In order to receive purchase approval, computer systems at CWU must meet some requirements that are intended to ensure the equipment will provide an acceptable service life, provide a good value for the cost, and that it will properly interface with our enterprise systems for academic and administrative use. To facilitate this goal we specify standard computers for our supported operating systems which are Windows 7 and the Apple OS. Based on these two operating systems we make recommendations for desktop computers, portable systems, and network printers.
For Microsoft Windows we specify a custom built desktop system and keep several in stock to provide the shortest delivery time we can. For portable Windows computers we direct users to our CDW-G site for several pre-approved systems covering laptops, tablets, and netbooks.
For Apple computers we recommend the latest iMac in a 21" size for a desktop system, and for a portable system we recommend the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.For network printers we again direct users to our CDW-G site for the recommended printers.
In order to help CWU departments provide for unexpected failures we generally require all of our computer recommendations to include a three-year warranty. However, in cases where the initial cost of the equipment is well under $1000 and the cost of providing an extended warranty represents a 10 percent or more increase in price the decision is left to the purchasing department. We do not normally recommend an extended warranty for printers because our experience has shown that out-of-warranty failures generally occur when the printer is due for replacement anyway.
Our recommendations are intended to provide Faculty and Staff with an easy selection process while ensuring that the computer will support our standard software suite and network services. We recognize that some of our constituents will want systems which conform to different specification and we will work with each of those requests individually. However, as part of our responsibility to the University we will do our best to ensure that the products requested will integrate with our software and systems, and that CSS will be able to support the product after it is purchased. This process may take some time, so please keep this in mind as part of the consideration process.
Our standard desktop system designed to work with Microsoft Windows is actually a custom specification. Our specifications for the standard University system are reviewed several times each year to keep them in line with changing technology and prices. This specification is then put forth to competing companies. Large corporations have been included in the past, but have been unwilling or unable meet our specifications with a price competitive offer. Although open to bid from other companies, our standard computers are currently provided by local Washington State companies Alden Associates Inc. and US Micro Corp., and CTL in Portland, Oregon. All of these companies can offer customized systems built for the University or for private purchase.
Apple has consolidated their computer line over the years, and while all of their standard computer systems will work on our campus we recommend the 21" iMac for desktop use. This platform provides an excellent monitor and minimal desktop footprint for office usage. While this system is more expensive than our Windows recommendation it does offer the ability to run either the Apple OS, or Windows 7, and if used in conjunction with a software product titled Parallels can run both operating systems simultaneously. For a portable Apple computer we recommend either the MacBook Pro, or the MacBook Air. Both of these offer some advantages which should be considered prior to purchase. The MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air are available in different sizes, however neither include an internal DVD drive.
Portable computers for Windows come in a variety of sizes and capabilities, while technologically they are constantly changing and improving. Please refer to our CDWG site to see a selection of portable computers we have already approved for CWU, and be sure to include the three year onsite warranty protection (separate item) with the purchase. Portable computing devices are frequently the source of many questions posed to CSS, and in some instances the source of some confusion for Faculty or Staff researching what to purchase. There are many factors that impact the recommendations that CSS makes for University laptops, some of those factors have changed in recent years. The following are the guidelines that we apply to our DIS recommendations.
- Portable computers costing over $800 require a three-year onsite warranty.
- Portable computers costing less than $800 are recommended to be purchased with a three-year onsite warranty but not required.
- They must be compatible with our University infrastructure (current operating system is Windows 7 64-bit).
- They must be capable of using the standard University suite of software.
Beyond those specific criteria we do apply some subjective analysis of our potential choices that are based on experience and observation. The basic categories for that analysis are as follows.
- The computer should have a minimum useful service life of four years.
- The hardware should be capable of routine use during a normal service life without extraneous maintenance or replacement parts.
- The purchase price should be within a normal range for similar devices on the market.
- The interface connections, and data storage devices used by the device should be viable and compatible with industry standards during the service life of the system.
In addition there are numerous variables to consider when it comes to choosing a laptop or portable computer, and industry advances only compound the choices. The Technicians in CSS are always evaluating portable systems, both new and old, as they come through our department. Whether they are new computers being readied for service, or old systems being retired and sent to surplus their condition and capabilities are observed. This observation of portable CWU systems before, during, and at the end their service lives give us an insight to the manufacturing quality, and durability of different brands. The speed and quality of the service that is provided if and when the warranty is called upon also provide us with some consideration when making our recommendations. Lastly, the pricing of specific models and their potential warranty costs are taken into consideration. When a new portable device purchase cost is less than $1000 the additional cost of an extended warranty is considered in contrast with outright replacement, the length of a standard warranty, and the build quality expected from the manufacturer.
Making recommendations of laptops and personal computing devices for purchase with CWU funds will never be a black and white decision process. However, we hope that the above outline will provide prospective buyers with an overview of the factors that impact our selection process. The technology advances that have occurred with smart phones and tablet devices over the last three years have added a host of new choices, and dramatically expanded the scope of portable computing. CSS will strive to make recommendations that provide the best equipment possible for CWU at prices that are reflective of market averages.
As of May 1, 2014 our laptop minimum specifications are as follows: Windows 7 64-bit OS, Intel i5 processor, 4 GB RAM, Hard drive--128 GB SSD or 350 GB SATA, 1366x768 video resolution and 801.11 a/b/g/n wireless.
We make our printer recommendations based on the requirement that they support PCL and PS drivers, the quality of the product, and the availability of service and warranty support. The models will change over time, so please browse the models we recommend on our CDW-G site.