Every Student’s Dilemma

Every student goes through this. Probably every year like I do. Stuck somewhere between being a poor college student, and willing to spend a large amount of money on something, anything, that will help you get better grades. 

I’m actually having this dilemma right now. I’m stuck somewhere between needing to pay off my credit cards (gee thanks, field camp), and trying to prepare technologically for the future. I had this dilemma last year as well, and this is what I’ve learned:

Don’t get caught up in wanting NOW NOW NOW

Last year, I needed a new PC because mine was 8 years old started to fritz out. I couldn’t run Battlefield 4 or Titanfall on it, so it had to go (it didn’t help that Office wasn’t working either, because you know, school. Also, don’t judge me). I could have upgraded it, but because it was the type of computer it was, and the way bundle PC’s work now, it was cheaper to get one that was already built, then to try to rebuild my old one. If you’re looking to upgrade your old computer, make sure you’re not going to have to upgrade every component after upgrading one item. This was the case for me, so I just went ahead and spent $100 extra on a more powerful computer that I didn’t know how to build, and would be far easier to upgrade in the future…and some cool accessories that I wouldn’t have even thought to put in my old computer. So I got the new PC. 

I should note that I spent a good 3 months researching building vs buying, debating on what I really wanted vs needed, and pricing. The other thing I learned? That CameCamelCamel is your BEST. FRIEND. It really helps you decide WHEN you should buy. The only draw back is that the item has had to have been on the market for a little while before you get decent information. Thanks to the program, I knew that the PC I was buying was the lowest price it had been and/or was going to be. Thank you CCC!

Now, onto the classic dilemma when deciding it’s time to get a new computer…

MAC or PC?

Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of MAC. Sorry, dudes. So you’re probably like, well why was this even a dilemma for you? You already knew what you wanted! And you’re right, I knew I what I wanted, but in my case it may not have been what I needed. So far, my experience is that geologists LOVE Mac’s. Most techy geology programs have been designed for MAC’s. There are not even that many students in my department that I know of who don’t have MAC’s. They are the cool kids who get the cool programs because their professors give it to them for free because school licences or whatever. Well I wanna be a cool kid with an in with the techy professors! It also crossed my mind that if this what all my professors (and by all, I mean every single professor) use, what if a MAC is what’s preferred in the industry? I should really invest in one. 

I still decide on a PC because I realized that if an employer really needed me to use a MAC, they would give me one. So PC it is. 

At this point in time, I’m needing a new laptop. When I started community college, I got this tiny little Acer One notebook. I used it for biology and typed all my notes, and it was the BEST THING EVER….until it completely crashed two months into the class and I lost ALL of my notes. I got it fixed, no longer trusted it, and just used it for media. 

That was 4 years ago, and it has since had a dead screen, and I didn’t touch it for a year after that happened.  I fixed it a couple weeks ago, and I’m like yeah I’ll use it for Chem! But then when I think back to biology and I nearly have an aneurysm. 

So…on to the next lesson.

Cheap or Durable?

This one is hard to go over, because it’s really up to the person and their experiences. What are you willing to deal with? You have to keep in mind that, more than likely, you would have to constantly replace something cheap. If you get something that is cheap AND durable, awesome! If you are looking into something that has both options, like I am, ask yourself: If for some reason I have to replace the cheaper item, is it going to cost me the same as buying the more expensive item? 

I’m currently looking at a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It’s VERY comparable to the Macbook Air. There are several versions of this tablet/laptop Frankenstein. Ranging from $200 (I would rather have a Kindle Fire? Does the same things. Had one, didn’t use it, sold it…so this is obviously not what I’m looking for.) to $600. So if I wanted to go for cheap(er) I would look for something in the $500 range. Most of these are refurbished, or older versions. The pricetag for the Pro 3 (Intel i5/128G) is going for $849 student offer from Microsoft.com and is so far the cheapest I could find. Not sure if that comes with the keyboard or not, which is also a major selling point. You should look into it. It’s pretty neat.

For me, it’s my senior year. I’m getting thrown into the real world in T-minus 11 months. I need something that is going to be able to keep up with me, my life, the rest of the world, and withstand the constantly upgrading technology. It would be in my best interest to get the Pro 3. It would also be replacing any need I would have for physical books (save  money on the chiropractor AND electronic books are starting to get cheaper than physical books!), no more printing out the slides for the lectures, and would take away at least 3 notebooks that I would have would buy, thanks to the pen it comes with. 
For me, based on my traumatic experience from my $250 netbook, I can’t deal with worrying about losing my information. I have to go with the safer bet.

I think for the next blog I’m going to talk about how I save money and give advice for those who are super low income like me. (Funny to say when I’m  looking at a Surface Pro 3, eh? Thank goodness student loans exist.)



Side note: Please don’t get my way of thinking confused with someone who just wants top-notch band-name gadgets. I am a person who will spend a large amount of money for something that I will not replace for years. I dealt with my broken laptop for 4 years without buying a new one because that’s how long I felt it should have at least lasted for.

I hope this helps in some way. I’m happy to have any feedback,  advice, or recommendation on other laptops, ect ect.





2 thoughts on “Every Student’s Dilemma

  1. Too bad you can’t scrape on through a last year of school with what you have; depending on what you are looking at after graduating (and judging from other posts, that isn’t grad school), your personal finances might be in a much better shape soon (we had a BS grad go into a 6 figure job recently, but those usually involve Texas and oil and gas work). But you don’t want to go turn in your final term paper only to find the computer ate it, so I see why you want to get something soon.

    Having used laptops for geology as long as there have *been* laptops, if you think you and your laptop/tablet/frankencomputer are going to be merry friends in the field, try and get something that has flash storage and not a spinning hard drive. The single most common failure for a laptop is the hard drive, and there is less and less reason to risk it.

    Although you may not like the Mac OS (to each his or her own; I’ve used Macs since 1985), there are many Windows users who will buy a MBAir and, using Boot Camp, install Windows. Why? Although you are paying a premium for the OS you aren’t using, you (1) aren’t getting a boatload of preinstalled crap that usually is some dreadful combination of a drag on performance and a risk for security and (2) you are getting a pretty high performance computer. But I think this is beyond your price range. My experience is that you don’t benefit by cheap if, over say 8 years, cheap comes close to durable in price because you will lose many hours (and, probably, some work) to the cheap failure. Unfortunately it is hard these days to recognize what is really durable, but in general the industry philosophy on tablets is that these are more consumer goods that should turn over in a year or two. It is also highly likely that tablet OSes will change far more rapidly than computer OSes and, in so doing, tablets will be incapable of upgrading to the latest OS sooner than a computer. Real laptops are tougher. Apple has pretty well soaked up the high end of the market, which means built-for-Windows PC laptops are, by and large, competing on price and not construction. For awhile Dell had a decent reputation; HP sank to the bottom long ago (in the 80s and early 90s, HP was high quality: we still have a 1993 laserwriter that works fine). Toys like Acer probably should be avoided. I’d almost see if I could run a laptop for an hour and see how hot it gets: the hotter the computer, the more likely you’ll get some component failure. But I don’t have experience with recent PC laptops, so can’t compare among them or compare to Surface devices. I do know some of our students have been thrilled to have a device they can write on with a stylus, so if that seems appealing to you, you might make it a high priority.

    (BTW, the irony of your statement about geosoftware is that it reverses at the high end. Professional geosoftware is nearly uniformly Windows or even (*gasp*) DOS based and is extremely pricy. So liking Windows can be a help going forward).

    Hopefully whatever you get, in a year or two you’ll have the income to correct any mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the extremely awesome and very helpful reply. A spinning hard drive is something I definitely wouldn’t have ever thought of. I checked into the Surface Pro 3 a little more and it turns out they have an SSD and not an HDD, so no worries about any spinning parts.

      Here’s why I’m going to still buy the SP3 – microsoft offers a $150 discount for students, and Staples is price matching 110%. So I’ll be getting the i5/128G SP3 for ~$765 before taxes. The one thing that REALLY sucks is that the keyboard, a major selling point, is sold separately, and those are $130, so I’m basically losing my $150 discount to the keyboard. 😦 But I think the SP3 has way too many other selling points (from a student’s perspective) to ding it on the keyboard alone.

      Grad school is a possibility, I’m just undecided. I’m going to be applying to both jobs and grad school when December rolls around and see who has the sweetest deal. I’m actually pretty stoked to get to that point. Grad school would be pretty great, though. I love research. I’m limited to what I can study at the school I’m at now though, and the way they are set up the difference between a BA and BS is only a thesis. The department was already understaffed when I got there two years ago, and this summer they lost 3 faculty to retirement, sabbatical, and leaving for another job. I may, unfortunately, be forced to get a BA simply because I can’t find a thesis adviser. I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope that maybe employers and grad schools would be understanding.


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