Purchasing a New Personal Computer
I am often asked to give recommendations for a new computer purchase. I no longer have a real preference for any particular brand of computer as most all of the new computers have more than enough capability for the basic software requirements of this department.
As for current trends, the movement is towards very light laptop. With rising capacity and falling price of 'memory sticks', it is obvious that cd/DVD drives are becoming obsolete. Built in cameras, though notoriously cheap, will do until you purchase a better camera. Blu-ray? Only if you will watch movies. A camera chip port is important for transferring digital photos. Don't underestimate the number of USB ports you will need.
Current trends aside, I do have some general guidelines that will assist you in choosing the best possible system for your individual needs..
First and foremost, Software determines the hardware!
I recommend that you first assemble a list of all the software you intend to use on your new system. Then go to each of the web sites and read their recommended (NOT minimum) hardware requirements. .
Now, check your available discount software options via MyWSU (the tech tools link) to see what software you can get at discount. This way you do not pay extra for a system equipped with software you can get at discount. If your laptop is to be used in your work, you may qualify for additional software discounts at the WSU Site Licenses site
What will be your computing environment? The various versions of Windows operating system have (or do not have) support for business networks.
I have no particular preference. If you are an international student, available local service in your country is the key decision parameter for brand selection. I personaly but the least expensive computer that will do the job. The top of the line model today will be the bottom of the line in a year.
The amount of internal Random Access Memory (RAM) is critically important to the performance of any computer. If you are going to splurge, buy as much RAM as your system will support.
Easy, get a laptop With battery backup, space saving, portability, wireless and much more, the choice is obvious. You would only a get a desktop if you needed software and hardware features not supported by a standard laptop. That cheap desktops are cheaper is not reason enough to forgo the laptop. PDA's? The screen is too small.
Feedback from faculty and students tells me that weight is important. With new carry-on restrictions and charges, luggage space becomes a premium concern as well. So much so that some have made compromises on the performance and screen size to get the weight and size reduction.
Tricky, bigger is also heavier. This is something only you can decide. Personally, I use two monitors, the laptop and an external wide angle LCD where the external screen is an extension of the laptop. I recommend the rectangular display (16:9) versus the square display. Some displays have distracting reflections in the glass display.
Built in networking both wireless and wired
Bluetooth wireless is marginally useful.
CDROM / DVD drive:
Combo CD / DVD R/W. Some systems are now shipping with built-in Blue Ray. The Blue Ray may store a lot of data but so does an external USB hard drive at possibly a fraction of the cost. Unless you view movies, I would recommend you not include this option on your laptop. USB memory sticks can hold over 4 gigabytes now making them much less problematic than the clunky software that comes with most DVD players. If watching movies on your computer is your thing, then a video streaming movie service would be a better option.
Whatever the latest version of the OS, regardless of platform, get it. To insist on an older version
Again software determines the hardware!.
You need to consider your computer support options when (I didn't say if) your computer needs service. It would be a good idea to visit with the people who will most likely be asked to repair your system and to solicit their opinions and recommendations.
When to buy:
There are discounts available (mostly software) to you as a WSU faculty, staff, or student so you might want to consider waiting until you are on campus before purchasing a new computer.
In addition, you may find your research requires a software capability you did not anticipate before coming to WSU. This would again suggest you wait till you are here at WSU.
Some additional thoughts:
The price of very good lap tops are below $1000.00 making them a consumer item.
If you follow my mantra of 'Software determines hardware!' you will have no trouble selecting a computer system that more than meets your needs.
Manufacturers estimate the life cycle of their laptops to be two years.
The LCD display is most of the cost of the laptop. Break it and you are better off buying a new laptop because of the expense to repair your current one.
I strongly urge you not to buy used laptops. Why punish yourself?
'The above are my personal opinions and not the official policy of the department or Washington State University '
Information Systems Coordinator
April 3, 2012 (VSH)
BSysE is one of the best....[more]
Shyam Sablani is Cocharan Fellowship Program
Manoj Karkee Recieves USDA Tree Fruit Harvesting Grant ....[more]
Qin Zhang named ASABE fellow....[more]
Ogderel Bumandalai in WSUNews
BSysE sends 25 Students to ASABE
Dr. Craig Frear talks about
WSU Anaerobic Digestin Systems
Field Day. [more]
New Faculty Members Lav R. Khot and Sindhuja Sankaran join BSysE. [more]
Additional Information Goes Here.