Monday, April 23, 2007

Computer Shopping

I'm realizing that I'll need some new things for law school. My cell phone plan ends soon and so I need to consider plans. I had Verizon while at Tech because it was the only carrier to get decent service, but Williamsburg is likely to be much better covered. My parents and one of my sisters have been using Cingular and they seem to really like that, in addition to having racked up more rollover minutes than they could possibly hope to use (I think I figured that it would take them talking nonstop for over five weeks (not counting nights and weekends) to get through them all. I'm also not sure what to do for a phone. I have the Audiovox CDM-8940 which has been okay but not stellar (the power jack on the phone is getting finicky, but the sound from the phone has always been excellent), and I'm wondering if I should get another basic phone, one of the ones with the fold-out QWERTY keyboard, or something like a Palm Treo. I don't want overkill, but it would be great to be able to browse the internet from whererever I am.

Anyway, this is supposed to be about computers, not cell phones. Due to a variety of issues, starting with human rights but also including quality, I'm unwilling to buy a computer made in China (and yes, I know that components of all computers are probably made do what you can). That leaves me with Fujitsu (Japan), Dell (USA), and Acer (Taiwan)(possibly Asus, too, but I don't know anything about them). I'm also looking for a small, portable computer. The Toshiba A75-S229 is nice when it runs, although it often doesn't, and at 8lbs is a little heavy for a daily commute. Toshiba's tech support has also been abysmal, as has Best Buy's. At this point I've narrowed it down to two computers. They're both subcompact notebooks with 12.1" screens. I'd hook each of them up to a dock with a monitor and full-sized keyboard (and perhaps external hard drive) at home, so physical size isn't so important (I may implement this bit-by-bit as, and if, needed). Both are somewhat pricey, but I think you get what you pay for. I want something that will last me through the three years of law school and having to buy a replacement after two years would negate the price difference and would add a lot of hassle. Both computers have metal cases and are reputed to be relatively durable.

The first option is the Fujitsu Lifebook Q2010. It's really, really sleek-looking and at 2.2lbs sounds amazingly light. On the other hand, it's really, really expensive and has only so-so RAM. If the RAM can be upgraded then things are looking a lot better. One of the things I like most about it is that it's made in Japan. Obviously things have changed from the times of my parents and grandparents when "Made in Japan" is an august sign of quality. The "2010" in the name also seems somewhat auspicious, although not several-hundred-dollars-extra-auspicious if everything else is comparable.

The second option is the Dell XPS M1210. It's a bit heavier at 4.5lbs and requires some customizing before it's really comparable with the Q2010, but even with that it's several hundred dollars cheaper. "Made in USA" can be a mixed endorsement, and Dell's tech support has been called "Dell Hell" before. It does, however, have an integrated optical drive, even if it's about twice as thick as the Fujitsu.

I think it pretty much boils down to this: do I want something sleek and probably dependable yet expensive, or take a gamble on something that's probably fine, but is heavier and if it's not fine will be a major pain? What would a lawyer do?

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