Thursday, October 9, 2014

Laptop choices for photographers

Ahh... The good old days when desktop computers ruled and the choice was between a Mac and a PC. Macs were used by tweed-cap wearing intellectuals and PCs were used by beer-guzzling football hooligans. There were a few oddballs that used Linux but they were the kind of people that made you nudge your best mate in the ribs before whispering "that oddball is on the way - cover your pockets and look broke".

Times have changed massively. Now the choice is more confusing. Desktops have given way to laptops and tablets. Laptops have become smaller and more capable than ever. Tablets are becoming faster and more capable though the only tablet that produces anything nearing reasonable performance is Microsoft's Surface which is pretty mundane as the laptop replacement it purports to be.

The iPad started the tablet revolution and Google followed suit with their Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. Everybody else seems to make tablets too but deliberately cripples them by putting too little storage on them to make them worthwhile. Android just does not work well with multiple drives so all this baloney about being able to increase storage by adding an SD card is just that - baloney. An 8GB tablet is a brick, not a usable tablet with Android.

Over the past few days, the prices of some tablets have tumbled. I currently use a $50 RCA 8GB tablet. It's slow as molasses and can't take any software at all other than the stock with updates - it's that underpowered. Thus I looked at more, newer tablets.

Walmart is always a good source to look at tablet prices and specifications. The key though to remember is that unless a tablet is a Nexus or an iPad then it's more than likely going to be hopeless. I checked and found the old and discontinued Nook HD+ was a very tempting $125 down from $279 new. Neat but as it has no camera, pretty limited and worth maybe $50, not $125. I looked further at tablets and the more I looked the more I realised that anybody buying tablets that weren't iPads or Nexus were going to end up paying more than the price of an iPad or a Nexus by buying a series of cheaper and ultimately unsatisfactory models. My own experience echoes that. I bought a Nook Color for $90 after they had gone off sale. It was miserably awful and I ended up selling it on ebay for $35. Then I got a $50 RCA tablet which I outgrew fairly rapidly. That's $140 spent on tablets that represents about 1/3 to 1/2 the price of a Nexus or an iPad.  So - unless you're planning on single-handedly stopping the Chinese from going broke, either buy cheap and be ready to curse it daily or buy a good one and be happy.

Now let's look at laptops. Again, there's a vast array of laptops but honestly though it all looks confusing, there're only two ways to go. Either get the cheapest of the cheap and put up with Windows or get a Macbook of some variety. Even the most expensive Windows laptop will only perform as badly as the cheapest Windows laptop. Linux doesn't even enter into the matter.

So, as with all things - buy a good item at a realistic price or buy cheap and regret it every time you have to use the blessed thing.

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