My dad and I keep having the same circular conversation, and it starts out something like this:
Dad: “I’ll tell you what, you would be stupid to buy an Apple laptop these days. You can a laptop just as nice as a MacBook, with better graphics, for less than a Macbook.”
Me: “But I don’t want to use Windows or Linux.”
Dad: “I know, but the graphics in these laptops are just so much better and for less.”
Me: “I’d rather buy the laptop that has a lower chance of being borked in 18 months.” (My Fujitsu Lifebook only lasted 20, which, given what I paid for it, was a crime.)
Dad: “Well, this Vaio is four years old now and it’s still running. You just can’t play games on these new MacBooks, the graphics aren’t there.”
Dad and Me together, one at the other: “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
We have this conversation at least once a month, and it always bugs me because he’s irrevocably correct, there are new OEM laptops that are just as specced as a MacBook (or better specced) for cheaper… but I look at them and still prefer the MacBook.
It’s not that either of us are wrong. Dad and I are just coming at the problem from different perspectives. Dad can accidentally break his iPod by flinging it across the room (true story), exclaim over the accidental destruction, and then go buy a new from Amazon with 1-day shipping so it will arrive before he leaves on his imminent overseas business trip. If I or The Husband break our iPods… well that’s it. Maybe if we are really good with the budget we could scrape up enough to buy a Nano to tide us over till the next iPodportunity, but that’s about it, and it’s must be acknowledged as a splurge.
So we approach the problem of a laptop from different perspectives. Dad sees them as a commodity, I see them as, not an investment precisely, but as a tool, similar to a car purchase but on a smaller scale.
When we bought our Civic last year, we picked that specific make and model because it has good gas mileage, a decent array of features, has a great reputation for reliability and longevity, and is a blast to drive. Sure, other comparative models have more features standard, like, say, automatic transmission, but they just couldn’t compete on the reliability front. (Standard was actually a feature for us, but that’s beside the point. Honda charged an extra grand for an automatic transmission compared to other less expensive midsized sedans that came with it.)
So if we go back to laptops, I don’t just take price and specs into consideration when I’m buying a computer. I also consider how well it’s built, and how long it’s likely to last, and my experiences with Apple in these two areas has been great. My G4 tower at work died right before Christmas, at 8 years of age. I’ve watched my boss beat the stuffings out of two Apple laptops (a TiBook and a last gen iBook) and the second is still going strong. I have a Core Duo iMac that’s almost three years old and I can’t even come close to justifying a new one, although it did get a HDD replaced under AppleCare a year ago.
So, like a car, I’m willing to spend a little more on a computer with reasonable expectations that it won’t cause me much trouble or inconvenience, and won’t become quickly obsolete. It all depends on what you value, and the tradeoffs you’re willing to make.