When it’s time to ditch the old PC laptop – USA TODAY
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. â Is it time to put a new PC on your holiday list? As retailers cut prices on PCs for the holidays,Â Â itâs a question many of you should consider. By Intelâs estimates, there are 117 million four- and five-year-old PCs across the country â and a half-billion worldwide â still in use.
Honestly, if youâre one of the millions out there wondering whether to trade up from your aging, pokey laptop, technology analysts like myself arenât the best people to ask for advice.
Weâre usually outfitted with the latest gear. Which means weâve got an intimate appreciation of the state of the art, but we donât have a good feel for the leap youâd be taking to a new Windows 10 2-in-1 built around Intelâs sixth-generation Core microprocessor, code-named Skylake.
To bridge the experience gap, I decided to walk a mile in your shoes. So before I tested the Spectre x2, a new Skylake-based 2-in-1 from HP, I dusted off my circa-2011 laptop and made it mine for a few days.
What I discovered was my four-and-a-half-year-old Lenovo ThinkPad x220 isnât a bad computer â in fact, it was a top-of-the-line ultraportable in its day. I had no problem writing this column on it. Checking email worked just fine. So did paying bills. And reading stuff on the internet.
If youâre limping along on an older laptop, I suspect you already knew this. But what you didnât know is that, while itâs not a bad computer, itâs a terrible modern-day mobile computing device. You have no idea how much the experience has improved, or how much more youâd come to use your computer as a result. So you tolerate what you know because you canât see how much better it could be if you moved on. I think itâs also why some people continue to live in Buffalo.
Going back to the old PC was a fresh reminder for how much things have changed. And how much less I used my computer. Unless I was traveling, the ultraportable (irony intended) rarely left my desk. I never tucked the bulky laptop under my arm when I ducked out to grab lunch. I rarely picked it up to research something that came up while watching TV or chatting with friends because firing it up took longer than it did to do the job. And I was careful not to scan Facebook, stream NetFlix or surf YouTube â or anything fun â because I was worried I wouldnât have enough power to get work done.
I was also careful not to watch a movie on an airplane unless I was sure the traveler in front of me wasnât going to recline the seat on top of my computer. Thatâs no longer an issue with 2-in-1s like the Spectre X2, because you can fold the keyboard back out of the way or remove it entirely.
Using the old PC this past week, I also missed the modern touch feature. In âDesktopâ mode (the only mode your older system has), I still use the touchpad and keyboard controls. So I didnât realize how much I also use my finger to scroll documents and web pages until I couldnât do it anymore.
All of these changes came about because of the wake-up call the PC industry got after the Apple iPad kicked-started the tablet craze in 2010. The tablets, along with smartphones, redefined what we expected from mobile devices. We want them to last all day on a single charge. We want them to spring up and handle whatever we want, whenever we want. And we want them to be sleek enough to carry along wherever we want.
For an industry historically judged on raw horsepower, this has been a dramatic achievement. Itâs akin to a truck vendor known for towing capacity suddenly called upon to add zero-to-60 performance. Oh yeah, and great gas mileage.
After a few days on the old ultraportable, I was whisked away by the Spectre X2. The new 2-in-1 is so fast and responsive. It doesnât have a fan, so it never sounds like itâs huffing and puffing. And when I glance down at the battery icon, it gives me confidence to keep doing whatever I want.
The detachable keyboard is impressively rigid. And when itâs disconnected, flight attendants donât tell you to put the system away for takeoff and landing. Why would they? At 0.52 inch, itâs only slightly thicker than my two-year-old Galaxy Tab 3 tablet (0.49 inch).
The upshot is that I believe youâll be absolutely thrilled with an upgrade to a new PC laptop. Because youâre not only going to get a computer thatâs much sleeker and lightweight, with far more performance and battery life. Youâll also find itâs more friendly, responsive and inviting. So youâll use it more often.
Indeed, this may be the best holiday season in quite a while to buy a new computer. The combination of Skylake and Windows 10 have taken the 2-in-1 experience to a new level. And to make the decision easier, there arenât many new have-to-have smartphones or tablets to compete for your stack of gift cards.
I also learned something else by pulling out the old ultraportable. I wonât be going back again.
Mike Feibus is principal analyst at TechKnowledge Strategies, a Scottsdale, Ariz., market strategy and analysis firm focusing on mobile ecosystems and client technologies. You can reach him atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.