Technical Questions: How Should You Respond?Just 10 years ago, technical questions were fairly simple to answer. Today, that has changed. One must remember that, back then, home consumers had few choices while businesses were more or less tied to their servers that were accessed via either a dumb terminal or a desktop system running Windows. In fact, to encourage users to learn how to navigate through their OS, Microsoft made it even easier by combining its NT operating system and the consumer version of Windows into a single OS.

Then, with the introduction of Windows XP, we geeks found ourselves in the enviable position of being able to recommend a computer system loaded with XP for both personal and business computers alike. However, as simple as this made it for us, technology continued to move forward and today’s computer scene has changed dramatically with the introduction of laptop systems that are now just as powerful as our desktops once were. In fact, it has been years since I personally dumped the desktop in favor of the convenience I found with a laptop system.

However, since the advent of the tablet computer, even laptop computers appear, in terms of technological advancement, to be behind the newest eight ball. These innovative, small, computing devices have taken the world by storm. One reason for their popularity lies in the fact that they constantly generate new technological concepts that allow us to carry our work/social lives in our back pockets or purses.

To see this, you only have to walk down the aisle of any store and listen for one of the various ring tones indicating that someone’s smartphone is in need of being answered or glance at the car next to you at a stop light and witness the passenger using their Apple iPad to chat on Facebook.

So it isn’t surprising that I found myself perplexed when I received an email from a friend of mine asking what I thought of a purchase he was considering. Here is what he asked:

“I am thinking about purchasing a refurbished Toshiba Thrive from a seller on eBay and wanted your advice as to whether I should buy it or not. It is a 10″ tablet with a lot of bells and whistles for only $249.99. What do you think?”

My expertise in the tablet field is limited to the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle Fire (both of which I personally own). However, I own and have owned a variety of desktop and laptop computers over the years and highly recommend Toshiba’s laptop systems. I have found Toshiba to produce a quality product backed by phenomenal technical support and a genuine customer public relations policy. With that having been said, I believe one could assume that the Thrive will be found to exemplify these same company standards.

To support this opinion, I did some research into the Toshiba Thrive and found that this new device offers the following pros and cons:

The pros of the Toshiba Thrive are:

  • Full size HDMI port.
  • Memory card expansion slot.
  • 1 GHz dual core processor.
  • 1 GB memory.
  • Replaceable battery.
  • USB port.
  • Dual cameras. Front supports 720p video.
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support.

The cons of the Toshiba Thrive are:

  • Heavy and bulky compared to the iPad.
  • Lackluster camera quality.

With this in mind, and knowing what I do about the Apple iPad and the Kindle Fire, I told my friend that buying a refurbished product was fine as long as he was aware of the drawbacks of the unit. I told him that the price was right for that unit but reminded him that you can buy a refurbished Apple iPad for between $299 and $349. I further told him that once he had checked out each of these units and if he found that they were too bulky for what he needed, he should consider the Amazon Kindle Fire, which he could obtain for approximately $199. I was specific, however, that he must consider the limitations of any of these devices before he committed to a purchase.

In response to my advice I received a text message from him on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012, in which he told me that he had, in fact, chosen to order a Toshiba Thrive that he expected to receive next week. He told me he would let me know what he thought of the unit once it arrived — adding that, as of Thursday morning, March 22nd, at 8:47 PDT, the seller’s website claimed to have sold 894 units.

I am hoping for his sake that he made the right decision, but with so many manufacturing companies vying for our dollars and so many choices from desktops, laptops, netbooks, notebooks, Chromebooks, tablets, and now the newest Ultrabooks, the vast assortment can be overwhelming. The answer really revolves around a person’s prejudices and experiences, meaning that we need to keep the other person’s need in focus and give them alternatives in the way of recommendations that will provide them with several options to consider.

In recommending a device, one must also remember that different toys meet different needs. For example, the attraction of the tablet computer demonstrates the consumer’s desire for something new to play with rather than just another work tool. Because of this, I know that many parents have purchased or have considered purchasing an Apple iPad for their children. However, I recognize that while Apple is currently the tablet leader, there are many out there reading this article who may not have the funds to purchase a fully-loaded iPad. If you are one of those consumers, there are other options (like the Toshiba Thrive) to satisfy those tablet needs at a reasonable price point.

One note of caution I would offer, however, is don’t take all reviews or recommendation at face value. There are those out there who will claim they are doing video editing on their smartphones or elaborate spreadsheets from their tablet computers, but I would tend to question their validity. Remember, it is easy to make claims, such as someone claiming to have dug up the Suez Canal with a garden trowel when in actuality they removed four trowelfuls of dirt from the bank. In this case, it is obvious that accomplishing this feat would have required massive amounts of time and energy, making the writer’s claims ridiculous to all but the most gullible. However, when recommending what electronic device a person should consider, it is imperative that you take into consideration the person’s budget and what they plan on using the computer for.

So what would you have advised my friend to do? Should he have purchased the Toshiba Thrive or saved his pennies to buy an Apple iPad?

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Vylen