Performance Desktop Purchasing Guide

The following are current recommendations for new administrative desktops and other University users with demanding computing needs. Performance desktops meet the necessary requirements for a four year life cycle and generally cost between $1,000 and $1,600.

Important Note: these recommendations are designed by Information Systems & Computing (ISC) as a complement to the University's yearly desktop recommendationsnot as a replacement for them. They will always meet the current standards and may at times exceed them, particularly later in the academic year.

These specifications reflect current system configurations being offered by Apple, Dell, and Lenovo.

Revised May 10, 2016—Specifications are reviewed and updated as appropriate

Operating System Windows OS X

Intel Core i5 (any)
or Intel Core i7 (any)1

Intel Core i5 (any)
or Intel Core i7 (any)1

Memory (RAM) 16 GB 16 GB
Mass Storage 256 GB SSD2 256 GB SSD
or 1.0 TB hybrid2
Display & Graphics

20-inch to 24-inch widescreen LCD3
discrete video card or
Intel integrated graphics (HD Graphics 515 and above)

21.5-inch widescreen LCD3
Intel integrated graphics (Iris Pro)

Sound Built-in audio & speaker Built-in audio & speaker

optional DVD±R/CD-RW drive
85% efficient power supply
hardware-based systems management

optional DVD±R/CD-RW drive
85% efficient power supply

Network Connection 10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet 10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet
Operating System

Windows 7 SP14or
Windows 105
see important notes below

OS X El Capitan6
Life Cycle Four years Four years
Estimated Price $1,000 to $1,2507 $1,250 to $1,6007


  1. Processor speed is no longer considered important, but the class of processor (such Core i5, Core i7, etc.) is. A more detailed University-centric perspective on AMD and Intel processors is available from ISC's Processor Guide.
  2. Systems that use network storage for their entire life cycle may be deployed with smaller (i.e., 250 GB) hard drives. Some systems, particularly those from Apple, ship in standard configurations with substantially larger (1.0 TB) hard drives. An option, often called something like "Keep Your Hard Drive", allows the retention of a defective hard drive when receiving a replacement hard drive under warranty. This usually costs about $20 and is a good choice for many Schools and Centers in order to avoid possible disclosure of sensitive data. Finally, support providers should consider hybrid/SSHD drives for price/performance reasons and may wish to consider SSD drives in some cases.
  3. There is often significant variance in features, resolution, and display quality among LCD monitors of the same size. See ISC's Display and Graphics Guide for more information on LCDs and video cards. Note that the OS X specification is driven by available iMac display sizes.
  4. Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (32-bit and 64-bit Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions) is recommended for new systems, with 64-bit being the default choice. Note that Windows 7 Professional includes all of the multimedia features present in Windows 7 Home Premium, and therefore is recommended as superior to Home Premium. Home Premium lacks important networking, security, and compatibility features, such as domain-based authentication, that are essential to many Schools and Centers in the University. ISC does not recommend but will support the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1. ISC does not recommend and will not support any version of Windows 7 Starter or Windows 7 Home Basic. Starter and Home Basic lack many important networking, maintenance, and security features that are critical to many Schools and Centers at the University.
  5. Windows 10 (64-bit Pro, Enterprise, and Enterprise LTSB editions) is recommended for new systems. ISC does not recommend but will support all 32-bit versions of Windows 10 and the 64-bit version of Windows 10 Home. Home lacks important networking, security, and compatibility features, such as domain-based authentication, that are essential to many Schools and Centers in the University.
  6. OS X El Capitan (10.11) is the only choice for new Macintosh systems as Apple's newly released systems always require the latest version of OS X. Apple's Boot Camp technology offers added flexibility for users who need to use Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1 Update occasionally. It should not be used to turn a Macintosh into a full time Windows system. Boot Camp requires that both the Windows and the OS X operating systems be patched and maintained.
  7. Pricing is generated using online configurators available from Apple and Dell and is for general reference only. Support providers may be able to generate significantly more competitive pricing for volume purchases, often with the assistance of the University's Computer Connection.

Performance Desktop manufacturers that ISC has had good experience with include Apple, Dell, and Lenovo.

These specifications are revised when major changes in configurations from Apple, Dell, and Lenovo (or the industry as a whole) become generally available.

If your School or Center is considering a significant quantity of Performance Desktop purchases, ISC strongly recommends a consultation to weigh the pros and cons in today's rapidly changing environment (contact John Mulhern III in ISC,; 3-3567).

Desktop Recommendations

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Date Posted: May 25, 2013 Tags: Hardware Recommendations, Standards, Purchasing Guide, Desktop, Recommendations, Supported Product, Essentials

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