When to Upgrade

So, obvious disclaimer, as a developer, I buy lots of “unnecessary” new devices because it’s a legitimate business expense. But buying so many has given me lots of knowledge for when people ask me when and what to buy. Here’s my advice.

First up, Macs.

Do NOT run things into the ground. I don’t care if it’s backed up. When you wait until you need a $1100 motherboard replacement for a 5 year old iMac to buy a new one you’ve cornered yourself into not having a (decent/practical) machine until the new one arrives. This means you may forgo BTO options for faster shipping times and have to ignore rumors/reports of obvious impending updates. Tragic examples

  • Buying any PPC machine after Intel transition was announced but before actuated.
  • Buying anything with a CoreDuo (not 64bit) or with an Intel GMA card.

These are cases when you know a much better machine is only one cycle away, but because you only have a brick as an alternative, you’re forced to buy something that’s clearly a “transition” machine that won’t have a long support life.

Another reason not to run a machine into the ground is that you’ll have some sort of Plan B in case your new machine needs warranty service or gets stolen. If your old machine isn’t just a brick, you don’t have to fall victim to buying at the end of product cycles. Older but functioning machines can also be reborn as file servers Home Theatre PCs.

So when should you buy a new machine you “don’t” need? That’s as easy as learning the “obvious” upgrades. Apple (and many others) usually ship some yesterday tech at low prices. Sometimes it’s just a few MHz, some RAM, etc. Sometimes it matters. Sometimes it doesn’t. Here’s today’s list of specs that are more future proof than others.

  • 4GB RAM, 8GB supported (even if too expensive right now)
  • NVidia and ATI/AMD graphics
  • Multicore 64bit processor

Right now the MacBook Airs are the only things failing because of their Intel video card. The reason it matters is because they don’t support OpenCL. Intel says they will eventually, but that’s not good enough for me. There will be a time when apps require OpenCL. They won’t all obviously, but I see no reason why a future Final Cut won’t work on these Airs but WILL work on the previous generations with the nVidia 320m. Depending on the bench, the older ones can be faster.

Personally, I’m waiting for a new Mac Mini. I want a Quad i7 and nVidia graphics. Right now you can get a dual core i7 with ATI or a Quad Core i7 with Intel Graphics. I think I’ll wait rather than get something that might be useless before my current mini. (I’m also hoping for dual thunderbolts on the server model).

Regarding iPhones: That’s easy, always buy every other model at the subsidized price. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Odd or Even devices. You pay the subsidy monthly whether you upgrade or not so you might as well.

iPads? Not enough historical data.