Windows 10

What does an enterprise Windows 10 device look like?

I always get into this “philosophical” debate with IT pros:  When buying new Windows 10 devices, what kind of configuration is recommended?  It’s certainly not “buy the cheapest possible PC you can find” because there are still some truly awful PC devices sold. 

To be clear, I’m not saying they are awful from a quality perspective, but rather they are awful from the perspective of their specs.  Just like you wouldn’t buy a car today if you found it only gets 2 miles per gallon (mpg), you shouldn’t get a new PC with specs that would belong in the previous decade.  So what specs are important?  Let’s focus on three:

  • Mass storage.  This is absolutely, positively the most important item.  No more spinning drives – only SSDs.  (You can check out benchmarks for those too.)  Spinning drives should never be used as the primary drive on a device, unless maybe it’s a device you are giving to a person you don’t like.  And while you can probably get by with 250GB SSDs, you’ll get more life out of the device with more.  (Can you use 128GB?  Yes, but you’ll eventually regret it.  And with 64GB or less, you’ll regret it even sooner, if not right away.)
  • RAM.  It’s shameful if you get less than 8GB of RAM (and therefore also a shame if you aren’t using a 64-bit operating system on it to use that RAM), because RAM overall is so cheap. 
  • Processor.  Processor manufacturers (Intel and AMD, since these are the only mainstream processors in commercial devices these days) have confusing product names, overlapping product lines, and pricing that is all over the place.  Personally, I typically look for Intel Core i5 or i7 processors from the current generation (e.g. Intel Core i5-8xxx – yes, there are 9th generation ones available now, but those are still high-end) or the previous one (e.g. Intel Core i5-7xxx).  But you can leverage benchmarks to get an idea of the relative performance of other CPU choices.  (I typically look at https://www.cpubenchmark.net, but there are plenty of other contenders out there.)

There are other factors to consider as well, especially for laptops: weight, screen size, screen resolution, battery life, durability, etc.  While I have opinions on those too (my eyes like 14” or bigger screens with 1080p or higher resolutions and batteries that can last four hours or more), I don’t think those matter nearly as much.

Yes, I have been spoiled with the devices that I have used over the past 15 years (Surface Book and Surface Laptop most recently, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbons before that).  And I have more of a preference for higher-end devices as I still do work that can stress a PC (disk, RAM, and PC).  There are plenty of reasons to go for the higher end.  (My current PC has a Core i7-8650U, 16GB of RAM, and a 500GB SSD.)  But nothing I describe above should be considered “high end” – those are typical information worker configurations.

Thoughts?

p.s. I have quite a few PCs at home too, for myself and the family, with both laptops, tablets, and desktops.  My most recent purchase: An Intel NUC NUC8i7VK with 32GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD, and an Intel Core i7-8809G processor.  And the fun but rather pointless LED cover:

Intel® NUC Kit NUC8i7HVK

Categories: Windows 10

5 replies »

  1. I would put RAM as first criteria, then processor then storage. If 256Gb is not enough for your apps needs, you should have a second look on your app list. For your data needs, well you have OneDrive 🙂 Just make sure that everything is not synced locally. Why RAM first? Minimum CPU is i5 which is already a pretty good CPU. The thing that will really slow you down is when you run out of memory and apps like browsers are really heavy in RAM consumption. RAM does not cost much if you have a desktop. Not the same if you have a laptop. You still have the option to plug an external storage but you are stuck with your RAM and CPU setup. If I have the choice between an I7 / 8Gb or an i5 / 16Gb, i would pick the i5.

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  2. Doesn’t this all depend on what your standard application suite consists of and how your users work? I work for an international corporate law firm. Our user-base is primarily attorneys (many travelling), paralegals and secretaries. Our new standard is a Thinkpad T480s, SSD, 24GB RAM, i7. When we move to T490s models, we’re bumping up to 32GB RAM. I’ve been doing legal IT since the early 1980s. I have yet to see a PC that has “too much power” for whatever workload is thrown at it….

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    • There are always exceptions. But I would be shocked if normal app suites need anywhere close to that amount of RAM. I can open every single app on my machine, stacks of browser tabs, etc. and never stress my 16GB machine. (If I wanted to run a VM on it, that would be a different story.)

      Now if you are installing 37 management agents (antivirus, firewall, DLP, intrusion detection, etc.) on the box, yes, you’re putting a burden on that machine, but it’s not because of what the user’s doing. (Have you seen Brad Anderson’s video showing how fast his device boots, signs him in, and gets to the desktop to do productive work? Directly a result of keeping all those agents away.)

      Also, how do you determine that the machines need more memory? Windows is designed to use what’s there, but that doesn’t mean that it is struggling. Rather, it’s optimizing to the available resources. So you are unlikely to notice a difference between 8GB, 16GB, and 24GB. Still, if money isn’t a concern, buy more 🙂

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  3. Most important is a solid Quality Build. Everything else is secondary (and this includes processor generation). Nothing worse than having devices that overheat and throttle, motherboards that stop reading harddrives etc. With business you want the tried and true. I’d take an older X1 Carbon with gen 6 processor any day over any “Ultrabook” out there, most of which come with piss-poor battery life to boot. Speaking of which you don’t want to get a screen any larger than 1080p resolution. Running 4k native with scaling will chocke the integrated GPU and you’ll have a hard time scrolling in your Excel files. 8GB RAM should be enough for most users as well as 256GB HDD should do it for most, though people who have multiple shared inboxes that want them cached offline will probably need a larger drive for the .OST file.

    To be honest, I’ve known people who have gotten their whole business running with chromebooks. Much cheaper and when the thing goes kaputt they just issue a new one. End users rarely do any backups which can be a pain for IT.

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