This has not been a great holiday for blogging!
It's the usual trouble...whether I make it a morning or evening activity, putting a decent post together has to take second place to photo-editing, and indeed just enjoying my holiday. There is also the issue of illustration, by which I mean that the various important events of the holiday most certainly need to be related with accompanying photos, and publishing blog posts with pictures added to them is not practical when sitting inside a metal box (my caravan) in a farmer's field with a weak and variable mobile internet connection. Actually, here in North Devon it's a weak 4G connection, and it's surprisingly good for straightforward ordinary purposes such as phoning, and texting, and sending emails, and internet banking. But not for submitting a photo-laden post to Blogger.
So I must leave all that until I get home, and concentrate instead on topics that may not seem very holidaylike. If, that is, I can get round to writing anything at all. For the 'usual trouble' has been compounded by having the purchase of a new laptop on my mind. It's such a major purchase for me. It will reduce my savings by half. I can't afford to make a mistake. I have got myself clued up as regards specifications, so I do understand what various features will do for me, and whether I really need them. I have been reading online reviews galore, and watching video reviews on YouTube. That's all been done on my phone - what a star that phone has been! - but I've just realised that I've used up 60% of my monthly mobile data allowance, so that kind of thing has now got to be abandoned until I get home and can use my PC instead. Hmph. That's four days away.
And did reading all that opinion assist? Yes and no. I found myself being swayed one way and another, like a weathercock. Tech journalists rarely seem to have the same take on a product. They all offer you an opinion based on their own subjective reaction, often striving to say something different or unexpected about the device in question - occasionally resorting to hyperbole and overblown language, as if they are attempting to outdo each other. (In truth they probably are) Male reviewers seem most prone to tut-tut, sneer and cavil, and damn a product for falling fatally short in some way. Female reviewers are fewer, but their words ring truer to me, and their opinion seems more balanced. Both however go on and on about points that in real life may not matter much. At least not to me - such as how a particular laptop copes with some high-demand computer game. They all seem obsessed with gaming. My photo work certainly requires processing power, but most reviewers say little about the practical business of actually getting pictures processed on a laptop, certainly not about whether this or that machine will be especially suitable for a time-starved shooter with 200 shots to edit, caption, backup, share, publish and file away all in one evening.
It leaves me, the potential purchaser, still undecided, even if all aspects of the product have been exhaustively explained. Which is not good, because once home I must make up my mind and order a laptop without delay, confident that I will be happy with my new kit when it arrives on my doorstep.
I can of course physically examine the likely contenders (or the nearest model in the range) in the very few shops where laptops can nowadays be found. In Devon, that means John Lewis in Exeter, or the few branches of PC World. I have used up holiday time doing this. Touching and playing with the merchandise has certainly helped. It has however brought to my attention some other laptops that I hadn't thought worth serious consideration. This is presently my shortlist:
Microsoft Surface Book (a luxury, stylish, indeed futuristic, laptop with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet)
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (a high-grade tablet with a detachable keyboard that turns it into a laptop)
Dell XPS 13 (a high-grade laptop)
The above three all have medium-sized 12 or 13 inch screens. If I want a 15 inch screen, there is:
Dell XPS 15 (a larger high-grade laptop)
So now I am torn four ways! All the models with a specification I like are within the £1,200 to £1,650 price range at the online Microsoft Store. All run Windows 10. All have touch-enabled screens that look fantastic. I've personally examined all of them closely except the Dell XPS 15, which is however just a bigger, more capable, XPS 13 and presumably has much the same feel.
Marginally the most expensive is the Dell XPS 15, but that's the largest and most powerful machine. The cheapest option is the MS Surface Pro 4.
The best-looking (by some margin) is the MS Surface Book. Next best-looking is the Dell XPS 13.
Both the MS machines are 'different' from normal laptops, and more versatile.
The MS Surface Book and the Dell XPS 13 have potentially the best battery life, in my hands anyway.
As for durability, the two Dells seem most likely to last for years unscathed.
At this point, I'm attracted to the MS Surface Book and the Dell XPS 13 equally. Both are easy to transport, sturdy and sophisticated, and will do their job well. Both are probably no-regret buys. But the Dell XPS 13 is £450 cheaper. Does that make the Dell the obvious choice?