About two months ago, my iMac died. Five years ago, this would have been a huge inconvenience. In 2016, it became a mild irritation (mostly because I was making good progress on Jonathan Blow’s wonderful The Witness) and an opening to reconsider my personal technology stack.
Since my dad first lugged home an SE/30 in 1990, I’ve always been a desktop-Mac-as-my-primary kind of guy. That poor abused SE/30 gave way to a pokey Performa, and a very early G3/233 accompanied me to college. I scrapped and saved for a G4 Cube mid-way my junior year, but by graduation I was tired of having an external monitor. Thus began a solid 14 years of an iMac on my desk. Every major model (outside of the “gumdrop”) worked into my cycle, including the bizarre but quirky “white half sphere” with the articulating arm display.
Helping to reinforce this was the side effect of Apple’s Intel transition: through Boot Camp, I could now run Windows, and therefore could run Steam. A new avenue of gaming opened up, and my replacement iMacs were almost always BTO options to max out the graphics card and RAM. It wasn’t top tier gaming performance, and it certainly was a premium above building a separate gaming PC, but I always appreciated having a single computer.
But back to January: the iMac went kaput (likely a hard drive failure, undoubtedly related to my inability to heed a recall warning), and I instinctively went to the Apple Store to start pricing out a new model. And then thoughts started swirling in my head:
- Over the average week, I was using my iPad Air considerably more than my desktop.
- The things I was using the desktop for was mostly Windows gaming.
- The Retina iMac had increased the cost of the line generally, particular at the higher end
- The higher end would be needed, as the only place you can max out the graphics card is the very upper end of the line
- Even after my educational staff discount, I was still looking at about $3,000 for a like-for-like replacement.
- While I do have a work laptop available for business functions, I’d need something to not lose my oversized Steam library and want something for day-to-day computing.
- I refuse to use Windows as my primary OS. Just out of principle.
After some soul searching and some research, I’ve settled on a new approach: an iPad Pro 12″ for the non-gaming, and an Alienware Alpha for the gaming. (I was holding out until last week’s Apple Event to see if the lineup changes might’ve changed my plans, but they did not.) Combined, I saved about $1,300 versus the traditional iMac plan, and spares me a separate iPad upgrade later in the year.
Given how Apple is now trying to sell the iPad Pro as a viable laptop replacement, I’ll be interested to see how this turns out. Check back in a few months for the oh-so-thrilling results.