Question from Eric B.: Rick, I’m getting ready to buy a new laptop for my son to use for his schoolwork, and I need some advice on a matter that is puzzling me.
I’ve narrowed down my choices to two models: One has a 2.2 Ghz CPU and 8GB of RAM. The other has a 2.4 Ghz CPU but 4 GB of RAM. Which of these laptops do you think will offer more bang for the buck given that the cost is virtually the same?
Rick’s answer: Eric, lots of folks struggle with this type of question when they go out shopping for a new computer. Given a choice, should they opt for faster processor or more RAM? Here is my answer: It depends!
There are a couple of things to consider:
1 – Are the two CPU’s in the same processor class? As a general rule, a CPU in a more powerful class will almost always out-perform one in a less powerful class (think Intel Core i7 vs. Intel Core i3), regardless of their relative clock speeds.
2 – Assuming that the CPUs are in the same processor class, I would always opt for the fastest CPU even if it means getting less RAM. It’s very easy to add RAM to a computer, and these days RAM is relatively cheap.
Bottom line: In my opinion, CPU speed trumps the amount of RAM when having to make a choice between two PCs with CPUs that are in the same class. Unless the motherboard is already maxed out, you can always add more RAM. But upgrading to a faster CPU can be rather expensive – and virtually impossible with most laptops.
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