Friday, February 14, 2014

Weighing The Options (Part One)

Today might be a day associated with romance, but despite the warmth and sunshine we had here in NoVA – which were offset by all of the snow on the ground – spring still seems far away, so it’s not quite time for a young man’s fancy to lightly turn to thoughts of love.  However, we do find ourselves in that season in which a Jon’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of buying stuff.
Which is to say tax refund and bonus season.
It’s still the early days of that season; I’ve received my refunds, but my bonus is still a couple of weeks away.  Even so, that means that at present my bank account is rather larger than usual.*
I don’t have to buy anything, of course, and I have gotten through this season in the past without making any major purchases, but I always feel as though I ought to buy something.
The alternative to buying something, of course, beyond simply not buying anything, is to put the money away into savings or some other investment.
It’s likely that I will do that – I already have put away a fair amount into savings – but still, the odds are that I’ll make some sort of purchase that requires spending at least a bit more money than I would normally.
It’s just a question of what I’ll be spending that money on, and that has been a rather difficult one to answer.
For example, I’ve been considering picking up a Surface Pro 2 to replace my current Windows tablet, the Samsung Series 7 Slate.
There are a variety of reasons I’ve been considering this option.
The Surface Pro 2 has better battery life, a faster processor, higher resolution and a better screen, and unlike my Slate, which originally ran Windows 7, the Surface Pro 2 was designed to work with the latest OS from Redmond.
Which leads me to the other advantage.  While the Slate has a Wacom digitizer – which was the primary appeal back when I bought it – Samsung has not provided a Windows 8 driver that I can install, so I’m forced to use the generic driver from Wacom, which is…not great.  It’s impossible to calibrate properly, it’s laggy, and palm rejection is spotty at best.
However, the Surface Pro 2 also has a Wacom digitizer, and in playing around with it at Best Buy, I’ve found it to be fantastic in comparison to the Slate.  Almost better than my Cintiq, actually (about which more later).
Beyond that, the Surface Pro 2 also has multiple accessories, such as the snap-on keyboard covers and a docking station.
So why not buy one?
Well, while it doesn’t offer all of the same advantages, I’ve also been considering the Nokia Lumia 2520.  Sure, it’s Windows RT rather than full Windows, and it doesn’t have an active digitizer, but it does support 4G/LTE, so I have the possibility of being always connected, and it has a lot of features for working cooperatively with my Nokia Windows Phone.
Plus, it’s a lot cheaper (setting aside the cost of the data plan, at any rate).
I’m not really considering that one too seriously, but it is somewhat tempting.
The other problem is that there are multiple options as far as the Surfrace Pro 2.  The cheapest has a 64GB SSD, with increasing storage options – and prices – going up to 512GB.
I’m not overly concerned about storage, given the expandability provided by the microSD slot and USB port, but the 256GB and 512GB versions come with 8GB of RAM, as opposed to the 4GB of RAM in the lower-capacity models.  In my estimation, the 256GB version offers the best balance of price and performance.
You may be thinking, ”So just shut up and buy it, already!”
Well, unfortunately, none of the brick-and-mortar stores around here that carry the Surface Pro 2 carry anything above the 128GB version, and the 256GB version is out of stock online.
Besides, the odds are that at some point soon Microsoft will do a refresh of the line with a faster CPU.  Of course, by that time it might be worth waiting to pick up the Surface Pro 3…
And then there’s yet another tablet option in the form of the Cintiq Companion.
As good as the Wacom digitizer is on the Surface Pro 2, one has to assume that it’s even better on a tablet that was built by Wacom itself.  Given my love for Wacom products, and the fact that this is a tablet designed specifically for artists, one would think that buying this would be a no-brainer.
The battery life is actually worse than that of my Slate.  It’s heavier and thicker than my Slate or the Surface Pro 2.  It’s using a previous generation Intel processor (which is part of the reason it has lousy battery life).
And it’s expensive.  The 256GB model – on sale – costs as much as the 512GB Surface Pro 2.
Even the Hybrid version – which I would have less use for – running Android is more expensive than the Surface Pro 2.
Besides, if I’m going to give a bunch of money to Wacom, there’s always this.
Then there are other computer-related purchases that I could make.
For example, I’ve been toying with the notion of getting a new, general-purpose desktop, which would allow me to turn my current desktop into a dedicated graphics workstation.  One such option would be this tablet-like desktop from Dell.
So I find myself uncertain how to proceed, which is, much like the annual buying frenzy, not terribly unusual.  That, more than simply weighing the pros and cons of my assorted options, is rather the point of this multi-part set of posts.  In the next installment I’ll look at some of my other options, and start diving into the underlying issue at the core of my indecisiveness.

*This is despite the fact that when I went to pay my mortgage online via my checking account I accidentally selected the wrong payee.  A payee to whom I didn't owe anything, resulting in my having a rather large credit added to that account, an account that isn't terribly useful to me.  I called them to straighten it out, and they're mailing me a check, but in the meantime, my account is one extra mortgage payment smaller than it could be.

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