Tech takes a back seat when you’re a cash-strapped family but eventually it becomes time to upgrade or replace. I have to decide whether it’s time to leave Apple behind in favour of a more affordable PC.
When I first started off blogging as a stay-at-home parent I had envisaged that I would be regularly posting about new tech and gadgets. When both ShireMum and I were working we were enjoying new iPhones every year and trying out all manner of new tech. The reality is that when you live off a single income those attractive but ultimately unnecessary and expensive shiny items of adoration have to go to the back of the queue of household items we need.
Tech then remains at the bottom of the shopping list until the modern demands of productivity hit the restrictions of increasingly ageing kit and you reach an impasse. It may be that the speed of your work is slowed so much by your old computer or essential software is updated and no longer supports your old hardware. Either way it’s time to face the facts that an update is needed.
I’m very much in this boat now. My old MacBook Pro dates back to the last decade and has continued to perform its duties capably following a budget hard drive upgrade I carried out a couple of years ago. However as I get increasingly involved in video work, its age is becoming clear. My laptop does not, for instance, like playing back 4K videos. Not one bit. I can work around it, as video editing software optimises clips, which my laptop is happier to play, but the strain is beginning to show. The poor old thing has started to sound hot in recent months too. It’s always been a quiet runner but the demands of blogging with a plethora of browser tabs open and various media editors on the go have meant it’s getting hot and giving my knees an unnatural suntan.
Thus it was time to start the process of looking for a replacement. Laptop models change all the time so unless you’re constantly monitoring the situation you’ll probably find your knowledge out of date. It was time to get to grips with the latest CPU models and specs needed for the tasks I would be using it for. Fortunately there are no shortage of other people looking for capable media editors at any given time so advice was easy to come by.
The first big question I had to grapple with was whether to stick with Apple or move to Windows. Asking this question on any forum always opens a massive can of worms with ardent supporters of each side lobbing poorly argued cases for why their system is better than the other. I’m no diehard fan of either, having used Mac for 8 years but always using Windows at work.
It’s generally accepted that Apple’s products come at a premium but have the advantage of being tailored to the system. However with Apple’s laptops creating a small profile has in recent years come at the expense of being able to expand the specs, so whatever you buy it what you’re stuck with for the duration. In contrast Windows laptops come from no end of manufacturers, you can get something as gutsy and upgradable as you like and spec-for-spec it’ll likely cost you less than Apple.
I also has to decide whether to stick with a laptop or potentially go for a desktop option. Being less miniaturised, desktops deliver more power for your pound and can normally be upgraded and expanded a good deal. Here we’d potentially be looking at an iMac or a Windows desktop with 4K screen.
Having an incredibly active preschooler about our fairly open plan house meant that a prominent desktop probably wasn’t going to be the best option at this point in time. When she’s a little older and is playing mainly in her room or playroom then it could work but for the most part our ground floor is being used as a race track and I’d probably find myself permanently standing guard by the new machine on the desk rather than let Tilly have her fun. No, for the time being a laptop that can be stowed away had to be the way to go.
So it was back to Apple and Windows again. I have been genuinely wavering on this issue. Forums were full of former Apple fans being disillusioned with the direction of Apple’s products and lack of innovation. Then I had to help ShireMum set up a Windows 10 PC. Oh my. There’s an old Steve Jobs phrase about Apple gear just working and for the most part that’s true. However in the years since I’d owned a Windows machine myself I’d forgotten what cantankerous things PCs can be. An issue was driving ShireMum mad that was causing everything to refresh every few seconds making it impossible to carry out any work. In the end it turned out to a default Windows setting that needed manually changing. That and the general usability of the thing sent me running.
There was, however, a problem. I’ve been all set to go with Apple’s latest laptops with the expected Skylake Intel chips. However the laptops are so far nowhere to be seen. Expectation is laid on each event that new models will be launched yet each has passed without announcement. Now, rumours are building about what the new models of MacBook Pro will feature. As with all Apple rumours it’s difficult to know which are accurate or fanciful. Either way I’d like them to get around to releasing something otherwise I may just have to satisfy myself with a discounted or refurbished older model, which may please the bank manager if not provide the most cutting edge performance.
How have you managed with buying tech on a limited family budget? Leave your experiences in the comments box.