Desktop Computing Recommendations for Penn:
2009-2010 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
Controlling costs is especially important in the current fiscal environment, but other considerations also must be weighed to insure that business needs are met. ISC has certified low-cost enterprise-class systems for use at the University, but these systems may not always be the best choice, as they often lack important manageability or configurability features. Please see ISC's Computing Hardware Resources page for detailed reviews of various desktop systems.
A cost savings option already commonly employed at the University is to buy high quality displays every other life cycle instead of every life cycle. Another option is to bundle significant numbers of identical systems in a single purchase, which often results in an additional discount from the system vendor (note that most desktop systems available from the University's Computer Connection already reflect bulk purchase pricing).
IT staff across campus are working to clearly document issues related to "Green IT". One option for 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. The University's hardware vendors now offer high-efficiency (80% or higher - often branded as 80 PLUS) power supplies at little or no additional cost. 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.
Decision on Windows Operating System
A key consideration this year is which version of Windows to deploy. As of mid May 2009, Microsoft plans to release Windows 7 in late 2009. Support providers who are deploying new systems in FY2010 should carefully assess their environment, remembering that a decision not to move to Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (at least for the medium term) and to remain with Windows XP Service Pack 3 will require an aggressive and fairly complex mid cycle migration to Windows 7 in FY2011.
Desktop Recommendations for General Use
ISC's recommended configurations for new systems are shown below. Estimated prices are effective June 1, 2009, and are based on small form factor Dell OptiPlex (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, 2009 until June 30, 2013.
|Recommended Minimum Configurations for New Desktop Systems|
||Core 2 Duo E7400 (2.8 GHz)
(Core 2 Quad optional)
or Athlon X2 5600+ (2.9 GHz)1
|Core 2 Duo (2.66 GHz)1|
||3.0 or 4.0 GB
||3.0 or 4.0 GB|
|Display & Graphics
256 MB discrete video card
NVIDIA integrated graphics
or discrete video card
||Built-in audio & speaker
||Built-in audio & speaker|
80% efficient power supply
80% efficient power supply
|Recommended Operating System
||Windows Vista Service Pack 14
see important notes above and below
|Mac OS 10.5.x5|
||Until July, 2013
||Until July, 2013|
||$850 to $1,2506
||$1,250 to $1,7006|
- 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.
- There is often significant variance in resolution and display quality among LCD displays of the same size. See ISC's Display and Graphics Guide for more information on LCDs and video cards.
- Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (32-bit and 64-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.
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 3 (32-bit) is supported for new systems, though it will become extremely difficult to purchase in FY2010. Windows XP Home Service Pack 3 (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 3 will face retirement within this current four year life cycle.
- 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 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 3. 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 and Dell 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 Desktop 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 Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3 are currently the only versions of Windows certified by Oracle to work with BEN Financials and Hyperion/Oracle Planning, which are currently only supported with Firefox version 3.x and Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7.
- Currently, all Macintosh users are able to access/view/markup invoice images in native Mac OS.
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 Vista Service Pack 1 or Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3 and using the current Java client. Although an Intel-based Macintosh running 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.
Note that PowerPC-based Macintoshes are no longer within the current support window.
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 2008-2009 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, 2012) may reduce purchase and support costs. Schools and Centers interested in purchasing systems at lower cost are encouraged to use the 2008-2009 recommendations as a guide, with the understanding that those systems will be supported for only three years. The current Value Desktop Purchasing Guide offers recommendations for current systems that closely match the 2008-2009 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 also may 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.
Manufacturers such as Dell 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 3 and Mac OS 10.4.x will face retirement within this current four year life cycle.
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 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.
The Value Desktop 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 and Dell configurations that match the recommendations discussed above.
ISC provides information on supported computing products.
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/.
The Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety provides information on computer ergonomics.
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).