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AdminSecret's Laptop Buying Guide

AdminSecret's Laptop Buying Guide

Eric Dahl / InsideTech for AdminSecret

October 03, 2008

1. Laptops Are Sort of Disposable

This goes for most PCs, actually, and it drastically changes how you should shop for a new machine. Remember when the sweet spot for a nice new PC – nothing crazy, but a solid machine that’d handle some strenuous gaming – used to be around $2000? And if you stretched things out you could get three years from that box with a few upgrades? Well, that’s still possible, I suppose, but these days there’s a better choice.

PCs went and made themselves a lot more replaceable, to the point where that $800 laptop at Best Buy is no longer anything to laugh at.

A nice little laptop with plenty of RAM and a decent hard drive will run you about $1200. Add Blu-ray, a solid state drive, and the fastest CPU available, and you’re looking at upwards of $2400 pretty quick. But in a year many of those components will be cheap upgrades. And in two, they’ll be standard equipment on that same $1300 model, which will come with more RAM and a faster CPU than the high-end machine you’re trying to squeeze another year out of.

So ask yourself this: Would I be better off buying one high-end machine every two or three years, or a new midrange machine almost every year? Go the midrange route, and you’ll spend the same amount of money, but in that second or third year you’ll have a new machine that outperforms the high-end version you’d have bought a year ago.

I’d argue that there are exactly three cases where you still want to go the high-end route:
1. Maximum portability. If you’re looking for a thin, light machine that doesn’t compromise performance, you’re gonna have to pay for it.
2. Mobile gaming. If the best framerates are important to you, remember that you can’t usually nurse another year out of a laptop by upgrading its graphics. A truly high-end machine may be the better choice.
3. And of course if you absolutely can’t wait for the latest technology, you’re gonna be springing for a new loaded model no matter what.

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