Value Desktop Purchasing Guide

Value Desktops are defined by Information Systems & Computing (ISC) as PCs that meet the necessary requirements for a three year life cycle. Value Desktops tend to cost between $750 and $1,000. Low cost PCs, which usually cost between $375 and $750 and compromise some combination of performance, reliability, compatibility, expandability, and warranty period to achieve the lowest possible costs, are not recommended. 

Operating System Windows Mac OS
Processor

Core i3 (any)

or Athlon X2 (any)1

Core i5 (any)1

Memory (RAM) 4.0 GB 4.0 GB
Hard Disk 250 GB2 500 GB2
Display & Graphics

17-inch or 19-inch LCD

integrated video or discrete video card2

17-inch or 19-inch LCD

integrated video

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

optional DVD+R/CD-RW drive

80% efficient power supply

 

optional DVD+R/CD-RW drive

80% efficient power supply

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

Windows 7 SP13, 4

 

Mac OS Mountain Lion5
Support Period Three years Three years
Estimated Price $800-9006 $9006

Footnotes:

  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. 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.
  3. 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. ISC does not recommend but will support the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1. 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. 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. 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. 
  4. Windows 8 (32-bit and 64-bit Pro and Enterprise editions) is recommended for desktop systems with touchscreens. ISC does not recommend but will support the consumer version of Windows 8, which lacks important networking, security, and compatibility features, such as domain-based authentication, that are essential to many Schools and Centers in the University.
  5. OS X Mountain Lion 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 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.
  6. 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.

Value Desktop manufacturers that ISC has had good experience with include Apple and Dell.

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 Value 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, mulhernj@isc.upenn.edu; 3-3567).

Low Cost PCs – Not Recommended

Price reductions resulting from market competition and continued technical innovation make the definition of "Low Cost PCs" a moving target. It is generally true, however, that computers priced in the bottom 30% of the current range (currently ranging from $375 to $750) compromise some combination of performance, reliability, compatibility, expandability, and warranty period to achieve the lowest possible costs. Compatibility with recommended network products is a particularly important consideration at Penn.

Bearing in mind that you get what you pay for, and that the total costs of ownership associated with supporting any desktop system typically far outweigh the actual purchase price, ISC does not recommend that "Low-Cost PCs" be purchased for general use.

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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