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Being a reviewer has made me dread gadget shopping

I want all the things, but also none of them.

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I, Dana Wollman, reviewer of laptops, have not purchased a laptop for myself since 2008. In the years since, I've tested 92 computers for Engadget, and who-knows-how-many for my old employer Laptop Mag. I've answered countless emails from readers asking which PC they should buy. I bought my dad a Lenovo ThinkPad, and came to the rescue years later when he botched his Windows 10 install. Helping other people is easy. It's myself I hate shopping for.

I finally sent the old MacBook to a recycler last week. I hadn't used it in years. It ran an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, with 2GB of RAM. The battery was distended; a fire hazard, probably. The configuration was so out of date that it wasn't listed at PowerOn.com, Apple's official third-party recycler. I had to go to a Genius Bar for help, where the Genius, who clearly didn't know who I am, explained the pros and cons of a MacBook Air versus the Pro.

In a weird way, the fact that I've been able to go so long without replacing my laptop shows how privileged I am. I test the latest and greatest computers for a living, and work for a rich company whose IT department issues me a shiny new laptop every three years. And because the things that are so dear to me -- my files, photos, Spotify collection -- are now stored in the cloud, it doesn't really matter that none of these machines aren't actually mine.

It's not about the money, by the way. If I really wanted a particular model, I would have bought it already. The problem is, I don't. After years as a professional gadget reviewer, I've come to dread gadget shopping. I'm indecisive and a pessimist. I've been trained to size up the pros and cons. And there are always cons. It's easier to hold out for something more refined, with fewer flaws. It's easy making decisions for other people, but I take little pleasure in selecting things for myself. So I avoid it as long as I can.

I've come to love gadgets, and have strong opinions about them. Which is why I'm not good at shopping for them.

Just so you know, I wasn't always like this. I bought my first laptop, a Dell Inspiron 8200, because it was one of just a few notebooks offered through my university's store, and at the time, all the cool kids owned a Dell. When I purchased my next one, the MacBook, all I knew was that I never wanted to use a Dell again. So I chose a MacBook. By then, it's what all the cool kids were using.

Fast forward to today, and I do want to use a Dell: the XPS 13. It's thin and light, with a nearly bezel-less screen, the carbon fiber feels soft beneath my fingertips, and the keyboard is comfortable. But I still don't like the touchpad. And besides, I want a Surface Book. But wouldn't it be better to wait for one with a less wobbly screen and a slightly lighter design?

I could get the MacBook Air -- it's the most affordable laptop Apple offers, not to mention the one my company already provides me -- but it seems silly not to get a Retina display or the equivalent thereof if I can afford it. I won't buy the new 12-inch MacBook because I need at least one USB Type-A port, and I know I could find better performance and battery life for the money. There's also the Retina display Pro, but I wish it were just slightly lighter. I like OS X, but I want a touchscreen.

I've come to love gadgets, and have strong opinions about them. Which is why I'm not good at shopping for them.

I suppose some of my readers are equally picky. For each of you who chooses on principle to be an early adopter, there are some who have been putting off a purchase for months, or years, all because you're too discerning for your own good. You're not gadget reviewers, but perhaps you too have done a little too much research. And perhaps like me, you're perpetually waiting for a product that doesn't yet exist.

Holiday shopping season is now underway. I will buy my dad a new laptop -- something faster, lighter, with speakers that aren't broken so he can try this new Spotify thing I'm always talking about. It will be a reasonably priced machine, and he will be grateful for it. I'll also think about what to get myself. An Air, or a Pro, or a Surface Book, or an XPS 13. But I probably won't pull the trigger on any of them.

Dana Wollman is Managing Editor of Engadget, where she runs a growing team of reporters and reviewers. She got her start in tech journalism nearly a decade ago as a writer for Laptop Mag and the AP before arriving at Engadget in 2011. She appears weekly on ABC Radio, and has also been a guest on Bloomberg TV, CNN, CNBC, Marketplace, NPR and Fox Business, among other outlets. Dana is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the Columbia Publishing Course, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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