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Computer Recommendations for Students

Student Computer RecommendationsFitchburg State recommends that all students have a mobile device, either a laptop or an iPad. While there are numerous open labs available on campus, the ability to do work where and when you need to means that a mobile device makes your academic life easier. Which device you should use depends on a number of factors listed below.

Over the past few years, the personal computer market has changed drastically. Apple switched to Intel CPUs, which allow Macs to run both the Mac and Windows operating systems. Until this change all of our students, except Communications Media students, used Windows laptops because the software they needed was available only on the Windows platform. Communications Media students almost exclusively use Mac-based applications, and at this time, the decision on “what to buy” was mainly driven by a student’s major. Once Macs could run the Windows OS in a virtual window, this division was removed.

To make matters more complicated, Apple introduced the iPad. The iPad is perhaps the ultimate learning tool: it works great as a reader for eBooks, is light and easily transportable and has a very long battery life capable of lasting through an entire day’s worth of classes. However, the iPad runs its own operating system and isn’t compatible with Windows or Mac applications.

iPad or Laptop?

As the iPad matures, we anticipate it will replace the need for a laptop for many of our students, but the ecosystem isn’t there just yet for all our majors. We have adapted our network system to integrate iPads and have begun pilot projects to test the viability of these devices as replacements.

Currently some majors require the use of a laptop and are listed below.

Windows or Mac Laptop?

There are a few decisions you need to make to answer this question. Windows laptops tend to be less expensive than Apple MacBooks, but Macs can run both the Mac OS and Windows OS (we can help set this up in a few hours at the help desk, but students must purchase a copy of Windows from the OnTheHub webstore to be licensed for this – at the time of this writing the Windows license is free). This dual-OS capability makes the Mac ideal if your student is undecided on their major (called “pre-major” here). If they later transfer to a Communications Media major, they will already have the necessary computer.

Requirements for Communications Media Majors

  • Film/Video: There is no specific requirement. A laptop or iPad is sufficient at the onset of the program.
  • Game Design: Game Design has posted their requirements to this page below.
  • Graphic Design: MacBook Pro (15” with at least 8GB ram memory, 350GB internal hard drive preferred).
  • Photography: MacBook Pro (15” with at least 8GB ram memory, 16GB preferred).
  • Professional Communication: There is no specific requirement. A laptop or iPad is sufficient at the onset of the program.
  • Theater: There is no specific requirement. A laptop or an iPad is sufficient at the onset of the program.

Specifications for Game Design Majors

The bulk of your game production will be done on Windows PCs. The labs will be Windows-based, with some additional Macintosh systems to allow you to test in cross-platform environments and to publish projects for iOS. When considering a laptop to purchase, you have two options:

1. Purchase a 15" MacBook Pro.

Using Boot Camp, you can install Windows (available for purchase from the OnTheHub webstore for free) along with macOS, giving you the advantage of a dual-boot system. Several of the Game Design faculty run this setup on their own laptops.

Minimum Configuration:

  • 15" MacBook Pro, with a dedicated video card
  • 16GB RAM

2. Purchase a Windows PC laptop.

Minimum Configuration:

  • i7 quad core Processor
  • 16GB RAM preferable
  • Dedicated video card (AMD Discrete, NVIDIA GT 600+ or AMD 7000+) NO Intel Graphics!
  • 300GB hard drive (solid state a plus, but not required)

With either option (MAC or PC), you will need a dedicated graphics card and as much RAM as you can afford, up to 16GB or even 32GB if possible.

Specifications for Math 0100 & Math 0200 Classes

Students who have to take Math 0100 or Math 0200 are required to have a laptop. These courses are self-paced and utilize websites that don’t render properly on the iPad’s browser.

As a general guideline, any laptop manufactured within the last two years running the latest Mac OS or Windows 7/8/10 should be fine for most student use.

What About a Warranty?

This is a personal preference decision – most only cover manufacturer defects but some brands offer an enhanced 4 year Accidental Damage Protection warranty, which covers parts, labor, and replacement costs for any malfunction.

Fitchburg State also offers optional protection through NSSI insurance, which covers the replacement costs for student’s personal property. Information on this program can be obtained through their website, or by visiting the help desk for a brochure.

Software Specifications

Visit our Software Discounts page for more information on student software purchases. As a minimum requirement, students should have both an office productivity suite and anti-virus/anti-spyware installed on their laptops.

For more information, please contact the 24/7 Call Center at (978) 665-4500. Students can also submit a ticket by completing the Online Help Desk Request Form or visit the Help Desk in Conlon Hall, Room 236.


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