Why bother upgrading? August 14, 2020 cliffski My office is having new windows put in (at last!) which will mean its no longer unbearably cold in winter (yay) or unbearably hot in summer (yay), so I am currently sat at a laptop, researching the current state of abortion legislation in the USA for Democracy 4. Anyway… The laptop I’m typing this on is a nice shiny Asus Intel core i7 laptop. To be precise, its an Asus zenbook ux303ua i7-6500 12GB RAM, running windows 10. I mainly use it to surf, check twitter, watch the odd TV thing, blog and do forum posting, plus the odd casual game now and then. I bought it in 2016 for £767. Its fine. In fact its great. It runs fairly fast, The screen is still fine, the keyboard still works, it doesnt crash, it doesnt lag. I had to reinstall windows once (repair from the existing install), but thats it, in four years of owning it. I cannot think of any real justification for getting a new laptop, other than the fact that my wife’s laptop is newer, and bigger, and theoretically better. Four years might not sound old for a laptop, but it is for me. As a developer, I can get the benefit of claiming the VAT (sales tax) back, plus its a business expense. So no VAT (saves 20%) and effectively saving another 20% on the tax. Plus I LIVE for computers and online stuff, so its easy to justify a new PC at the most flimsy justification! But…not any more. Its four years old and its an i7. Whats new these days? The i9? sure you CAN get them, at 4x what I paid for this laptop, but are they four times better? even three times? twice as good? Even a noticeable difference? I dont think so, unless you want to play an FPS like Battlefield V with HDR and so on, laptops that are used for work are basically very happy with an older, cheaper i7 or even i5 chip. Even the 12GB RAM is overkill tbh. I upgraded my desktop from 8->16GB and noticed very little difference. I am not one to trot out the ‘640k is enough for everyone’ line. I am a developer, and my main PC is pretty decent (still just an i7 though), with an RTX card and a monitor the size of Texas. I get it, but most people are not software devs, and even most gamers are not playing super-demanding games. I am pretty sure I could play minecraft or fortnite on this laptop, even league of legends and football manager, so thats 99.99% of gamers covered right there! I think we have reached a bit of a plateau where laptops are simply overpowered. The reasons to upgrade are minimal, and it shows! if I check amazon for just ‘laptop’ I’m recomended the best seller at £159.99. Thats hilarious. Laptops used to always cost a thousand pounds or more… Its not only laptops, but many things seem to be going that way. I’ve had the same ‘smart’ TV for five years and despite checking regularly there seems to be little benefit to an upgrade there. Even my bleeding edge car (tesla model s) is from 2015, and the only possible reason to upgrade would be to get a slightly smaller one, or with extra autopilot cameras. Quite hard to justify even for me, a tesla fanboy. This is actually *not a bad thing*. Maybe if we were better at designing economic systems, somehow things would shift from selling increasingly over-specced gadgets to the wealthiest, to just get ‘adequate’ tech to everyone. There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who would love that £159.99 laptop, or a modern low-power-usage TV, or even a decent fridge. The question is how to shift the focus of an economy in that direction, in a way that people accept. I dont have any answers. I’m a capitalist, and believe in the free market, but believe it needs a nudge now and then. Maybe its actually a good thing that western tech companies have manufacturing based in relatively poorer countries, as at least some of that money then goes into the pockets of those very people who would be an eager market for the suddenly-affordable tech. Like everything though, the inter-relationships of that business model are all over the place. Should we really be shipping physical goods all over the world by container ship? what happens to the US economy when all the USA manufacturing jobs go to china? There are no easy solutions, and even modelling some of this stuff in Democracy 4 gives me a headache, but I guess at least its a good thing that a really decent laptop no longer requires people to sell a kidney.