Friday, October 25, 2013

The only two questions when asking for technology buying recommendations

I get asked rather frequently:
"I need a new computer, what do you recommend?"

The related, but alternate, is:
"I want to buy a bunch of computers and such for my school, what do you recommend?"

Either way, I always respond with two questions:

  1. "What are your goals?"
  2. "Exactly how much do you have/want to spend?"

I always tell people I can't remotely answer their question before they answer my two...

To elaborate...

When someone asks me what I recommend and I ask why they want it for, they always look at me confused.

What are your goals?

"I need it for stuff, like internet and word processing and stuff."

Well, if all you need is the internet, Word, and "stuff" then get a Chromebook. Solid, inexpensive, Google Drive handles all common formats. Simple. Easy.

"No, the cloud thing scares me. I want a regular laptop. What would you buy?"

I'd buy a Mac. Hands down, no hesitation. Yes, they are more generally more expensive than Windows systems, but in my experience far more durable, reliable, and user friendly. I'm on my second MacBook in 11 years of teaching. Got 7 years out of the first. I am rather hard on computers, lots of wear & tear,travel, and so forth. My MacBooks rarely let me down.
(caveat: Yes, I acknowledge that there are millions of people who love Windows and think Apple is the antiChrist, and it works for them. You asked for my opinion, my opinion is Apple is the best and Windows is irrelevant and isn't worth the time to even call it the antiChrist)

If you're a huge gamer, or your kids are, I can't help you. True gaming PCs are often very customized and highly expensive. The average person asking me for my opinion probably hasn't even used a CD in years, let alone requires major computing power.

So, if you don't want a Chromebook because the cloud scares you, and you don't want a Mac because they're expensive/Apple is evil/etc, then here is my second question...

Exactly how much do you want to spend?

Why does this matter? Because if you only want to spend $500, and you don't want a Chromebook, you're going to get $500 worth of computer. And odds are, in six months, you'll be asking me again and looking at another, "better", $500 option.

Here's the thing, you get what you pay for. You want the cheapest laptop? Guess what, it's made with the cheapest parts. You want a computer to last? Spend the money to get the biggest, fastest one you can. That way, in two years, while it may not be the biggest and fastest it also wont be on the verge of obsolesce.

In terms of large scale?  What I would recommend for a $5,000 budget for a Library might be vastly different than $5,000 to get a 1:1 program started. If you just want a laptop for yourself, the same applies. Are you in the $300-$500 budget range or the $1,000-$1,500 range?

Budget specificity goes a long way to a quality recommendation

So, you want a recommendation? Be specific with your wants/desire/goals and be specific with your budget. The more specific you are with those two point the more specific the recommendation can be...

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