Buying tech: the importance of desktop real estate and other things

Just bought myself a new iMac with a 27 inch screen. A thing of beauty. After a decade or more of working from laptop computers (or notebooks..what are they called now, anyway?) I decided to have one gi-normous heavy desktop again and synch the important content using SugarSynch and Dropbox.  It’s the cloud baybee!  And not lugging my MacBook around has made my back happier.

One thing I have learned is that desktop real estate is a big deal: a large monitor, or two small monitors (say a notebook and a 20 incher) allows me to write more efficiently: my manuscript and bibliography open, and Google Scholar and Devonthink lurking ready to pitch in. And monitors are comparatively cheap nowadays.

I had a choice between two versions of the iMac, a 2.7Ghz and 3.1Ghz model for about a $350 more. When I asked the Apple guy if it really made much of a difference, he scrunched up his face for a millisecond and said, “No. Not really”.

A nice article by Sam Grobart at the New York Times, on rules of thumb when buying tech backs up that judgement. 

Here are a few most relevant to academics:

  1. Pay for memory, not clockspeed. Max out your RAM. And buy memory, not from the computer store, but online. It’s a lot cheaper.
  2. Pay for components not cables. Cables vary enormously in price. Scandalously so. Unless you are running 20 m of cable, go with the cheap cables.
  3. Pay for sensor size, not megapixels. In a digital camera, do you really need a 10 megapixel image? Or do you need a high quality image?

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