General Computer Buying Tips
Below are some general tips when purchasing computers. They are designed for use by all types of purchasers including parents, students, faculty & staff. These tips are not a representation of buying restrictions or policy at UIS but a compendium of our experience with what works best for our customers.
Processors – Dual Core vs. Quad Core
Although some processor sharing is possible on computers today, generally each processor handles one task on a machine. So if you are an extreme multi-tasker who runs several processes at the same time a quad core processor might be right for you. Most computer users would be best served to go with a higher Ghz dual core processor instead.
Operating System – Which OS?
For Windows users, Windows 7 Professional remains the operating system of choice here on the UIS campus. It remains the most stable choice for remote and wireless network access at UIS.
For Mac users, the latest operating system is preferred since Apple Computer Inc. integrates many functional and security updates with each release.
Memory: How Much?
Generally the most you can afford has always been the rule but with more memory becoming available it is best to order no more than 4 Gigabytes of memory on machines that are running a 32 bit operating system since that limits the amount of memory that can be utilized by a system. If a 64 bit operating system is installed these limitations do not apply.
Storage: To RAID or not to RAID?
Recently, more options for ordering a machine with multiple hard drives configured for RAID are being offered. RAID 0 provides faster hard drive access at a significant cost of stability, while RAID 1 provides redundancy at the cost of space. We recommend against ordering a computer with a RAID configuration, as most UIS users would see no benefit. If you are unsure if you could benefit from a RAID configuration, please contact the helpdesk.
Optical Drive: DVD or Blue Ray?
We rocommend that at least a DVD writable drive is included on computers. Blue Ray is increasing in market share but DVD remains the dominant force at this time.
We recommend at least a 20″ LCD monitor for desktops and at least a 15″ monitor for laptops. LCD are compact and lightweight compared to the old style monitors so the larger you can afford the better for viewing.
For the normal user the automatically configured card will meet their needs without issue. But if you are a user who normally uses graphically intensive software such as games and graphic design software you should invest in a card that has at least 256 MB of onboard video memory.
Once again generally the default configuration is adequate for the normal user. The higher end cards that are listed and 7:1 Channel systems are meant more for audio mixing and gamers that want to hear more ambient sounds. If you don’t fit either of those categories, stick with the default card.
Keyboards & Mice: Wireless or Wired?
We still recommend wired keyboards and mice for the campus community. While wireless versions will provide more freedom, they come with their downsides. They can and frequently do lose wireless signal resulting in the devices being unresponsive. In addition, they require batteries to operate and it can be annoying to have to change them (sometimes frequently for mice).
Do I need a modem?
Computer on the UIS campus cannot utilize a modem and we don’t recommend you include one on a machine that is intended to be used at UIS.
Speakers: Satellite or Attached?
We recommend attached speakers for most users. The speakers provide adequate sound while not taking up desk or floor space with separate speakers and subwoofer.
Internet Security Software:
Most systems come with antivirus software free of charge such as Trend Micro or McAfee security. We recommend no preconfigured internet security since all employees and students on the UIS campus are eligible for a free copy of the McAfee antivirus software.
Microsoft Office Software
Students at UIS can purchase Office software via the UIS Webstore for steeply discounted prices. For faculty and staff we participate in Microsoft’s Home Use Program that also enables qualified employees to purchase the latest Office software for either Mac or Windows for a small license and shipping/handling fee. For more information about this program contact the campus helpdesk.