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Diganta Majumder

Better, Faster, Cheaper
Upgrade when you're damn good and ready, not when the industry or media tells you to.

Your PC is obsolete.

Trust me, I'm a trained professional-I know these things. And I'm telling you that no matter how new your PC is, it's old. You say you just picked up a Pentium II 266MHz with 64MB of RAM, a 24X CD-ROM drive and all the other latest trimmings? In this very issue you'll find a review of a Pentium II 300MHz machine. So there.

I keep telling myself that this is a good thing. After all, what could possibly be bad about an industry that comes out with an entirely new generation of machines every few months-products that are almost always better, faster and cheaper? And doesn't that spark price cuts on "older" products? How can we possibly complain when today's average notebook packs more punch than NASA had at its command a few years ago? How can we not be dazzled by all the bells and whistles-Internet access, high-speed CD-ROMs, advanced video, 3D graphics-that now ship standard with every hunk of hardware?

Of course it's all a good thing. Very, very good.

And yet . . .

I wonder if there can be too much of a good thing. Let's be honest: It's galling to shell out several thousand dollars for a spanking new PC, only to learn that a better-faster-cheaper model is already out. Case in point: Intel. This is a great company-it's no coincidence at all that most PC makers build their newest releases around the latest chip. Yet the company's rollout of its MMX technology early this year left many users feeling cheated. Most had no idea that just a few days after they finished their holiday shopping, Intel was going to launch technology that left their new high-tech gift in the dust. In effect, what you bought during Christmas became obsolete one week later.

This is not always a good thing. I'm convinced that the promise-or threat-that something better is just around the corner ironically keeps many PC users from buying a new system.

Of course, those of us in the high-tech media told you MMX was coming, even when Intel didn't particularly want us to. In this case, the advance notice could have helped you. But too often, we do as much as anyone else to fan the flames of PC envy. It's our job to cover all the news and new product announcements fit to print, and we do it with verve. We don't care what's out now; we want to know what's coming-next week, next month, next year. Even as the product cycles shorten, our impatience grows.

So what's the solution here? First, accept that the situation's not going to change-and that's good. Technology is going nowhere but up, and prices are going nowhere but down. If your goal is to have the shiniest toy on the block, this constant progress poses a real problem. But if your goal is to have a great PC that does the job you need, it isn't a problem at all-quite the contrary.

So keep in mind that when vendors or the press suggest your PC is obsolete, we're looking at things more from our own peculiar vantage point than yours. And therein lies a world of difference.

Remember, the car you bought three years ago has been technologically surpassed by its successors, too, but it gets you around just fine, doesn't it? Similarly, if your 386SX25 with 2MB of RAM, Windows 3.1 and barely enough drive space to hold a few documents is still adequate for your needs, it's not obsolete as far as you're concerned-and isn't that what really matters?

In sum, buy the best you can afford at any given point in time, and enjoy what it has to offer for as long as it fills your needs. Upgrade when you're damn good and ready: when you outgrow what you have or decide it's time to take the next step-not when the industry or the media tells you to. It's the vendor's job to create demand for new products, and it's our job to report on them. It's your job to decide what you need and when.

Contact news and analysis editor Diganta Majumder at the addresses on page 20. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those held by WINDOWS Magazine. Have an opinion (or a gripe) about Windows computing you'd like to share? Send it to Diganta Majumder at the addresses on page 20.


Windows Magazine, September 1997, page 51.

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