Investing in a Notebook/Laptop 2017
For students entering the Pacific University program in 2017 I would strongly recommend investing in a notebook or laptop computer. Your computer will become the most important tool that you have as a graduate student and subsequently as a teacher. Very early in the graduate program you will become proficient in the use of the hardware and much of the software. There are some specifications that I recommended for your computer:
- RAM: Your computers working memory. Larger amounts of RAM are better for speed and the ability to utilize multiple programs at once. The absolute minimum is 4Gb of RAM. I strongly recommend no less than 8GB or more of RAM if you can afford it, this will make your computer faster and offer many multitasking advantages. YOU CANNOT UPGRADE RAM on most of these models and as it is soldered to the mother board: buy all you need initially. The MacBook Pro comes with 8GB of RAM, with the option of upgrading to 16GB.
- Permanent Storage. The new standard is a solid state drive (SSD, or 'flash') that has no moving parts and will provide faster access (than a spinning hard drive). Most all computer now offer the flash drive. This will be your computers long term memory. The bigger the drive, the more space you will have to store your software and your ongoing projects. The standard 128 is not very mich and you will eventually run out of space if you do any multimedia projects. It is almost impossible to add a larger drive later, so get the biggest drive you can afford now.
- Screen Size: Your visual interface with the computer. An 12" model is functional, but will be more challenging for multimedia projects, this is in part why it is termed a notebook rather than laptop computer. A 13" monitor will be good for most student/teacher work with a computer. If you will be creating extensive web pages, graphics or video, having a 15" monitor is wonderful and I would recommend it if you can afford it. This is more a personal preference so get what works for you.
Screen Resolution is also important. The higher the resolution, the crisper the images will be that you see on your screen. Since this is the human interface, this is important for the clake of visual clarity. I prefer a "retina" display.
Other systems elements that will affect the utility of your computer include the processor speed (1.2 - 3.5GHz) and the type of the processor (dual core-M3, dual-core i5 vs dual-core i7), graphics card (for video display), and peripheral connectivity.
For a wide range of reasons, I strongly recommend (and so do an overwhelming number of previous graduates) the purchase of an Apple MacBook, Macbook Air or MacBook Pro over Windows-based platforms. Because of the use of an Intel chip, your computer will be able to run Windows and Apple software (at the same time if you would like!). This means that when you get a teaching job, no matter which platform your school uses, your computer will be able to access their network and run their software. Furthermore, much of the specialized software that we will use in the program will be Apple-based, and over the life of the computer Apples are less expensive than comparable PCs. Finally, there is a significantly reduced risk of viruses on a Macintosh. I believe it is by far the better choice for teachers.
Apple has a line of lower cost laptops, these are the the MacBook Air. The MacBook Air that has a 13" (not retina)screen and starts at $849. While the entry level Air comes with a 128GB flash drive, this is not enough and for the extra $200 dollars you can get twice the amount of flash storage. This will allow you to store many more of the wonderful multimedia projects you will do for the program and during your first few years of teaching. This storage CANNOT be added later and will make a difference in the long run.
The MacBook has a 12" Retina display that is much more crisp tha the Air's screen, however it has many fewer input ports and starts at $1249. The entry level macBook has a 256GB flash drive and 8GB of RAM.. The more poweful model MacBook has a 512GB flash drive and 8GB of RAM.. As with the Air I recommend that you also purchase the external Superdrive for an extra $79, but with this computer you will also want a USB-C adaptor.
Apple also has two sizes of MacBook Pro computers 13" and 15". The difference between them other than screen size is processor speed, RAM, and SSD storage space that can be customized. All utilize the newer USB-c ports for charging, display, and peripherals . The 13" pro has an entry level configuration costing $1249. The same computer with twice the storage is $1449. The 15" comes with 16GB RAM and 256 SSD and $2249, but it also has the interesting Touch ID feature and the Touch Bar for editing.
In conclusion, any of the Apple choices below will be a good program selection. The least expensive will be the Air with 8GB RAM and 128GB Storage. The Macbook 12" is the newest choice and is light, fast and with a Retina display. A larger screen can be found on the 13" Pro with 8GB RAM and 128GB hard drive. Pros allow increased monitor size, processing speed, and storage capacity. They are a wonderful tools if they can be afforded. The Retina Display models are really the state of the art and are a more future-proof investment. Their display is absolutely beautiful (close to twice the clarity and resolution, and this is your visual interface) they do move away from legacy external ports (yet there are adaptors available for ethernet and firewire), include the new USBc ports, however they will not have the same level of permanent storage without increased investment, but it will be noticeably faster. The Retina models are the future and if you can afford it, I see no downside except cost.
If you go to the Apple website and select the Education link on the bottom, you will be able to purchase a computer at a discount as a Pacific student. I have linked to it above.
Below you will find a listing of recommended configurations for MacBook Air, MacBook, and MacBook Pros. Each will come with software for email, photo editing, movie editing, music creation, and much more. While most of the software that you will need as a student is shipped on these laptops, you may want Microsoft Office 2011 (containing Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel) or the Apple equivalent iWork. MS Office can be purchased many places, however it is available for $20 to registered Pacific students through TechHead at http://www.techhead.org/. MS Office, iWork, or their equivalent (OpenOffice) is recommended for Pacific students.
If you are committed to purchasing a PC, there are many good options keeping in mind the configuration suggestions that I have noted above.
Please let me know if you have other questions or need further guidance.