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St. Louis thrift stores

St. Louis has a number of good thrift stores. They’re good for saving money, and if you’re looking for collectibles, there’s something more thrilling about finding it in a thrift store than a collectibles shop. Here are my recommendations for St. Louis thrift stores.

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HP Compaq 6910p upgrades

I spent some time exploring HP Compaq 6910p upgrades because used HP Compaq 6910p laptops are dirt cheap these days. I picked one up for $75 as an alternative to a Black Friday cheapie.

If you look for one yourself, either look for one with a valid Windows 7 or Windows 10 license on it, or get one at a deep enough discount to make it worth your while.

Here’s what I did to turn an outmoded laptop from 2008 into something better than what I could have bought on Black Friday.

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SSD Roundup: December 2015

I’ve been reviewing a lot of old content lately, and noticing that I recommended specific SSDs quite a bit in the past, and unfortunately, that information had a finite lifespan even though the rest of the advice might very well still be good. So I’m consolidating my SSD advice.

At this page, I present 10 SSDs that are selling well right now, with the most relevant stats (price, capacity, links, and worst-case performance) and anything else I might want to add about the particular drive. As the market changes, I’ll update the page, and post an update here in the blog.

What can you expect? Well, Samsung has some high-performance stuff out there right now; Sandisk and Kingston are fighting a battle for budget and upgrade dollars, and Crucial is delivering a lot of drives in between Sandisk and Samsung in both price and performance.

Even though SSDs don’t get the kind of attention they used to get, today’s drives perform better (even if ever so slightly better) than yesterday’s while delivering better value, and those are both good things.

Once again, here’s the link to this month’s roundup.

Bestselling SSDs

I have recommended a lot of SSDs over the years, and it seems like at least once a month someone asks me what SSDs I recommend right now.

So I’m going to present a list, and make an effort to keep it reasonably current. This list is somewhat curated; if there’s a drive that’s selling well but people are having a lousy experience with it, I’m leaving it off. I won’t name names but there is one of those this month. I may tweak the statistics with time, but for now I’m reporting capacity, expected price, where to buy it, and random write speed, which is what these drives are worst at. Any of these drives can open a 2-gig hibernation file in less than four seconds; it’s when they’re at their worst that you notice the difference between them, if there is any.

Let me get a disclaimer out of the way: Some of the links I present are affiliate links. You’re welcome to buy a drive anywhere you like, but if you buy from one of these links, I may make a small commission. That helps pay to keep this site up. Not everyone is up front about things like this, so I want to try to be open.

Let’s get on with the bestselling drives of December 2015.

Samsung 850 EVO series

Capacity: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Estimated Price: $68/$79/$153/$348/$728
Random write speed: 46.5 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This drive gives a good combination of value and performance. Samsung has been pricing these aggressively, and it shows in the sales figures. With this series, it’s possible to get a reasonably high-performance drive at any capacity that an enthusiast is likely to be interested in. Samsung makes both its controllers and its memory, which gives them an advantage when it comes to tuning its drives for performance, and gives them some cost advantages as well.

Kingston V300 series

Capacity: 120/240/480/960 GB
Estimated Price: $45/$75/$145/$400
Random write speed: 28.4 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

Sometimes the 120GB version of this drive goes on sale for $40, and in that case, this is the biggest bargain on this list. These drives are budget drives in every way, but no conventional hard drive can touch them for performance, When these drives sell for the same price as the Sandisk SSD Plus, they’re not as compelling, but when they sell for 10% less, they seem to sell like crazy. The next time one of these goes on sale, I’m likely to get one.

Sandisk Ultra II series

Capacity: 120/240/480/960 GB
Estimated Price: $55/$80/$143/$248
Random write speed: 38.7 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Sandisk’s middle of the road drive, which offers a good combination of value, performance, and capacity. While not as fast as Samsung’s drives, it’s not as expensive either. Sandisk makes its own memory chips in a joint venture with Toshiba, which gives them the same advantages as other first-tier manufacturers when it comes to picking out the best chips. Sandisk hasn’t been making SSDs as long as most of these other companies, so they’ve been fairly aggressive with pricing to get a piece of the market.

Samsung 850 Pro series

Capacity: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Estimated Price: $91/$134/$229/$434/$880
Random write speed: 47.6 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

At some capacities this drive is quite a bit more expensive than the 850 EVO, but that could just be a pricing anomaly. These drives are worth considering if you find a good price on them, but don’t pay a heavy premium for it over another performance drive. Under the best conditions it will outperform other drives, but under a more typical workload you don’t get much more speed than you would from an 850 EVO.

Crucial MX200 series

Capacity: 250GB/500GB/1TB
Price: $80/$150/$330
Random write speed: 39 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Crucial’s higher performance drive, but when it comes to random writes, which is where you’re more likely to notice the performance, it’s no better than the BX100 or BX200. Crucial seems to be the king of middle-of-the-road drives right now, which isn’t necessarily a bad place to be.

Intel 535 series

Capacity: 120/180/240/360/480GB
Price: $60/$108/$110/$190/$190
Random write speed: 39 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

Intel makes an appearance on this list. Sometimes it seems hard to remember that Intel still makes SSDs, but this drive is a good performer at a competitive price, and Intel offers some capacities that nobody else is offering right now, although the pricing on the odd capacities like 180 and 360 GB can be even more odd. I’m not sure who would pay $190 for 360 GB when they can get 480 GB for about the same price.

Crucial BX100 series

Capacity: 120GB/250GB/500GB/1TB
Estimated Price: $65/$85/$165/$400
Random write speed: 40 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Crucial’s budget drive. This line is being phased out, but there must still be some in the channel. If you can get a good price on one of these it’s well worth considering, especially for an upgrade for a machine with SATA2 where you won’t notice its limitations anyway. But make sure you don’t accidentally end up paying a premium for this drive over its newer and faster successor, the BX200.

Crucial BX200 series

Capacity: 240GB/480GB/1TB
Price: $65/$130/$300
Random write speed: 41 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

The BX200 is Crucial’s new budget drive. It offers better write speeds than the BX100 did, so if the price is close, this is the better drive to get.

Sandisk SSD Plus series

Capacity: 120 and 240 GB
Price: $45/$70
Random write speed: 34 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Sandisk’s budget line, and is currently very aggressively priced. If you want a drive made by a company that makes its own chips, which isn’t a bad idea, this is the least expensive option on this list. Much like the Kingston drives, these are good drives for upgraders who want to extend a system’s usable lifespan without spending much. An enthusiast building a new, high-performance system may want to spend a little more for a higher-performing drive.

Samsung 850 EVO M.2 series

Capacity: 120/240/500 GB
Price: $70/$90/$180
Random write speed: 46.5 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This drive features the M.2 connector, and as such, under the best conditions will outperform the other drives on this list. The caveat is that not all systems have an M.2 connector, so this drive isn’t an option for many upgraders. But if you have an M.2 connector, it’s a shame not to use it.

Tips for buying computer memory

Many years ago, I wrote something titled Memory Buying Secrets. That post is lost to history, thanks to migrations in this site’s early years, but there are a number of things you need to know when you’re buying memory that can save you money and frustration, so I figured I would revisit that topic today. Here are my tips for buying computer memory, based on decades of experience.Read More »Tips for buying computer memory

Hot tip: Memory probably isn’t going to get much cheaper

Friday I saw a story from a financial publication suggesting that DDR3 DRAM prices will be increasing soon due to increasing demand for PCs, thanks to Windows 10’s release and the back-to-school season.

That got me thinking, and while memory prices aren’t at an all-time low right now, they are pretty cheap. A Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB kit runs about $105 right now. About two years ago, I paid $99 for the same kit. According to the pricing history available to me, the cheapest it’s ever been was $70, and the highest it’s been is $160.

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If I were buying an SSD today

SSD pricing continues to be competitive, and if I were buying an SSD today, I would have a tough decision ahead of me. The Crucial BX100 would be the obvious choice, with its good speed, super-low power consumption, and attractive price, at $99 for the 250GB model and around $185 for the 500GB model.

But there’s an underdog: the PNY CS1111. Bear with me on that one: It’s a little slower than the Crucial, but costs 15% less.

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A new way to measure reliability and quality of hardware

If you’re in the market for some new PC gear, it helps to measure reliability and quality of hardware. How do you measure that? How about buying the one that induces the least buyer’s remorse? That’s an approach you can take with the data from It’s in French, but Google Translate works.

This doesn’t measure long-term reliability–only DOA rate and short-term reliability–but it’s data I haven’t seen before, so I think it’s a welcome resource.

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What happens when you write a petabyte of data to an SSD

If you’re concerned about SSD reliability, Tech Report has good news for you: They attempted to write a petabyte of data to six SSDs, and three of them survived. Considering the drives were rated for a 200 TB life expectancy, that’s impressive. In fact, even the worst drives outlived their 200 TB life expectancy. And all started behaving oddly long before their demise, giving you ample warning to do something in advance–something you can’t say about evil nasty platters of spinning rust–perhaps better known as traditional hard drives.

The first drive to fail, if you’re wondering, was the Samsung 840, which uses cheaper TLC memory. But even the Samsung 840 outlived its projected life expectancy. Since other companies are undercutting the 840’s price even with MLC memory these days, I’m not sure what Samsung’s plans for the 840 are. For the time being, I doubt you’ll be buying one. One of the drives that’s still going after a petabyte of writes is a costlier Samsung MLC drive.

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