A Lesson Learned from a Laptop Shopathon

by JT McGee

Last week my old laptop finally gave me a blue screen of death. After more than 4 years of nearly continuous use, it said its final goodbye. No more would I deal with this thing; I was going to get a new one.

I’ll miss that stupid piece of dying technology. It was slow, made weird noises, and struggled with such graphic-intensive sites like SeekingAlpha or Fool.com. I bought it my freshman year of college, and even then it was a few years old.

Until the day it died, it ran XP SP3 like a boss. Yes, that XP – the best operating system ever. I think that’s why I loved it. I secretly wished it would die 2 years ago so I could justify buying a new one, but it just kept on ticking.

I’m Cheap

I’m not much for electronics. Sure, I have a smartphone. Now I own a “brand new” computer. I say “brand new” because the components are actually quite old. This thing might have been almost top of the line in 2007.

When I stopped in at Best Buy (best experience ever, btw), I think I scared the salesman with my minimum requirements.

“I want a computer that can handle Excel, Word, and Chrome – oh, and Sim City 3000” I said.

“Well, all of these can do that,” he replied, seemingly upset that I didn’t want a computer that can run whatever videogames people play these days. I’m pretty sure he thinks I was previously using a Commodore 64.

“Right. I know. Now where are the prices?”

Best Buy has this annoying practice of never having prices on anything. On the computers on which they did have prices, the only available for sale laptops were “set up by Geek Squad,” a service which is apparently worth $99. I couldn’t help but laugh that Best Buy & Co. apparently think that a business model built on consumer ignorance will keep them in business. Have they never spoken to airlines?

Buy Before New Operating Systems

Windows 8 came out one day after I bought my new laptop. This was the best time ever for my computer to die. I’ve read some less than awesome things about Windows 8, and being already familiar with my Windows 7 desktop, I’m content to stick to the tried and tested. Besides, I had remained loyal to a laptop running Windows XP well after Vista came out.

Windows 8 might be the best thing that ever happened to my shopping trip. I was shopping through the runts of the litter – the computers that would be “out of date” the very next day. Ha!

So anyway, I walked out of there with a sub-$350 laptop decked out with a 15.6″ display, 4GB of RAM, too much HDD space, and a halfway decent processor that, while I wish was Intel, is an AMD chip that doesn’t run hot enough to cook eggs.

Needless to say, I’m one happy camper. I cannot believe how much things have changed since I bought my last laptop. This thing has a webcam. It has a multi-touch trackpad! It has HDMI out because I watch sooooo many movies (read: zero), and even an SD card slot! The purchase price was only 60% of that of my last computer.

I have to say, I’m giddy every time I turn this thing on. It’s amazingly awesome old news. New to me, old to the rest of the world, yet it still feels like Christmas. Sometimes it’s those simple things in life that are absolutely awesome.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Wayne @ Young Family Finance October 31, 2012 at 21:48

You also don’t want to be one of the first users of a new operating system. Take it from someone who got stuck with Vista. I always try and avoid the “newest” version of Windows for at least 6 months or more. I had no idea that you could find deals before new operating systems release though.


JT November 1, 2012 at 16:42

I got semi-stuck with Vista. Totally agree, though – it does not pay to be on the cutting edge of anything, really.


Eric J. Nisall - DollarVErsity November 1, 2012 at 12:33

It’s kind of like shopping for a car right before the new model year is released–they want to clear the old inventory to make room for the fancy new stuff!

I thought I was cheap when I hooked up my old laptop to a monitor after the screen died (since everything else worked perfectly), but operating systems are something that I always want new and fresh. There’s always one or two little things that I find that just make the experience much better–especially compared to vista and prior!


JT November 1, 2012 at 16:43

Yeah, but unlike cars you can upgrade a computer in less than an hour. Oh well – I’ll take the discount 😀

Windows 8 looks like a hell hole. IDK, I’m quite content with 7 as it is very similar to XP in a lot of ways.


Financial Samurai November 1, 2012 at 16:02

Kinda crazy you got a laptop so much better, powerful, lighter, and for only $350!

I’m looking at the 13″ Macbook Pro for $1,700 and am thinking… WTF! Who can afford that? And who needs all that? Apparently millions of people do.

Bull market!


JT November 1, 2012 at 16:44

I refuse to buy Apple products as I don’t need a status symbol of a productivity device. Good for those who do, though!


PK November 2, 2012 at 10:31

4 years from now let me know – I’ll help you with the next one, haha.


101 Centavos November 3, 2012 at 04:12

We just bought Mrs. 101 an older, refurbished iBook G4 for $275. It’s got MS Office for Mac, surfs the web, and checks on email. What more do we need?
Oh, and we got online, which cut out the 9% sales tax.


Pam November 3, 2012 at 09:24

HA! Glad you finally had a new one. Lets give credit to your old one’s over 4 years of service. Anyway, That’s relatively cheap for a laptop coming with decent specs and features. One tip, you got to try its graphic capabilities and discover its limits while the warranty’s still on.

And oh! i got a question for everyone, What’s the typical life expectancy of a Laptop?


Vanessa November 4, 2012 at 22:26

I had the same luck when I bought this laptop. It was October (prime laptop buying season because of the over-supply from the September back-to-school-rush) and I got exactly what I needed for ~$300. Macbook? No thank you!


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