Computer Buying – Part 1: The Laptop

This is the time of year when I usually get a small windfall of money in the form of a Tax Refund. So this is the time of year when I buy things like computers and TVs and bigger home improvement projects. There is a pecking order in my house that normally runs from oldest to youngest and this is the same order in which computers are passed along. Ideally, every year I get a new computer and my wife gets my old one and whichever son needs an upgrade more gets her old one. (By three years I sometimes have to replace a kid’s computer with a cheap one mid-cycle.)

I’ve had to skip buying a computer for a couple years now because of things like having to buy a car or repair my cars. This year have a few home improvement projects I cannot put off any longer and my brother decided to have a destination wedding, which is fine, except he actually expects me to attend with my whole family.

The first rule of Destination Weddings is that anyone who chooses to have a Destination Wedding must expect only a few guests. I guess I got lucky. Grr. So I have to come up with the money to cover a trip to Las Vegas. I don’t like to travel. I really don’t like to travel with children, especially my own. Kids don’t like to travel and are not good about hiding that fact. I’m happy for my brother and his fiancée, but am not happy to have to attend a wedding in Vegas.

I live in Lincoln, Nebraska which has a fairly low-cost of living compared to pretty much any other city. The downside is that travel to and from Lincoln is about twice as much as it is from larger cities. My first instinct was to simply send regrets and a nice gift. Apparently this is not acceptable for a brother’s wedding. So after much debate, I’ve conceded and will be coming up with the money to attend my brother’s wedding, but not before making him actually make the arrangements so he could understand exactly what he is asking of me. The total cost of my own wedding was less than half what it will cost for me to travel to his.

Still after budgeting and calculating, I managed to determine I have enough to buy a laptop this year.

Not just any laptop, no, a very special laptop that I’ve had my eye on for a couple of months.

What was I looking for in a new computer?

Any computer can handle my writing habit. I could easily buy a decent laptop capable of word processing for under $350. But I also play a few games that require decent graphics. I do not play games that require OMG graphics. For those games I have a PS3 and two teenage sons to play them for me.

As I mentioned a few times, I am a bit of a geek and insist on my computer being fairly powerful. I am not as wealthy as I’d like to be so I spend time researching, shopping and settling on one-generation down technology.

The price advantage for choosing top-end last-generation technology and cutting edge technology usually saves me about half the cost.

After a bit of research I decided to get an Alienware M11x. It’s small, but by far the most graphically capable computer for its price range. It was also on sale for about 25% off. I bought it, with only a minimal amount of upgrades during the order process, like more RAM (Memory). More RAM is always good. RAM is where the computer puts all the information it’s currently using. I’m not going to get very technical and mention that RAM is good because it can keep your computer from having to use the slower disk to store data that it is currently using, which it will if it uses all its RAM.

That was done. I was happy with the purchase and couldn’t wait to hold it. Alienware can only be ordered online. I’m still waiting for it. I expect to still be waiting for it for a few more days. I’m less happy with the waiting. It’s been 9 days now. Of course I knew when I ordered it that it could be up to 16 days. I’ve still optimistic that I might get it earlier than planned. (I just checked the status for only the 35th time today and for the very first time in 9 days the status changed from In-Production to Delivery Preparation. Woohoo!

For those that are tech savvy, here are the specs on my soon to be delivered laptop

Alienware M11x, Lunar Shadow Casing

Overclockable Intel Core2 Duo SU7300 1.3GHz (3MB Cache, 800MHz FSB) (That’s considered a slow processor by today’s standards, but this is a specialized machine)

4GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1066MHz (yes I know it will only work as 800 MHz due to the FSB)

11.6-inch WideHD 1366×768 (720p) WLED 

1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 335M 

160GB SATAII 5,400RPM 

Personalized Nameplate 

Plasma Purple glowing keyboard and effects.

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