Category: Buying Advice

$329 Windows laptop and Windows 11 22H2 Review

1) $329 laptop?

I think the sub $800 computer market is pretty dead and the manufacturers really don’t care about this segment of the market. However, to quote Al Pacino in the movie Donnie Brasco — “even a dog gets a warm piece of the sidewalk sometime.”   Once in a blue moon you might get lucky.  There might be a clearance sale, a loss leader type of sale, or some type of promotion that just lasts for a couple days.   I get asked by clients — I just need a Windows laptop for e-mail, browsing, and Word.  I would like a secondary computer.   I want a laptop to give to a kid or donate to a kid.  I usually don’t have a pick for you.  Today I do

-This Dell Inspiron 3000 – 15 inch — with the Intel Core i3 processor and 128 GB SSD hard drive  is $329 right now at the time of sending this email.

https://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/laptops/intel/spd/inspiron-15-3511-laptop/nn3511eyxsh

-If you need a 256 GB hard drive it’s only $120 more @ $449. 

– Couple of other thoughts:  Is it as good as a Thinkpad T, Thinkpad E, Dell Latitude, or HP Pro Book?   Of course not!   But it will get the job done for basic tasks and last a couple of years if you are price sensitive.    Word to the wise — the trackpad (mouse) on cheap laptops is always garbage so plan to use a wired or wireless mouse. 

The Windows 11 Article I Didn’t Have To Write For You

2)  I have been a fan of Paul Thurrott (thurrott.com) who has been writing about the world of Windows for over 20 years.   He has written a lot about how Windows 11 was rushed out last year and has been a mixed bag.  Recently, he went into depth about version 22H2 for Windows 11 (2nd half of ’22) and how it delivers a more complete offering, while still having a few shortcomings.  Here it is, with pictures.  https://www.thurrott.com/windows/windows-11/270334/windows-11-22h2-review-a-little-of-this-a-little-of-that

My thoughts are I’m not afraid of Windows 11.  I had a client who wanted me to purchase and set up a Windows computer for him.  My preference was to order a Windows 10 system from Dell.  It would have taken about 7 to 10 days.  However he said — I need a computer now, man.  Like tomorrow! My only choice was to go to Best Buy and get him a fairly well equipped HP desktop with monitor for $1000 (on sale — wow). It has Windows 11 and he’ll survive.  Using Word or Chrome — seem just like they always did.  It’s just the menus, the options, the little quirks — the look — are going to be different.  Like Mr. Thurrott says — it’s not as bad as Windows 8

I’m going to install 11 on my Thinkpad when the 22H2 comes out within the next 1 to 2 months.  I’m will install that $6 helper that I have been telling you about — Start 11.   Windows 10 computers are still available by online order.   Any further questions — please ask me.

New M2 Mac Book Airs

Apple indeed released new Mac Book Airs yesterday.  They feature significantly improved M2 processors.   If you are shopping for a new Mac Book Air — these would be the ones to get.  However, even Apple customers cannot avoid inflation.    The prices have gone up to $1199 for the 256 GB hard drive model and $1499 for the 512 GB model (up from $999 and 1249 previously).  The larger hard drive model is most appropriate if there are a lot of photos and music involved.  There is also a 1 TB offering for an additional cost.

Apple is still going to sell the M1 Mac Book Air in 256 GB as a starter model for $999, however now that this model is 1.5 years old — that will mean a 1.5 year shorter lifespan with software updates.  I would only recommend this one if a client absolutely needed to save that $200.   M2 Mac Book Air should be the first choice.

New Mac Book Airs Probably Coming Monday

*I didn’t get an invite to the Bilderberg Group meeting in D.C. this weekend, so alas this is a working Saturday for me and I have an important update. 

The Mac Book Air M1 has been a very successful release for Apple has it marked their first laptop with the new in house processors.   The Air M1 has made my clients really happy  as well and has been the most satisfying Apple laptop for them in years.

However, the current model is getting a little old as Apple product cycles go.  It was released in Nov. 2020.   Apple’s WWDC (world wide developer conference) starts on Monday and there is a VERY GOOD chance that they will be announcing an updated Mac Book Air with a new M series chip.

My best advice.   Wait until Monday, feel free to ask me about the developments.  You can probably learn about new releases on Monday afternoon from sites like macworld.com or macrumors.com .   Hold off on buying that Air, there is probably a new one right around the corner.

Shopping For Computers Summer 2021

Weekly Humor

I may be wound up tight, but my mainspring is not going to break.  (That’s a watch joke, if you didn’t get it.)

Work Wisdom – Rideshare, Door Dash, Etc. 

This is not going to apply to you, but it may be relevant to one of your kids, grandkids, a friend or a neighbor.  In this “new economy” people are working for companies like Uber, Lyft, and Door Dash to make some extra cash or possibly even as a full time gig.  While working for these outfits, they are a 1099 contractor.   Expenses can be deducted but good records (like mileage) must be kept.  Taxes are not withheld.  Drivers should be saving part of every check to cover the Self Employment Tax at a bare minimum.  Additionally, these workers should purchase extra car insurance to cover  what the company won’t.  There is often a gap in coverage.  Finally, they should ask if this kind of work voids their car’s warranty.

Shopping For Computers – Summer 2021

I just want to set the expectations so that now one is surprised later on.  For the most part, prices are going up.  Discounts are few.  I’m sitting here in front of a Thinkpad T series — $2000 MSRP, that I got for $650 (new) in January 2020.  I also have a Dell Latitude 5450 that was about $1100 that I picked up almost 6 years ago for under $400 with some extreme couponing on Dell(dot)com.   Complete fairy tales in 2021!  Fiction! Most of you are buying laptops.  I still like all of my old picks — MacBooks, Dell Latitude 5000 series or 7000 series, and Thinkpad T or X series.   However, for a solid laptop (I’m not even talking about top of the line or luxury), you are looking at $1500 to 2000 for a brand new unit.   The Mac Book Air starts at $999.  However to get the 500 GB SSD hard drive its + 200.  These new Macs have such a brand new unique architecture and everything is built in, with no replaceable parts. I would seriously consider getting the 3 year Apple Care warranty for $250.  That puts your right around $1500 considering taxes.  For one of the better Windows laptops, you’ll be paying the same or more.  A client was recently considering a Thinkpad T15.  The price dropped to $1274 for a very well equipped system.  I said — TAKE IT; that’s a buy price!   In terms of iMacs, the $1699 model is the one you’ll really want.   So where can you save these days?  Well, the Thinkpad E and L series are not bad as long as they are properly outfitted.   The Mac Mini is still Apple’s bargain desktop.  With a $150 monitor, your own non-Apple mouse and keyboard, + $25 speakers, I think you could have it out the door for $1250.  (With these new M1 Macs, always buy a larger hard drive than you need (one step up).  Don’t say, I’ll never use that much space.   The larger hard drive you get, the longer the system will last.  Remember, that internal hard drive can’t be replaced.)  Finally, you could always try the Dell or Lenovo Outlets.  You have to think fast, but bargains exist.  

Conclusion and Song of the Week

It was a rough week.  You have the right to feel confused and even angry. They are your sincere emotions.  Monday through Saturday – I watched ZERO TV.  I don’t use Facebook.  I don’t use Google other than for e-mail and to look up local businesses.  Personally, I’m seeking calm in the storm while fully acknowledging that sometimes one has to hit the punching bag and let off some steam.  I thought this piano interpretation of “On My Way” by Peter Buka really fits the mood this time around.  He may not have a mainstream style, but he is doing something right with 7.5+ million views on this song alone. Enjoy!  https://youtu.be/w2IH69pFsI0

Do Not Buy Apple Watch 3

Dear Clients and Computer Students:

I wanted to send this update now — just in case you are thinking of buying an Apple Watch over this holiday weekend. 

Consider this a PSA with direct language that Apple is never going to deliver to you.  Please feel free to forward to anyone you know that has an Apple Watch.

People are getting out more.  They want to exercise and breathe in the fresh air.   I recall sitting in on a training class in 2018 about the Apple Watch and everyone other than me in the class was a senior.  I’m not surprised by this now, but I truly was at the time. 

Here is the problem — the Apple Watch is not cheap.  It is a fitness oriented computer on your hand.   The best Apple Watch sold right now is the Apple Watch 6.  With  one of the sport bands and the standard aluminum case, it starts at $399.  That is what you should expect. It’s a $400 watch!  You have to really want to use it.  It’s not a fashion watch.  Once you get into the stainless steel case and better bands — the price goes up by several hundred $.    It’s a computer.  And you still have to charge it up every night.   The Apple Watch 6 has the senior friendly fall detection feature, tracks your heart rate, but also can measure your blood oxygen and does a basic ECG (not as good as the doctor’s office but has been very helpful for some).  

If you want most of the fitness features including heart rate, steps, and fall detection but a more modest price point – Apple started selling the Apple Watch SE in 2020 for $279.  It’s a reasonable offering for the price.

However, here is where the crimes start!!

In order to say they can sell you an Apple Watch for $199 — Apple has continued to sell the Apple Watch 3.    It is a 4 year old Apple Watch.  Those early models were not meant to go for 4 years.  Apple is fooling their customers.

DO NOT BUY AN APPLE WATCH 3!   IF YOU HAVE ONE, AND WANT CONTINUED ENJOYABLE USE — YOU WILL PROBABLY HAVE TO GET A BETTER ONE. APPLE SHOULD APOLOGIZE TO YOU IF YOU RECENTLY BOUGHT ONE.

Sitting back down at my seat, rather than standing on it, I will say that due to a recent update of the iPhone, the next update of the Apple Watch (which gets updated via the Watch app on the iPhone) will require a complete erasure of the Apple Watch 3 and a reinstallation of the operating system.  This may take hours.  The Apple Watch 3 has a hard drive that is too small to handle the new software versions as a simple update.   Apple needs to stop selling it.

So the the Bottom Line is — The Apple Watch 6 is a $400 + investment, definitely geared toward older / active adults and has the most features.  You may be able to get away with the Apple Watch SE at $279 if you don’t care about the O2 monitoring and ECG.   Do not buy  the Apple Watch 3.  You are throwing money away.  If you have one, you’ll need to upgrade sooner than later.  If you want a fitness tracker in the $100’s with heart rate and steps — The Fit Bit Charge 4 provides a great cost / function proposition.

Erasing Product Mistakes

Don’t you just hate it when technology companies remove features or services that we like?  It is so frustrating.  There may be some hope.   The 2015 Mac Book Pro and Mac Book Air had such a solid design.  These were reliable machines.  They were a joy to type on.   However, when the Mac Book Pro was updated in 2016 (and the Air in 2018), there were only two to four ports to plug things into (one used for charging) and the keyboards were flat as a pancake.  On the higher end Pro models, they added a stupid Touch Bar with animated keys instead of the traditional Esc, F1, F2, etc, etc.   Awful!!

As I have previously shared, they corrected the keyboard with the 2020 laptops.  Rumors are swirling now that Apple will remove the Touch Bar in the 2021 models and (drum roll please) bring back a Mag Safe charger.   If you recall that pre-2016 charger, it would easily disconnect if you walked into the cord — saving your laptop from damage and flying off the desk.    Apple is going back to the old paths.  I like the old paths. 

Apple also reverted to old design cues and features with the iPhone 12 models.  You should strongly consider one for your 2021 iPhone purchase.   Remember the flat edges (sharp in a good way) of the iPhone 5, 5s and iPhone SE (2016)?   Apple went back to that design with the 12’s that came out last fall.   Furthermore, they are using only Qualcomm modems once again after using inferior Intel modems for a few years. Customers are reporting better signal performance in many instances. 

Finally, not everyone likes using the Face ID on the iPhone 10 and later models.  It can be a royal pain with a mask on.   On the most recent iPad Air (the middle model), Apple re-introduced a Touch ID sensor.   We can only hope they offer this on the 2021 iPhone models as well.

Update 11/03/2020

Small Biz Spotlight

(Unsolicited)  If you don’t believe in Chiropractors, you have my permission to skip this section.  I realize that some in the profession have made dubious claims.  However, many of us out there  feel that chiropractic care helps us feel better and move our joints more freely. If this is how you feel, please let me introduce you to Dr. Rick Araya of West Hartford, CT.  Dr. Rick is a straight shooter. He doesn’t try to rope you into some $5000 treatment plan with a bunch of gimmicks.  He runs his business like I run mine.  If you want to pay by the visit – you can pay $45 per visit (even less if you are 65 and older).   He doesn’t waste your time by doing massage, lighting candles, or any of that stuff.  Most follow up visits are 5 to 10 minutes – in and out.   As an advocate for senior consumers, I can’t think of a better chiropractor — if that’s your thing.  To learn more – http://goodchiro.net and if you go let Dr. Rick know I sent you.

Another Apple Event

Apple is really hitting it out of the park this year.  Last week there was a report of record Mac sales — powered by all models but especially the Mac Book Pro.  According to Bloomberg, Apple will be holding their 3rd big event in as many months next week.  They are expected to release new Mac Books this time with their own CPUs (just like the iPhone and iPad).  This will be the 3rd processor transition in the Mac’s history.  In 1995, they went to IBM Power PC chips and in 2006 Apple migrated to the current Intel architecture (just like PC’s).  Apple feels that they can deliver a better Mac when they control the entire manufacturing process and that is just what they are doing.   Are your Intel Macs junk now?  Of course not.   Even if you are buying a new Mac before early – mid next year you may still want to get an Intel Mac.  However, Macs with Apple silicon inside will be with us soon and are here to stay.   Rumor has it that Apple will continue to support current Intel Macs with updates for about 5 years from a certain date (to be announced).  I don’t think this will be a painful transition. 


Black Friday – Holiday Shopping

Black Friday is coming early this year. Traditional stores and online sellers are slow rolling their deals.   While the discounts on Apple products may be in the low hundreds of dollars, there are bound to be terrific deals on other items.  Just today I helped some clients order Thinkpad X1 and T laptops ( every bit as good as a Mac) that are normally about $2000 plus, for $999.  Those deals are going to be gone by the time you read this.  I will be your scout for other bargains.  Keep in mind, as long as there is no wall mounting required I can help you set up most TV’s as well.   For as rotten as the cable company can be, there is nothing quite like a new TV with an X1 cable box and voice remote from Xfinity.  You can speak and have it take to you any channel or available movie.

Older iPhone? The $399 iPhone SE Is For You

It feels like March 2016 again only better.   Apple — overpriced?  An Apple Tax to buy all of those Apple products?  Not right now.  First of all, they came out with a 2020 Mac Book Air a few weeks ago, with the good keyboard and LOWERED the price to $999.  Apple knows that buyers are scared and budgets are constrained.  So what did they do?  They released a $399 iPhone SE on Wednesday, with the SAME CPU inside as the iPhone 11 / Pro.

I am not making this up. It is 100% for real.  In March 2016, they first launched the SE line @ $399. However it was a really small 4.0 inch design based off of the 2013 iPhone 5s.  I bought one that summer and used it as my daily driver for more than 18 months.  The SE is back and better than ever.  The screen is now 4.7 inches.  If you have an iPhone 6, 6s, 7 or 8 — the new SE is the same size and timeless design put out by Apple back in 2014.  Especially if you are still using a 6 (which will not get any more updates), 6s or 7 — this phone purchase is a no brainer.  Do it!   You may just choose to buy it outright or you could do interest free payments with your carrier for $16.66 a month for 24 months.

$699 iPhone 11?   $999 iPhone 11 Pro?  Unless you need to have 2 phone lines on 1 phone or some of the advanced features, you probably don’t need that more expensive phone.   An iPhone SE would suit most of my clients just fine. 

Small Biz Spotlight – Buddy’s Jeans

They don’t make ’em like they used to. Soon that will be true for a great American company.  Since 2009, Buddy’s Jeans have been the only ones I’ve worn.  In an age when a designer pair of jeans can easily be $70 to $100 and an American made pair can go for $200 — Buddy’s have been a true gem.  Jane Little took over the factory in Mississippi in 2002 and has sold the brand in her store ever since.   At $50 per pair, they are hard to beat for men’s jeans.  Unfortunately, Jane made the difficult decision to close the factory.  It seems as though there is still a sizeable inventory left but when they are gone, they’re gone.  I just talked to the staff last week.  So here you go — http://buddysjeans.com/products.html   Odd sizes and lengths are their speciality.  The relaxed fit or original fit are going to be most likely what you want as they are 100% cotton denim.  The “cowboy” jeans are a much more rugged variety.    

Statement on Mesh Routers

I wanted to issue a clarifying statement on the topic of “Mesh Routers” because someone had questioned whether I was against mesh routers and that I might want to reconsider my position.  

Mesh routers are 2 and 3 unit + router systems that can help to bridge the gaps for WiFI in large homes or homes that may have trouble getting a signal in specific areas.   Well known mesh router brands are Netgear Orbi and Eero.   Xfinity also providers their own mesh solution called XFI pods, make for them by a company called Plume. 

For the record, I am not nor have I ever been against mesh routers.   I have been setting up mesh router systems for clients since 2017.  I have worked with a precursor to the modern day mesh systems (ie. Netgear Powerline) for over 10 years.  In my experience, the mesh systems work in some instances and do not work in others.   If you are in a WiFi challenged situation, it may be worth it to buy a mesh system from a vendor with a good return policy (like Amazon) to try out.   If they don’t work out, you can always go back to your old router system.

Also, keep in mind the cost.  While a good single router is going to cost you approximately $200, a mesh system will cost you $300 to $400 for the Eero or Orbi.   The Xfinity XFI pods are $119 for 3 pods and $199 for 6 pods, depending on the size of the house. You need to be renting a “modern” modem from them (approx $15 per month) to use these specific pods. 

Be flexible.  Be willing to try out a couple of solutions to find what works best for you.