I realize that very few people are as fully integrated into the electronic world as I am. This is not necessarily either a negative or positive issue. If you are a genealogist and integrated into electronics, then you likely think this a really good thing. But if you are a genealogist and have little or no knowledge of or contact with electronics, you likely question the sanity and reasonableness of those of us who are so inclined.
Although those who read this blog are likely connected to the electronic world to some extent, I thought it might be helpful if I gave the extreme perspective for each type of device.
Let's start with the basic computer; CPU, monitor, keyboard and mouse or trackpad. A common basic configuration, at the moment, is either an Apple iMac or a Dell, or a Gateway, or an HP Pavilion. The PCs running Windows start around $400 and the iMacs around $1,300. This is one area where you pay for what you get and price differences are generally reflected in the equipment configuration. The differences are in the speed, size of RAM memory, storage memory capacity, resolution of the monitor, and so forth. This is an area where you can walk into a mass merchandising company, such as Walmart, Costco, Sams Club, Best Buy or whatever and buy whatever is on sale and not be far off of a completely usable system.
My opinion: there is a reason Apple is skyrocketing into the top computer sales organization in the world. Generally, people will pay more when they see more value. Apple provides value in ease of use and design. There are a number of genealogy programs that work very well on Apple OS X computers. If you are told that you can't do genealogy on a Macintosh computer, the person talking to you is simply misinformed.
We presently use multiple desktop computers. We are frequently retiring older models and buying new ones. I do 80% of my work on an iMac with a 27 inch monitor. We have two more iMacs and two laptops, an HP and a MacBook Pro. My children use a variety of computers, from PCs to Macs in different configurations. We edit photographs, create documents, publish books, write, edit and compose blogs, watch movies, talk to family, friends and associates, participate in webinars, and on and on. I keep a huge genealogical database of tens of thousands of names and over 100,000 documents and photographs.
Next is the laptop. Laptops have now evolved into powerful full-blown computers. It is possible to use a laptop for both your desktop needs and for portability. The best selling laptops are made by Samsung, Apple, Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Asus. I have a MacBook Pro and would not trade it for anything else except a newer MacBook Pro. Here again, you can walk into any mass merchandiser or go online and buy whatever strikes you as what you need and you will likely be right.
I carry my laptop around with me incessantly. I use it for presentations and I use if for classes and to work when I am not at home. Almost everything I do on a desktop computer, I can do just as easily on a laptop (except for the screen size).
Do you need a laptop? Do you need two cars? Do you need a dish washer? Do you need an electric vacuum? There is always a tradeoff between having a new device and the use to which the device is put. I use my laptop very frequently. You may not. Buying a new device does not mean you will use it.
Down the list, the next type of device has raced to the market in the last couple of years, that is tablet computers. iPads and similar devices are selling at an astounding rate. We have two iPads. I use the iPad to read books from the library and purchased online. I watch movies since we sold all our TVs and I listen to music and a lot of other activities. The question here is whether or not you want or need a smartphone. The tablet computer and the smartphone have almost all the same features, except, of course, the telephone part. I find the two devices to be duplicative. I like the iPad because of the larger screen. With these devices, you just need to go to a couple of stores and have a look. You need to hold them in your hand and decide whether or not you would use one.
Tablets can do nearly all of the functions of a laptop and some of the key functions of a desktop, but I find that I need to go back to my desktop to do serious long term work.
Input devices are the next issue. I use a standard keyboard and a mouse. I have almost entirely moved over to using a trackpad in addition to a mouse. I use the Apple Magic Trackpad. This is another area of personal preference.
I guess I will have to continue this post at some later time and get into the rest of the equipment.