Quick note on buying laptops

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Well two friends have been asking me about buying laptops and general advice. Here are some things to know:

Laptop longevity.

No one really talks about this, but if you buy a $700 laptop and it lasts three years before it falls apart, it’s not necessarily cheaper than a $1,500 laptop that lasts 10 years.

If you get enough RAM and SSD in your laptop, it’s not crazy anymore to think that a laptop can’t last a long time. As an example, I’m typing this right now on a MacBook Pro mid 2014 with 16GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD. It is running just fine.

And we have a MacBook pro 2010 (so this thing is a decade old). It is pretty creaky because it only has 8GB of memory, but the hardware is still working just fine.

With Intel performance basically at a standstill, it just makes sense to get as much RAM as you can and as big an SSD as you can. For most folks I recommend 16GB (the current maximum anyway for most Intel processors) and 500GB SSD. Get 1TB is you can stand it. It will probably increase life by a few years to do that.

Warranties and Repairs

Unlike desktop machines (who buys those anyway anymore), but the real problem with laptops is that they just break. The keyboard breaks. The screen breaks and it is such a pain to get them fixed.

This is the big reason why I normally recommend MacBooks in urban areas, even for people who want to run Windows. Unless you are in a gigantic corporation, you want service it to be quick and efficient. So the combination of Apple Stores in most metropolitan areas plus AppleCare is a real plus.

The AppleCare may seem expensive, but in truth, it is something that we use pretty regularly. Things fail like motherboards, screens crack, keyboards die. So the additional $200 or so it pretty worth it.

While I’m at it, might as well mention that you want to buy this with a credit card that offers some sort of extended warranty. Normally this is really hard to get, but American Express offers it on most cards including the traditional Green Card.

What you get is an additional year added on to your 2 year warranty. That’s actually pretty great. Now if the thing does break out of warranty, it will be expensive, but at least the service is quick. My screen was replaced in 72 hours by those guys.

And as always you want all your data up in the cloud somewhere either in Google Drive, Apple Cloud or some combination or all those services, so you don’t really lose data anymore.

Purchasing tips and tricks

Ok so you’ve decided you want to do this, here are some tricks:

  1. Go to Macrumors and look at their Buyers Guide. They do a great job of telling you if there is a new product coming. For instance, as of March 4, 2020, it is saying caution because there is a new update coming. You don’t want to buy something that is obsolete the day after you buy it. Although if you use your American Express, they give you up to 90 days to return something like this 🙂
  2. See what the market price is the Apple Insider Price Guide. For instance with the MacBook Pro 13″ right now gets $200 off list prices right now.
  3. Start a small business account with Apple. This is actually pretty simple, just go to the store with a tax identification number and start. Discounts vary, but you can get 3-5% on stuff like this.
  4. If you have any kids then check out the Education store, there are usually discounts there particularly in the fall.

Configuration Guide

When you look at configurations, there sweet spot for the MacBook Pro 13″ seems to be the 16GB with 512GB SSD. You can get the 256GB, but really that doubling means you will never have to worry about disk space. That’s about $1,700 right now or about $200 off of list price just as an example.

If you don’t have photos or anything really big, then the 16GB with 256GB SSD is probably about right at $1,500. You would have to add AppleCare to that of course.

Concerns

Well there are really two, besides the high price. The first is the Apple keyboard. They just switched away from the butterfly keyboard, which people really didn’t like. Personally, I found it to be OK. The main thing is to have a keyboard cover. Actually, given the number of times I’ve spilled, having:

  1. A Case. The main damage is from dropping your laptop, so having a plastic case for $25 is a good investment.
  2. Keyboard cover. Spills are the second big problem. That and gunk in the keyboard. A $7 keyboard cover that is translucent really helps.
  3. Screen protector. I’ve had three cracked screens so far. I don’t know if a screen protector can help, but am getting one.
  4. Touchscreen. Yes, I know this is a great feature and you should stick with Windows if you want one. Personally, I don’t use touch that much on a laptop because I normally use a tablet or a phone for browsing. With a laptop, it’s all about data entry (and the fact that core applications like Office and Gsuite lose a zillion features in their mobile implementations).

And some non -issues are:

  1. 4K screen. This is a big marketing push, but the problem is that the screens are so small, you can’t tell the difference between a 4K screen and a

Obsolescence

There seem to be two big technology things coming:

  1. Mini-LED screens. There is a new technology coming out for all Macs with a brighter and better screen. Personally, I don’t use my laptop for watching content (that’s what a tablet is for), so doesn’t matter much to me.
  2. ARM. The rumor is that Apple will introduce a non-Intel laptop next year. Hopefully the prices will be lower, but the big question is how many of the Mac Apps will port to it. Like Microsoft or Adobe. I actually don’t use either of those much, so the lower cost sounds good to me 🙂

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