Computer Recommendations for CLA Students

Almost all Willamette students bring their own computers to campus. While WU offers computer lab facilities, many of these spaces are limited to students enrolled in specific courses or majors. Some general access labs are open to students 24 hours a day, but space is limited. Owning your own computer is highly recommended. These guidelines can help you make sure that the computer you bring to Willamette will be able to meet your needs for at least 4 years.

  1. Things to keep in mind
  2. Desktop or Laptop?
  3. Windows or Mac?
  4. Recommended specs and example systems
  5. What about Chromebooks?
  6. Hard Drive Size and Type
  7. Recommended Accessories
  8. Accessories to avoid

1. Things to keep in mind

It can be difficult to predict your computing needs over the next several years, especially if you're not sure what your major will be. It's safe to say that computer software will continue to advance, and any computer that you purchase should have the fastest processor, most RAM, and best storage (preferably an SSD) that your budget allows. 

Sometimes refurbished computers can offer a great value, but it's easy to purchase a system that has out-of-date hardware that doesn't compare well to something newer. New laptops also offer much better battery life than machines that are even a few years old. Plus, it's always a good idea to buy something with a warranty.

Manufacturers like Dell or Apple and retailers like Best Buy sometimes offer student discounts that can make purchasing a new system more affordable. 


2. Desktop or Laptop?

WITS recommends that you consider a laptop. Laptop computers take up less space in your room, can be taken to class or the library, and are easier to transport to and from school. Modern laptop computers have more than enough power to handle a typical student's requirements. If you want to bring a desktop computer, you may want to consider supplementing it with an inexpensive laptop that can be taken to class or for studying in the library.


3. Windows or Mac?

We happily support Windows and Mac computers. All of the essential services Willamette provides (including Microsoft Office) are available for both platforms. Keep in mind that some programs are only available for one platform or the other. Make sure your OS choice matches the software you plan to use.


4. Recommended specs and example systems

Here are some general baseline recommendations for a new computer:

Example Make and Model OS Processor Memory Storage Other Approximate price
Minimum recommended PC Dell Inspiron 13 5000 Windows 10 Intel Core i3 (7th or 8th generation) 8GB 128GB SSD $650
Mid-level PC Dell XPS 13 9360 Windows 10 Intel Core i5 (7th or 8th generation) 8GB 256GB SSD $1000
High performance PC Dell G7 15 Windows 10 Intel Core i7 (7th or 8th generation) 16GB 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics $1200
Minimum recommended Mac MacBook Air MacOS 10.13 Intel Core i5 (5th generation) 8GB 128GB SSD $1000
Mid-level Mac MacBook Pro 13 MacOS 10.13 Intel Core i5 (7th generation) 8GB 256GB SSD Non-touchbar $1500
High performance Mac MacBook Pro 15 MacOS 10.13 Intel Core i7 (7th generation) 16GB 256GB SSD Non-touchbar $2000

Why so much Dell?
There are plenty of quality PC manufacturers, and the brand you choose won't significantly change your experience or the services we can offer you. We're offering example systems from Dell because they sell direct and through almost all computer retailers, and they offer a student discount. You can almost always find some sort of sale or discount. You can compare the specs from our example systems to computers from any other manufacturer and end up with something just as good.

What about AMD processors?
AMD's A-series APU processors do not stack up well against their Intel competitors. Their newer Ryzen Mobile processors are much improved and just starting to appear in new products.


5. What about Chromebooks?

Chromebooks are lower in cost, thin and light, and offer great battery life when compared to most PC and Mac computers. Unfortunately they are often underpowered and are not as fully-featured as a normal laptop. Chromebooks run the ChromeOS operating system, which is not compatible with Windows or MacOS programs. If you will need to run any software for a class, you should have a Windows PC or a Mac. It is possible to run Android apps and Linux software on Chromebooks, but this isn't as easy or accessible as using a Mac or PC.

A Chromebook might be a good choice for note-taking or streaming media, but we don't recommend one as your only computer.


6. Hard Drive Size and Type

Almost all hard drives that come with new computers are adequate for the typical academic workload. If you will be storing a lot of audio or video files, consider a drive 500GB or larger. 

If you can afford an appropriately sized SSD, it is recommended. SSDs offer a huge boost in overall system performance compared with a traditional hard drive. They have no moving parts, so you will be less likely to damage the disk and lose data. This is especially important if you will be taking your laptop to class daily. You can always augment a smaller SSD with an external hard drive for cheap storage. If you will be using an SSD as the primary drive in your computer, it should be at least 128GB in size--and you may need a drive at least 250GB in size if you plan to install games or large software packages. 128GB can fill up quickly.


7. Recommended Accessories

If you are considering purchasing a new computer, you should also think about adding the following accessories.

  • External Hard Drive: We recommend that all students come to campus with an external hard drive. External drives can be used to back up your academic work (backups can also be stored on your Willamette network file storage and Google Drive) or simply to store data that won't fit on your computer's internal drive.
  • Extra power adapter: Laptop power adapters can easily be lost or damaged. If you purchase an extra power adapter with your laptop, you can keep it as a spare or leave it connected in your dorm room so you never have to look for an outlet at your desk. We do NOT recommend off-brand, universal, or generic power adapters as they usually do not offer the same maximum output or power conditioning as original parts. Some off-brand power adapters can even damage your laptop!
  • Ethernet adapter and/or cable: All of Willamette's residential buildings offer complete WiFi coverage, but even the best wireless connection can be subject to interference or additional latency when compared to a wired connection. Our dorms are equipped with gigabit Ethernet ports for each resident, which should offer the best connection that our Internet service can support.


8. Accessories to avoid

  • Wireless access point/wireless router. This includes the Apple AirPort products. Personally owned wireless access points are prohibited in residence halls as they can create security problems for the entire network and can interfere with our networks, resulting in unreliable performance.
  • Printers. Willamette offers black and white duplex printing across the campus at no additional cost. Printing is managed through a single system, and you can print from any computer on campus (including your own) and release the job to any eligible printer. Color printing is available from Print Services for a modest fee. Using a printer of your own might be convenient, but it's not necessary by any means and will take up valuable space in your room.