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Don't pay too much for memory upgrades

I'm really itching for a new laptop. Student loans are on their way, the kids need a new computer, I'm moving all over the district and need a laptop that slips easily into a bag or under my arm.
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Written by Christopher Dawson on

I'm really itching for a new laptop. Student loans are on their way, the kids need a new computer, I'm moving all over the district and need a laptop that slips easily into a bag or under my arm. I have the perfect rationale and the kids can't wait to steal my giant Kubuntu-running HP. So, of course, like every geek about to get a new toy, I'm perusing reviews, configuring systems online, and otherwise obsessing about "the laptop that will be." I'm still waiting to see what comes out of Macworld, but, at the very least, know for sure that I'm aiming for a highly portable system, whether it's a tablet, something slick out of Cupertino, or just a snappy thin and light.

Often, these systems sacrifice raw performance for battery life, size, heat, etc., which is fine as long as I'm not trying to edit video on a Core Solo. One way to compensate for the low-power consumption processors is to crank up the RAM (4GB is the new 2GB) and most of these machines will support 3 to 4GB. As I was comparing prices and features on Lenovo and Toshiba tablets, however, I was shocked to see upgrade prices for 4GB of RAM running in the $5-600 range. Ouch - suddenly, I was just priced out of my new toy.

I popped over to Apple.com to see what RAM prices looked like on a Macbook. Ready for some serious sticker shock? A 4GB upgrade will run you $850. No, that isn't a misprint. Weren't RAM prices supposed to be coming down?

My next online stop was Crucial.com. There are lots of memory vendors, but this was the first that came to mind; they also happen to have a great utility right on the homepage that allows you to select your computer manufacturer and model and get a list of available memory sticks. Three quick runs through the tool gave me matched pairs of 2GB memory modules (4GB total) for the Lenovo X61, the Toshiba Portege M700, and the MacBook. Prices direct from Crucial were just a wee bit lower: $120, regardless of manufacturer.

The moral of the story? Imagine buying new computers for your school. Even 10 of the Lenovo tablets would cost you $5200 in upgrades if you went whole hog on the RAM. Purchased from Crucial, the upgrades would only cost $1200 for all 10 computers. Upgrading to 2GB (more reasonable for this market) would still cost an extra $800 (assuming you are willing to take 2x1GB modules) Yet if you stuck with the base installed RAM from the manufacturer (1GB) and threw it in the trash (an extreme solution to make a point), instead installing a matched pair of 1GB modules (2GB total) from Crucial, you would still save $300. Foregoing the matched pairs and keeping the original 1GB module would save you $540. Any big districts or universities out there? I'll let you do the math for 100 of these laptops (or better yet, 100 of the Macbooks).

Until OEMs get their pricing sorted out, install it yourself folks. This is one of the bigger no-brainers I've seen recently in terms of saving money and still getting top performance from new hardware.

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