Recently, my sister sent me an email requesting some help. Turns out she need some help in purchasing a laptop. Her work was willing to buy her a laptop, but she had some specific qualifications for it:
- 17″ notebook
- numeric keypad built-in (along with the standard keyboard)
- under $900
Right off the bat, that rules out any of the Apple laptops (boo!). Needless to say, I was a bit fuzzy on how to help her, as I don’t really keep up with PC deals or anything like that anymore. But, I still keep up with the underlying tech in computers as I kind of have to where I work. So, I set off the find this mythical perfect notebook for her. To be honest, $900 for a decent 17″ notebook sounded a little daunting, but I’ll give it a shot.
I first checked Dell, as that’s where our company’s PC’s are purchased. They had one, about $850. Great. Checked HP, they had almost the same exact configuration, for about $825. Awesome. I sent the two PDFs with the configurations I had picked out to her for approval. Shortly after that, she sent back an email asking about the numeric keypad. Hmm. I don’t actually know which laptops have numeric keypads. It’s not one of the usual listed specs when you’re looking down the (really) long list of tech specs that only geeks can understand. How would I find out that information? Surely, it’s on their website, right? In pictures, I’m assuming?
In a word, no.
At both the Dell and HP websites, there was one stock image, that’s it. No gallery of what the machine looked like. No specifications on the keyboard itself. It was certainly not one of the search criteria (not that I was expecting it to be, given how rare it is on notebooks). They went right from choosing Home/Home Business or whatever bullshit category name they’ve come up with to configuring it. There’s no way to simply see it. Very frustrating.
That same afternoon, I saw a tweet that epitomized my frustration with the PC market. And by the PC market, I mean the hardware manufacturers who make “generic” Windows PCs. The tweet consisted of simply this:
See the difference?
Not convinced? Go to the product page for the Macbook Air. Now, go to the product page (if you can call it that) for the HP Envy. (For you real geeks, check out the URL those links point to. It doesn’t even all fit in my status bar in my browser.)
This pretty much sums up the exact experience I had when looking for a laptop for my sister. And I know this stuff. What is a muggle to make of all that technical mumbo-jumbo that HP throws at you right off the bat? To be fair, HP does have the geek-to-muggle translated marketing stuff, but it’s buried behind a “View Models” button on the right-hand side of each entry on the page. And even then, it’s “below the fold”, underneath warranty information and more frickin’ tech specs. So, let me get this straight, you’re going to try to sell me on the warranty before you even explain why I might want this particular laptop? Exactly how big a piece of shit is this thing? Come on, people.
It’s not a wonder I don’t like shopping for PC’s anymore.