Why Do You Buy New Computers?

By  |  Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Apple announced upgrades to its MacBook Pro notebooks today. As someone who bought a 15-inch MacBook Pro in 2009, I had the usual conflicted feelings about the news. Yes, I’m in favor of technological process, and it’s good to hear about worthwhile new products I might want to buy or recommend someday. But learning that something you bought fairly recently has been trumped by something radically better is never a great feeling–even though it’s one that you will have, repeatedly, if you buy tech products.

In this case, the new MacBooks weren’t great leaps forward (if they had been, Steve Jobs probably would have been on a stage somewhere in the Bay Area rhapsodizing over them). The major news was new Intel CPUs, and if you need speed, it’s a pretty big deal: Gizmodo says the new Intel i7 CPUs in the 15- and 7-inch Pros are fifty percent quicker than the Core 2 Duos they replace. Fortunately for me, I’m not despondent to hear that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro is much faster than the one I have–because the one I have is fast enough, for now.

It was other stuff–relatively humdrum stuff–that made me slightly envious. Like bigger hard drives and better battery life. (The 250GB drive in my Pro is ridiculously maxed out and not easy to replace, and I spend a meaningful percentage of my life fretting over the fact that my battery is about to die.) I was also intrigued by a new high-resolution screen option.

All of which is a long-winded way of asking you to participate in a Silly Little Poll:

 
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14 Comments For This Post

  1. Matthew Says:

    For me, the extra feature/factor is price. That’s why netbooks hit the spot right now for so many consumers … great battery life, semi-decent performance, and great price. But an Atom can’t compete with a i7 ;)

  2. IcyFog Says:

    If I could, I’d vote other – when my computer becomes hopelessly obsolete.
    My 5-year-old PowerBook isn’t quite there yet, I never installed Leopard, and the PowerBooks are not Snow Leopard capable. So some of my desire to upgrade this time is a new operating system. Yet there are other factors too – more speed, larger capacity hard drive, software that can run on the new OS, etc. So eventually a lot of smaller factors reach a tipping point.

  3. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    When buying a desktop, I always buy components and assemble it myself, so I don’t really have to make any compromises ever :p But if I did buy a pre-assembled system, the most important factor would be the motherboard, but since that’s not an option, the CPU and graphics-card, and here’s why:
    -Replacing a CPU usually isn’t a good idea, since sometimes it requires a BIOS upgrade, or the new generaion already uses a different socket. So when you buy a system, make sure the CPU is right for you for at least a few years.
    -Replacing the graphics card in an OEM-PC usually is near impossible, because OEM usually install a power supply that’s JUST beefy enough to power the pre-installed card. so forget about getting a better card without also having to upgrade your power supply.

    Anyhow, I just realized I filled in the poll with only desktops in mind :p
    When buying a laptop I have different priorities:
    -screen size & resolution (nowadays I’d only want a Full HD 15″ screen, too bad Apple doesn’t even offer that as an option…)
    -battery life (I’d want 4 hours of real usage or more)
    -At least a mid-end CPU (a 2.4 GHz C2D or 2x2Ghz i5)
    -A low-power graphics chip for basic work: Intel HD suffices, although a better chip is fin too when it doesn’t take the battry life all the way down
    -4GB of DDR3 ram, and I’d check if upgrading to 8GB is possible for later.
    -the hard drive doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s 250GB or up (SSD is still too expensive)

    Reading this made me realize I’m not really willing to make a lot of compromises :p But then again: should a customer have too? I mean, am I not entitled to a product exactly my taste when I pay over 1000 euro? I think I am :)

  4. joe c Says:

    Apple has to reinvent the frickin’ wheel every time they come out with something? What’s wrong with just an update?

    I swear, all of y’all set yourselves up for disappointment.

  5. JimC Says:

    Although the question doesn’t specify it, I agree with Bouke Timbermont that the questions seem to have a laptop bias. But I’m going to answer for a Desktop. I always buy the best Motherboard/CPU that makes economic sense. That is, never the very top of the line, but 1 – 2 steps down. Everything else is upgradeable (since I build my own). If my build budget limits me to a smaller Drive or less RAM, I can just upgrade later.

  6. T Stein Says:

    The OS.

  7. Dave Barnes Says:

    I buy a new Mac at least 90 days before AppleCare expires.
    The capabilities of the new machine are NOT a driving factor as they will always be better than my current machine.
    Having said that; my new 27-inch iMac is awesome.

  8. Marty McPadden Says:

    For me, the big story here (besides the processor bump,) is the greatly extended battery life. If the 10 hour claims are actually true, this really puts MacBooks light years ahead of any other laptop. This will be big for anyone who travels and don’t have ready access to AC power to constantly recharge their batteries.

  9. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    I buy a new computer when the service plan runs out, which is every 3 years for Macs. Same for mobiles, which is every 2 years for iPhone and iPad. I use a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iPhone, and now iPad, and I just replace each of them when the service plan is up so that I can depend 100% on them all for my work.

    When the service plan is up, I sell the device and buy a new one. The resale value on Apple products is high, so I typically get half of the cost of the new model for the old model. That means I’m paying for AppleCare plus 1/2 the price of a Mac every 3 years, to get 24/7 trouble-free computing with no unexpected service charges. For a MacBook Air, that’s about $325 per year, including Mac OS, iLife, and AppleCare. It cannot be done for cheaper.

    I don’t feel bad at all when about 18 months into a particular model, it gets replaced with a better model. Whatever improvements Apple made, I’ll get in the next model I buy, 18 months later. There will always be a better model, but I will always buy a new one every 3 years, so I will always get every improvement.

    For example, I had an original iPhone and I didn’t sweat over iPhone 3G, which had only a few improvements over the original iPhone. I would have got 3G and GPS and that’s it. When the 3GS came out, that was the time to replace my phone, and I got 3G, GPS, double the speed, 4x the storage, auto-focus camera, camcorder, voice control all in one go. It made it worth the hassle of selling the old device and getting the new one. I got $200 for the old phone, so it only cost me $100 to get the 3GS 32GB. I could have paid $199 for the 3GS 16GB and still got a much better phone.

  10. Stilgar Says:

    I used to build a new computer every 2-3 years and do upgrades in between; cpu, memory, video card, hard drive. Now I find my stuff lasts five years or more without any upgrades. I guess I’m not playing bleeding edge games anymore or even downloading tons of files. The computer I’m using right now is WinXP, Athlon 64 x2 3800+ w/ 2GB RAM and a 75GB hard drive. Works fine for me. :)

  11. thepeng Says:

    I didn’t see the checkmark for not a mac.

  12. Nameless Says:

    I buy new computers mostly because software gets too bloated to run on old hardware-even simple things like Web browsers (and the pages they show us) and Office suites.

    The biggest driving force, however? Games. They’re not going to max themselves out, but even more importantly over graphical detail, I insist on a constant 60 FPS or higher for playable performance. Maintaining smooth framerates like that is rather punishing on even my two-year-old custom-built desktop in its Q6600 3.2 GHz/8 GB DDR2-800/8800 GT glory. Guess it’s time for a new graphics card, but the GTX 470 and 480 are too inefficient and too expensive.

    On the more mobile side of things where gaming isn’t the priority, I’d consider battery life and screen quality far more strongly, as well as the presence of a Wacom pen digitizer (as in a convertible Tablet PC). The CPU and GPU still have to keep up, however-I have little tolerance for a sluggish computer.

  13. Verbal_Kint Says:

    Actually, if you have a unibody macbook pro your harddrive is quite easy to replace. The replacement itself takes about 20 minutes if you take it really slowly. However, before you replace you’ll want to fill your new harddrive. Get an enclosure with your new disk and use superduper to clone your current disk. Next, start your mac from the new disk to test everything works. Finally, exchange the disks. Have fun with your extra space!

    By the way, you could put your old disk in the enclosure and use that for time machine.

  14. rueyeet Says:

    Agreed with IcyFog, above — I buy a new computer when the one I have becomes obsolete. Obsolete means that either there’s some new technology (things like a DVD burner or USB 2.0, not niceties like glowing keyboards) that would provide some tangible benefit, or the current versions of the programs I want to use outstrip the processor’s capability.

    It was about seven years before my old Titanium Powerbook hit that point, and I expect to get at least five years out of my MacBook, unless something truly revolutionary comes along.