One Bit of Black Friday Advice

macOS Catalina Update: Wait Until You're Sure

Happy Black Friday! Today, computers (and lots of other electronics) are going to be on sale. If you’ve been waiting to purchase a new laptop, today may be the day, but be careful. When it comes to laptops, you get what you pay for… even on Black Friday.

RAM: You cannot have enough random access memory (RAM). It is not possible. If you are thinking about buying a laptop (any version), the more RAM you have, the faster you will think your computer runs. More importantly, the more RAM it has, the more things it can appear to do at once. Pro tip: If given a choice between any feature and more RAM, get more RAM.

Graphics Options: The better the graphics processor, the faster you will think your computer works. The graphics processor “paints” your screen. If all you do is watch video, this won’t matter much, but if you browse the web or do lots of graphic intensive work, this little detail can make a big difference. For example: If given a choice between an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, or an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory, which would you choose? The one with 8GB of GDDR6 memory (RAM). Remember: more RAM is always better.

CPU Speed: This is the least important of all the specifications. Intel i7 or i9? Unless you are doing an insane amount of CPU-intensive work (and if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t), the CPU speed is the least important specification. I would always choose an i7 with 32GB of RAM over an i9 with 16GB of RAM. Always.

Storage Space: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB? If you have a cloud storage account (such as Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, Box, etc.), you may be able to get away with a relatively small amount of local storage. However, if you have a zillion photos or if you love to shoot video (now in 4K), and you want to edit or store them locally, more storage is important. That said, there are several great choices for external drives, and if you don’t need everything with you all the time, then storage space is a good place to save some money. 1TB or 2TB with a cloud account will be a very safe bet.

What’s Next: Remember, most manufacturers are always building new versions. Older Macs are particularly dangerous to purchase this time of year. The new 16″ MacBook Pro just came out; you will be hard pressed to find more than a few dollars off that model, but you will see MacBook Airs and relatively current MacBook Pro 13″ and 15″ models for hundreds of dollars off. Be sure to check the specs. You may think you’re getting a Black Friday bargain, but be sure that the computer you purchase today will run the programs you generally use. And remember, we’re still in the middle of dealing with Apple’s end of 32-bit program support. Will the Mac you purchase today run macOS Catalina? Yes. Will it come natively installed or will you have to upgrade? If you do upgrade, will all your programs run? See: macOS Catalina Update: Wait Until You’re Sure

Windows People: Computers that run Windows are always on sale. Everything in this article goes double for any deal you see on a Windows PC. Check, check, then double check the specifications to make sure you are really getting a “deal.”

Today is a great day to find a great deal on a new computer. Just, um… check the specs.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is a business advisor and technology consultant. He helps Fortune 500 companies with digital transformation, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn's Top Voice in Technology, he is the co-host of "Think About This with Shelly Palmer & Ross Martin" on the Westwood One Podcast Network. He covers tech and business for Good Day New York, writes a weekly column for Adweek, is a regular commentator on CNN and CNBC, and writes a popular daily business blog. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com

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