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Best Buy—along with tech expert Marc Saltzman and representatives from Microsoft and Intel—held a Twitter party last week. The purpose of the #SpringTechChat Twitter session was to give people the opportunity to ask the questions that will help them make the best choice possible when they buy their next laptop. I sat in on the event and was blown away by the volume, scope and quality of questions that came firing in during the hour. For those of you who missed out, I’ve done my best to capture some of the themes I spotted among the conversations along with some of the more interesting topics.

Give people who have a genuine interest in having technology that works for them direct access to tech experts and a surprising range of questions and comments will very rapidly be generated. That effect was on full display during the #SpringTechChat session and the questions ranged from straightforward to some real head-scratchers that show many of the people using this gear are seriously pushing its capabilities.

I did pick up on a few recurring themes, questions, themes and issues that came up repeatedly (in one form or another).

1. Outdated Technology is a Pain to Deal With

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There’s no denying the fact that updating to the latest and greatest device is sometimes done because the new gear looks cool or does cool new stuff. Manufacturers are out to sell hardware, and that means constantly evolving design with visual appeal.

But there’s a real case to be made for updating because the older stuff eventually becomes a real hassle to deal with. Examples that were brought up include the risk of losing data if an old laptop finally gives up the ghost and crashes, applications that run slowly, new operating systems or software versions that don’t support older hardware and the frustration of finding compatible drivers.

2. What People Are Looking For in a New Laptop

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So when older laptops become too annoying to use—or just plain quit working altogether—what are people looking for in a new laptop?

Speed was one of the most popular themes. Old laptops can seem to operate at a snail’s pace, new laptops are incredibly fast. Opting for an SSD over a traditional hard drive is deemed to be a big win because it not only makes most operations zippier, solid state storage can reduce startup time to mere seconds. 

Other features on the checklist? Battery life (all-day is becoming the gold standard these days), a high quality and high resolution display, sturdy build and touchscreen support are popular. Hmm… That sounds a lot like a laptop I featured just a few days ago.

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Memory is a big thing too, not just the faster RAM on current PCs but having lots of it, a must-have for those who have a habit of keeping 100 Chrome tabs open.

3. Tablets and Laptops are Bleeding Into Each Others’ Territory, Making 2-in-1 Hybrids a Popular Choice

A few years ago, tablets were for media consumption, games and casual use while laptops were the device you used to be productive. Many people carried both around with them.

With productivity apps now available on tablets and accessories like Bluetooth keyboards commonplace, some of our readers are ditching the laptop, moving to a pure tablet experience.

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With laptops getting lighter and gaining battery life, some are ditching the extra weight of the tablet to stick with just a laptop.

But what many people are getting excited about are the hybrid devices that combine the best of both worlds. The Surface Pro 3 is a powerful Windows tablet that can transform into an ultralight laptop equivalent. One of the devices generating the most buzz takes the hybrid approach from a different direction. The new Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 is an Ultrabook with flagship specs (like a QHD+ touchscreen display, JBL speakers and 256 GB SSD) with an innovative hinge that supports multiple user modes—including traditional laptop and tablet mode.

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As I said earlier, there were way more questions raised than I could possibly recap here. You can check out the full thread yourself on Best Buy Canada’s Twitter feed to get a better idea of what I’m talking about. You can bet some of those are going to show up in coming weeks as Plug-in blog posts.

Closing this out, I want to point out a few more interesting questions and comments. No theme, other than the fact that Plug-in readers are seriously engaged (whether that’s on Twitter or on post comments) and looking to help improve the Plug-in experience.

@MarlowXim asked about video reviews. 

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We try to add multimedia components where possible to posts—video can be a very compelling addition. Video reviews are a very different animal than standard written reviews (among other things, they require a different skill set from the reviewer, additional equipment and studio space to do properly). They also mean the reader becomes a watcher and that can limit when and how they check out these reviews—a web page can be read virtually anywhere or any time, even offline. Video, not so much. That being said, video reviews are a great idea and something we are considering.

@tgreenc asked participants to name the oldest working tech they still have.

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I found this question particularly interesting. I’ve been immersed in technology for much of my life, I’m a bit of a collector (not quite hoarder status but there are some devices I just can’t let go) and I tend to repurpose gear I love.  

Answers included a Commodore VIC-20 (that was my first computer and I remember paying some staggering amount for the 8k RAM upgrade), a Polaroid camera and a Motorola RAZR cell phone. 

In my case, I still have a functional, first generation Newton MessagePad circa 1993 sitting in my desk drawer. Every once in a while I pull it out to show my kids just how far tablets have come—and how much more efficient modern batteries are, too. That thing ate AA batteries, despite a processor less powerful than the one in my smart thermostat and a black and white display with less resolution than most current smartwatches.

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Thanks to everyone who participated in this Twitter Party. I learned a lot and I think everyone benefited from the questions and expert answers. It quickly became evident that one hour isn’t enough time to explore all questions and issues raised, but that’s not a bad thing—it means I have a whole lot of ideas to explore in future Plug-in posts. 

 

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.