MSU Tech store, students give advice on buying your first college laptop


It’s nearly impossible to survive college without a fully functional laptop.

In fact, the state of Michigan requires all students to have one. However, it can be difficult initially to find one that best suits a student’s major and personal preferences.

Here are some common questions incoming students have about devices answered by MSU Tech Store employees and current students.

Mac or Dell?

While some students are brand loyal, MSU Tech Store employee Justin Bowmer says the decision between Apple’s Mac products and Dell’s products mostly comes down to personal preference.

“If you’re comfortable with Mac and it won’t limit your accessibility to what you need to do, then go Mac all the way, and the same with Dell,” Bowmer said.

However, a student’s major may come into play. Students taking courses whose work requires more intensive programs may experience compatibility issues with a Mac.

“You would be more likely to run into these issues if you were using… something like MATLAB or even some of the coding apps like Eclipse and stuff like that,” Bowmer said. “This might not work as well on a Mac device as it does on Windows.”

Bowmer said the Mac is a good choice for students whose work doesn’t require those high-powered programs, such as those studying nursing, business, graphic design and other arts. He recommends the MacBook Air as a starter laptop for students starting their studies.

For students taking courses that require these programs, such as engineering and computer science, he recommends choosing a Dell over a Mac. Specifically, he recommends the Latitude 7420, which has two-in-one capabilities, meaning it can fold in half, allowing students to take notes during class with a Dell active pen.

Ryan Leinweber, a mechanical engineering junior, uses a Dell G7 computer for his classes, but thinks choosing a computer for school comes down to personal preference.

“I have a friend who has a MacBook and we do the exact same thing and he seems to enjoy it,” Leinweber said. “I guess it really comes down to personal preference, but I’ve never had any issues with my computer, and it definitely does the job it should.”

Duncan Stewart, a computer science junior, uses a well-functioning Dell XPS 13 computer for his classes. However, he also agrees that people should choose the computer that suits them best.

“People are like absolute loyalists when it comes to the system they’re using, and I think that’s kind of ridiculous,” Stewart said. “I’ve met some great people who use Apple computers. I’ve met some great people using Dell. I know people who use Linux setups. I think it really doesn’t matter as long as you are able to run the code.

When making a selection, it’s important to find something that suits your preferences, but it also doesn’t hurt to check with teachers as well as advisors beforehand to make sure your device can load the programs you need. you will need.

Which devices are not recommended?

MSU Tech employee Frank Liang said the tech store generally doesn’t recommend Microsoft products, such as Surface Books or tablets of any kind.

“We have past experience with the Microsoft Surface team, and both from our experience and our customers’ experience, it was generally not a comfortable experience working with Microsoft customer service,” said Liang.

Tablets and iPads are also not recommended as they do not match the technological requirements of the university.

“Tablets are generally handy for taking notes in class, but if you have to work on projects, you’ll definitely need a laptop,” Liang said. “For example, most (professors) require you to do lab work – and it’s really hard to do lab work on tablets.”

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Mechanical engineering junior Simon Sajan says he recommends a device with the ability to take notes.

There are so many drawings in many engineering courses, like diagrams,” Sajan said. “It’s very easy to erase and redraw if it’s not as it’s supposed to be or if you want to change something. , unlike on paper, you erase it and it looks pretty messy.”

Kyle Heslop, a senior electrical engineer, has a Dell desktop computer he built, along with a Microsoft Surface Go tablet with a keyboard attached. Although his tablet works well enough for note taking, he prefers to run more intensive programs on his desk.

“My tablet takes a bit on some of these programs,” Heslop said. “If I can work from my home office I would, but it runs the programs and it does well enough, it will get the job done.”

How do I access Microsoft Office Pro?

In order to complete the work in their classes, students will need access to Microsoft Office Pro. Luckily, this is something the university provides, so all students need their MSU ID to access it.

“As soon as you register at MSU, you have a university email account and with this email account you have free access to Microsoft 365 package including Outlook, Word, Excel and OneDrive,” Liang said.

OneDrive is where students can store and save their work. Once it’s saved there, they can then upload it to the Desire to Learn, or D2L, website and submit it for a grade in each respective course.

“One notable thing is that OneDrive comes with five terabytes of storage and you can access this whole package by going to or downloading a local version from this website,” Liang said. .


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