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IT crew makes suggestions for buying various electronic devices

Dec. 22, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Winter break is a prime time for students and their parents to shop for computers, tablets and smartphones.

Because many students will be receiving new gadgets for Christmas, Marshall University's Information Technology department will be very busy offering technical support when the new semester starts.

"We recommend that most students have either a Windows or an Apple Macintosh OS10 based PC in the form of a notebook," said Allen Taylor, chief technology officer at Marshall University. "We wouldn't recommend a Chromebook as a primary computer at this time. Because Chrome is a new operating system, the software support is currently limited also it primarily needs to be online to access applications. I think it will represent a small portion of the market for some time, but it may or may not take off eventually. When determining which computer to buy you may want to look at the processor first. We recommend a 4th generation Intel i5 or i7 'Haswell' Processor. Some of the other processors on the market either lack processing power, or battery efficiency."

Taylor said student's usually want a smartphone first.

"You can do a lot on a smartphone, but you can't do everything you need to do in academia on a smartphone," Taylor said. "The size of the device along with a number of academic software options limit what the device is capable of. A few years from now we may be talking differently. We see the smartphone and the tablet as an ancillary form of information consumption and communication, not so much information creation. One of the most predominant things that smartphone buyers want today is a good camera. If you find if a faculty member is writing on a chalkboard or you're working on notes, the camera is a good way to take notes free of charge. Android based devices and iPhones are the predominant types and those are the phones we support."

Parents may also want to consider a protection plan and a protective case for their smartphone.

"I would say that maybe half of the students I see have a cracked screen on their phone," Taylor said. "There are a few local repair shops you can take it to, but as the devices get thinner the chances of repair get less likely. For years the Otterbox was the defined standard of phone protection, but a company called Lifeproof has a set of cases with some pretty innovative designs which can even protect against water damage."

The tablet market is also changing.

"Today we see the cost of the typical tablet going down due to more competition in the marketplace," Taylor said. "We think the iPad is a superior device, but we don't think that every student necessarily needs the processing power of the iPad Air to accomplish what they need to do. For students that are used to taking notes with a pen or are in drawing they may be interested in a tablet with full stylus pen support such as the Microsoft Surface Pro, and the Dell Venue Pro for Windows, or the Android based Samsung 10.1 2014 edition."

"We are finding that consumers are looking at the responsiveness of the unit as well as the fastness of the processor. We are finding the power of the wireless capabilities of the device varies greatly," Taylor said. "What we are seeing is that some older devices or bargain priced tablets on the market lack features like support for an 5ghz wifi networks. We don't recommend tablets from secondary vendors. We believe they should stick to name brands like Acer, Asus, Dell, H.P, Lenovo, Samsugn, etc."

Students searching for a Windows based tablet should look for a tablet like the Surface Pro that offers a full version of Windows. There is an alternate version of operating system on the market called Windows RT that has does not support full windows applications.

"Microsoft entered the market with two different products with different architectures," Taylor said. "The Surface RT was based on an ARM processor and the Surface Pro which was based an Intel architecture. Software that was made for the Intel architecture won't work for the RT and vice versa. While some programs like Microsoft Office have been ported to the RT and work well, software support for the RT is still limited. Like the Chromebook, Windows RT doesn't have enough of a following to really recommend."

For a full list of Windows recommendations, visit http://webcontent.marshall.edu/sites/inforesourcesweb/Public/Personal%20Purchase%20windows%2013-14.pdf .

For Apple Macintosh recommendations, visit http://webcontent.marshall.edu/sites/inforesourcesweb/Public/Personal%20Purchase%20mac%2013-14.pdf.

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