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What to buy?

Before you purchase a system, we’d urge you to examine how you’d use that computer. Your work habits, possible fields of study, and interests should shape your decision.

  • Decide between Apple Macintosh and Windows systems: Which platform matches your interests? In general, Windows systems are less expensive for similar processing speed. Macintoshes can be easier to set up, to learn, and to use.
  • Decide whether a portable computer or a desktop computer is more appropriate for your work habits. Desktop computers are generally less expensive but require that you do your work in one location. Notebook computers allow students to compute on the go, connecting to the campus network via wi-fi access in the Morris Library, classrooms, study areas, computing sites, The Green, and other locations. If your courses, activities, and research involve a lot of travel or fieldwork, you may also find a portable computer to be a good investment.
  • Tablet computers like the iPad, Kindle Fire or other Android tablet models, and smartphones are great for reading email, taking notes, giving presentations, and browsing the Internet. Apps on these devices are getting more powerful all the time, but they may not be full-featured enough to handle all your coursework. Anything beyond rudimentary word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and graphic editing may be cumbersome to work on using a tablet or smartphone. Any task requiring advanced graphic and video performance capabilities and/or heavy computational processing is likely not a good fit for a tablet.
  • Printing is available in our campus computing sites and printing kiosks, and you can even print from the network right from your own computer to one of these printers. Alternatively, you may want to consider the purchase of a personal use printer. Inkjet printers can be relatively inexpensive, but cost per page is higher due to the price of ink cartridges. Laser printers have a higher buy-in cost and the toner cartridges are not cheap, but they typically print many times more pages than inkjets, yielding a significantly less expensive cost per page.
  • Decide on a budgeting strategy but plan for the long term. You could buy a powerful computer now or buy an inexpensive computer now and plan to upgrade it later on.
  • Budget for software as well as hardware. Word processing and spreadsheet software can be purchased with most systems; however, you may also need other software for communications, graphics, and specialized projects. See the pages on hardware and software purchasing options. Be aware that unauthorized copying of licensed software is illegal.
  • Prepare your computer to connect to our campus network and the Internet.