May 9, 2008

Almost Time to Buy a New Computer

My ancient Dell Dimension is simply no longer cutting it for Photoshop work even though it continues to meet most of my other limited computing needs. I've held off for long enough, and it is time to settle on a replacement. When faced with such decisions, it is sometimes helpful to walk through a series of decision points. I figured I might as well share my thought process in case anyone else would find it useful.

These have been my decision points so far:

Build or Buy?

Initially, I thought I might use this as an opportunity to build my first computer. This way, I could get exactly what I need without throwing money away on things I do not need. I am not into computer gaming at all, and the video cards in most systems seems to be overkill. At the same time, drive space and speed are rarely adequate, expandability tends to be limited, and there are never enough or the right kind of ports. However, I soon decided against building because I simply don't have the time (or interest, if I'm being honest) in researching components, etc. I may build eventually but not this time. Decision made.

Windows Vista or...What

I used to use Macs but switched to Windows several years ago because I needed to use Windows-only software regularly for work. I've been generally content with the stability of Windows XP SP3 on my home computer even though I've had a bit of ongoing trouble at work. After reading the reviews of Vista, including SP1, and talking to various friends using Vista, I decided that there was simply no way I was willing to go Vista. No apparent upside and many downsides. Some have suggested Linux, but that is not for me, at least not yet.

Sticking with Windows XP is certainly viable but seems the OS is clearly showing its age. Besides, the ongoing sort of problems I've had with it at work make me less eager to put it on another machine. Still, if I replace this PC with another PC, I've pretty much decided that it will run XP. But should I consider returning to Mac?

Mac or PC?

The thought of getting a Mac for Photoshop work and still having my old Dell to use as a music server and for the times when I do need to run PC-only software at home (so I won't even need Windows on the Mac) is certainly appealing. I can get an Apple educational discount and get the Mac version of MS Office free through work. I need to upgrade Photoshop anyway, so switching platforms shouldn't be too difficult. The current Mac OS sounds wonderful, and it would be great to have a more stable system that required less constant tinkering and updating.

Where the Mac decision gets hard is when the question of which Mac comes up. I've ruled out the Mini for a variety of reasons, I don't need a laptop, and the Mac Pro is overkill in many ways. This leaves me with only the iMac as an option. Fine except I hate the idea of all-in-one systems where I'm stuck with the monitor that houses the computer. Widespread reports of uneven screen brightness also make me a bit nervous.

In the end, it looks like critical question will be whether moving to Mac OS X is so desirable that I'm willing to live with the limitations of the iMac. I think it probably is, and I am leaning toward picking up a new 24" iMac in the next month. We'll see.

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