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Explaining technology needs to those less silicon inclined

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I'm always after new ways to describe to people the purpose and differences of new technology. I find giving them a "real world" explanation helps them compare performance, such as how much your hands can hold/how much RAM you'll need or the width of a garden hose to describe bandwidth.

 

I just shot this email off to a family friend who's looking to buy a couple of laptops for their daughters as they enter uni.

 

Hi SpaceManSam,

I’ve had a look through a few different stores and I’ve compiled a list of laptops that would best suit your needs.

 

Toshiba C660 - $397 – JB Hi Fi

http://www.jbhifi.com.au/computers/toshiba...book-sku-68897/

This laptop has an older superseded CPU but is more than powerful enough for taking notes, watching movies and surfing the web. It has 2GB of RAM, a webcam, 15 inch screen, 500GB hard drive, DVD burner and WiFi. For less than $400, I think this would be a perfect budget laptop if you don’t expect it to be blazing fast (that being said though, it’ll be quicker than the laptops you have now if you let me set it up for you).

 

MSI A6200 - $499 - (a private business)

http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/review/noteb...si/a6200/385064

In terms of power and reliability, this is a step up from the previous Toshiba laptop. With 4GB of RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, a 2ghz CPU, 15.6 inch screen, DVD burner, WiFi and a webcam – it’s a reliable and fast enough laptop for everyday usage. It comes with a 2 year warranty that will be honoured by me. For under $500, this is bang for your buck (I can understand the hesitation of buying from a brand you may not have heard of before, I’ve dealt with MSI for a year now and have never had any faults).

 

Toshiba L750 - $647 – JB Hi Fi

http://www.jbhifi.com.au/computers/toshiba...book-sku-68895/

Now we’re getting to the “higher end” of the scale in terms of components and performance. This Toshiba has a very fast Intel i3 CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, DVD Burner, Bluetooth and high capacity WiFi (faster internet) and a graphics card that will allow moderately demanding games to be played (Sims 3, Grand Theft Auto etc).

 

Dell Inspiron 15” - $877 – JB Hi Fi or MSI CX640 - $890 - (a private business)

http://www.jbhifi.com.au/computers/dell/in...book-sku-67803/

http://www.msi.com/product/nb/CX640.html

As we work our way up the ladder, we start to encounter laptops that have a lot of power without too much difference between them. Both of these laptops feature the latest technology Intel CPU (Sandy Bridge i5-2410m), 4GB of RAM, 15.6 inch LED screen, DVD burner, WiFi+Bluetooth and a webcam.

The differences are the Dell has a larger hard drive (640GB compared to the MSI’s 500GB) while the MSI has 2 years warranty as opposed to 1 year for the Dell. The graphics cards are a little different, but barely enough to notice a difference between them.

 

Graphics card performance is where the more expensive laptops start to differ. They’ll have the same specifications as these models; give or take 2-4 GB of RAM - but will have a graphics card that is very powerful. That is why you see many laptops above $1500, as they have a very good card but nobody realises they probably won’t need all that power. I would personally suggest you go to JB Hi Fi and have a look at the laptops I’ve mentioned. When deciding which model would suit you best, it all comes down to how much you’re prepared to spend and what you think the laptop will be used for.

Feel free to call or text me if you’re in a store looking at a laptop, and I’ll let you know what my opinion is.

See anything glaringly wrong here? I hope I haven't confused the poor mum even more.

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Looks like a very thought out process and its informative up the yinyang. Even for most troubled termed users this should be ample enough to go on to make a valued purchase.

WD - We'd all have them horror stories from consumers who think they know something but are backwards to thinking its not about ...."The bang for buck mate, the back for buck..."

$$

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I don't see anything glaringly wrong, but its probably way too wordy for someone who doesn't understand the terms (CPU, RAM, Graphics, etc.). EG: My kids would appreciate that description, but my mother would be lost with it.

 

Also, many laptops are priced at or above the $1500 price tag without parts inside to warrant the price. That's why its important to understand the differences and shop accordingly.

 

Personally, I find it hard to recommend anything other than Dell laptops lately as the 1 year of onsite support is priceless. :-)

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about the only thing i'd be looking at this this:

"high capacity WiFi (faster internet)"

 

As long as its N, 150 vs 300 shouldnt affect internet speed.

 

But this is all :)

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about the only thing i'd be looking at this this:

"high capacity WiFi (faster internet)"

 

As long as its N, 150 vs 300 shouldnt affect internet speed.

 

But this is all :)

So WiFi will make my 56k dialup go faster?

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thats why i pointed it out, I disagreed.

When it comes to people who dont know, I try to limit the options to 2. the lowest, and the best.

I ask their needs make sure both will fit them, then let them decide.

 

Just... too many options for a non tech who wont ever notice the difference

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IMO...

 

Does the customer know what a CPU is? If not, I wouldn't even mention CPU, memory or any features they can't see or directly interface with. They're there on the specs page if they want.

 

I think it's the role of the provider (you) to decide which CPU and amount of RAM is fit for the customer's purpose, and provide a description on the other features which might matter, e.g. battery life (approximate hours, not 139GWZ), webcam yes/no, wireless yes/no, screen size.

 

Nothing wrong with giving multiple options, but does the customer care or need to know the CPU is superseded or core i5?

 

IMO anyway. If I was semi-technical I'd be happy with your email.

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If u want to simplify it even more u could rate certain areas out of 5. for example: Features, Performance, Value. Then maybe give the user a rating in each of those so they can match up to see what suits them easier?

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MSI A6200 - $499 - (a private business)

http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/review/noteb...si/a6200/385064

In terms of power and reliability, this is a step up from the previous Toshiba laptop. With 4GB of RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, a 2ghz CPU, 15.6 inch screen, DVD burner, WiFi and a webcam – it’s a reliable and fast enough laptop for everyday usage. It comes with a 2 year warranty that will be honoured by me. For under $500, this is bang for your buck (I can understand the hesitation of buying from a brand you may not have heard of before, I’ve dealt with MSI for a year now and have never had any faults).

that looks like the best deal ever

 

I have a MSI notebook that I purchased for $699 + upgrades. And it's not long now until I consider upgrading.

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If u want to simplify it even more u could rate certain areas out of 5. for example: Features, Performance, Value. Then maybe give the user a rating in each of those so they can match up to see what suits them easier?

I have found that technology these days is sufficient enough for browsing the net, typing up notes for uni and watching a DVD. You don't need to spend over $400 for that sort of usage, and I'm hoping that the current specs of machines will be enough to continue this level of usage for as long as the laptop will physically last.

 

Or am I being naive?

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I have found that technology these days is sufficient enough for browsing the net, typing up notes for uni and watching a DVD. You don't need to spend over $400 for that sort of usage, and I'm hoping that the current specs of machines will be enough to continue this level of usage for as long as the laptop will physically last.

You wouldn't be far from the truth there… a desktop I wouldn't want to spend any less than that. Laptops, you're paying for minaturisation, so it will be more expensive. These days though, semi-decent laptops can be had for around the $600 mark for basic tasks. Just don't expect them to play the latest games.

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Nothing glaringly wrong, but I'm with lew~ generally: when my family asks me about tech they are completely disinterested in specs. I nail down exactly what their expectations are before I open my trap, including budget, service life, usage patterns, even preferred colours and styles.

 

Then I take a half-hour to research and come back with one "best" option, describing how it suits their needs (on balance) by avoiding as many technical terms as possible. I also remind them that there are heaps of alternative options and ask them to respond with any specific questions, or if they'd rather it be balanced more towards one need or another.

 

IMHO 15" notebooks are too big for uni, especially for girls. 13" would be the largest I'd recommend, otherwise it'll end up sitting unused at home.

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See anything glaringly wrong here? I hope I haven't confused the poor mum even more.

I won't say I understood everything perfectly, but you didn't confuse the hell out of me either ;) A good, easy to read break-down of information.

 

Just... too many options for a non tech who wont ever notice the difference

Thing is, a non tech will notice the difference...perhaps not straight away, but with time and use they will...

 

...speaking as a non tech :)

 

Going from my lappy to Walt's netbook I find very frustrating...now. Would never have bothered me a couple of years ago.

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See anything glaringly wrong here? I hope I haven't confused the poor mum even more.

 

yes that combination of CPU and GPU on the 3rd one won't play GTA4 if it can it would be maybe 5fps if you were lucky, even source games will run like crap.

Edited by nesquick

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I'm always after new ways to describe to people the purpose and differences of new technology. I find giving them a "real world" explanation helps them compare performance, such as how much your hands can hold/how much RAM you'll need or the width of a garden hose to describe bandwidth.

 

I just shot this email off to a family friend who's looking to buy a couple of laptops for their daughters as they enter uni.

 

Hi SpaceManSam,

I’ve had a look through a few different stores and I’ve compiled a list of laptops that would best suit your needs.

 

Toshiba C660 - $397 – JB Hi Fi

http://www.jbhifi.com.au/computers/toshiba...book-sku-68897/

This laptop has an older superseded CPU but is more than powerful enough for taking notes, watching movies and surfing the web. It has 2GB of RAM, a webcam, 15 inch screen, 500GB hard drive, DVD burner and WiFi. For less than $400, I think this would be a perfect budget laptop if you don’t expect it to be blazing fast (that being said though, it’ll be quicker than the laptops you have now if you let me set it up for you).

 

MSI A6200 - $499 - (a private business)

http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/review/noteb...si/a6200/385064

In terms of power and reliability, this is a step up from the previous Toshiba laptop. With 4GB of RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, a 2ghz CPU, 15.6 inch screen, DVD burner, WiFi and a webcam – it’s a reliable and fast enough laptop for everyday usage. It comes with a 2 year warranty that will be honoured by me. For under $500, this is bang for your buck (I can understand the hesitation of buying from a brand you may not have heard of before, I’ve dealt with MSI for a year now and have never had any faults).

 

Toshiba L750 - $647 – JB Hi Fi

http://www.jbhifi.com.au/computers/toshiba...book-sku-68895/

Now we’re getting to the “higher end” of the scale in terms of components and performance. This Toshiba has a very fast Intel i3 CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, DVD Burner, Bluetooth and high capacity WiFi (faster internet) and a graphics card that will allow moderately demanding games to be played (Sims 3, Grand Theft Auto etc).

 

Dell Inspiron 15” - $877 – JB Hi Fi or MSI CX640 - $890 - (a private business)

http://www.jbhifi.com.au/computers/dell/in...book-sku-67803/

http://www.msi.com/product/nb/CX640.html

As we work our way up the ladder, we start to encounter laptops that have a lot of power without too much difference between them. Both of these laptops feature the latest technology Intel CPU (Sandy Bridge i5-2410m), 4GB of RAM, 15.6 inch LED screen, DVD burner, WiFi+Bluetooth and a webcam.

The differences are the Dell has a larger hard drive (640GB compared to the MSI’s 500GB) while the MSI has 2 years warranty as opposed to 1 year for the Dell. The graphics cards are a little different, but barely enough to notice a difference between them.

 

Graphics card performance is where the more expensive laptops start to differ. They’ll have the same specifications as these models; give or take 2-4 GB of RAM - but will have a graphics card that is very powerful. That is why you see many laptops above $1500, as they have a very good card but nobody realises they probably won’t need all that power. I would personally suggest you go to JB Hi Fi and have a look at the laptops I’ve mentioned. When deciding which model would suit you best, it all comes down to how much you’re prepared to spend and what you think the laptop will be used for.

Feel free to call or text me if you’re in a store looking at a laptop, and I’ll let you know what my opinion is.

See anything glaringly wrong here? I hope I haven't confused the poor mum even more.

 

Just the fact that you forgot to explain high laptop prices properly, its not just the GPUs that make the price jump, but the screens, keyboards etc.

 

Cheaper laptops with decent specs usually skimp on the screens, poor viewing angles and washed out colours as well as pretty average keyboards.

 

All in all though, its a pretty decent guide, assuming the person you wrote this to understands what all the components you mention are and what they do/how they will affect the performance etc.

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I usually only give 2 options, with minimal descriptive flab.

Options are more along the lines of spend over or under 'this much'.

 

This is because the people I give advice too know that I know what the fuck I'm on about, and that I have there best interests at heart.

They are usually quite happy to just accept my advice.

If they ask questions, then I can explain things to them.

Otherwise its just a waste of verbose description.

 

(sorry, not to poo poo what you've done, just giving you my perspective)

Edited by clockworkman

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I usually only give 2 options, with minimal descriptive flab.

Options are more along the lines of spend over or under 'this much'.

 

This is because the people I give advice too know that I know what the fuck I'm on about, and that I have there best interests at heart.

They are usually quite happy to just accept my advice.

If they ask questions, then I can explain things to them.

Otherwise its just a waste of verbose description.

 

(sorry, not to poo poo what you've done, just giving you my perspective)

^ This.

Though clearly its not an instore environment. I still base it on their budget if they're willing to specify one.

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Though clearly its not an instore environment. I still base it on their budget if they're willing to specify one.

Nop, both. I do this in a business and personal sense.

I look after my clients, so they respect my opinions.

although, not so much retail shop, we provide services to business.

but I have sold things to Joe streetguy with this same approach

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