Our travel laptop

After 12 1/2 years of working for the biggest software company on the planet, it was time to buy my first laptop.  I’ve used many laptops of numerous brands over the years, but never had to purchase one myself.  Having been an integral part of this industry for a long time, I thought the shopping experience would be straightforward.  I was wrong

Backpacking around the world with an elephant on my back wasn’t something I was looking forward to, so size and weight were important factors. A laptop also needs to be rugged, as it is going to undergo a good deal of jostling about.  I had considered looking at a tablet to minimize weight, but the need to run Photoshop eliminated that option.

I looked at all the main websites one might think of, Best Buy, Amazon, Microsoft Store, and Apple.  The experience was total crap.  Best Buy offered to sell me PC laptops, touch screen laptops, netbooks, or Ultrabooks.  What’s the difference?  It isn’t clear.  A feature classified as “Ultraportable” caught my eye, narrowing my choice down to 610 offerings.  Now I just needed to find one that was light enough, but there was no option to sort by weight.  I picked a machine at random to see what it weighed, but that piece of information wasn’t offered.  Clicking on “See All Specs” finally informs me that the laptop weighs 5.5 lbs.  Seriously Best Buy, this is what you consider to be Ultra Portable?

I try a bit more to learn if that is just the laptop or includes the power supply but it isn’t clear.  Past experience says it is just the laptop, and I briefly reminisce about an old Dell laptop I had that weighed 3 lbs and came with a 9 lb power supply.  Ahh Dell, your penny wise pound foolish antics mean you’re eliminated from the list of candidates

After that useless experiment with Best Buy, I try Amazon.  I’ve always liked their website, but they also have no ability to sort by weight.  Next stop, the online Microsoft Store.  The website is pretty and puts the weight right up front.  It’s got to be the best websites out there for buying PCs, its very well done.  I like a Samsung machine that weighs less than 3 lbs, but can’t tell what material it is made from.  I owned a Samsung machine in the past that was so poorly designed that the screen would flex whenever I tried to close it and it broke in less than a year.  However if it was made from a strong metal material, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Alas, no info on materials, but there was an abundance of uninteresting information, such as the keyboard travel being 0.96 mm.  Not 1 mm, not 0.9 mm, but 0.96 mm

Next stop Apple.  Weight info?  2.38 lbs.  Material info?  Aluminum.  Easy access to repair centers around the world?  Check

Next step was to compare total cost of ownership to some Windows machines to see if I should look further at Microsoft’s stuff.  As I wrote in the post about how we got free furniture, understanding the cost of depreciation is important in any purchase.  A brief look at used Apple machines on ebay showed they maintained resale value for several years, compared with used Windows machines.  A 2 year old MacBook Air sold for nearly $700, compared to used laptops going for less than $200.  The cost of the Air was very close to the price of similarly specified Windows machines, meaning overall the Air was better value

A little hunting found a reseller that could sell us a new 13.3″ MacBook Air with the 3 year Apple care warranty for $1100 with free shipping and no sales tax.  And that’s what we did