A great deal of research has focused on algorithms for learning features from un- labeled data. Indeed, much progress has been made on benchmark datasets like NORB and CIFAR by employing increasingly complex unsupervised learning al- gorithms and deep models. In this paper, however, we show that several very sim- ple factors, such as the number of hidden nodes in the model, may be as important to achieving high performance as the choice of learning algorithm or the depth of the model. Specifically, we will apply several off-the-shelf feature learning al- gorithms (sparse auto-encoders, sparse RBMs and K-means clustering, Gaussian mixtures) to NORB and CIFAR datasets using only single-layer networks. We then present a detailed analysis of the effect of changes in the model setup: the receptive field size, number of hidden nodes (features), the step-size (“stride”) be- tween extracted features, and the effect of whitening. Our results show that large numbers of hidden nodes and dense feature extraction are as critical to achieving high performance as the choice of algorithm itself—so critical, in fact, that when these parameters are pushed to their limits, we are able to achieve state-of-the- art performance on both CIFAR and NORB using only a single layer of features. More surprisingly, our best performance is based on K-means clustering, which is extremely fast, has no hyper-parameters to tune beyond the model structure it- self, and is very easy implement. Despite the simplicity of our system, we achieve performance beyond all previously published results on the CIFAR-10 and NORB datasets (79.6% and 97.0% accuracy respectively).