Looking Back: Tech Upgrades of 2012

2012: Many Goodies But Where They All Worth It?

2012: Many Goodies But Where They All Worth It?

2012 has brought in a pretty substantial set of tech upgrades and side-grades  Budgets were carefully allocated and balanced to ensure that such purchases were affordable. Here’s looking back at my technology related purchases in 2012 and how they fared.

 

Dell U3011 30″ Monitor

The biggest upgrade for me this year is moving from a 27″ Samsung 1920×1200 monitor to a 30″ Dell 2560×1600 display. It was my most expensive upgrade but also a very worthwhile one. There’s no overstating what a big display does for productivity especially since it sits affixed on the desktop. Running this with a portrait rotated 19″ Dell 1024×1280 has allowed me to run 3 windows adjacently at all times. It is great to be able to work with Word, Evernote and Chrome all at the same time with all windows displayed. Productivity aside, watching games and movies on this magnificent, high resolution screen is a dream. Once you go 30″, you never go back. Extremely satisfied with this one.

 

Once you go 30″, you never go back.

 

 

Palit GTX670 Jetstream

I have to admit this purchase was a necessity in response to moving to a high resolution display. My previous card, the GTX460 did well on 1920×1200 but sputtered when it came to 2560×1600. It was perhaps fortunate that nVidia chose to launch its sweet spot GPUs this year. Kepler has been a revelation because it has managed to balance performance, power and heat/fan noise perfectly. This is a big reason for AMD’s troubles and the purchase of the GTX670 made complete sense from a value point of view. An overclocked GTX670 is able to perform like a GTX680 and that is what is powering both my displays smoothly even in graphically intense applications. No regrets on this card, does what it is supposed to at a great price.

 

Creative X-Fi Titanium PCIe

Not the best in class but a great value buy.

Not the best in class but a great value buy.

Onboard sound is fine but things change when you plug in a dedicated sound card or attach an external DAC. I am not big on sound but I did happened to find an old Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic card lying around. Plugged it in and it blew my onboard sound away. Unfortunately, the 5 year old card went dead this year and I had to replace the sound card. I didn’t want to shell out big money for sound. Buying second hand was the answer for me. Sound cards do not die often and make good second hand purchases even without warranty. The Creative X-Fi Titanium PCIe is known to be a value card for above average sound. Nabbing it at S$50 was a steal and it has performed well. Technically, I would have not preferred to buy a replacement sound card but a good sound card at this cheap was too good not to get.

 

2x 2TB Seagate Barracuda Mechanical Drives

Your data collection grows no matter what. Even with proper management and consistent removal of data you no longer need, there’s no stopping the need for bigger and bigger storage drives. My growing collection of design work, school work, music and other media outgrew its original 2x 1TB of space. So the logical next step was 2x 2TB. You might wonder why I buy a pair of drives each time. I don’t trust mechanical drives. Failure rate is high and every time I have something on a mechanical drive, I make sure to have 2 copies of it. These drives cost me quite a bit but considering the value of my data, I wouldn’t have dared left it on a single drive. $250 for 4TB of space isn’t expensive and it was a ‘had to’ purchase because the data I have goes in no direction but up.

 

Considering the value of my data, I wouldn’t have dared left it on a single drive.

 

 

HP dvd1260 Internal DVD Drive

Optical media should be dead but I had no choice but to replace a dead optical drive with yet another because I was in the midst of converting all 425 music CDs to FLAC for my Dad. The drive is pretty cheap at $28 but it is something I probably won’t ever use. Everyone will need an optical drive at least for one PC (or an external one) as long things like DVDs and Blu-Rays are still around. I didn’t shell out for a Blu-Ray player basically because I have no intention of purchasing any BR media.

 

Logitech T650 Touchpad

Pointing Devices

Pointing Devices

This touchpad was a gift so all I can say is I am fortunate to receive one. Over time., the touch pad has worked extremely well in the Modern / Windows 8 UI and fairly well under desktop conditions. I use both touch pad and my mouse (Logitech G700)  concurrently with both of them sitting on a huge Razer Goliathus mousepad. I’d say pick one only if you’re very comfortable with touchpads. Else, a mouse still works fine in Modern / Windows 8 UI. If I had to pay for this, I probably won’t call it a worthwhile purchase. But you don’t argue when it is free. How useful this is, again, depends on you.

 

Microsoft Wedge Bluetooth Keyboard

This keyboard is a real beauty and a joy to type with. It cost me quite a bit even with a discount but I bought this basically for a future hybrid. This is the best Bluetooth keyboard in its range and it continually delivers against my Razer Blackwidow Ultimate. Works extremely well as a wireless input option. Would be paired with a hybrid possibly in 2H 2013.

 

Windows 8

Upgrading an Operating System is always fun for geeks. I mean, you only get to do this once every 3 years or so for Windows. The furor over Windows 8 is frankly born out of confusion and ignorance. Most of the people shouting about it have not really used it fully or they approach the product waiting to hate it. You cannot expect Windows 8 to be like Windows 7. It isn’t. Windows 8 is not perfect and is every way a transitional product but the opportunities for adopters both developers and consumers are huge. My experience with Windows 8 on a full blown desktop computer with dual monitors and also on a 14″ laptop have been positive. Apps like NewsBento, RedditToGo, TuneIn, etc have been great lean back experiences that complement the lean forward experience found on the desktop. No regrets with a double license purchase.

A Refreshing Change

A Refreshing Change

 

HTC One X

After seeing Apple not do much with the 4S, I switched out my iPhone 4 for my very first Android phone – the HTC One X. I’ve used this daily for over 7 months and the experience has been good. Android has matured as a platform and is every way competitive with iOS. The tremendous growth Android has seen (75+% of the market) is down to the fact that Android can now boldly fill the premium category of the smartphone market. After my One X purchase, the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Apple’s iPhone 5 were launched. I played around with both of them but will not switch my One X for either. The One X still boasts the best mix of design and display quality with a fresh, updated OS that is forward looking. My preference for HTC’s hardware and software design over market leader Samsung is obviously subjective here. The only phone that I may covet at this point is the Samsung Galaxy Note II. Mainly because it is a better productivity workhorse. Despite this, the marginal returns on staying with my One X is still higher. HTC does a terrible job of marketing its brand but the One X has been the best phone I have ever used.

 

HTC does a terrible job of marketing its brand but the One X has been the best phone I have ever used.

 

 

Conclusion

2012 has been great for tech upgrades. Thankfully, I made no real poor purchases considering the small budgets that undergraduates have. A bigger screen is always recommended to anyone as it makes a massive differences. Most other upgrades were necessary ones or forced due to growth or replacement needs. As the year draws to an end and 2013 beckons, I will write about expectations for the coming year in tech. Stay tuned.



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