When to buy a new computer? And the laptop I ended up buying

My laptop has some sort of hardware issue that causes it to occasionally die even when it’s just sitting there.  This wouldn’t be such a big problem but my work computer, over which I have zero administrative control, has been pretty unworkable for months because of some sort of disagreement Symantec is having with Dropbox and our university IT’s unwillingness to install a patch.  At least that’s my understanding as to why my work computer will just randomly blue screen of death.

The laptop is only 4 years old, but I need a computer at work that won’t up and die on me when I’m in the middle of a complicated Stata thing.  It is a huge PITA to get everything open again and back to where I was when I’m in the middle of programming, especially when I’m trying to balance an away server with my desktop Stata.

Update:  The choice was taken from me– on January 6th, 2020, my laptop met its final end after half a day of shutting itself down every 20 minutes.

I ended up getting a Dell XPS 13, which is on the top of several “best laptops” lists and DH says has the best components of any of the best laptops at a similar price.  Irritatingly, it has also updated its ports and only has two thunderbolt ports and a newfangled little usb.  But DH says we’re better off buying new cords and other accessories than getting a worse computer with more ports.  It does mean that I will have to get a wireless (bluetooth) mouse, which I find somewhat irritating and I went with a 1TB harddrive so I could just not have an external dropbox harddrive, which was not cheap.  I paid an additional $25 to expedite shipping a week earlier because I need a working computer at work.   After taxes and without any software or accessories other than a 3 year subscription to McAfee (my university no longer provides discounted anti-virus software), my total cost was $1,834, which is not cheap, but also not as bad as it could have been.  I really hope it lasts longer than my previous laptop!

I will be getting additional software, but through the university.  It’s about time I upgraded to Stata 16 anyway.

The new laptop is super tiny.  It’s about the same size as my ipad pro though shaped a bit differently.  Very bright, good resolution.  A high quality product all around.  All the random cords we bought seem to be working– plugging in a second monitor just worked without any jiggling… it was almost Mac-like.

How do you decide when to get a new personal computer or laptop?


22 Responses to “When to buy a new computer? And the laptop I ended up buying”

  1. Alice Says:

    It’s always when the computer is showing clear signs of impending death. Or– a much bigger problem– it dies dramatically. It was a bit past the 1-year mark when I was using Dell laptops. (This was quite some time ago, and may not reflect current Dell quality. But since the Dell laptop keyboards also gave me horrible carpal tunnel issues, I don’t see myself giving them another chance unless there’s no choice.) Since switching to HP laptops, it was typically around the 3-year mark. My husband has swapped out some stuff on the inside of my current one and managed to keep this one going for a lot longer than usual. I think I may be coming up on 6 or 7 years now. Or maybe 8?

    Anyhow: how I decide is that the current tech starts telling me that I will regret it if I don’t prioritize getting a new one.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My last two were both Lenovo– big and clunky. The last one lasted less than 4 years, which seems like a short amount of time to me. The previous one lasted longer. The Dell keyboard is awfully tiny… hopefully that won’t be a problem. If I have to use it regularly I will probably hook it up to a standard size keyboard and monitors and treat it like a desktop.

  2. FF Says:

    In my case, it has been when the previous computer has died or is having repeated problems suggesting that death is imminent. I think I’ve had each of my previous laptops for 5-6 years, no desktop for years. I currently have a late 2016 15 ” MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, which I like a lot, although the keyboard has been replaced twice now for free. Since I joined the Apple program for small business owners, I’ve been able to get a loaner while it’s been repaired.

  3. Bardiac Says:

    Holy Cow, what ARE you folks doing to your laptops? I think my last one ran a good 8 years, and the current one (a Lenovo x220) I got just before going to the UK in 2011.

    I have to say, that new computer of yours is about as sexy as a laptop gets! I love the idea of an aluminum body, and it looks nice and small, too. I wonder how much it weighs?

  4. Lisa Says:

    I usually hold out until catastrophic failure. I’m an Apple snob and have had good luck with their computers – my desktop is probably 7 years old now, the previous version lasted at least 10. I just buy whatever is the almost newest model at the university bookstore when the time comes. My most recent laptop purchase came about because my 2012 MacBook Air was acting flaky and I was hoping to avoid the catastrophic failure emergency. I got a new MacBook Pro last summer, but ironically the old Air (which I’m currently typing on) responded well to a hard drive cleanout and OS update and is still plugging away. My SO has to use PCs for work, and has been through 3-4 in the time we’ve had the MacBook Air. He was particularly upset when he dropped his last one on the corner and the whole screen died because my Air has multiple dents on each corner from being dropped by the kids but still runs like a champ!

  5. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    I generally wait until I have to replace (which usually means the processor isn’t really compatible with the current version of Windows or other essential software and the whole system is getting slower and slower as the RAM, CPU, or both regularly max out during ordinary tasks).

    I, too, generally keep my laptops for some time; the one on which I’m typing is about 6.5 years old, but I did upgrade the hard drive and memory when I switched from Win 7 to Win 10, and I’ve replaced the battery at least once, and probably twice (maybe even three times)

    It was also cheap: an Acer that cost under $350 (warehouse deal from Amazon, but still a <$500 computer even at full price). At the moment, the only thing that's really bothering me is a few balky keys on the keyboard. Updates sometimes also cause problems with drivers, etc., but I'm not entirely convinced that wouldn't happen with a newer model.

    When I do replace, I'll probably go cheap again. I used to buy Gateways or Dells through my university, but the cheaper netbook-type laptops seem to last as long or longer and work as well for my purposes, for a much lower price. Of course, I'm not running programs that require a lot of memory or processing speed. If I were, especially for professional purposes, I'd buy equipment adequate to the job if I could possibly afford it.

  6. Michael N Nitabach Says:

    I’ve got a Dell XPS 13 that I loooove! Did you get the fancier high-res 4K touch screen, or the cheaper lower-res. I don’t even use touch & turn it off, but love the high res. Anyways, enjoy! It’s a great machine.

  7. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    We just replaced the kids’ computer because it was so slow it would time out every time they tried to load certain webpages. So… it basically didn’t do the only thing we wanted it to do!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Makes sense!

      Our kids have gotten hand-me-downs, so I guess they’re lucky that DH sometimes needs better computers. (We baby my desktop by adding more components when I need more space or power, but DH needs entire replacements– he needs both processing and video power but I only need processing.)

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        The spouse gets a home computer made of leftover work computer parts, which are super nice because the [redacted] department buys a teaching lab worth of the fastest possible computers every, like, 2 years. But we have to give them back when they get old and die, so we can’t pass them along!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        A private company perk! Public schools always end up getting stuck with disposal concerns whereas private schools can just send out an email telling people on campus to take what they want. It makes some sense because you don’t want people abusing the system to say, sell barely old laptops (which did happen at a private Uni and my informant had to fire the IT person), but it also results in a ton of waste unless they have a good donation system set up. (Or I guess at my mom’s old university, the humanities professors got the old stuff every time the STEM people upgraded.)

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        Yes, we both work at a private school now, previously I was at the public school next door and it took an act of congress to buy $15 worth of lab supplies at the grocery store! Now there’s a department credit card and all we have to do is save receipts (and also get fired if we buy non-work stuff but normal work expenses are fine).

  8. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Wandsci talks about the political actions she took today in her twitter feed: https://twitter.com/wandsci/status/1219458116741259265 is part of the thread.

    I am one of those people living in a Republican state and I did give my senators a disappointed/angry call today. I used the word unconscionable. I basically used this script: https://5calls.org/issue/trump-impeachment-senate-trial But added that I also wanted it to be clear and get full media coverage. (They’ve been blocking the media.)

    Call! They need to know they can’t keep going farther and farther into unacceptable territory. The less we push back, the more horrible things they will do.

    (Also I’ll be sending texts reminding people to early vote and I made a call about a state issue to my state government this morning.)

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  10. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Wow, I had the same situation with the random sudden death issue for years as well. Lenovo replaced every piece of hardware and it kept dying anyway. They claimed not to know what the problem was and it was so frustrating. I picked up the Dell XPS 13 but it was too small for me and I hated the placement of the camera so I had to go back to the drawing board. I really want to try the Surface 2 laptop but it was well outside of my budget even with the discounts so I had to settle. My fingers are crossed that this one lasts longer than 4 years, it’s so irritating to have to replace computers. I should probably get one that’s entirely just for home use in case my work one dies and leaves me in the lurch but I’m not ready to spend money on a back up machine.

  11. Matthew D Healy Says:

    For statistics I use R, like a lot of computational biology types. And like everybody I use Microsoft Office tools. Google Sheets is OK for smaller data tables, and it’s convenient for collaboration, but it gets really slooooow for bigger tables.

    Current Laptop is an HP for which I paid about $525 including shipping two years ago. Acer 27 inch external monitor, and with HDMI it just works.

    But my absolute favorite item of hardware is a Logitech K400+ wireless keyboard, which has a touchpad built in. I use it with a lapdesk and pillow under the lapdesk so I can get the angle just right. I love love love resting my elbows on the armrests of my chair (which is a cheap imitation of an Aeron that I got from the Iowa City Staples), resting my wrists on the lapdesk, and doing everything while leaning back a little in my chair. Nice bonus feature: at the top left of the keyboard is a big yellow button that acts like a second left mouse button (the regular mouse buttons are below the touchpad as usual). That yellow button means for passive scrolling like NY Times or whatever I can use the keyboard like a giant video game controller with both hands. Dragging with both fingers on the touchpad scrolls, and pinching gesture acts like zoom wheel.

    Before I got this keyboard I was getting sore arms a lot.

  12. First Gen American Says:

    My laptop is going on 7 years and over the holidays I was wondering if I should get a new one because my very old 11 year old backup laptop finally blue screened on me and died. I used both for the robotics team I coach but I got stuck on how much I should really spend.

    My current home laptop is an HP envy with a big 17” screen and backlit keyboard. It’s been a really good machine and liked it so much I considered just getting another one. I don’t really use the touchscreen feature but like everything else about it and has been very Reliable. It’s big and heavy so it’s not really meant for travel but I liked the bigger keyboard too as I have gotten tendonitis in the past when I did too much desk work. The asus was definitely junkier and full of gremlins which is why I replaced it after just 3 years.

    I have the money to buy a really nice one but do I even need it? So I was wondering if I should just get a super cheap one and replace more often. I am not a gamer but the rest of my family are but they use our desktops. If it will last longer, I’d also pay more for quality but I am not sure there is a correlation between price and longevity in this space where electronics are designed for obsolescence.

    So I am still stuck. My battery is also dying on my current one as well so I should decide soon if it’s a new battery or a new machine. I don’t want catastrophic failure but I am not usually proactive when it comes to this stuff.

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