Student Computing Device Guide

WSU students may wish to purchase a personal computing device to assist them during their higher education experience.  There are many types of devices and technologies to choose from.  It is important to understand the capabilities and limitations of a computing device before making a purchase.

Before deciding on a device to purchase, consider each of the following:


Picking an Operating System

An operating system (OS) is the main software that runs on a computing device.  Some OS's are more functional than others.  Operating systems are traditionally separated into two categories: Desktop and Mobile.

Desktop Operating Systems are the most functional since they can run almost any type of software application.  The two most popular desktop OS's to choose from are:

Windows

A desktop OS by Microsoft designed to run on desktop computers, laptops, and tablets from a variety of manufacturers (Dell, Asus, Lenovo, etc.). 

macOS
A desktop OS by Apple designed to run only on Apple desktop computers and Apple laptops.

 

Mobile Operating Systems have limited functionality since they generally can only run software apps that are available in their respective OS app store.  This means many software applications that are able to run on a desktop OS are not able to run on a mobile OS.  Below are some of the readily available mobile OS's to choose from:

Android

A mobile OS by Google designed to run on tablets and smartphones from a variety of manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc.).  By default can only install apps that are available in the Google Play Store.

iOS

A mobile OS by Apple designed to run only on Apple tablets (iPads) and Apple smartphones (iPhones).  Can only install apps that are available in the Mac App Store.

Chrome OS

A mobile OS by Google designed to run only on special laptops and tablets called Chromebooks (see below).  Can only install apps that are available in the Google Play Store.


Picking a Device Type

Computer devices come in all shapes and sizes, so finding something that suits your needs is important.  Below are some of the readily available devices to choose from:

Device Description Advantages Disadvantages Compatible OS's
Desktop Computer
A computer device designed to fit on top of an office desk or mount to a computer screen.
  • Larger size usually means more powerful full-size hardware components (e.g. processor, graphics card).
  • Generally lots of storage capacity.
  • Easy to install hardware upgrades.
  • Least prone to overheating.
  • Not portable.
  • Requires a power cable (no battery).
  • Generally can't connect to Wi-Fi.
  • Requires additional peripherals (e.g. mouse, keyboard, screen, speakers).
  • Windows
  • macOS
Laptop
An all-in-one computer device that can fold shut with built-in screen, mouse, keyboard, and speakers.
  • Portable.
  • Powered by a battery or power cable.
  • All peripherals are built-in.
  • Can connect to Wi-Fi.
  • Smaller size usually means less-powerful mobile versions of hardware components (e.g. processor, graphics card).
  • Difficult to install hardware upgrades.
  • Can have low storage space.
  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Chrome OS
Tablet
An all-in-one computer device with built-in screen and speakers defined by its flat design and touch screen interface.
  • Portable.
  • Powered by a battery or power cable.
  • All peripherals are built-in.
  • Generally includes a camera.
  • Can connect to Wi-Fi.
  • Generally no keyboard included, uses on-screen keyboard.
  • Smaller size usually means less-powerful mobile versions of hardware components (e.g. processor, graphics card).
  • Generally low storage capacity.
  • Restricted design means hardware upgrades generally can not be done.
  • Windows
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Chrome OS


Proprietary Devices

Some companies have designed their own proprietary devices that have become popular on the market.   Below are some of these unique options:

Proprietary Device Description Compatible OS's
Google Chromebook A specialized laptop or tablet designed to be used primarily while connected to the internet. Chrome OS
Apple iPad A tablet device designed by Apple. iOS
Apple iMac An all-in-one desktop computer designed by Apple. macOS
Microsoft Surface A tablet device designed by Microsoft. Windows
Microsoft Surface Book A hybrid laptop/tablet device designed by Microsoft. Windows


Ensuring Compatibility

Much of the time a computer device is needed in order to run a specific software application (e.g. Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Autodesk AutoCAD).  Considering not all software applications work on all operating systems and devices, making sure a computer device is compatible with any required software is important and oftentimes overlooked.

In order to ensure compatibility, find a software application's system requirements (use a search engine like Google.com if needed).  These technical specifications will show what is required in order to install and use an application.  Pay special attention to:

  • Operating system requirements
  • Processor (CPU) requirements
  • RAM (memory) requirements
  • Disk space (storage) requirements
  • Graphics card requirements

If you require assistance or have further questions, please contact the IT Service Desk.