end it comes down to this: It works. Great.


With this one, I spent way too much time before I made up my mind. In fact, I coulda gone to a reliable source — Laptop Mag, or CNET, or a million others — taken their advice and saved myself a load of effort. Instead, I played adult and did my due diligence.

I scoured a bunch of sites. I got on different chats with different manufacturers, talking with reps on several different continents. I stopped into Best Buy, a few times. I asked my son. I compared. And I ended up, probably, where I should have ended up anyway. Where the experts told me to go.

Here, as a public service, is what you need to do when shopping for a computer, in two easy steps:

  1. Decide whether you want to pay more for an Apple.
  2. If you don’t, go to one of those sites and take one of their top choices and pay a few hundred less than you would have paid for a MacBook.

I ended up with — I think this is kind of surprising despite my self-acknowledged cheapness — not an Apple.  I adored my MacBook Air. But I couldn’t buy another because most experts say they may be coming to the end of their lives, replaced by fancier MacBook Pros. Nobody wants to be stuck with a shiny new antique.

I decided in the end that I couldn’t buy a MacBook Pro, either, because a MacBook Pro decked out like the laptop I finally settled on — 16 RAM/256 SSD, with an 8th generation Intel i5 processor, none of which I really know anything about — would put me back $1,699. That’s somewhere around $500 more than I paid for the thing I’m assaulting right now.

That’s a lot of coin. That’s, like, 125 4-for-$4s, which is more than two years worth, if you do one once a week. Which is absolutely my limit. Most weeks, anyway.

I think that the MacBook is a better laptop. And, I think, the Mac operating system is better than Windows 10.

But $500? Really?

You can, if you’re not careful, actually go a little crazy with these decisions. For what I paid for this punching bag, I could have had a similar Dell — all those same numbers up there ^, some even a little better — with a touchscreen. You can flip it around so it looks and acts like a slightly thicker, slightly heavier tablet. Write on it with a pen. Put it on a table like a tent and watch YouTube. Mine doesn’t have any of that. But neither does the MacBook Pro.

Anyway, I could have had that slightly smaller but heavier-featured Dell for the same coin. Think a tricked-out Civic instead of a stock Accord. Think a 6-for-$4, if there was such a thing.

Sure, there are differences in going with the higher end. Battery life. Build. Processing speed. Graphic cards. Things that I don’t really get and suspect I wouldn’t be able to tell if I had them or not. But what finally turned me to the less-tricked out but higher-end model was the higher one was recommended more.

Sometimes, as with plumbers and electricians and most women I know, you just have to go with the experts.


[It’s a Dell XPS-13. 16GB of RAM (I had to upgrade that for $100 just because I think it’s better to have more memory than you think you need, and I had 16 on my old one) and a 256 GB solid state flash drive. (I don’t think local storage is as important as it once was. I have Google Drive and Google photo … I may be signing over my life to them, but so be it.) This is a New York Times site I relied on heavily, but as I said, there are many more.]


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