How much RAM, how much CPU?

Ahh, these questions. I get a lot of these questions.

I like car analogies because most people drive.

How much hard drive is like asking how big the gas tank. It depends on how far you want to go, and how fast you burn it. For the RAM is a little more like horsepower (mixed with air intake, and a few other parts, but lets keep it simple). In Honestely, people want enough so the car can move out of its own way, but most don’t know how much that should be, and the reason is because it varies with the user/driver and the conditions (there is a lot of traffic, is the car heavy, etc)

Another measurement is the CPU. Quad core, how many GHz? Core ix?

It all depends on the package. Don’t get stuck on a single number or part. mainly with laptops.

CPUs on laptops are pretty close to each other. Core i3/i5/i7 are all too close to each other (with some exceptions) and most of the time you are comparing devices close in price range so there aren’t big performance leaps. Even the generation doesn’t matter as much (although it might change with 8th gen in 2018).

And how much RAM? Well that depends on what you will use and how many. I am no help at all, AM I?

Ok, let me give you some real number using a Intel ComputeStick with an Intel Atom Z3735F quad core @ 1.33 Ghz and 2 GB of RAM. Internet Explorer running with a website and 3 embedded videos in a loop uses 180 MB (nothing). Windows 10 is running with less than 1 GB, and this system already has all the programs I use for digital signage deployment. However I don’t recommend to use it for the video because after a while it will start skipping that video (it gets too hot, and starts using more memory), but visiting TechCrunch spiked to 350 MB. YouTube video uses 250MB but CPU spiked to 50% and then down to 12%. More if the video is 720. Switching to 1080 took forever to start playing, but RAM usage was in 280MB. Edge was better on RAM, and loads video before loading anything else, but CPU usage was 50% at 1080 while loading the rest of the page, and then setting down to 17%, but spiking when loading something else, and it would have to buffer sometimes.

This CPU is usually found on $200 systems, so obviously, unless you know what you are doing, don’t get those systems.

Sure, this is anemic system test, but my Surface Pro 3 laptop with 8GB of RAM is using 6.7GB at the moment, and I use it for work. Sure, I have a lot of tabs open (none are video or audio, and no facebook either). All are work related, Outlook, a few programs I use. I am a heavier user than most, but I do use the system fully.

What about storage? Hard Drive space? Well, this is more complicated because people don’t understand what it is.

You have 2 technologies, traditional spinning drives with large capacity, cheaper price, but slower access, or SSD with lower capacity, much faster access and high price.

The price difference is tremendous. A WD Blue drive with 500GB storage costs $40 (usually cost a little more), while a 500GB Samsung Evo 850 costs $150, which is 3 times more.

Sure, $100 doesn’t seem much, except that it might be more the difference when looking to buy a laptop.

And SSD are considerably faster. So you will have to sacrifice capacity

In the end my recommendation is to start at a Core i3 (Similar AMD is also fine), 4 GB of RAM minimum, 8GB if you plan of using the laptop to work most of the day, and at least 128 GB of SSD storage. 250 GB are ideal

So, to put it in simple example, the Surface Pro Core i5 with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB hard drive costs usually $999 ($799 at the moment)

But the next model up is a better investment most of the time, and it is recommended.

(and you will still need a keyboard).

From there you can go up and down, replace surface with HP envy, or Lenovo IdeaPad, remove touchscreen. Price will vary from $700 to $1200 depending on what you end up selecting. I just like Surface because they have high quality screens and case, it looks sleek and the price is right for the package. Other usually the case looks cheaper, or the screen is not as nice.

Microsoft stores (the retail store) usually has several different products on display from Dell, Asus, HP and Lenovo, as well as MS own Surface line. Best Buy as well, and your local shop should too.

Although I do mention Microsoft and posted a link, I don’t get referrals, and there is no tracking. It just happens that I like the product, and the MS store is much more convenient for me (it is close, and not crowded, and the people seem to know more about what they sell)


Will my new computer be old in a few months? PC keep getting faster

This is the fear of all people purchasing anything. Will my new purchase be obsolete soon after I purchase it?

The answer is a profound YES!!. No matter how you look at it. But it does not mean it is useless. Cars, computers, and other things work similar in the supply/demand chain. Once you purchase it, the price lowered already (most people want NEW things), and also there is a new model bound too come out soon.

But not all is lost. Here is a little tip. CPUs have marginally becoming faster. There is a 10~15% improvement from CPU gen to CPU gen, but it doesn’t mean always faster. Since most computer sales are laptops or portables, power plays a big role now. So, from Intel Core I-6th Gen, to the 7th Gen there was virtually no performance increase, but there was a 10 to 15% power reduction (or you can argue that the performance per power ratio has increased a 10~15%, Just Semantics). From 5th to 6th gen there was a 5~10% increase, because power also decreased.

The exception is the new Ryzen and Intel Core I 8th Gen. They lower speed, but increase Core count, which can give you from 25 to 50% increase performance. But these are in low quantity in the market, and very few computers had this chips. Of course the landscape will change in 2018.

So, if there is little change, how can we minimize the feeling that our purchase is depreciating fast? The answer is a lot simpler that you might realize, but can be more complex that you would like.

The truth is that with anything you need to know what you are purchasing, and make some concessions. Most people don’t go to a car dealer, and ask for a brand new car for $10000, that has the latest iCar, AndroidCar, etc, and all the other bells and whistles. And even if you wanted all the bells and whistles you already know next years model might have better version. Even at that point, your concession is that you are paying premium price for it.

Not realizing, most people settle in the middle and higher for their purchase. Often, the most sold cars, are medium priced range, with extra options, not the basic, and not the cheapest model. But here is the interesting part, even the cheapest car will take you from point A to point B, and pretty much in the same time. Why? because at the fundamentals, all car work similar, and we have speed limits on the road.

Computers however don’t have it. And people know that a Ford mustang GT can do a quarter mile a lot faster than a Honda Civic, but we have to pay a premium for something we won’t do. it is nice to have, and fun, but not a requirement. In computers we forget that. We want our computer to be the fastest, to download large files in a flash, to show web sites in an instant, and have tons of tabs open at the same time. We want all that, but we want to pay the price of a cheap bicycle. Yep, I said it. the problem is “US” the consumer. We want the best, but we want to pay next to nothing (TVs are suffering the same problem currently).

Lets do a little breakdown.

An average Intel Core i5 CPU is $220 and up. A decent touchscreen monitor running at 1080 is $120. Want a 4K? that would be $400 (non touch) for just 30″. Without adding anything else we are at $600. In a laptop you will need a custom case, a motherboard, power supply, Wireless, Bluetooth, keyboard and track pad, warranty, retail and distribution. Even if it is a desktop, you have the same problems, except it is easier to change components in the desktop because you have more space and a more standardized platform (ATX variations and BTX).

Most OEM computers have a part that is cheap. Sure, all have the same or similar CPU, same quantity of memory, etc. So how do the OEM make money? Honestly, it is difficult for them, CPU in bundles have small discount. Windows in quantity have huge discount, but still adds cost. So most of the time the savings come from the power supply (electric principle, which is too complex to explain, but the better the metal, the more stable the power. the more stable the power, the better the computer works), lower quality or speed memory, same with the hard drive. Besides the power supply, the other part is bloatware. Some companies pay OEM to include its software like Antivirus, backup utilities, and games. Some software “spies” on you to collect data which can then be sold (most OEMS have been found guilty of doing this at one time or another). Sometimes the computers have poor quality testing, and the support is subpar.

Everything has a cost. If you want the lowest cost, then you need to invest something else, or give up something else. So, what is the best way? There is no perfect answer, but it mainly goes like this:

Invest time before hand, and research what might be possible options, always start from the middle, and never from the bottom, and setup realistic expectations from your next purchase.

My main gaming desktop has an aging Intel Core i7-3770K. This is from 2010. Of course the video card has been updated once already, but I know that this system can only do so much gaming. my monitors are 2K, and for most games it can do it well. Very new games, I need to give up. However, I have a similar setup for work, and it works perfectly fine.

I put these 2 desktops together in 2010, the gaming setup was close to $2500 total, while the work setup is $1500. However both have 4 monitors, excellent quality parts. Sure, they both have 32GB of RAM and lots of hard drive space, but all parts are higher quality. If I had done a cheaper setup, I might have needed to upgrade already. Neither setup would work with a Celeron, Pentium or Core i3. They might have worked with a Core i5, but the Core i7 was just a little more and gave me more room. I have a Surface Pro 3, and it is the Core i5 version. Why? because there is little performance difference with the Core i7 for what I use it for (CPUs for laptop are different from desktop), but even then the Surface with keyboard and dock was about $1400, and that does not include the 2 monitors I use with the docking station (I repurposed my old gaming monitors).

Would I love to have upgraded to a Surface Pro 4 when I came out? Of Course, it is half the weight. Would I love to switch to a Surface Laptop 2? Ohhh YEAHH. Do I need to? Nop.

In the end, it is not if it is obsolete when the new version comes out, is picking the right product to make sure you get the most out of it. For most people look at laptops in $1000 and more. Unless you have a single purpose, then a cheaper one if OK. I like a lot the $600~900 range, if I can replace the hard drive with an SSD and add more RAM (which can add another $150 to the total, but give me a much faster laptop). If you are not comfortable doing that, then go higher range. And please, do not just look at RAM and hard drive to chose a computer. There are a lot more components that will affect the experience

Laptops and computers for the end of 2017

At the heels of the end of the year, we can surely appreciate that we had a lot of great sales. So many indeed, that when I checked right after Christmas most places have sold out, but mainly the cheap laptops, from $200 to $500.

There is a few things to consider here.

  1. The reason why there were so many great deals: This has 2 main reasons for the push
    1. Laptops and computer sale have been declining in the last few years
    2. Intel and AMD have both released new CPUs that are much faster than current model, and vendors need to clear inventory for the new product coming
  2. Most people don’t do much with the computer so anything basic will work.

Ok, so for the first point, I won’t go much into the first point. Tons of journalist have been prognosticating the doom of the computer, which is absolutely bonkers if you ask me, but what do I know? I just work with the things ;).

The NEW CPUs, AMD Ryzen and Intel Core ix 8th Generation. For the Intel part, it mainly adds more cores, so Core i3 will be quad core instead of dual core on most laptops. That alone will give a big boost to laptops performance. AMD Ryzen also packs a lot of cores, in a different way from Intel, and depending on the workload it can be better than Intel. For sure they are cheaper though.

The way Intel CPUs mainly work, is that Intel Core i7-8700 replaces Intel Core i7-7000 for almost the same price (the 8th gen are like $10 more), so for consumers, and OEM it makes more sense to use the new and faster CPU since it costs the same. however it will require new motherboard, which for laptops means working from the ground up pretty much. But the new laptops are coming nonetheless.

This is a bit technical, and I doubt we will see new CPUs in the $300 range in laptops for quite a while, but it did affect how OEM (Dell, Asus, Lenovo, HP) were trying hard to sell everything.

This will have a bigger impact on gaming laptops. They are forced to use the power hungry quad cores with HQ definition, it would stand to reason that now they could use lower power, and price CPU to power the same video card.

All of this is nice and good to know, but the most interesting part is the second point, which is mixed a little with 1.a.

Most people think basic needs requires a basic computer. And while this is generally speaking right, it is not accurate. It depends on what you define as basic.

For example, there is nothing basic about Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Pandora and other content streaming, or high updates. Even news websites are becoming increasingly complex and heavy. Because computers get faster, websites content has increased, and how we use the computer has also increased.

So, what is basic usage. Mainly it would be business like use, and only that. Remote Access to programs and computers (RDP, Citrix, etc), internal portals and webapps, some of the email usage (not all, some is also increasing with added chat, and other functions to it), an accounting program or Point of sale.

The problem is that most business use also Facebook, some people stream Pandora or Spotify, they might watch Netflix on a break or downtime.

I have seen Facebook use as much as 6GB of memory on Chrome on my desktop. Gmail also will use a few GB after a few days opened.

So, now how do we define basic? Well, I would say you can use a basic computer if you turn it on, work on it for an hour or two and then turn it off.

For example, you turn it on to check your email, or write an email response using a keyboard (instead of trying to reply from your phone), or do a web call (even with video), check a recipe, or just watch a movie. Basically, use the computer for a single task at a moment, and then turn it off.

At this point you might be puzzled on why would you need a computer for that. Well, you can use a tablet, and that is the point. Laptops are now at the same price as tablets, but after more versatile, and in some cases faster. IF YOU LIMIT HOW YOU USE IT!!

You can’t buy a $200 laptop thinking you will use it for Facebook here or there, or Netflix and then have a tab with Facebook, another with Netflix, and your Gmail running in the background, and have it all day running.

The Operative System (OS) in your tablet and phone, works with 1 task at a time, often putting the other task to sleep, or using minimal resources (Edge, Firefox 52+ and Chrome, now do something similar when possible). It is a simple concept, but one I see a lot of people that fail to comprehend and then get frustrated with their new cheap laptop rather quickly.

If the idea sounds confusing and complicated, then you are honestly better served if you have a tablet, and a more expensive computer. When I say more expensive I mean in the $1000+.

That is one of the reasons why people think MacBook are better. The cheapest MacBook Pro starts at $2000 (only Pro have quad core), and the cheapest MacBook Air starts at $999 (for dual core).

Quite honestly, there isn’t a lot of margin for Apple in the hardware sale, so to have the same computer in Windows it costs the same or more. So most people miss the point when they compare a Windows laptop with a MacBook because they compare a $600 Windows laptop to a $2000 MacBook.

If you insist in comparing, then you need to look at the Microsoft Surface line. It is aimed for that, with the Surface Laptop 2 competing against the MacBook Pro, and the Surface Pro compering against the MacBook (not the air).

If you think a Surface Pro is too much money, then a Apple is too much money too.

These expensive devices will do anything “basic” that you want to run (except for storage), so that is not the problem. It is only a problem when you go too basic with the computer, but not with your limitations.

I use a Surface Pro 3, with a Core i5 4th Gen. It is a bit older than 3 years, but it works excellent, but I also use a Dell Venue Pro tablet, and a Lenovo Lynx tablet (with the docking keyboard). Both were found to be unacceptable by the people that used them before me. However, that was because they were asking too much from the device. With the limitations in mind, they work perfectly for me. I use the Lynx to have my email always open. Instead of dedicating a monitor to email, I dedicate a whole Hybrid tablet. The Dell Venue Pro, I use to look up stuff online, or Facebook (I don’t like Facebook on my desktop because it is a black whole where I can waste hours).

It went a little longer than I originally intended, but the reason is that it is hard to go over concepts that are in the peoples mind, and it is not standardized. If I were writing only for IT people I can make it short, or if I was writing only for users I could remove other technical parts. But I intended both, and hopefully I get at least 1 person to re-think the next purchase.

2017 closed with a lot of deals, and they were awesome deals, none that I would personally recommend to anyone though, because most people don’t understand how they will use their computers and more powerful computers are coming soon. Buyers, buy with care, and be honest about what you want, otherwise you might be a computer that in less than a year will be gathering dust somewhere in your house.

From blogs to Vblogs

It has been quite a while since I updated the blog.

Well, it seems for a few years that the preferred media is Vblog, like YouTube more specifically.

This is a good progression, but not necessarily the best at all times. listening to information is faster and easier than reading. The only problem is that it is not retained as well. So, a video can inform you faster, but you will also forget faster.

Also, there is an un-denying learning quality from reading and writing that helps society. I get better at writing and the language the more I do it, and you also get better at it the more you read. Of course, the more I write also the more I research and read as well. A video takes a lot of that away for the viewer, and the content producer, VBlogger, has to invest more time authoriting (editing) the video than researching.

The other problem is the amount of content from people that just put content. I have found channels that basically just curses a lot, but adds little content, or it is very opinionated.

There is also a ton of template content, like 10 best, 10 worst, everything is wrong with, and something something in X minutes. Sure template works, but I can’t help to notice that they flood the UP Next and suggestions.

Why then so much content? easy. Thru Blogs there is no revenue almost. Revenue comes from ADs, so VBlog have a better change of being profitable, or at least generate enough that it can support the hobby for many, while Blogs are usually a lost cause.

There are still a lot of Blogs, and the reason is that usually they contain more information, are more descriptive, and it is still easier to work with.

So, if you have a blog that you like, follow it, click Subscribe, follow, and leave a comment (hopefully not a SPAM comment ). Showing that you care is the best way to keep that blog working 🙂