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A giga-bite of preference: Students reveal their laptop choices, and how well they work

By Ryan O’Connell

Arts & Features Editor

Gabrielle Bratcher is a fifth-year sociology major and a resident assistant in West Hall.

Alexa Gibson is a second-year food and nutrition major and a student admissions representative.

Noah Barnes is a fourth-year communication arts major with a concentration in theater, and directed Hilltop’s fall play last semester.

What do they all have in common?

It isn’t their choice of laptop.

According to Framingham State University’s IT Service, every student is required to have an up-to-date laptop - one that meets the school’s hardware specifications.

These benchmarks include eight gigabytes of RAM (random access memory), 256 gigabytes of hard-drive storage, an i5 processor, and a battery that can hold a charge for over two hours.

Although students are able to use any laptop with satisfactory hardware regardless of brand or operating system, IT Services chooses a school recommended laptop every academic year.

Students can elect to purchase the recommended laptop from Dell at a discounted rate and with the added benefit of a four-year warranty - meaning no-cost repairs.

According to IT Service Desk Manager Jackie Harrington, the University’s IT department chooses the recommended laptop based on three factors: service quality, cost, and product quality.

Harrington said service quality is the main priority - she said the University contracted with Lenovo in the past, but their support was unsatisfactory, leading them back to Dell.

She added Dell also has intuitive, easy to use products, and is efficient in repairing hardware.

Harrington said Framingham State’s collaboration with Dell is decided entirely by the IT department, since the quotes for student hardware don’t exceed the threshold required for a request for proposal (RFP).

The recommended laptop for the 2022-23 school year is the Dell Latitude 7430, offered with stock parts to FSU students at $1,414.64. This comes to a 23.5% discount when compared to the regular price of $1,849.

The University also recommends a cheaper laptop alternative with a weaker processor - 2022-23’s being the Dell Latitude 3420 for $1,136.72.

So what do students use their laptops for? Is it worth buying the school’s recommended model? Or is it a waste of money?

Bratcher said she’s had the same laptop since her freshman year - almost five years - and purchased the school recommended model. She added she and her dad chose the Latitude due to the University’s student discount and the availability of convenient repair.

“If it broke, I was going to be able to get it fixed for free, all that kind of stuff,” she said. “I break things pretty easily, so my dad was like ‘we’re doing that.’”

Bratcher said she’s had to take advantage of the laptop’s warranty in the past.

“Actually, like three times,” she said.

She added she has always been satisfied with the laptop’s speed and doesn’t care too much about having top-of-the-line performance.

“A lot of my friends are like, ‘You should get an Apple, it’s better,’ but I really am not doing anything crazy. I’m doing the regular school stuff, watching YouTube if I’m bored at night, just stuff like that. And it does everything I need it to do,” she said.

Bratcher added she’s never had any issues with her laptop. She said it’s fast and has never failed her outside of forgetting to charge it, which she admitted was her fault anyways.

She said the only thing she disliked in her laptop is the aesthetics, and said even that wasn’t a big deal. “I like how things are sleek, and that one is very, kind of boxy. … It’s not that big of a deal to me,” she said.

Bratcher said she was “not at all” a tech savvy person.

She said the school work she did on her laptop was mostly limited to writing essays, discussion posts, and using Canvas, but sometimes included using Microsoft Office products, such as Excel.

She added last semester, she even had to work with other students who had Macs to help them create spreadsheets, since Apple technology does not easily support Microsoft products.

Bratcher said her laptop is also used for leisure.

“I watch YouTube, a few times I play like ‘Happy Wheels’ when I get bored,” she said. “This is going to sound really stupid, but I used to play ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ on it with my nephews.”

Alexa Gibson has had her laptop since she arrived at FSU in 2021 too, but it isn’t the school recommended model.

She said she uses a Lenovo IdeaPad 5, and it’s the first laptop she’s had all to herself.

She added she enjoyed having her own laptop, but initially faced some challenges installing programs and using software like Microsoft Word, and would call her parents for help.

“Even so, I’m not a huge technology person,” she said.

Gibson said she paid about $600 or $700 for her laptop at Best Buy, and its performance hasn’t weakened very much in the almost two years she’s had it.

“It’s stayed mostly the same. Once in a while my Word and stuff on my computer keeps telling me that I can’t log into my OneDrive, but I just ignore that,” she said.

She added the only other issue she can remember is needing to restart the laptop to connect to WiFi whenever she moves buildings on campus.

Gibson said she is happy with her laptop, but wishes she could read and respond to texts on her computer like MacBooks and have a toggleable light-up keyboard for typing in the dark.

She added she feels comfortable relying on her laptop since she’s only ever watching TV or doing homework, but that it isn’t perfect.

“Sometimes I would meet with someone online on a portal app, and then the audio and video just wouldn’t work for that - and it’s like a 30% chance I’m going to have to restart my computer to get that to work,” she said.

Gibson said as a science-related major, she spends a lot of time using programs like Microsoft Excel, online tools like Smartwork5, and writing research papers, which her computer is suitable for. She added she sometimes uses it for online shopping and streaming services.

She said as an admissions tour guide, she’s asked a lot about whether incoming students need to buy the school’s recommended laptop.

“I always tell them I wouldn’t necessarily say you need to get it through the school, just because I’ve never had extreme issues with mine where I’ve needed help. But even if I did, I know we can go to the IT desks,” she said.

Noah Barnes said he’s had two laptops during his career at FSU.

He said he got his current laptop, a GL65 Leopard gaming laptop, due to complications he had using Adobe products with a weaker computer in his freshman year.

Barnes added the first laptop was “a bit more to the school’s stats” when compared to his current laptop, and he bought the first device for a low price. He said he ended up replacing it after only a year due to the negative impact its speed was having on his workflow.

“It wasn’t really working for what I was doing in classes, because I have to use a variety of Adobe products, and it just was not holding up. It was taking so long to the point where I wasn’t getting work done, and so I figured I just needed a new one,” he said.

Barnes said this was important because he’s had at least one class require Adobe editing software every semester.

He said he paid around $1,500 for the GL65 Leopard in 2020 - about on par with what a student-discounted Dell Latitude costs in 2023.

Barnes said the computer runs excellently.

He added if he compared any other computer he’s used to the one he has now, he’d expect the Leopard to already have Photoshop open by the time the other device had finished logging in.

Barnes said while the computer performs well, the sound makes it hard to use.

“If I go into a class, occasionally, even if I have settings changed on how it performs or whatever, it gets hot. And it will blow a fan - a fan will go off inside,” he said.

“And it can be quite loud. And when it gets to that point, I have to turn it off to avoid making noise and disrupting other students, because that’s the last thing I want to do,” he said.

Barnes added he has learned to partially prevent the noise his device produces, and it’s something definitely not present with other laptops.

He said he still feels confident in his laptop despite this, since having a quick machine is useful in college when bouncing between assignments in courses like filmmaking and graphic design.

Barnes added a high image quality is also important in his major, and his current laptop works well for it.

He said he was somewhat comfortable with computers - not knowing much about hardware but very familiar with software such as the Adobe suite.

Barnes said when he has to get another computer, he probably won’t get another gaming laptop. He said the high definition and quick speed is good for school work and streaming content, but the noise and price of it discourage him from getting the highest stats next time.

Barnes said he decided to buy his current laptop when he had an issue reading from an SD card on his first computer.

“It was a media class where I had to shoot two ads. And I shot the footage, and I only had it in an SD card. And I plugged it into this laptop - my original laptop - and … I tried to export the footage onto Premiere Pro on this laptop,” he said.

“I don’t even know how this happened, but it just … crashed,” he said. “Which is pretty normal for it, but when it happened not only did it crash, but it took all the files I was exporting and corrupted them to the point where I couldn’t access anything on that SD card.

“So I had to reshoot the entire thing.”

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