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Inside Tufts University IT Support Center
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Tufts Technology Support Center Student Support

Recommended Systems

Ultrabook-class Notebook-class Apple MacBook Pro
• 11.6"-13.3” Display
• 1.6+ GHz Intel Core-i5
• 4 GB RAM (8 GB RAM for Engineering students)
• 1366x768 Resolution
• 500 GB Hard Drive + 24+ GB SSD or 128 GB solid-state drive
• Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit recommended, Windows 8 64-bit supported but not recommended
• 13.3" to 15.6” Display
• 2.5+ GHz Intel Core-i5
• 4 GB RAM (8 GB RAM for Engineering students)
• 1366x768 Resolution
• 500 GB Hard Drive or 256 GB solid-state drive
• Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit recommended, Windows 8 64-bit supported but not recommended
• 13" Display
• 2.5+ GHz Intel Core-i5
• 4 GB RAM (8 GB RAM for Engineering students)
• 1280x800 Resolution
• 500 GB Hard Drive or 256 GB solid-state drive
• OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) or later
• Up to 7 hours of battery life


Here at Tufts Technology Support Center, we do our best to support any laptops or desktops that students may own, regardless of how old or new the computer may be or what make it is. Nearly any modern computer will be sufficient for the standard web browsing and word processing that students do today. The above lists represent what we would recommend in a laptop for a balance of price, performance, and features to last the years of college. Below we have a more in-depth discussion of these considerations.


Dell-logo-small Apple-logo-small

Please note that Tufts Technology Support Center is both Dell- and Apple-certified. This means we can do most in-warranty repairs right in the office without sending the laptop to a repair center or dealing with a manufacturer on the phone. Because of this we highly recommend students purchase a Dell or Apple laptop for use at Tufts. We also do out-of-warranty repairs for other manufacturers.


All Laptops:

Processor

The default processor in most laptops should be plenty powerful for most students' computing needs including web browsing, word processing, and general usage. A faster processor will speed up the computer but the price/speed increase is rather low. We recommend upgrading to a solid-state drive first or the RAM as the benefits will be more noticeable.

Video Card

With modern computers, the performance of the video card is almost exclusively used for video games. If the student doesn't plan on playing modern video games, the default video card should be more than capable.

CD/DVD Drive

A CD/DVD burner is strongly recommended (it should come standard on most laptops excluding ultrabooks, Macbook Air, and Macbook Pro with Retina Display). A Blu-Ray drive is of no academic use at Tufts.

Memory (RAM)

For most students 4 GB should be sufficient. How much memory your computer has determines how many programs you can have open without the computer becoming frustratingly slow. While 4 GB should be enough for basic computing, the upgrade to 8 GB is often very cheap (less than 100 dollars) and is one of the most cost effective upgrades for a computer.

Wired (Ethernet) and Wireless (WiFi) Networking

Almost all modern laptops come with everything you need to use the Internet here at Tufts, though some Macbook models and ultrabooks will require Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 to Ethernet adaptors. An Ethernet jack allows students to get 1 Gb/s Tufts Internet in their dorm rooms. Tufts Wireless is also available in all Tufts buildings, though we encourage the use of Ethernet connections to optimize speed. Keep in mind that Tufts does not provide students with Ethernet cables so students will need to buy their own.

Hard Drive

Hard drives come in wide variety of sizes. The ideal size is different for each student. School documents take up very little space while media files (movies, music, pictures) and video games can fill a hard drive very quickly. 500 GB should be enough for most students, although some people may require 750 GB or more. Besides the amount of space, hard drives also come in different speeds, the 2 most common being 5400RPM and 7200RPM. 5400RPM is the most common, but 7200RPM is faster. Besides computer memory, upgrading to a 7200 RPM hard drive is probably the best value in terms of cost and the performance increase. Faster hard drives can speed up a computer in a wide variety of ways.

Additionally, solid-state drives and solid-state hybrid drives offer significantly faster speeds over both 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM traditional hard drives, as well as increased reliability and durability for solid-state drives. However, this is at increased cost per GB of storage and so may not be the best choice for all students.

LCD Screen

Most laptops have screens between 13 and 17 inches, though there are some 11.6” models. In general, smaller laptops (13-14 inches) tend to be best for students. Larger laptops are often a burden to carry around campus, either to class or to the library to study. In most cases, larger screens also mean shorter battery life. In addition to the size of the screen, LCD screens also come in a wide variety of resolutions, sometimes abbreviated with acronyms (such as WSXGA) -- see this Wikipedia page for a quick guide. Higher resolution screens give students more pixels in the same space so they can see more on the screen, though everything will be smaller as a result. Most students should be fine with the default screen, although some students may wish to upgrade to a higher resolution screen for the additional screen real estate.


Windows Laptops:

Operating System

While many PCs will come with the newest version of Windows 8, we strongly recommend Windows 7 as it is guaranteed to be compatible with our support software. The Tufts Technology Support Center will support Windows 8 but note that some software used for our services have not been updated as of yet for the new OS. We will of course continue to support older Windows installations on any computers brought in to the office.

32-bit or 64-bit?

While it may be possible to purchase a computer with 32-bit operating systems, we recommend 64-bit operating systems to take advantage of its capability to run applications faster and utilize any memory upgrades without issue.

Antivirus Software

It is recommended that students NOT buy an antivirus product from the laptop manufacturer. There are a wide variety of free antivirus programs that often perform better than the antivirus programs sold through manufacturers, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG Free, and Avira Antivir. In addition, Tufts provides a commercial antivirus solution free to Tufts students called Command AntiMalware. It can be downloaded here.

Microsoft Office

We strongly recommended that students NOT buy Microsoft Office from laptop manufacturers. Tufts has a Student Microsoft Campus Agreement to provide Microsoft Office 365 and other Microsoft products at a large discount to all students. Details and prices are available on Microsoft's vendor page.

Warranty

Whether or not to get an extended warranty or a warranty which covers accidental damage can be a difficult choice. It really comes down to a personal decision. Some people prefer to play it safe and purchase extended warranties and some prefer not to purchase any additional warranties. In addition to saving money on fixing broken laptops, warranties also avoid the hassle of attempting to fix broken laptops out of warranty. Here at Tufts Technology Support Center, we are happy to assist most students in fixing laptops out of warranty (as well as Dells in warranty through our partnership with them), but it can be frustrating for students to purchase parts off eBay or other such websites. Additionally, for less common laptops, parts can be very expensive to purchase. As a general rule, for cheaper laptops, shorter warranties are a better value (2-3 years). For more expensive laptops ($1200+), 4 year warranties are a better value. While these can help decide which warranty to get, it really comes down to how much risk versus money the student wants to take.


Apple Laptops:

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Pro with Retina Display

The decision between MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Pro with Retina is strictly one of cost per performance and features. The MacBook Air line offers the greatest portability and is extremely lightweight, as well as being cheaper, but at the cost of performance and repairability. The Macbook Air line is great for those that primarily want to write papers, stream Netflix, and enjoy the portability of a smaller laptop. The MacBook Pro line is more expensive than the Macbook Air line, but has some performance gains and features such as faster processors, built-in Ethernet port and CD/DVD drive, as well as the choice between 13 and 15 inch screens compared to the 11 and 13 inch options for the MacBook Air line. Keep in mind that most students do not fully utilize their processors’ full potential with everyday average computing for a student. The 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display line offers better resolution, which is ideal for graphic and media design, and increased portability than the standard MacBook Pro line (for a complete comparison see this chart). We recommend the MacBook Pro with Retina Display for anyone looking to do graphic design, photography, or video editing.

Microsoft Office

We strongly recommended that students NOT buy Microsoft Office from laptop manufacturers. Tufts has a Student Microsoft Campus Agreement to provide Microsoft Office 365 and other Microsoft products at a large discount to all students. Details and prices are available on Microsoft's vendor page.

AppleCare

We strongly recommend students buy Applecare (the extended warranty) for their apple laptops. Applecare extends the warranty an additional 2 years (beyond the 1 year included with the laptop). Mac laptops are very expensive and difficult to repair outside of warranty. While some students may be fortunate and not need to use it during the life of their laptop, many students are left out in the cold if their Mac develops problems after the first year of ownership. Additionally, Tufts Technology Support Center is an Apple Certified Service Center and can perform in warranty repairs on computers covered by the AppleCare Protection plan at no charge.


Please note that the Responsible User Policy prohibits connecting an Apple Airport or Time Capsule to the Tufts network. We recommend a USB hard drive for student backup.


-- Last Edited: March 27th, 2013 --


Contact Information

Phone phone: (617) 627-4865
Email email: tschelp@tufts.edu

Location

Arena Computing Annex
35 Lower Campus Road
Behind Pearson Hall

Service Outages

Updated April 15, 2014 11:33 PM

 

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