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Desktop Purchasing Guide

The following are current recommendations for new administrative desktops and other University users with demanding computing needs. These desktops meet the necessary requirements for a four year life cycle and generally cost between $1,200 and $1,600.

Important Note: these recommendations are designed by Information Systems & Computing (ISC) as a complement to the University's yearly desktop recommendationsnot as a replacement for them. They will always meet the current standards and may at times exceed them, particularly later in the academic year.

These specifications reflect current system configurations being offered by Apple, Dell, and Lenovo.

Revised June 2, 2021—Specifications are reviewed and updated as appropriate

Operating System Windows macOS

Processor

Intel Core i or AMD Ryzen processor
(six core or above)1

Intel Core i or Apple M1 processor
(sis core or above)1

Memory (RAM) 16 GB to 32 GB 16 GB to 32 GB

Mass Storage

256 GB SSD
or 512 GB SSD2

256 GB SSD
or 512 GB SSD2

Display and Graphics

24-inch3
Intel integrated graphics (UHD Graphics 630 and above)
or AMD graphics card

24-inch3
Intel integrated graphics (UHD Graphics 630 and above)
or Apple integrated graphics (any)
or graphics card

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

Miscellaneous

85% efficient power supply
optional Bluetooth
hardware-based systems management

85% efficient power supply
integrated Bluetooth

Network Connectivity 10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet 10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet

Operating System

Windows 10 version 1909 and above4

macOS Big Sur (11.x)5

Life Cycle Four years Four years
Estimated Price $1,300 to $1,6006 $1,250 to $1,9506

Footnotes:

  1. For many years, the class of processor (e.g., Core i5, Core i7, etc.) was the primary criterion for selecting a desktop system processor. This is no longer true. For AMD, Apple, and Intel processors, ISC suggests six or more cores while ensuring the processor also has capable integrated graphics or is paired with a discrete graphics card. A more detailed University-centric perspective on processors is available from ISC's Processor Guide.
  2. Systems that use network storage for their entire life cycle may be deployed with smaller mass storage (i.e., 128 GB). An option often called something like "Keep Your Hard Drive," allows the retention of defective mass storage when receiving replacement mass storage drive under warranty. This option usually costs about $20 and is a sound choice for many Schools and Centers to avoid possible disclosure of sensitive data.
  3. Displays should be high quality and support at least Full HD resolution—a good display should be usable for two hardware life cycles. Note that available iMac display sizes and graphics card choices drive a portion of the macOS specification. See ISC's Display and Graphics Guide for more information as there are often significant variances in features, resolution, and display quality among displays of the same size.
  4. Windows 10 vesion 1909 or above (64-bit Pro and Enterprise editions) is recommended for new systems. ISC does not recommend but will support all 32-bit versions of Windows 10 and the 64-bit version of Windows 10 Home. Home lacks important networking, security, and compatibility features, such as domain-based authentication, that are essential to many Schools and Centers in the University. ISC does not support Windows 10 S.
  5. macOS Big Sur (11.x) is the only choice for new Macintosh systems as Apple's newly released systems always require the latest version of macOS. Apple's Boot Camp technology offers added flexibility for users of Intel-based Macintoshes who need to use Windows 10 occasionally (it does not function with Apple Silicon-based Macs). It should not be used to turn a Macintosh into a mainly Windows system. Boot Camp requires that both the Windows and the macOS operating systems be patched and maintained.
  6. Pricing is generated using online configurators available from Apple, Dell, and Lenovo and is for general reference only.

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

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 desktop purchases, ISC strongly recommends a consultation to weigh the pros and cons in today's rapidly changing environment. Contact ISC Client Care at help@isc.upenn.edu for more information.

Desktop Recommendations