Help Me, LAPTOP: Should I Buy Now or Wait for Something Better?

A reader named German has written in, asking the age-old question of whether he should buy a new notebook now or wait for new technologies to emerge. This is a question we hear a lot in different forms, because with technology there’s always something new just around the corner.

German writes:

I’m looking for a new laptop, and I don’t know if I should buy right now or a wait until the next year. I know that in the following months or next year Intel will release new a improved CPU and finally launch the USB 3.

What do you think?, because I want something that lasts 4 or 5 years with good speed, Blu-ray and other cool features.

The right time to buy a new notebook is whenever you need one. We’ve recently published an article on how to tell when it’s time to replace your old notebook with a new one.

You mentioned two technologies you’re looking forward to: USB 3.0 and newer Intel CPUs. You can actually get a notebook with USB 3.0 today, though there aren’t many, because Intel doesn’t yet build USB 3.0 support into its chipsets. However, if you buy a notebook with an ExpressCard/34 slot, you can get a USB 3.0 adapter that will allow you to connect USB 3.0 devices. The main notebooks today that we’ve seen with USB 3.0 built-in are from ASUS, the ASUS N61Jv-X2 for example. However, we wouldn’t choose a system on that basis nor would we wait around to see what faster CPUs are on the horizon. The Core i3 / i5 / i7 CPUs of today are really, really fast.

So it sounds like you want a high-performance media system with Blu-ray. On that basis, we recommend you get something with a large, high-res screen and with great speakers too. The Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q890 fits the bill perfectly, though it is rather heavy and expensive. We also love the 17-inch ASUS G73Jh, which is available with Blu-ray. Both of those notebooks have quad core Core i7 CPUs and 1920 x 1080 resolution screens, so they are going to remain near the top of the performance chain for a while.

However, if you want something that costs less than $1,000, go for the Samsung R780; it doesn’t have Blu-ray and it’s screen is only 1600 x 900 (not 1920 x 1080 like the others), but it offers excellent media playback at a reasonable price.

The bottom line is that you could wait forever to buy, because there’s always a better notebook coming and there’s no doubt that whatever you buy today — even a top of the line $2,000 system — will start looking outdated after 12 months when you compare it to the new notebooks of that time. Trying to chase the future is a losing proposition. Meet your needs today and let the future take care of itself.

Each week, we answers questions from readers in our Help Me LAPTOP section. If you need help buying or making the most of a notebook, smart phone, or other mobile gadget, e-mail us at We’ll use the most interesting questions in a future Help ME LAPTOP post.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. aftermath Says:

    I have several portable computers over five years of age. Some are over ten years old. The above advice is spot on.

    I’ve had to address the same question over and over from others. A purchase needs to be based on your needs (your real needs, today) and not the market. Buy exactly what you need exactly when you need it. Buying any more or less is a waste of your money today. If you don’t need a new computer right away then of course you should wait for things to get better, but don’t simply sit there and wait for things to get better if your current computer isn’t doing what you need it to do today.

    If you’re serious about buying something that will last you for years then certain features are more important than others. The most important thing is quality. If the computer won’t physically and electronically last for the next five years then its relative performance and features are irrelevant. Also, don’t bother agonizing over the difference between a 1.8GHz and 2.4GHz processor because BOTH will be brutally outdated in five years. It won’t matter. On the other hand, don’t stick yourself with a machine that has a 4GB RAM limit when plenty of today’s machines can support a maximum of 8GB. In the future, we’ll be at 16GB, 24GB, or 32GB, and operating systems and software will expect to have a lot more RAM on hand than they do today. While a system maxed out at 8GB will still probably be able to keep up, a system stuck a 2GB or 4GB four years from now will be struggling. Also, a machine that gets great battery life today is going to get great battery life 4 years from now. You may have to buy a new battery between now and then but the machine will still be capable of it. If battery life is important to you, then don’t compromise there because you’re going to suffer with what you have for the next several years. Fortunately, the number of hours in a day is fixed, so as long as you have enough to give you what you need each day then you should be fine.

    Having said all that, you’re honestly probably better off buying 4 relatively inexpensive computers, one each year for the next four years, than one more expensive one. Computers depreciate. They are not an investments unless they’re earning you more money than you’re spending. In four years, any computer will probably be nearly worthless. However, at the end of each year, you can sell off the last computer you bought and apply the money you get for it to the purchase of your next computer. At the end of four years, you will probably have a computer that is far more capable than had you just bought one four years earlier and held on to it. You probably will have spent less money over time because you recouped value each year. Finally, the computer in your possession will actually be worth something.

    Furthermore, life changes a lot. In four years you may find yourself needing more battery life, you might find yourself not needing a more mobile computer, wanting a larger screen, or you may just find that you need money more than an awesome computer. It’s best to stay liquid.

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