ComputerI can hardly believe it but I’ve now owned my latest laptop — a Dell Inspiron — for nearly three years. When first purchased, it was all sparkly and new and fast and well, just about everything I wanted. It’s still pretty darn fast and the hard drive has gobs of space on it, but it’s starting to show its age with periodic crashes and freezes. And most annoying, the wifi routinely requires tinkering. And the stupid thing weighs a ton (well, not really, but it feels that way when stuffed in a bag or pack along with everything else I need to carry).

I have no desire to be without a computer should this one crash permanently. In fact I can’t be without as I frequently need to connect to my work computer from home in the evenings and weekends. So I have begun looking at replacements. Despite being a longtime PC user, I’ve lusted after a MacBook Air ever since I wandered into an Apple store over two years ago. But the price just makes me cringe. Fast forward two years and there are now so many ultrabooks out there it makes my head spin.

I read a recent PCMag article that lists the editors’ choices for the top 10 ultrabooks. Now I’m even more confused. Is 4.4 pounds too heavy? Is 2.9 pounds substantially lighter? Not sure. Do I want a touchscreen on my laptop or is the traditional keyboard sufficient? Is 4 gb of ram enough or should I go for 8 gb?

Making my decision even more confusing is the fact that I routinely access the web on the tiny, tiny screen of my iPhone, which weighs next to nothing. Now I’m beginning to wonder if I truly need an ultrabook. And then this winter I purchased an iPad mini which gives me another lightweight option for accessing the web. Even better, since several of my fellow AAR staffers suggested that I get Pages for my iPad, I’m able to take notes while reading on my iPad. And no ultrabook is going to beat my IPad for weight.

I’m conflicted. I used to travel a lot for work which made a laptop essential. Now I rarely make business trips, meaning the portability is really a personal rather than professional issue. While I do a lot of work from home, just about any laptop will suffice. And because I like to work in various rooms in my home, a desktop won’t work. So, I’m wondering if the better route might be to simply buy another, heavier, but really cheap laptop to use at home, and use my iPad for portability?

What do you use? Desktop? Laptop? Ultrabook? Smartphone? Or a combination of these? And when you need to buy a new computer, where do you go for information?

-LinnieGayl