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The Almighty Buck Hardware IT Idle Technology

The Rules of Thumb For Tech Purchasing 401

Hugh Pickens writes "Sam Grobart writes in the NYT that buying gadgets can sometimes be like buying a car; it requires sorting through options because the reality is that most of us are usually dealing with a finite amount of money to spend, and that means making trade-offs. Grobart puts forward his set of rules for getting the most for your tech dollar when buying computers, cameras, cellphones, data plans, and service contracts. For example, Rule No. 1: pay for PC memory, not speed. 'When buying and configuring a new computer, companies often give the option of upgrading the processor and adding more memory, or RAM. If it is an either/or proposition, go for the RAM,' writes Grobart. 'Processors are usually fast enough for most people; it is the RAM that can be the bottleneck.' Other rules include 'Pay for the messaging, not the minutes,' 'Pay for the components, not the cables,' 'Pay for the sensor size, not the megapixels,' and 'Pay for the TV size, not the refresh rate.' Kevin Kelly expands on Grobart's rules of thumb with 'Pay for the glass, not the shutters,' 'Pay for reliability, not mileage,' and 'Pay for comfort, not for weight.' Any others?"
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The Rules of Thumb For Tech Purchasing

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  • by __aailob1448 ( 541069 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:38AM (#36132540) Journal

    For desktops, always use an SSD as your OS/Applications drive.

    For casual photographs: Buy the smartphone with a cutting edge camera. You'll have your phone with you more often than a camera.

    For tvs: size first, then black levels, then refresh rates. You can safely ignore the rest.

  • Re:Silly advice (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:55AM (#36132596) Journal

    As long as Windows applications are almost universally 32bit, this is pointless. As long as the system has 4GB, the rest is "nice to have for future", nothing more.

    Bullshit. Running 32-bit apps just means that no single app can have all of that RAM mapped into its address space at once. Even if you're only running a single 32-bit app, 6GB means that you have 2GB left over for the OS, most of which is used for filesystem caches. More likely, you're running half a dozen 32-bit apps. With 6GB, each one now has a maximum of 512MB of physical RAM before you have to go to swap (ignoring the OS requirements), which is well within the limits of a 32-bit address space.

  • Re:So, (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @09:04AM (#36132634) Journal
    For a lot of uses, I wouldn't be surprised. This machine (Core 2 Duo) rarely sees the CPU load go over 20% in normal use, but anything involving the disk is slow and swapping completely cripples it. Doubling the RAM would be a much more noticeable improvement than doubling the CPU speed.
  • Re:On real estate (Score:2, Informative)

    by Manip ( 656104 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @09:09AM (#36132650)
    So literally nobody in the UK should buy a house then? Houses here start at 150K and that is for a very basic two bedroom attached home with a small garden. If you divide the UK average income (26,700) by 150K you get around six years of annual income. The situation is similar London (just increase house cost and income by 10%).
  • Re:Simple (Score:4, Informative)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @09:53AM (#36132836)

    It would probably help if Intel could hire somebody that's qualified to name its product lines. You shouldn't have to spend months researching processors to be able to know what an i3 is or an i7 is.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @10:21AM (#36132970)

    I get that all the time with audio shit. Someone will came and say they want "The best sound system, money is no object." I say ok, and start laying out what in my opinion would be the best sound system money can buy. Generally you are talking in the high six figures, and no that doesn't use anything like audiophile ripoff cable, just extremely high spec speakers, amps, processors and so on.

    They always balk at that, of course, and usually it turns out the budget is a few hundred bucks at most, which doesn't even get you a mid range home theater system. However for some reason they decided that they could have, and wanted, "The best." Never mind that even most people who have that kind of money wouldn't want it as the gains get extremely incremental.

  • Re:Silly advice (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, 2011 @11:28AM (#36133276)

    App limits are different from OS limits for 32-bit. 4GB+ is moot if the user isn't on x64 Windows.

    Windows XP, Vista, and 7 do not support more than 4GB RAM in 32-bit editions. If you have more than 4GB in the system, the remainder is not used. Some operating systems, such as Linux and Windows Server Enterprise, will use PAE to allow access to over 4GB to applications. Moreover, a 32-bit install of Windows (other than Server Enterprise with PAE enabled) will actually have 4GB - PCI memory space, which means subtracting video RAM, and other memory mapped spaces. It's likely that only ~3GB is usable to the OS.

    32-bit applications (even under x64) can only use 2GB each unless additional support is enabled. This support allows a 32-bit app to access 3GB RAM. You don't necessarily have 2GB left over if you have 6GB in an x64 box. Different 32-bit apps can grab different address ranges out of that 6GB and run the system out of memory just fine.

    Modern Windows also has a tendency to use 100% of available RAM for app and filesystem cache. It's good behavior, but makes the numbers look off if you're checking and don't realize what you're looking at.

  • Re:Simple (Score:5, Informative)

    by christian.ost ( 864585 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @11:37AM (#36133340)

    Oh, and don't buy Apple... unless "cool" is worth a ~100% tax to you.

    buy Apple if you see extra value in the operating system and the model you are considering to buy has been refreshed recently.

    My experience is that Apple computers are usually priced quite competitively at the date of their release but their refresh cycles tend to be very long and there generally are no discounts until an improved revision is released - so Apple's offerings become more and more overpriced towards the end of the cycle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, 2011 @12:17PM (#36133580)

    OMG, read Amazon [] too!

    First off, I bought one of these for my $200 19" Visio. It displays 720P, but NOT ANY MORE!!!

    When I got this cable, it came wrapped in bacon, which I thought was pretty weird, but shrugged it off, slid off my recliner into my Rascal, scooted from the living room to the kitchenette, and started cooking my bacon-wrapping.

    As the smell of delicious pork back filled my double-wide, I turned around to look again at the box the cable came in. ...

  • Re:Simple (Score:5, Informative)

    by gordo3000 ( 785698 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @02:28PM (#36134426)

    what are you comparing the price against (or better, what do you value the OS at over windows 7)?

    I'm in the market for a laptop now, and I find the macbook pro, which was just released, to be about 25% more expensive than a similar equipped Sony, the most expensive windows laptop I can find. If I compare against the macbook, I have to struggle to find a computer that out of date.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.