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Personal Computer Purchases

I'm planning to purchase a computer personally (on my own funds, not University funds). What do you recommend?

Here's our best advice:

For our institutional purchases, we have standardized on the Dell Latitude business line of laptops (vs their consumer lines like Inspiron, XPS, Alienware, etc.) for Windows systems. The business lines for any manufacturer tend to cost a bit more than the consumer models, but they come with higher quality components and a guarantee that the manufacturer can provide replacement components for at least 5 years (typically). So, from our perspective, it’s worth the added cost. For Apple devices, there is not a similar business/consumer distinction.

We also find that more than 80% of our laptops end up needing some kind of warranty service within the first 3 years--often because of accidental damage like drops and spills--so for institutional purchases we require a minimum 3-year warranty that includes (if available from the manufacturer) accidental damage protection. We highly recommend getting a warranty that includes accidental damage protection. Apple does not offer accidental damage protection, unfortunately. Many vendors offer 3rd-party warranties. In general, our experience with these has been poor--they are typically harder to use than manufacturer warranties and often don't cover the same range of issues.

Beyond that, we recommend the following:

 

  • Minimum 8GB RAM, particularly if you’re doing any stats or other computationally-intensive work
  • Solid-state Disk SSD rather than hard disk, minimum of 256GB
  • Minimum 1080p display resolution (1920x1080)

 

The campus Bookstore TechHub in the MU has systems that meet those standards, and they often have discounts available for students and university employees.

The campus also provides some minimal recommended standards for student computers, though these are typically lower than what we recommend:

http://kb.ucdavis.edu/?id=0765

Consumer Reports also provides a very detailed computer buying guide:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/computers/buying-guide.htm

As a UC Davis affiliate, you can also save some money by leveraging the software and services that are available to you at no cost:

The full version of Microsoft Office is available to you at no cost from https://officedownload.ucdavis.edu/.

Box combined with the Box Sync utility can be used to automatically sync your documents and other files to the cloud, and the UC Davis Box contract offers you unlimited cloud storage at no cost. This is a great way to ensure that your data is backed up and available to you if your computer should fail:

http://itcatalog.ucdavis.edu/service/box

https://community.box.com/t5/Box-Sync/Get-Started-with-Box-Sync/ta-p/86