Monday, 30 April 2012

My laptop has died. How do I choose a new one?

My laptop and I have enjoyed a tempestuous relationship for the last few years. Initially a company reject, I was delighted to pick up the pieces of the thoroughly unremarkable HP Compaq 6515b. As a company machine my first duty was to remove the software which was not licensed for private use, and the easiest way to do this was simply to replace the limited 60gb hard drive with a decent 320gb drive and a fresh install of Linux Ubuntu (of which , more later). Unfortunately, Ubuntu and my laptop did not see eye to eye on many issues.  The fan broke within months while the budget AMD processor was initially slow and over the years progressed to being glacial.  By far the most problematic issue was the use of wireless. The inbuilt Broadcom wireless card refused to speak to anything not owned by Microsoft, so for three years working online has been a never-ending wrestling match involving re-installing drivers and threatening the wretched machine with a 15ft drop from the nearest window.

Eventually (and quite understandably) the whole thing simply gave up the ghost, and I am now faced with the prospect of having to start a new relationship with a new machine.  While the idea of a laptop which does not involve an hour or two of frustration and cursing each day does appeal, the simultaneous idea of having to trawl my way through the various options and does not.

You see the thing is that computers are, on the whole, a rip off. It would be interesting to research just how many people are using computers which are actually suited to their use of them. My instinct tells me that there are huge numbers of people sending emails and browsing the internet on computers which are really designed for system intensive operations like multitasking video or photo editing. The majority of advice available is sketchy at best, and at worst downright misleading. Even if you were to simply look up the best recommended machine in a computer magazine you would probably end up with something triple the cost of anything which could actually suit your needs better. The only way to do the job properly is to understand exactly what you need, and exactly what is out there.

So, since this was clearly going to involve a lot of work I thought I would chart the process - perhaps in the rather egotistical hope that it might be useful to someone else. 

So over the next few days I will be describing some of the things which I am going to be looking for in my new computer, explaining the reasons for some of my choices, and hopefully reporting on how successful or otherwise my eventual choice is.

I need a new laptop, pt. 1: What do I use it for?
I need a new laptop, pt. 2: Size and Weight
I need a new laptop, pt. 3: Brand
I need a new laptop, pt. 4: Operating System