Is a $1000 enough for a new laptop to last me for many years?

Setting a budget for a new computer is a fine idea, but it's best to dive in a little deeper and determine your processing and memory needs before you go shopping.

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Is a thousand dollars enough for a new laptop to last me for many years?

Well, the answer here is, as it is so often … it really all depends.

What are you buying?

It depends on what you buy with your thousand dollars.

It would be very easy to spend that much money on something that you would be unhappy with in a year or six months. It’s also relatively easy to spend it on something that will last you much longer.

What are you doing?

It also depends on what you do with your computer.

What kind of software do you plan on using? Will future updates to that software exceed the computer’s capacity?

What activities do you perform? Email and web are probably pretty safe, but if you do something more intense, it may require more horsepower in coming years.

Laptop ComputerWhat do you need?

It depends on what happens to computing in the future.

Even the web itself is requiring more horsepower today than it did five or ten years ago simply because of things like online video. If you purchase a computer that meets today’s needs, that’s great. But are you guaranteed that those needs are the only needs you’ll ever have?

Plan ahead

All I can really say is plan ahead. Spend money on what’s not easily changed or augmented.

With laptops, invest in the basics when it comes to CPU speed or basic horsepower. Make sure that you’ve got a display that’s big, bright, and clear enough that you’ll be happy looking at it for however many years you have it.

Plan on some kind of expandability in the future. For example, you may not need more than 4 GB of RAM today, but several years from now, you might very well wish you had it or more. It would be great if the machine that you purchased today could then be upgraded to something more than whatever it is you bought.

I face this situation myself. When I purchased my desktop five years ago, I thought 2 GB RAM was plenty. Over the course of the years, I’ve maxed it out at 8 GB. And it’s starting to get to the point where it would be nice to have even more. That’s going to impact this computer’s longevity.

Perhaps you’ll be able to replace the hard disk someday. That’s usually a simple thing to do in a laptop. And today, when you buy a hard disk, one of the first things that we say is replace it with an SSD sometime in the future for speed. And then maybe in another five to ten years, there’ll be some other technology that has a huge capacity and higher speeds that we haven’t envisioned yet today.

The other thing to look for is external ports. Make sure it has USB3, a display port, or even an external SATA port.

The external ports on your laptop are another way that the it can be enhanced and expanded in the future. Yes, it may cost some portability, but you can add a lot of disk space, another monitor, or new technology, if the laptop has the appropriate interface ports to allow you to do that.

Ultimately, it’s all a guessing game. Laptops can last for many years and a thousand dollars is probably a very reasonable budget.

The practical answer is that it’s almost impossible to predict what the future holds. Do the best you can; see if you can get a laptop that meets your needs today and has a little bit of room for expansion.

And we’ll talk again in five years.

There are 2 comments:

  1. Gordon Reply

    One thing also to consider is that more money doesn’t necessarily equal better specs. $400 laptops are nice, but there’s a reason business grade laptops cost more: Their higher quality materials generally lead to longer lifespan, even when the specs are the same. In my opinion, if someone wanted to spend $1000 on a laptop that they want to last for years, they should get a business grade machine such as a Lenovo Thinkpad, or some other similarly graded product. The specs may be somewhat lower than a consumer machine at the same price, but the specs of today’s components are so high that I think the construction quality will be much more valuable than a few extra Hz in the processor.

  2. Frank Reply

    When I was a novice programmer back in 1968 we used external storage devices, such as card readers, magnetic tapes, etc. When I informed my boss that we didn’t have sufficient “resources” he mentioned Parkinson’s Law. While the “law” originally referenced bureaucracies, IT professionals rewrote its definition: “Data expands to fill the space available for storage.” Later it was generalized as follows: “The demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource.”

    In the above situation that means regardless of which computer we buy today it will probably be obsolete in the next 5-10 years. When I bought my laptop seven years ago it had 2GB of memory, which is just barely sufficient now.

    Because I need a new laptop, I have been studying various configurations and found that $1,000 will buy a lot of capability, such as 4-6GB of memory, 750GB disk drive, 2 USB3 ports, one USB2 always-on port, HDMI (and possibly VGA ) port, memory card reader, and DVD player. In my case I will not have a DVD included because I will buy an ultrabook and use an external player with it.

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