- Full general purpose laptop (Windows 10 / MacOS) – Dell XPS | Surface Laptop | Macbook Pro (2020) – In this category, you just want to ensure you have at least an i5 CPU (7000 series or higher), minimum 8GB of RAM, and a Solid State Drive (SSD) or M2 SSD rather than a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). If you have at least these features, you will enjoy using your Windows computer. This is why most people don’t complain about Mac laptops, they typically associate Windows with budget laptops. However I did throw in a rec for the last Macbook Pro WITHOUT the horrible butterfly keyboard (hopefully the new 2020 refresh removes this keyboard). There is a link to buy it on Swappa, since they don’t sell directly through Apple anymore.
- Chromebooks (Chrome OS) – Lenovo C330 | Lenovo Duet | Acer R11 | Samsung 4+ | Acer 15 – Chromebooks don’t need big specs like the Windows laptops above, since they run much better on less expensive hardware, so don’t worry about the specs above reference Windows laptops, if you are buying a Chromebook. The biggest differences in these are all related to the screen (size, touch enabled, rotation like a tablet) and the one you buy will be based on your preferences. I recommend these so much, I dedicated an entire page to them. Check it out HERE.
- Budget Windows Laptop – If you ABSOLUTELY NEED Windows (95% of people do NOT), and you know you need Windows apps for things like video/photo editing, you would not be buying a budget laptop. However, if you wanted to spend less than $400 on a decent laptop, get a Chromebook, if you need a Windows laptop, just look for a computer with an SSD / solid state drive, if it doesn’t have one, we will install one for you. That will make the most difference in the performance of a budget laptop.
- $75 – $150 Super Cheap Class – STAY AWAY FROM THESE PHONES! These phone are extremely slow, have lousy screens, poor battery life, and dated Android versions. The carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, etc) sell these phones, usually as their branded devices or off-Chinese brands to give to people that do not want to pay $30 to $40 per month for a top of the line Flagship iPhone or Galaxy phone. These phones do not get updated by Google so this leaves them susceptible to malware and security flaws.
- $250 – $350 Mid Class – Pixel 3a | Pixel 4a – The 3a and 4a are the best overall phones hands down. Great price, software, camera, build quality, all around best you could get, nothing comes close to this in it’s price range.
- $800 – $1500 Flagship Class – These phones are mostly exceptional, but due to their high initial price point and imminent depreciation, I cannot honestly recommend them to anyone. Best to buy last year’s flagship model and save over 50% for an equally good phone. The only reason [most] people can buy these phones is because a payment option is available spread out over 2 years so customers don’t feel the real cost. In reality, the statistics say most people don’t even have this much money in a savings account, much less be able to spend it on a phone. Bottom line, if it wasn’t for the monthly payment option, very few people would buy these phones. Go anywhere overseas and you see most people buy less expensive phones off contract, full price, not on these ridiculous payment options we have in the States. If you personally do not care about another monthly payment, these phones could work for you.
DAILY USE TABLET
- iPad – 6th or 7th Generation ($250 – $329) – iPad– Android does not make decent tablets anymore, unless you include the Chrome OS versions. However, even if Android did, Apple has just released their long awaited iPad OS, a software experience completely focused on the large screen. They are now making the iPad compatible with SD cards, allowing for a nice multi screen experience, and a Desktop style web browser. All this paired with the lower price point of the entry level iPad and new compatibility with the Apple pencil, there is now no competition in this space with Apple. As of October 2019, Apple is selling the 7th generation iPad, however the 6th generation is just as good as the 7th in almost every way and could be found at likely a cheaper price on eBay, Amazon, or Swappa, even brand new.
- Amazon Fire 7 – 9th Generation ($30-$50 + $3/month ) – Fire 7 (2019) – The target of this device is as a secondary screen your kids can destroy [instead of yours]. This tablet is ideal because of cost, usability, and privacy. This tablet teamed with Amazon Freetime, Amazon’s Kid Friendly virtual environment, is the ultimate solution for your child. FreeTime is an all-in-one subscription that gives kids access to thousands of kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, Audible books, and games.
- Parents also receive access to easy-to-use parental controls that allow them to find the right balance between education and entertainment. Parents can personalize screen time limits, set educational goals, filter age-appropriate content, and also manage web browsing and content usage based on their preferences. All you have to do is log on to your Amazon account at this link to start managing.
There are many solutions for Smart Homes that rotate around Voice Assistants, but the only real competitors in this space are Amazon and Google. Amazon has a large array of products that work with their Echo (Alexa) speakers, while Google has an equally large array of products that work with Google Assistant and Nest Home. However, since I prefer Google’s technology for many reasons, I will list these recommendations here.
- Central Voice Assistant Hub with Display (Google Nest Hub) – This device will be your central hub for all your voice commands. As long as you are in voice range, this guy will take your commands and execute. All your commands will be displayed on the screen, in addition it allows for you to manually switch products off and on from the screen. There is also another larger screen version at 10 inches compared to this 7 inches, that one comes with a camera to make video calls, but cost an extra $100.
- Video Doorbell (Nest Hello Doorbell) – This replaces your current doorbell with a smart one. When visitors ring your doorbell, it alerts you instantly on your phone with a live video of the person at the door, you can even talk to them directly in the app. The video will also display on the Nest Hub to answer and communicate there, it alerts you that someone is at the front door and even says their name if you add that feature, makes your old doorbell and chime feel quite antiquated.
- HVAC Thermostat (Nest Learning Thermostat) – This replaces your current thermostat in your refrigerated air cooled home (not for swamp coolers). It will literally pay for itself by all the smart adjustments it does over time. This should be a no brainer for anyone with WIFI in their home.
- Light and security sensor hub (Samsung Smartthings Hub) – You will need this if you want to turn lights off and on with your voice or if you want to setup door and window sensors to alert you when they are opened. Once you buy this, you will have to buy devices that are compatible with the Smartthings Hub, but you won’t find that hard, everything mostly is. Once all your devices are setup with the Smartthings hub, you just have to link your Hub to your Google Home app to make all your lights and switches activated by your voice via the Nest Hub.
- Indoor Cameras (Wyze Security Camera) – These little guys are the all around best things you can buy. They are cheap, they integrate with Google products, and most of all, they get constant security upgrades. This is something that every other cheap Chinese camera on Amazon does not give you. Great for baby monitors or to watch your pet when you are at work.
- Outdoor Cameras (Many options) – These options are a lot more complicated, this is why I made this breakdown. Contact me from the homepage if you have further questions.
These two products are first and foremost the most important pieces of hardware in your home when it comes to internet usage. With that being said, if you are currently using the equipment your cable company gave you for internet access, you are not only getting ripped off up to $15/month to use their trash equipment, but you are sacrificing network speed and inefficiencies with your home wireless network. Do your self a favor and buy your own wireless router, you will be glad you did. If you need help with installation, contact us.
- Basic Wireless Budget Router – TP-LINK Archer A7 – Budget pick and great for a Small House or Apartment with a few streaming devices.
- Full Performance/Featured Wireless Router – Netgear Nighthawk N7000 | ASUS AC68U – For a Larger House with many streaming devices and/or gaming sessions. Approximately max 1800 square foot home for this coverage.
- Full Performance/Wireless Mesh Router – Google Wifi v2 | Eero – Large House or business with streaming devices more than 100ft away from router. These are a new category of WIFI routers that aim to eliminate dead spots using multiple integrated wireless routers to give you the best possible signal no matter where you are in your home or business. The real power of these is the modular factor, you can use 1 of these systems or 6, based on the square footage you are covering.
In general, printers are becoming more and more scarce. There is less and less need to print with so many screens all around us for presentations, sharing images, and official business done via electronic signature. However there will still be those that cling to this aging technology, for those few, here are a couple of recommendations.
- Wireless Cloud Brother Black & White Laser Printer – HL-L2350DW – This is a simple, no-fuss, Cloud Printing, inexpensive, blank & white laser printer. Toner can be bought cheap on Amazon, easy to swap out, lasts a long time.
- Wireless Epson EcoTank (Cartridge Free) – ET-2550 – The beauty of this printer is the sustainability. Most printers come with enough ink to print for a month or 2, this printer comes with enough ink to print for a couple of years. And the best thing about it, when you do run out, you buy inexpensive bottles that you just pour into the large ink tank and you are on your way.
If you stick with the big brands, you cannot go wrong, these are Samsung, Sony, and LG. Vizio is another one that makes quality TVs for the price, in fact, they are one of the best value plays for your money. However I would also consider TCL, this is an up and coming Chinese brand that is making great strides as of the last few years, Hisense is another one, but not quite there. I would ignore all the other junk brand TVs like Toshiba, Insignia, Dynex, Westinghouse, and the like.
- LCD vs OLED vs QLED – Most people cannot tell the difference between these various types, but if they are calibrated well, are watching in a dark room, are playing 4K HDR content from a 4K Bluray player, you will notice a difference and notice how much better OLED is than any other screen. But for the casual viewers, these will not make a huge difference to you guys, so don’t spend the extra money on the OLED/QLED displays.
- General Consensus – If you have the cash and want the best, get the top of the line Samsung QLED TVs or LG’s best OLED TV. If you want to save some money, get a Vizio or TCL.