In order to determine the specifications needed for a new computer I first consider the minimum requirements set by the university. According to the Walden University Technology Requirements the minimum specifications a student should purchase include the Windows 7 Operating System, 2GB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a DVD Drive, speakers, headphones, a printer, and removable media such as a USB “thumb drive”. (“2015 – 2016 Walden University Student Handbook,” 2015). The university recommends purchasing a laptop rather than a desktop computer and also makes several recommendations regarding software such as Microsoft Office, the Chrome web browser, and several freely available programs to enable access to files. A notable omission from the hardware list is a recommendation for minimum processor speed.
The recommended minimums may be sufficient to enable a student to complete assignments and succeed at Walden University but the recommendations are completely inadequate for the way most students use their computers. In choosing my computer I will focus on multitasking performance offered by name brand laptops. I am more confident in the reliability of a trusted name brand, which is important because the computer will contain all of my academic work. I am not tied to any one brand, but I want a computer from a company I know will be around to help in the event of any problems. I also do not think that any potential savings from purchasing a generic brand would justify worrying about the risk of losing an important assignment.

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I often have multiple web browser windows open for research while simultaneously writing in MS Word and/or entering data into an Excel Spreadsheet, and it would not be uncommon to be reading PDF files and playing music at the same time. I will look for 2GHz – 3+GHz multi-core CPU’s and 8+GB RAM to provide the power needed for multitasking. I also require a relatively large amount of storage, in order to store all my academic and personal files, as well as entertainment media. I need a minimum of 250GB and strongly prefer 1TB or more.

For the best value I would definitely buy my computer online, most likely from Amazon because I have had positive experiences with them in the past. My search led me to a Lenovo 15.6” laptop with 8GB of DDR3 RAM, an Intel i7 2.0 – 3.1 GHz dual core CPU, 1TB of internal hard drive space, running Windows 8, with built in webcam, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0 for $635. (“Amazon Lenovo G50,” 2015). The $635 price is a sale price marked down from an MSRP of $1,199 and this computer meets or exceeds all the specs I laid out for myself.

A slightly higher performance, but still comparable, Dell with a 3.5GHz Intel i7 CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB SSD hard drive costs $1449. (“Amazon Lenovo G50,” 2015). The slightly higher CPU and RAM speed aren’t likely to make a noticeable difference when using the computer for school assignments and web browsing, and the SSD drive may be faster and more energy efficient, but I would rather have the 4x larger drive in the less expensive Lenovo.

When looking for a computer locally I found a Lenovo with specs almost identical to the one offered on Amazon at Best Buy for $929, on sale from an original price of $1,149. (“New XPS 15 Non-Touch,” 2015). The Lenovo at Best Buy does have a touch screen, but I don’t see this as a feature that offers any additional value to me, and certainly isn’t worth the extra $300 compared to the Amazon offering.

With any laptop the peripherals to be used with it must also be taken into consideration. For example, when working on academic projects I always use a second monitor. I keep all research related programs, such as browser windows, on the external monitor and keep all production programs, such as MS Word and excel, on the laptop’s native monitor. This provides a logical separation of the workspace and it prevents me from having to move windows between the foreground and background as I work. I also use a 2TB external hard drive to regularly back up my entire laptop drive. With a portable computer there is always the risk of losing everything; the computer could be lost, stolen, or damaged beyond repair, and losing coursework with no way to recover it is not an option. I mention both of these things because they affect the functionality of a particular computer and also the cost associated with choosing a new computer. I already own an external monitor and drive, but if I were acquiring my first laptop these things would represent significant additional costs.

I am confident that any of the computers I researched for this project, including the $635 Lenovo, will serve me well through a four year college program and possibly beyond. Computers are becoming more powerful every day, but my needs are not changing nearly as quickly. I currently require a computer with the power to handle a specific set of multitasking operations, enough storage to contain my school and personal files, and the ability to connect to networks. I don’t believe these needs will change much over the next four years, so I am confident that purchasing the computer I evaluated here represents an excellent investment in my future.