art · chronic pain/fibromyalgia · computers · education · gilmore girls · laptops · Los Angeles · services · shopping

What I was doing when I wasn’t blogging

I’ve been obsessed for the last few weeks with purchasing a laptop. As previously mentioned, Hubbie and I are headed to Los Angeles for an internship (him) and book writing (me). In between all that work, we’re planning to squeeze in Spanish classes (him) and Art classes (me). Instead of dragging my sickly HP desktop to Los Angeles, I decided to take some of my rainy day funds and plug them into a purchase of a new laptop.
Other than this desktop, I’ve only ever owned laptops. My first laptop in college was purchased with excess financial aid funds. It was my first personal computer ever. I was so excited. Too excited perhaps and so I bought myself a $300 tiny portable printer to go with it because I didn’t even have a desk to go with the laptop. I’m sure this didn’t help the now ongoing battle I have with carpal tunnel and repetitive stress injury. The laptop was a Compaq Presario with an AMD processor. It was slow and needed repairs so often that I swore I’d never go Compaq again.
My second laptop wasn’t actually mine. It was my sister’s computer, a shiny new Gateway, that my aunt purchased so my sisters and I could keep in touch while I was on the lamb (after running away from home at 17). The Gateway was famous for being the laptop on which my fourteen-year-old sister instant messaged me over AOL Instant Messenger the day she decided to run away from home. Thanks to that speedy Gateway, my sister escaped within hours. Later, when the Compaq finally died (it now collects dust in a hall closet), my sisters and I shared the Gateway laptop. It gave us some good years and good memories.
My third laptop was the best without question. I bought a souped up Apple Macbook Pro in a cool silver finish with a processor so fast it gave me whiplash. I was supposed to share it with my boyfriend at the time who was going to Photoshop on it to his heart’s content. But we broke up soon after the purchase and thankfully, I got the Macbook in the settlement. I just didn’t have it for too long. Though I may still be paying it off on my Amex card.
After my fibromyalgia diagnosis, more chaotic carpal tunnel and chronic pains ensued in my upper body, and I was spurred on to replace my Mac with a desktop computer…and an ergonomic split-keyboard and a snazzy program that allowed me to talk while my computer typed, Dragon Naturally Speaking Software (for Windows only). And so my sister and I traded, my Mac for a new HP desktop, not a fair exchange by any means but one made for a future of better health. That HP desktop’s taken good care of me but has slowly been degenerating lately: it won’t burn DVDs, can’t run more than a few programs without slowing to a crawl and announcing via pop-up warning “THERE IS NOT ENOUGH MEMORY TO RUN THIS PROGRAM” and of course, the CPU now purrs, whirring so loud when it’s in use that it’s often distracted my husband reading at his nearby desk. Yeah, no worries, I’m calling HP today. But considering that Consumer Reports rated their customer service the worst among the computer companies, I’m skeptical about the prognosis.

I’ve been looking at “ultra-portables” for weeks, hemming and hawing over the 4lb. set of laptops that cost almost as much as my old Macbook but without its high performance rating. My husband advised me firmly not to buy a Dell so scarred was he by the poor history of his former laptop (he now has a Mac). And so I focused in on some heavier HPs, a Toshiba and a pricey Sony Vaio. And then, I perused the Dell website on a whim and discovered the Dell XPS M1330 (nice name) and an offer for a $599 discount. Suddenly, the Sony seemed TOO expensive ($600 too expensive). But I still did my homework anyway, spending hours comparing the Sony Vaio SZ and Dell XPS online on lovely websites like Cnet.com and PCMag.com and Notebookreview.com.

Anger spurred me on when a friend assured me that though the Dell laptop was just as good as the Sony Vaio, poor people like us weren’t in Sony’s demographics anyway. I suddenly became suspicious of Dell’s discount and why they were offering such a good deal. Could there be some hidden flaw? Maybe the XPS was having trouble selling? I decided that visiting them in person might help and while the Sony Vaio SZ was a beauty, the XPS was nowhere to be found in the first Best Buy I visited. The XPS was sold out, in fact. And the ugly, tacky aesthetics of the Dell Inspirions that they did have in stock, left much to be desired.

When I visited the second Best Buy (my husband whined all the way), I found an XPS with a screen an inch bigger than the one I hoped to buy. It wasn’t too shabby-looking. But the Sony Vaio was still significantly lighter and despite complaints of its loud, mushy keyboard, I found it much more pleasant to type on. “It sounds a bit like a typewriter,” my husband pointed out. We both decided this was very cool, but was it cool enough to fork over $600 more than we would on the Dell?

A pit stop at Barnes & Nobles to return a book, led to a moment of clarity. At checkout, I grabbed the latest issue of Consumer Reports, “Best & Worst Computers” scrawled across the cover with a photo of my (well, maybe) Sony Vaio SZ. No surprises there. The Sony Vaio SZ outperformed the Dell XPS M1330, rating 10 points higher, making it the first “Best lightweight laptop” to the Dell’s third place in the same category. And still, there was that little matter of $600 and being unable to find any XPS M1330 in stock at a local Best Buy, forget Circuit City, where a snarky Customer Service rep announced that they don’t stock Dell computers.
So, what did I finally choose? I went with the Sony Vaio SZ. For its ergonomics rating in Consumer Reports. Because of an irate Dell customer who announced on the XPS M1330 website that Dragon Naturally Speaking software is rendered useless on her new Dell. And finally, because even though I’ve never been a constant Sony customer, I’ve been brainwashed to believe that their overpriced products offer a certain kind of quality that far surpasses all other competitors, well, except for Apple, of course.

As I pine away for the deliveryman to delivery my customized, super-powered Sony Vaio SZ, I hope I made the right choice. But given that part of the calculations that went into this important decision also included a coin toss (Heads for Dell and Tails for Sony) and watching YouTube videos by laptop geeks parading the laptops while talking specs, I wonder about my final choice. This might not have been the most rational decision I’ve ever made. Well, ever.
Groan.
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