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 May 11, 2019.

Antivirus

  • Recommended: Eset
  • Good enough: Avast (free or paid), Kaspersky, Norton, Trend Micro
  • Avoid: F-Secure, McAfee, Webroot
  • Not enough experience to form an opinion: Adaware, Sophos, Panda
  • Notes: Norton is free with your Centurylink internet service. If you get Norton from Centurylink, you will have to manually update it many times until there are no more updates. That will require several restarts. Norton also has a habit of stop working while not telling you it stops working. This requires you to uninstall and reinstall Norton. Kaspersky has excellent detection, but tends to slow a computer down.

Computers

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

Brand

  • Recommended: Dell, HP, Lenovo, Apple iMac
  • Good enough: Asus, Compaq, Gateway, Toshiba
  • Avoid: Apple laptops, eMachine, Microsoft Surface, Sony
  • Note: The new Apple laptops have flimsy keyboards that will likely break under normal use and are riveted to the case, avoid them at all costs. These keyboards are also very uncomfortable to use. The Microsoft Surface is a very good product, but it literally is impossible to repair. 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.

Memory

  • Recommended: 8 GB or more
  • Avoid: Anything less than 8 GB

Hard Drive

  • Recommended: Solid State drive (SSD) — sometimes called M.2
  • Good enough: everything else
  • Avoid: Any product with Intel Optane
  • Note: If you can afford a SSD, you should get one. These last longer are much much faster. Avoid at all costs Intel Optane. It is very expensive, I have read little good about it, and for technical reasons you will probably not understand, it cannot be as fast as a SSD. Intel Optane is only good for very high-end servers. Another option is to let me install a SSD. I can put in a SSD hard drive with a 5 year manufacturer warranty for less than it would cost you to have pre-installed from the factory.

Processor

  • Recommended: AMD Ryzen
  • Good enough: Intel Core i3/i5/i7/i9
  • Avoid: AMD A-series, AMD E-series, Intel Pentium
  • Note: Gamers with unlimited budget should target the Intel Core i9. But for everyone else, dollar-for-dollar the AMD Ryzen provides the best performance. However, the Intel Core i3/i5/i7 provides better laptop battery life. Note: Because of all the security flaws in Intel products, they may not be the best for games anymore. The reviews of a fully patched Intel product are still sketchy.

Video Card (gamers or multi-monitor needs)

  • Recommend: NVidia, mid to upper tier only
  • Good enough: AMD Radeon
  • Avoid: Lower tier NVidia
  • Note: AMD is far better for multi-monitor set ups than NVidia.

Other computer notes

  • I strongly recommend you pay extra for business class products. Yes, they cost more. But they are more reliable and easier to repair.
  • 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.
  • 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 amazon.com 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. I realize Windows 10 is, by trillions of miles, the worst Windows ever made. But that is all I can get.
  • 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 4 or more monitors.

Monitors

  • Recommended: 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.

Printers

  • Recommended: Brother, Epson (specialty photo printers only), HP (laser printers only), Lexmark (laser printers only)
  • Avoid: Any printer less $150, Epson except for their specialty photo printers
  • Note: 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. 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.

Cell Phones/Tablets

  • Recommended: Anything not too cheap that is not in my avoid list
  • Avoid: Apple iPhone 8, iPhone X or later, 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. Wireless headphones cannot offer as good of quality as wired 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.
  • Note: Avoid any Android phone without a microSD card slot. This feature is more important than you realize.
  • 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.

 

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