People ask me all the time what products I recommend. Here is my list of different computer and software recommendations. This list was last updated August 12, 2021.


  • Recommended: Eset
  • Good enough: Avast/AVG (free or paid), Kaspersky, Norton, Trend Micro
  • Avoid: F-Secure, McAfee, Webroot
  • Not enough experience to form an opinion: Adaware, Sophos, Panda
  • Note: McAfee is free with your Centurylink internet service. It is very confusing to install. I also personally think free is still too expensive for McAfee.
  • Note: Kaspersky has excellent detection, but tends to slow a computer down.
  • Note: Avast/AVG (same company now) will constantly try to upsell you. Just ignore it and you will be fine.


The order of the parts below are from most important to least important.

Some computers that you buy on-line will have a sneaky warranty charge added-on without your permission! This may be a one-time charge or a monthly charge, with the first month free so you won’t remember and thus be charged. Look at your invoice carefully and dispute any hidden charges. There are reports that you have to threaten to report the company with legal action, such as calling the attorney general, before the charge will be dropped. DO NOT let the company sneak in a hidden charge! ONLY PAY FOR THE COMPUTER AND NOTHING ELSE!


  • Recommended: Dell, HP, Lenovo, Apple iMac, Apple Macbooks made after 2020
  • Good enough: Asus, Compaq, Gateway, Toshiba
  • Avoid: All Apple Macbooks with the butterfly keyboard, eMachine, any pre-2019 model Microsoft Surface, Sony
  • Note: AVOID OLDER APPLE LAPTOPS AT ALL COSTS! Until 2020, Apple Macbook laptops had a butterfly keyboard which was very flimsy and broke under normal use. Worse, it was riveted to the case. From personal experience, these keyboards are very uncomfortable to use.  These laptops also have the hard drive soldered in place, which makes recovering your file impossible. Never ever under any circumstance and for any reason buy an Apple laptop before 2020. The Apple iMac is different and not subject to these unforgivable design flaws and thus a product worth owning. However, always remember that Apple goes way way out of their way to prevent anyone but them from repairing their products because they do not want you to fix, they want you replace. The third party Apple replace program is designed to force you to use Apple repair because you must always order parts on-demand and cannot keep parts in stock.
  • Note: The Microsoft Surface is a very nice product, but older models are literally impossible to repair. Like the Apple laptop, if any part goes bad you will have to buy a new machine and your files are unrecoverable. The models released late 2019 are much easier to repair and thus are no longer on my avoid list.
  • Note: Most modern laptops have a touchpad that prefers to be pretty rather than useful. And most laptops sold in stores prefer to be pretty than repairable. Thus, I always recommend spending more for business class products, which sacrifices beautify for reliability and repairability.


  • Recommended: 8 GB or more
  • Avoid: Anything less than 8 GB
  • Note: Your computer will work better if it uses two memory modules of identical size instead of one. For instance, two 4GB memory modules gives you better performance than one 8GB memory modules. For this reason, it might be a good idea to buy an extra memory module and install it manually. This isn’t very difficult on desktops and usually not difficult on business class laptops. Some luxury models, such as Apple laptops, have the memory soldered inside, and so cannot be replaced or upgraded.

Hard Drive

  • Recommended: Solid State drive (SSD) — sometimes called M.2 or NVMe
  • Avoid: Every other type of hard drive and especially any product with Intel Optane
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure your hard drive is at least 128 GB. Anything less will cause problems sooner not later.
  • Note: If you are having a computer customized from Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc then it might be a good idea to get the cheapest hard drive offered and then buy your own SSD. This is because the type of SSD’s installed by the computer manufacturers, while far superior than traditional hard drives, are still slower than ones you can buy yourself and it often cost less than the extra cost they would charge for a larger SSD.
  • Note: If you have enough money, I can still buy a SSD with a 10 year warranty.
  • Note: Some computers, especially laptops, do not have the space for a traditional hard drive and so you must buy a SSD. This is a good thing.
  • Note: Be aware! Some traditional hard drives 2 TB and up are using a new technology called shingled hard drives. DO NOT buy these hard drives! Most especially for servers and anything like it. These hard drives have only one use: archiving. For everything else, the performance on them is so horrible that you will regret it.

Processor, or CPU (Desktop)

Currently there is a CPU and graphics card shortage because fabricators are having a hard time getting materials to fully assemble the chips. This situation probably won’t be fully resolved until 2022. Every processor in my avoid list is either too weak or not Windows 11 compatible.

WARNING! Never trust first-party benchmarks and comparisons. Companies have been known to gimp their competition in the comparison, with the details on how they did so in the fine print. This is to say that the company will use superior parts in their product while using inferior parts for the competition.

  • Recommended: AMD Ryzen 3/5/7 3xxx series and later
  • Good enough: Intel Core i3/i5/i7-8xxx series and later, AMD Ryzen 3/5/7 2xxx series and earlier
  • HOWEVER, I strongly recommend you DO NOT get an AMD Ryzen 3 or an Intel Core i3. I strongly recommend you spend a little more and get a Ryzen 5 or a Core i5.
  • Avoid: AMD Ryzen 3/5/7 2xxx series or 1xxx series, AMD Athlon, AMD A-series, AMD E-series, AMD Threadriper, AMD Epyc, Intel i3/i5/i7-7xxx series and earlier, Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium, Intel Xeon
  • FYI: Processors will have a single number (3, 5, 7, 9) followed by a 4 or 5 digit number. That first single number indicates performance class, where the higher the number the more powerful the processor. For example, an Intel Core i3 is weaker than an Intel Core i5. The first digits of the second group typically indicate its generation. For example, AMD Ryzen # 3### is 3rd generation; Intel Core i# 10### is 10th generation. Of course, just to be confusing for no good reason, there are exceptions. Do not ask me why it is 3, 5, 7, or 9 because I don’t know.
  • Also FYI: Some desktop processors end with a letter. For AMD processors, any one that does not end with G will require a separate video card and any one that ends in X will be slightly better than the one that does not with X. For Intel processors, any one that ends in K will be slightly better than ones not ending in K.
  • Note: AMD Threadripper is a high-end CPU that most people will never need. The AMD Epyc and Intel Xeon are server processors, they are not meant for your needs. I do not recommend Intel Core i9 or Ryzen 9 except for gamers with an unlimited budget.
  • Note: Gamers with unlimited budget should target certain Intel Core i9 or AMD Ryzen 5000 series. But for everyone else, dollar-for-dollar the AMD Ryzen 3000 series and 5000 series provides the best performance.
  • Note: Do NOT forget about energy usage. This also applies to laptops. The more energy a processor requires, the more expensive your power supply and cooler must be. Energy is stated in Thermal Design Power (TDP) and measured in watts. It does not define how many watts of electricity is used from the wall; it is a measurement of heat. The higher the TDP, and thus watts, the more energy it uses and the hotter it gets. Intel and AMD define this number differently. Intel defines TDP essentially as the minimum amount of cooling power the processor needs and AMD defines it as the typical amount of cooling power the processor needs. What this means is that Intel processors can use 250% or more electricity wattage energy to get their maximum performance whereas AMD requires about 50% more electricity energy to get maximum performance. Remembering energy usage is much more important in the hot summer months. For example, an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X rated at 65W TDP will use about 80W of electricity from the wall to get the maximum performance. An Intel i7-10700 rated at 65W TDP will use about 220W of electricity from the wall to get the maximum performance. (The maximum amount of power most Intel processors use is 250W regardless.) Both AMD and Intel processors limit maximum performance based on how well your cooling fans work.

Processor (Laptop)

  • Recommended: AMD Ryzen 3/5/7 4xxx series or later
  • Good enough: Intel Core i3/i5/i7-9xxx series or later
  • OWEVER, I strongly recommend you DO NOT get an AMD Ryzen 3 or an Intel Core i3. I strongly recommend you spend a little more and get a Ryzen 5 or a Core i5.
  • Avoid: AMD Ryzen 3/5/7 3xxx series or 2xxx series, AMD A-series, AMD E-series, Intel Core i3/i5/i7-7xxx series or earlier, Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium
  • Note: The Intel Core i3/i5/i7-10xxx or earlier provides better laptop battery life than the AMD Ryzen 3xxx or 2xxx processors but not better battery life than the AMD Ryzen 4xxx or 5xxx processors or the Intel Core i3/i5/i7-11xxx processors. The Intel Core i3/i5/i7-11xxx is actually a massive step back in laptop processors.
  • Note: Still do not forget about energy usage and processor generations. Read this note above in the desktop processors.
  • Note: About that power draw … Laptop processors also end in a letter. For laptop CPU’s, if the processor ends in U (for ultraportable) then the TDP rating (see above) is 15W or, starting with Intel Core i-11xxx series, 28W. (Intel is increasing the power for their laptop processors so they can say they perform better than AMD; these processors will likely be worse if they were bound to 15W like AMD does.) If the processor ends in H (high performance) then the TDP rating is 45W or 35W. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the wattage the better the performance from the same processor family but the worse the battery life, and vice versa. Higher wattage will always mean worse battery life, no exception.
  • Note: Continuing with the power draw. Processors from AMD did not battery life optimization in the Ryzen 2xxx and 3xxx series processors. These were introduced in the Ryzen 4xxx series. What this means is that earlier AMD processors are worse on battery life than Intel at the same wattage. However, Ryzen 4xxx and 5xxx series processors will always have better battery life than Intel’s at the same wattage.

Video Card (gamers or multi-monitor needs)

  • I recommend you wait until a while because new video cards are out and there will need to be some time for stock, and thus prices, to stabilize and some time to work out any unforeseen kinks. There are confirmed reports that third-party NVidia video cards are using inferior capacitors which is causing crashes due to electromagnetic interference. (This is NOT a fault of NVidia, but the fault of third-parties using inferior components.) Some of these components in computers are so sensitive that a mobile phone near it can cause it to crash. Wait until these problems are worked out. There are also unconfirmed reports that some early versions of the AMD RX 5000 series video cards had a hardware flaw that was fixed by drivers and later production. There is also a shortage of parts used to assembly chips that is causing issues with the stock.
  • Recommend for high-end: NVidia RTX 2xxx/3xxx series or AMD Radeon RX 6xxx series
  • Recommend for mid-range: AMD RX 5xxx series
  • Recommend for low-end: All other AMD Radeon or NVidia RTX
  • Avoid: AMD Vega, Lower tier NVidia
  • THIS IS IMPORTANT: NVidia video cards are greatly affected by your processor. NVidia made a design decision that greatly improved the performance of their video cards when using a high end CPU’s, but this also greatly reduced performance on mid to lower-end CPU’s. It was a good decision at the time. But now games have reached the point they use more of the processor than before and so this is hurting NVidia. AMD video cards are less affected by the processor. If you do not have a higher-end CPU, you should buy AMD.
  • Note: AMD is far better for multi-monitor set ups than NVidia. The AMD Vega and NVidia 3xxx are the best video card for bitcoin.
  • Note: DO NOT FORGET ABOUT ENERGY USAGE! The new NVidia RTX 3xxx video cards can use 400W of electricity from the wall, and that can really heat up a room. Which means you summer AC bill will go up too. Electricity is not free. Don’t forget the energy usage! The AMD Radeon video cards are not yet as good overall, but their energy usage is significantly lower.
  • Here is something very important with video cards: memory. If your monitor has a resolution of 2560×1440 (1440p) or less, than 10GB or less of memory is sufficient. However, at those resolutions, the CPU is the bottleneck much more than the video card. So if you play games at 1440p or less, do not get the highest tiers of video cards! You will be wasting money, and wasting electricity. If you play games at 3840×2160 (4k or 2160p) than you will need at least 16GB of memory on the video card.

Web Browser

  • Recommended: Mozilla Firefox — because Mozilla corporation is a non-profit whose motivation is different than for-profit Google.
  • Not recommended but don’t avoid: Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge (chromium) — lazy programmers only test on Chrome, so you can’t escape it. But, Google blocks legitimate privacy measures because it really hurts their wallet.
  • Avoid: Safari and any other browser without exception
  • Note: Chromium browser is the test version of Google Chrome and the new Microsoft Edge. Only advanced users should consider this.

Other computer notes

  • When you do buy a Windows computer, it is very important to not connect the internet until you sign in the first time. Under no circumstances should you ever give Microsoft your email address. The purpose of Windows 10 is to make money off you after the first day, don’t make it easier for Microsoft to do that.
  • I strongly recommend you pay extra for business class products. Yes, they cost more. But they are more reliable and easier to repair.
  • Did you know that you can buy some HP business computers without Windows? But you have to have the computer custom built. Still, this can be a great way to save money by purchasing your own copy of Windows 10, if you want it, for less. You just won’t get the extra (and probably unnecessary) software from HP.
  • Don’t forget to check the manufacturer’s outlet stores. You can get a good deal on a returned computer, a discontinued model, scratch-and-dent models, or excess inventory. You can order from Dell’s outlet online (with sometimes very good coupons) and also from Lenovo’s outlet. To order from HP’s understaffed outlet, you must call them at 888-385-5408 where they will give you an email address. I do not want them to be spammed, so I am will not post the email here. Include in your email your name, phone number, and address. Someone from a 505 area code will call you back in a day or two.
  • Beware of hidden extras. Stores play on the ignorance of most computer users to sell them extras they do not need or can get cheaper somewhere else. For example, most printers no longer come with a USB cable. If you buy a new printer, the store will try to sell you one, sometimes without asking if you already have one. All cables are a high-profit item for stores and they can be purchased for as much as 90% less online. For example, a $50 HDMI cable can be bought at for $10 shipped. Stores will also try to sell you software you do not need or want. The employees are trained to be convincing; make it clear you do not want any extras. The best way to avoid extras is to buy online and pickup in the store. A new trick stores have is to “pre-optimize” a computer. You see a good price on a computer and the only ones they have left are “pre-optimized” and cost $100 more. Be firm and be clear; do not pay for a pre-optimization service, no exceptions. If you politely stand your ground and make the store honor their advertised price, you can usually get them to drop the unwanted fee.
  • On the other hand, if you can get an extra that you wanted anyway at a discount, go for it. The key is if you already wanted it. Do not let the store talk you into an extra. But if you had already planned to get it anyway and you can get a discount, go for it. Except for cables.
  • Extended warranties are a waste of money. 9999 times out of 10000, an extended warranty will never be used. Just like the unwanted “pre-optimization” service, it is pure profit for the store. Make it clear you do not want an extended warranty no exception.
  • Always shop around and always ask the store to price match. Stores may have sales or outlet computers that may save you a lot of money. And if a computer is not on sale but priced lower somewhere else, ask the store to price match. The worse they can say is no. Remember also that sometimes the price for the same item may be different on the website than in the store. It never hurts to ask for any discounts, you may get one.
  • Choose features based on needs. Do not pay for more computer than you will need.
  • Don’t forget to search for coupons online.
  • All pre-built computers are loaded with junk software. It is called trialware. Manufacturers are paid to put trialware on the computer. On a budget computer, trialware can significantly slow down your computer. On all computers it is an annoyance and waste of hard drive space. Business class products tend to have less junk trialware. And don’t forget that Microsoft pushes out junk apps from time-to-time.
  • Some computers support Blu-Ray Disc. Those that do can play Blu-Ray movies on your computer and HDTV. Most Blu-Ray computer drives do not support 4K ultra HD movies. I have found Blu-Ray players that support 4K movies, but it required installing an earlier version of the drive’s internal software, called firmware.
  • Many computers no longer have a DVD or Blu-Ray drive anymore. Please keep that in mind before buying.
  • Sorry, you must get Windows 10 or an Apple unless you custom build. I realize Windows 10 is, by trillions of miles, the worst Windows ever made. But that is all I can get. Non-customized computers will not let you skip Windows.
  • I can make a computer, but it will not be cheaper. Because of that, I only recommend this route for gamers or people with special needs. Example: Someone who needs 3 or more monitors.
  • Sometimes it is a good idea to skimp on some parts and upgrade to higher quality ones separately. I have often bought an outlet computer that had a slow hard drive is was low on memory, then bought the extra memory for less online and a high-quality 5 year warranty hard drive to replace the included slow one. Yes, it is more. But usually not much more. The only problem is you have to take what the outlet store offers. Whenever I buy a laptop, I go cheap on the hard drive, memory, and Windows. I then put that saved money into non-upgradeable parts: the screen, the camera, and such. I then buy better quality parts online and put that in. I know in some computers, I can buy a really fast hard drive, extra memory, and Windows 10 for less than the cost of Windows pre-installed. I call that a win. See below.
  • Avoid custom-built desktop computers from the major manufacturers. Custom built from Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc is real expensive and it will only cost you slightly more to get me to custom build you a computer, and all my parts are better quality.
  • However, custom-built laptops make more sense. What I do is go cheap on the hard drive, go cheap on the computer memory, and buy it without Windows. I will in turn put that money into a better quality screen and camera and other non-upgradeable parts. Then I will buy my own better hard drive — which will always be better than anything offered by the manufacturer — and my own memory upgrade and my own copy of Windows. My own legal copy of Windows is usually less than what the manufacturer offers.


  • Recommend: Asus, Netgear Orbi (very large homes only)
  • Good Enough: Netgear, TP-Link
  • Avoid: Linksys, Google Wi-Fi, any generic brand


  • Recommended: BenQ, Dell professional, LG
  • Avoid: Anything less than $100
  • Note: Before you buy a monitor, turn it on and off to see how long it takes to power on. Some monitors can take over 5 seconds to power on.
  • Note: There are four types of common monitor connectors now — VGA (also called D-Sub), HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C. The last two are found on the best monitors but might not be found on your computer. Make sure you have the manual for your computer so that you know which connectors to look for. With very few exceptions, any monitor you buy in the store will almost certainly be compatible with your computer.
  • Note: There are two main type of monitor technologies. These are TN and IPS. TN monitors are darker and have narrow viewing angles, but have less lag. These are better for games. IPS monitors are brighter and have better color accuracy but are not as good for games. Most people will want an IPS monitor.


  • Recommended: Brother Laser, Epson (specialty photo printers only), HP (laser printers only), Lexmark (laser printers only)
  • Good enough: HP ink
  • Avoid: Any printer less $150, all Epson printers except for their specialty photo printers
  • Notes: I no longer recommend Brother ink printers because many of my customers have had problems with them. The only Epson printer I recommend are the expensive photo printers that are not available in stores. Epson specialty photo printers on Epson paper will produce the best pictures. The technology Epson uses for printer produces better quality but requires more maintenance; better quality is only needed if you print photographs. If you do a lot of high volume printing, you absolutely need a laser printer. If you hardly ever need color, then you can save a lot of money on your printing costs by buying a black and white laser. Before buying a printer, make sure you find out how much the ink or toner costs and then divide that by the claimed number of pages to determine your approximate cost per page.

Cellular Phones/Tablets

  • Recommended: Anything not too cheap that is not in my avoid list
  • Avoid: Every Apple iPhone except the 8 or earlier, Google Pixel, any phone with a notch in the upper corners of the screen, or any phone without a headphone jack
  • Note: Hold the phone in your hand before buying it. And touch the phone quite often too. Make sure you understand how to use it before you decide to buy it.
  • Note: Never ever ever without exception use your fingerprint or face to unlock your phone or device. Always use a pin code to unlock because it is more secure. (This is also true with your computer.)
  • Note: Never ever ever without exception buy a phone that removes the headphone jack. Due to those pesky laws of physics, wireless headphones cannot offer as good of quality as wired ones (even inexpensive ones) and wired ones never need to be charged. Plus, with a headphone jack you can guarantee that your car’s stereo will be able to play music off the phone. And it will be easier to do too. Remember that the only reason why the headphone jack is removed is to force you to buy an expensive replacement; the decision had absolutely nothing to do for what is best for you.
  • Note: Avoid any Android phone without a microSD card slot. This feature is more important than you realize. Especially for your pictures. One of the first things you should do is put a microSD card in the phone and configure the phone to save all your pictures to it. Now your pictures will be safe from accidents.
  • Note: The newest iPhones have an user-interface that is a gigantic step backwards. And that might be too generous. They have a more powerful interior and better camera, but what does that matter if it is harder to use? It also takes away the headphone jack because Apple wants you to buy overpriced headphones instead of using the very good and very cheap generic ones. And it has a notch in its design, which is perhaps one of the dumbest product designs in all of human history. Seriously. And for all that nonsense, it will cost more than 3 months of a cable bill. Every person I know who has one does not like it as much as their previous ones. Also, the newest iPhones purposefully sabotage themselves if you do not use an Apple store replace the battery. The purpose is to make sure you do not use legitimate parts for which Apple cannot profit from; it is anti-consumer and anti-independent repair shop. Because of Apple’s abhorrent treatment of customers, I do not recommend their phones.

Phone Service Providers, Cellular and Home

First, remember that pre-paid cellular services use another company’s towers. So the coverage area and service quality is related to the company’s towers they use. And also remember that pre-paid service likely does not have access to the latest and greatest on those towers. Don’t expect 5G (5th Generation) on pre-paid for a long time.

This list is not exhaustive. And it is only my opinion.

  • Altice Mobile – Uses Sprint’s towers.
  • AT&T landline – Expensive but reliable. Some service does include robocall blocking.
  • AT&T wireless – Probably the fastest service and second largest coverage area. But they are deceptive and require you to buy their phones to get all the features. I neither recommend or not recommend. Coverage in rural North Carolina is lacking.
  • Boost Mobile – Now owned by Dish Network. Uses Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s towers but will be installing their own towers.
  • Centurylink – Expensive but reliable. No robocall blocking.
  • Consumer Cellular – Uses AT&T’s towers.
  • Cricket – AT&T prepaid service.
  • Jitterbug – Uses Verizon’s towers.
  • Kajeet – Uses Sprint’s towers.
  • Metro – Uses T-Mobile’s towers.
  • Ooma – Great prices, horrible customer service. But their call quality is good. A VoIP service. The $10/month premium service includes robocall blocking. I recommend this for anyone who wants a home phone and with 20 MBPS or faster internet.
  • Page Plus Cellular – Uses Verizon’s towers.
  • PlatinumTel – Uses Sprint’s towers.
  • Sprint – Horrible customer service, horrible cellular service. Personal opinion: free is still far too expensive for Sprint and for any service that uses their towers.
  • Straight Talk – Uses all 3 (formerly 4) major provider’s tower, depending on which phone you have.
  • Suddenlink – Better prices than Centurylink, but not as reliable. Still expensive. No robocall blocking. Horrible customer service.
  • T-Mobile – Coverage increased drastically recently. Excellent customer service, excellent prices. But their coverage is smaller than the rest. Merging with Sprint, so expect the customer service to become really really bad.
  • TracFone Wireless – Uses all 3 (formerly 4) major provider’s tower, depending on which phone you have.
  • US Cellular – Excellent rural coverage. Okay prices and okay service.
  • Verizon landline – Expensive but reliable. No robocall blocking.
  • Verizon Fios – Expensive. Includes robocall blocking.
  • Verizon Wireless – The best, with a price to match. Speeds are probably not as fast as AT&T, but their coverage is definitely better.
  • Visible – Verizon’s pre-paid service. Excellent prices. If you can do without some advanced features, I recommend this above all others.
  • Xfinity Mobile – Uses Verizon’s towers.

Playstation 5 or XBox X

The new generation of consoles have different ideas on how to achieve the best gaming experience. Microsoft decided on raw strength with the XBox X. It is easily more powerful than the Playstation 5. However, Sony decided on working smarter. If you listened to Sony describing how the Playstation 5 was designed, you can clearly see they spent a lot of time thinking this decision through. I have no preference for either. Go with whichever one has the games you want on it. But, because Sony put a lot of thought into this, their console is likely to be more refined.

Both consoles are based on the AMD Zen 2 design (AMD Ryzen 3000 series CPU listed above) and a modified version of the AMD Radeon RX 6000 series video card. Some of Sony’s ideas will show up in the AMD Radeon RX 7000 series video cards.