Buying a new computer in the age of Windows 7

Last week I was presented with a choice – I needed to get a new computer to replace one that had recently broken and I had a little over a thousand dollars to spend on it.  Windows 7 had just come out a few days prior and it was getting largely good reviews.  I had used the beta of Windows 7 and had found it stable and easy to use, well easier to use than Windows XP.

I knew that I could get a reasonable Windows 7 computer for around 500 to 600 dollars and that it would be able to do most of what I wanted it to.  I have done technical support for both operating systems and I am perfectly comfortable using both: this was not a case of someone only knowing one operating system and just being afraid of change.  The question then became: am I ready to move back to the world of Microsoft? I knew that Windows Vista had gotten terrible reviews and I remember how terrible XP was to use and to look at, I knew that the registry was still in place and that the old system of .dll files had not gone anywhere.

The OEMs would still load up their computers with shareware and shovelware that would need to be removed, the threat of viruses and malware had not gone away, and I would still need to do regular maintenance on Windows to make sure that it did not bog down.  I would have to install virus scanners and spyware scanners.

If Im honest, there was a lot to think of when it came to deciding on whether or not to move back to Windows in order to save a little bit of cash.  There were plus sides as well though, I could probably find some cheap games to play at any electronics store, I could have a reason to play with Linux again (because every time I run Windows on a PC I invariably start thinking about wiping it and running Linux), and I could not have to worry about any browser incompatibilities with sites that only allow access through Internet Explorer with ActiveX controls.  In my mind, those were small things that really wouldnt contribute much to my productivity: if anything, having access to games and trying to run Linux would only hurt my ability to get things done.

Just before Windows 7 officially launched, Apple had released some new hardware – including the newest MacBook.  OS X Snow Leopard was not as exciting an upgrade as Windows 7, it wasnt as flashy and it didnt promise to be better and easier to use than 10. Leopard – it only promised to be more compact and faster.  When I installed 10.6 on my old MacBook, it had gotten faster and it did free up space on my hard drive, which is just about all it said it would do.  My decision now was whether or not I wanted to get another computer that looked largely like my last computer and ran the same operating system, or whether I wanted to get the latest and the greatest OS from Microsoft that promised to finally get it all right?

It was a touch decision because as a geek I tend to always want what is new and exciting.  Windows 7 was clearly the shiniest choice in the room, Snow Leopard was the same OS I had been using and it looked pretty similar to OS X from 2004 – the wow factor had long since worn off.  In the end I decided to go with the new MacBook running Snow Leopard, with the student discount it came out to just over 1,000 dollars.  Could I have gotten more for my money had I gone with Windows?  I certainly could have gotten more stuff, but I cant say whether or not it would have made for a better computing experience.  Snow Leopard, for me, was a known quantity and almost everyone who is tech savvy says to wait for the first service pack before every trying out a Microsoft operating system.  For the same price Im sure I couldve picked up a 15 inch laptop and a netbook, but I cant say that I would have every been happy using either.