Desktop Computing Recommendations for Penn:
2008-2009 Annual Update Guide
Information Systems & Computing (ISC), in consultation with the Penn community, annually publishes recommendations for desktop computers. These recommendations reflect institutional and industry trends but do not necessarily take into account the computing requirements of specific Schools, departments, or Centers.
Before making purchasing decisions, administrators, faculty, and staff should always consult their Local Support Providers (LSPs) to ensure that local requirements are fulfilled. LSPs consider local costs and operational requirements, and are responsible for ensuring that connectivity to University-wide systems is maintained as necessary.
Students should consult their Schools with respect to recommendations for individually-owned computers.
Key Considerations for This Year
Campus Movement To Windows Vista Service Pack 1
A key consideration this year is purchasing and deploying systems with Windows Vista Service Pack 1. Please review the following documents, which contain information regarding Windows Vista support and compatibility at Penn, prior to purchasing Windows-based systems.
As part of the University's sustainability efforts, IT staff across campus are working to clearly document issues related to "Green IT". One option available to LSPs is to purchase small form factor or all-in-one desktops when possible - they use slightly less power and significantly less materials than mini-towers or towers. Another option is to buy new, high quality displays every other life cycle instead of every life cycle. For information on the relative power usage of modern desktops and notebooks in common use at the University under various operating conditions, see the Approximate Desktop & Notebook Power Usage page.
When choosing a new desktop system that will be used to access Penn's central administrative systems such as Business Enterprise Network (BEN), it is extremely important to consider the Specific Requirements for Administrative Systems Users.
Desktop Recommendations for General Use
ISC's recommended configurations for new systems are shown below. Estimated prices are effective June 1, 2008, and are based on small form factor Dell OptiPlex (Windows) systems with three year next day warranty service, small form factor Lenovo ThinkCentre (Windows) systems with three year next day warranty service, or all-in-one Apple iMac (Mac OS) systems with one year next day warranty service. ISC will support these systems for four years, from July 1, 2008 until June 30, 2012.
|Recommended Minimum Configurations for New Desktop Systems|
||Core 2 Duo E8200 (2.66 GHz)
or Athlon X2 5200+ (2.6 GHz)1
|Core 2 Duo (2.66 GHz)1|
|Display & Graphics
256 MB discrete video card
256 MB discrete video card
||Built-in audio & speaker
||Built-in audio & speaker|
|Recommended Operating System
||Windows Vista Service Pack 14
see important notes above & below
|Mac OS 10.5.x5|
||Until July, 2012
||Until July, 2012|
||$950 to $1,1506
- A more detailed University-centric perspective on AMD and Intel processors is available from ISC's Processor Guide.
- Systems that use network storage for their entire life cycle may be deployed with smaller (i.e. 80 GB) hard drives. Some systems, in particular those from Apple, ship in standard configurations with substantially larger hard drives.
- See ISC's Display & Graphics Guide for more information on LCDs and video cards.
- Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (32-bit Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions) is supported and recommended for general use, though it is not currently compatible with all University applications and peripherals. 64-bit versions of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions) are also supported for general use.
ISC does not recommend, but does support the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista Home Premium Service Pack 1. Home Premium is missing important networking and security features, such as domain-based authentication, that are essential to many Schools and Centers in the University.
ISC does not and will not support any version of Windows Vista Home Basic. Home Basic is missing many important networking, maintenance, and security features that are critical to many Schools and Centers at the University.
See the University's main Windows Vista Service Pack 1 page for more information and advice.
Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 (32-bit) is supported for new systems, though it will become increasingly difficult to purchase in FY2009. Windows XP Home (32-bit) is also supported, although it is missing important networking and security features, such as domain-based authentication, that are essential to many Schools and Centers in the University. Note that Windows XP Service Pack 2 will face retirement within the four year life cycle, though Windows XP Service Pack 3 may not.
- Mac OS 10.5.x is the only supported and recommended choice for new Macintosh systems, as Apple's newly released systems always require the latest version of the Mac OS. See the University's main Mac OS 10.5 page for more information and advice.
Apple's Boot Camp technology offers added flexibility for users who need to occasionally use Windows Vista Service Pack 1 or Windows XP Service Pack 2. It should not be used to turn a Macintosh into a full time Windows system. Boot Camp also requires that both the Windows and the Mac OS operating systems be patched and maintained.
- Pricing is generated using the online configurators available from Apple, Dell and Lenovo and is for general reference only. Support providers often will be able to generate significantly more competitive pricing.
A four year comparative history and a specification overview of the desktop recommendations are provided for reference.
In response to what is often rapid technological change, ISC's Performance PC Purchasing Guide offers quarterly purchase recommendations for new systems that meet or exceed these specifications.
Scope of This Document
The remainder of this document is divided into several sections:
Specific Requirements for Administrative Systems Users
Penn's administrative systems desktop requirements are consistent with the recommendations for general purpose systems specified above, with exceptions for BEN Financials and Hyperion/Oracle Planning.
- Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 is currently the only version of Windows certified by Oracle to work with BEN Financials and Hyperion/Oracle Planning (both systems are currently only supported with Internet Explorer 6). Users of these systems should avoid migrating to Windows Vista until support for running them within Vista is announced. Support is expected sometime in late 2008.
Important amendment: in late November 2008, BEN Financials was updated to work with Internet Explorer 7 and/or Windows Vista and this combination is now certified by Oracle.
- Currently, all Mac OS users are able to access/view/markup invoice images in native Macintosh mode.
PowerPC-based Mac OS users will still need to use Virtual PC to access the Oracle applications (i.e., BEN Balances and BEN Buys). Although a Macintosh with Virtual PC can access the Oracle applications using the current Windows Java client, Virtual PC is not certified by Oracle; therefore support is not guaranteed.
Users of Intel-based Macintoshes running Mac OS 10.5.x can use Apple's Boot Camp technology to run all BEN applications by booting into Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 and using the current Java client. Although an Intel-based Macintosh running Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, or other virtualization software can access the Oracle applications using the current Windows Java client, such virtualization products are not certified by Oracle; therefore support is not guaranteed.
Several distinct categories of notebook systems are available, each designed to suit the needs of a particular class of users. Historically, notebook systems have cost more than equivalent desktop systems and often have lagged a generation behind in technology, although this gap is narrowing. Also, given the physical conditions to which they are often subjected, notebook systems generally have a shorter useful life than desktop systems (typically three years or less). Therefore, ISC continues to provide support for three years for major brands of notebook systems that meet or exceed the 2007-2008 recommendations. The current Notebook Purchasing Guide can help you determine which combination of features and capability will best serve your needs.
Strategies Related to Total Cost of Ownership
An Alternate Strategy: A Three Year Life Cycle Based on Last Year's Recommendations
Purchasing a new system based on last year's recommendations and replacing it in three years (by June 30, 2011) may reduce purchase and support costs. Schools and Centers interested in purchasing systems at lower cost are encouraged to use the 2007-2008 recommendations as a guide, with the understanding that those systems will only be supported for three years. The current Value PC Purchasing Guide offers recommendations for current systems that closely match the 2007-2008 specifications. Choosing between a three and four year strategy requires an understanding of local School or Center computing needs.
Leasing may make sense as a way to manage purchases and reduce total cost of ownership in cases where desktop equipment needs to be refreshed on a two year life cycle. This is particularly true if systems cannot be redeployed as they are replaced. While we do not recommend leasing, this strategy may be appropriate for some campus computing labs.
Buyers with limited budgets may choose to purchase less expensive configurations. In such cases, an upgrade may be necessary during the life cycle of the desktop system to ensure four years of useful life. Buyers with limited budgets may also choose to trade off various components of a desktop system depending on specific needs: for example, memory versus additional hard disk space versus a larger display. Remember, it is easy to add additional memory or peripherals later, but some components (like a smaller display) cannot be upgraded effectively.
For computers with warranties of less than three years, ISC strongly recommends purchase of extended warranties where departments are not prepared to make repairs themselves, especially beyond the first year or two of a computer's useful life.
Many manufacturers such as Dell and Lenovo now offer four year warranties, up from the fairly standard three years. If a system is going to be in use for the full four year life cycle, these warranties (which typically add about $50 to the overall cost) may be appropriate, though support providers should expect the rate of system failure to increase significantly over time.
Operating System Support
While ISC generally expects support for recommended operating systems to persist through the four year life cycle of the desktop recommendations, that may not always be possible. Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Mac OS 10.5.x offer enhanced security options that may be needed to support strategic goals in the future. Though currently supported, Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Mac OS 10.4.x will face retirement within the four year life cycle.
Note that Mac OS 10.3.x is no longer supported as of July, 2008. Please refer to the Windows Operating System Life Cycles and Mac OS Operating System Life Cycles charts for long-term guidance on the University's supported operating systems.
Low-Cost PCs Not Recommended
Price reductions resulting from market competition and continued technical innovation make definition of "Low-Cost PCs" a moving target. It is generally true, however, that computers priced in the bottom 40% of the current range compromise some combination of performance, reliability, compatibility, expandability, and warranty period to achieve the lowest possible costs.
Bearing in mind that in most cases you get what you pay for, and that the costs 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.
The Value PC Purchasing Guide offers recommendations for competitively priced systems that are compatible with Penn's computing environment and are widely supported on campus.
The Computer Connection offers Apple, Dell, and Lenovo configurations that match the recommendations discussed above.
ISC provides information on supported computing products.
Purchasing Services provides information on how to buy a new computer.
All desktop systems should have important data backed up and be virus-free. Additional information on information system security can be found at http://www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.
If your School, department, or Center is considering major changes or investments, ISC strongly recommends a consultation to weigh the pros and cons in today's rapidly changing environment (contact John Mulhern III in ISC, firstname.lastname@example.org; x3-3567).