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Information Technology

What features should my PC have?

Posted on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Updated Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Computers these days are all so much more powerful than even five years ago. A basic computer will get someone through at least several years of school, work, or usefulness. It IS possible to purchase a computer that will remain useful for your entire stay at UNI! Read the following recommendations and make your choices accordingly. Remember, because of your affiliation with UNI, you can receive discounts on Apple and Dell computers. To find the details, visit the personal purchasing page at the Information Technology Website.

The 4 Primary Hardware Concerns for New Computers

Computer descriptions these days come with a lot of specifications that use a lot of technical jargon. This can be confusing if you aren't sure what you're looking for! By following the information listed below, you can look for key words that will help you zero in on the computer that will last for your entire time here at UNI!

Computer Speed (the processor)

The most common processor found in computers today is from Intel. The Intel Core series of processors perform well and are generally recommended for a computer that you will bring to UNI. When reading a computer listing, look for something similar to Intel 6th generation Core processors. For gaming, intense graphic design or video editing, or just maximum longevity, pick a Core i7 processor (the most powerful). The Core i7 processor will deliver the fastest speed and most processing power. Keep in mind, on laptops, a Core i7 may slightly reduce the battery life due to the extra power needs for the stronger processor. UNI Information technology recomends a Core i5 at a minimum.

Storage (the hard drive)

Hard drives come in two varietys today: the magnetic, spinning disk (HDD) or the Solid State Drive (SSD). SSDs are more expensive, but recommended for maximum longevity of your computer.

  • The spinning disk (HDD) is generally cheaper and comes in much larger sizes. These drives are good for storage (for example, if you have a lot of digital pictures, music, or movies). You can find HDDs in 500GB to several terabytes in size.
  • The Solid State Drive (SSD) is generally smaller in terms of amount of storage available and more expensive. It is however, much faster than it's older, HDD cousin. Upgrading from an HDD to a SSD in an older computer will make it have new life! Ensuring the computer you bring to UNI has an SSD will make it faster and lighter. With cloud storage available to you at UNI (Google Drive), the smaller hard drive might not be an issue. Pick up an SSD no smaller than 256GB if possible.

Memory (RAM)

If a hard drive is like the bookshelf in a computer (where the computer stores information for retrieval, like a bookshelf storing books) then the RAM or computer's memory is like the desk surface. The larger the desk surface (the greater the amount of RAM or memory), the more things a person can do at once. If you have a large desk you can have several papers laying out at once, a book open, and generally it is more conducive to having more research materials spread out and available. Likewise, the more memory your computer has, the more programs or applications it can run at the same time. UNI recommends no less than 8GB of RAM. For maximum longevity, pick 16GB.

WiFi Ability (wireless network card)

UNI has deployed high-speed and secure WiFI across campus in areas that are important to students like Maucker Union, the Rod Library, classrooms, and even outside in some instances! To take full advantage of the WiFi, you should ensure that your wireless network card is a dual band radio capable of both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies (most modern computers have this). You'll want to look for dual band AC wireless or something similar in the specifications listing. This will be the most compatible with UNI's wireless network.

Other Concerns for a New Computer

If you've followed the hardware advice above, you should have a computer that is fairly well equipped for your entire collegiate career here at UNI. There are a few other things to consider, however, when making a new computer purchase. The following section will review those with you.

Warranty

UNI Information Technology recommends a minimum three year hardware warranty. This will ensure the manufacturer or reseller will cover any broken computer hardware for at least three years. This is especially important for laptops as they are harder to work on yourself. 

UNI does not recommend that you purchase any type of software tuning/maintenance/assistance from your manufacturer or reseller. Some companies will try and sell you a "tune up" before you even walk out of the door! You do not need this assistance as Information Technology at UNI can help you with the software on your computer.

Size/Weight

More and more professors are allowing the use of laptops during class. A smaller, lighter laptop will be easier to carry across campus during your day. It is also more likely to have better battery life. Larger, heavier laptops are often-times better for gaming or video-intense applications, but will not be as fun to carry across campus.

Operating System

For Windows-based computers, UNI Information Technology recommends Windows 10 home or professional.

For Apple computers, UNI recommends Mac OS Sierra.

Major/Field of Study

Some majors or fields of study use different types of computer hardware. It might be worth checking with the departmental office of the department your major resides in. Alternately, you may contact the IT Service Desk at 319-273-2419 or via email at servicedesk@uni.edu, and ask questions. They will advise and guide you as best they can.