20 Oct

An Acer and Four Hearts

We bought a new laptop on Saturday. The Dell D830’s motherboard power connectors were fried–I can think of several reasons how that happened, but the end result is unchanged–the battery worked but the AC system didn’t. Rather than spend 200 to $300 on a replacement motherboard for a 4 year old laptop, we went shopping at Fry’s.

Here come the acronyms. Keep your head down and eyes open, and you’ll be okay.

Any more, you can buy a very nice, modern laptop for $500 or less, across brands. In our case, for $490 it’s an Acer with the brand new AMD A8 quad CPU, a 500 GB hard disk (that’s a half terabyte for those excited by nomenclature), 4 GB RAM with an extra 512 MB VRAM, DVD writer, with Windows Home Premium installed. My only complaint is that the display doesn’t have the nice black tones/level of contrast that the Dell had, but Debby is fine with it. The computer is primarily for her use (and secondarily for her two in-home charges Noah and Sophie), so her opinion counts more than most.

We also saw comparable workhorse Lenovo and ASUS systems for between $400 to $500 (with the slightly older hyperthreaded Intel i5 CPUs and nicer displays but no VRAM). I won’t buy another Dell unless I have money to shell out for a physically solid system–the cases and keyboards on the less expensive Dells are flimsy (or “cheapshit” using the term I grew up with ). There are solid models in other brands, but they were either outside our budget or Orwellian with proprietary drivers and utilities.

Ironically, I was the household member unhappy with purchasing new tech. We had to dip temporarily into savings that’s partially our safety net and partially our fund for an oft-delayed trip to Spain. But we set up a payment plan to replace the funds over a three month period with no interest. And Debby relies on the ability to move the computer with her, rather than go to it. So it was the right thing to do because it was possible. Not because it was fun. (I just read that last sentence, looked in the mirror, and asked, Who ARE you?)

The old Dell’s being parted out–the battery and keyboard to Adam for his almost identical laptop, 4 GB RAM to a friend, and the rest sitting on a shelf in case something other than the mother board on Adam’s system fails. We could have set the scavenged case to weather in the front yard, but, you know, the neighbors. And all.

Five days later with the Acer, so far so good. Now, the bad news. I tested out the CPU(s) and video last night with Mass Effect 2 (borrowing my son’s Steam account). Damn. Oh damn. Damn damn. It reminded me again why I limited myself to a netbook and installed Linux instead of Windows. If this game was on my computer and looked and ran this nice, I’d be down from an average of 3 pages a day to 3 paragraphs a day. I closed the lid (in my head, slamming it) and handed it back to Debby, admonishing her to keep it away from me. I know my addictions and depend on others to keep me on the straight ‘n narrow.