User Input

User Input: Higher Standards

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I’ve found myself complaining a lot lately about the shoddy quality of various products I’ve purchased — or been given, in the case of my work laptop. In every instance, I’ve found myself receiving those blank, incredulous stares from people who seem unable to believe that I might possibly want to have a product that isn’t broken or error-prone. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that there has been a shift in mentality for our general populace.

Years ago, we used to simply expect that things were going to be well-made and resistant to abuse. My favourite example is my old PowerMac G3 that earned my loyalty so completely; it went for a decade without a single major crash — the odd program quitting unexpectedly, but nothing that forced a restart — after running for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For ten years. I only retired it because it was caught in the wreckage when my house flooded and started to collapse, but I harbor suspicions that if I had pulled it free and dried it out properly, it would have fired right back up again with its annoying diesel-engine burble.

I have nothing that even comes close to that quality anymore. My Hackintosh is powerful, but hardly that robust. My work computer reminds me of a tight-rope walker with Parkinson’s — it’ll probably be fine, but you’re always apprehensive. And when I talk to anyone about the issues, I get the response, “Well, what do you expect?”

I expect a product that bloody does what I ask it to! Is that unreasonable?

So I ask you, esteemed commentariat: Where does your preference lie? Cheap and disposable, or more expensive and well-made?

  • The Professor

    Oh my, if you're buying something that you're planning on keeping and using, it's well worth it to spend some extra bucks and buy a quality unit. Far and away more preferable, and I speak from experience. Too many times have I tried to save a buck or two by buying cheaply, and then having to go back out and buy what I should have bought the first time, because the cheap unit either broke, or wouldn't do what I wanted.
    On the other hand, if you're buying something for a one-time use, why spend more money than you need to?

    • That's the middle ground I look for. Engine hoist that I need now and may use sporadically later? I want to get the price down to $.50/lb. Tools I'm going to use weekly for the rest of my life? Give me the good ones.

    • Mr_Biggles

      At first read I thought maybe he was alluding to what kind of posts we wanted to see on AT. You need cheap laughs mixed with the good stuff. Don't change a thing.

      On tools and other stuff, I agree with you completely: there's a time and a job for both. You just need to figure it out in advance to avoid potential frustration and heartbreak.

  • I'm in the well made, long lasting camp. Especially when it comes to tools, there is nothing more frustrating than having a project grind to a halt because a tool breaks.

    • SSurfer321

      Call me a tool if you must, but I'm a Union Tool and deserve my breaks every 30 minutes.

  • The Professor has the right idea. You have to find the right balance between, how long do I plan on keeping this and how much do I want to spend.

    There is also a difference between reliable and well made. I can think of couple of extreme examples. Russian military guns for the most part are not well made. They will show lots of tool marks, have large clunky designs, and shows signs of general haphazard assembly. However, they will go bang every time you pull the trigger for the next 100 years or so. They might not be that accurate, but the average sub-Saharan pre-teen will have no trouble producing a hail of lead. On the other hand there is BMW. There is no doubt a BMW is a well made car, but the newer ones are hardly reliable.

    I try to buy the best I can afford. Sometimes that is the cheapest one.

    • The Professor

      Yes, and that can be quite a conundrum when you're out shopping. Do you go for a few more bells and whistles that may come in handy at some point, but possibly sacrifice reliability because it's new and unproven, or go with the tried-and-true simpler model that never breaks down? I've grown to choose the latter, anymore.

      Having to buy cheaply because you have no choice is galling, but what are you going to do? It's a disagreeable position to be in.

  • OA5599

    On a bit of a tangent here, but what can one still do with a PowerMac G3 in 2012? I'm asking because I'm not a Mac guy, but I have one sitting in the spare room.

    • Deartháir

      I was using mine as a media server, and I believe Techie is doing the same, although now that they recently went to Intel-only software, it's not as useful as it was about a year ago. It has tons of power to host movies and music, but not a lot for anything heavy-duty anymore. By the end, it was basically a rock-solid web-browser and word processor. Still, for a computer I bought in 1999, it did damn well.

  • GlassOnion9

    What about cheap and well made? I buy used on CL whenever possible.

    • Deartháir

      Good call. Gently-used second-hand is pretty much always the best bet. The trick is finding the "gently used".

  • TX_Stig

    Generally speaking, I prefer to buy precision tools at a higher quality level. Things with moving parts, precise readouts, etc. Things like sockets, I will usually cheap out on. Because I know I am going to tear them up. But, as others have mentioned here, I have gone the cheap tool route and gotten burned. I would rather overpay a little and have a quality tool, as opposed to going through the irritation of rebuying the same tool several times.