Friday, February 10, 2006

Craptop shopping

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I want to buy a laptop. This is not a conclusion I came to without some thought - I've been going back and forth about it for a couple of years now. I mean, I have access to a laptop from work, so the need hasn't been pressing. However, it's old and decrepit and frankly won't do the things I'd like a laptop to do.

So having decided that I was ready to buy one, I decided I was ready right then. Oh, I did a little bit of checking around - asking some tech-savvy friends about their experiences, checked on Dell and HP's websites, as well as some of the smaller OEMs like Cyberpower, looked around Best Buy to get a feel for the cases being uses by some of the major players, etc. I knew I wanted an AMD CPU and decided to look for the new Turion mobile chip, I knew I wanted at least 1GB of RAM and a fat hard drive, I knew I wanted a beefed-up video card and I knew I wanted a DVD burner. Oh, and I knew I didn't want to spend $2000 so that cut out Alienware and some of the other high-end gaming systems. After looking at a few, I realized also that a 17" screen was too damn big to really be considered a portable but 15.4" looked just about right.

I poked around Best Buy a little last weekend and really came to like the Gateway MX6450, with a 1.8GHz Turion CPU, 100 GB hard drive (albeit a slow one) and an ATI mobile video card (but unfortunately without dedicated memory). It was pretty minimally what I was looking for but I thought it'd do the trick. So I went back Wednesday when I saw they were doing a sale that I thought might lower the higher-than-MSRP price of $1199. I checked it out again, really liked the feel of it and tried to get the attention of one of the Geek Squaders working in the department. Ha, I should be so lucky. There were only two, and it seemed to take both of them to deal with any one customer (clearly they spend most of their time haranguing anyone who actually buys a system with offers of extended warranties and accessories, since that's where they make their real money). So I waited and waited and waited, while the department filled up with more and more customers. It wasn't long before there were at least two dozen people there, all trying to get the attention of the Geeksters. Some of the pushier were more successful that I was, so I finally left with no contact with them whatsoever.

After pretty much deciding to try my chances elsewhere, I realized that I really liked that puppy so I thought I'd give it another shot. This time I corralled every blueshirter that walked by, knowing that they couldn't help me but each resolving to find someone that could. I hung out by my target, talking to a like-minded guy about what we were looking for and both declaiming loudly that we were going to saddle up and head for Circuit City if nobody showed up pronto. Sure enough, as I started heading for the door, GeekGrrl finally showed up. Our conversation when like this:
I: I've got a quick question and if the answer is right, you'll get a quick laptop sale.
GeekGrrl: Okay

I: Is this Gateway (pointing to my preference) part of your up-to-$200-off sale?

GeekGrrl: Yes, I believe it is

I: So what's the deal?

GeekGrrl: Well, you get the anti-virus license and subscription, that's about $85 and you get the wireless card blah blah blah

I: Wait a minute. How much is it?

GeekGrrl: Well, you'll pay this price (pointing to $1199 tag) but you get...

I: Sweetie, all that is included in the manufacturer's package and the MSRP from Gateway is $1129

And I turned around and walked out. And drove to Circuit City, where I'd seen online the night before that they had pretty much the same unit with a slightly slower CPU for a nice price after rebate. I thought I'd checked the store inventory online, so I was pretty sure they'd have it. As I walked in, sure enough my buddy from Best Buy walked in right behind me. But I was clearly not destined to have a laptop that night, as they were out and didn't have anything comparable to what I wanted.

So back to square one, but it's probably for the best. I did a little more looking online last night and found an Acer Travelmate with a better video card and a fatter, faster hard drive with a list of $1199 (looks familiar) and a better price than that from, so I'll probably order one. Hate to wait for it now that I've decided to move on it, but better than settling for less than I want or paying more than I need.


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