New Computer Recommendations - 2016
Are you buying a new computer for school?
First year students at the School of Music are recommended to have their own laptop computer with Finale, or Finale Print Music, and Audacity for their first year music technology course. For your studies, we would also suggest that you consider Microsoft Office suite (available free for current students). Most regular laptop computers made in the last two or three years will be capable of running these software titles and your current laptop may well be sufficient.
Finale will probably be the most power hungry software you need to run for quite a long time. You can find minimum system requirements at - http://www.finalemusic.com/products/finale/resources/system-requirements/
You can download a trial version of Finale from https://store.makemusic.com/Downloads/Default.aspx if you wish to see if your current laptop is up to the task. Playback of a project will place the biggest demand on your computer.
Recommendations if you are buying a new computer
If you determine that you will need to buy a new computer, the choices can be confusing. There are lots of ways to configure new laptops to give you the best price to performance ratio depending on what you’re going to use it for. There are two major operating systems in general use – Apple’s OSX/macOS and Microsoft’s Windows 8/10. OSX/macOS can only legally be used on Apple hardware, and the price range and choice is much narrower than with Windows. Windows can be used on almost all laptops (including those by Apple) and there is a very large choice of devices at many price points. Windows or OSX/macOS is a personal preference, and we recommend using whichever you’re most familiar with.
We recommend sticking with reputable brands such as Apple, Dell, ASUS, Microsoft, Toshiba, HP, Lenovo and Samsung.
When you’re looking for a machine, here are some things to consider –
- RAM – Buy a computer with at least 4GB of RAM. If you can get one with more, it’s often worth paying a small premium for. It’s unlikely you’ll ever see a benefit of more than 16GB of RAM, but one with 8GB or 16GB of RAM is worthwhile.
- Processor – Minimum speed should be a 2Ghz dual core processor (Intel or AMD). An Intel i3, i5 or i7 processor is highly recommended. Note that i5 and i7 processors come in both dual core and quad core varieties, and in several “generations”, so it’s important to check the full specifications when comparing different machines and prices. Quad core processors work faster than dual core processors in many software applications, and later generation processors will work faster and more efficiently than older generation processors. Avoid computers with Atom or Celeron processors. These offer only the bare minimum performance to run Windows.
- Hard Drive – There are three major variables with hard drives which determine the cost, performance and capacity. The slowest hard drives use mechanical platters. On the plus side, they’re cheap with large capacity for storage. They generally come in two speeds – 5400rpm and 7200rpm. The faster drives (7200rpm) are worth paying a premium for. The fastest hard drives are solid state (SSD’s) drives. They can improve the performance of your computer significantly and they are much lighter in weight, but they are much more expensive and have much smaller capacities. Since they don’t use moving parts, they tend to be more reliable than platter hard drives, especially if you tend to be a little rough on your belongings. The third type is a hybrid drive which combines a small solid state drive with a regular platter hard drive. You get most of the speed benefits of an SSD and the storage benefits of a platter drive. Capacity should be at least 250GB. Given a choice, a 500GB 7200rpm hard drive is usually a better choice than a 1000GB (1TB) 5400rpm hard drive. A 250GB solid state drive will be a good option too, though you would probably need to consider some additional external storage, such as a portable USB hard drive to avoid filling such a small drive.
Tablets come in two varieties – those that run desktop operating systems, and those that don’t. While they are very useful, iPads (including Pro), Android tablets, and the less common Windows RT tablets do not run desktop operating systems and cannot run full applications such as Finale. Windows 8 and 10 tablets such as the Microsoft Surface Pro on the other hand run the full version of Windows, and have similar performance to laptops. There are significant performance gains to be had with Windows tablets with Intel i3, i5 and i7 processors, over the much cheaper Atom processors.
When you find a laptop that suits your budget and other requirements, do a search of that model for reviews, to make sure there aren’t any known issues that should prevent you from making a purchase.
We recommend you buy a USB flash drive or two to back up important project files and allow you to transfer files to other systems. Lexar, Sandisk, Verbatim and Kingston are reliable brands and a 4GB drive can be bought for under $10. Since these drives are physically very small and easy to lose, we recommend against being completely dependent on them as a storage device. It would be unwise to buy a 128GB flash drive to store all your work because the chance of loss or damage is quite high.
A good external hard drive will allow you to save larger projects and help save resources for better computing power.
Software you should get
Music Notation Software
Make Music Finale – Academic ($349.99) or Finale Print Music - Regular ($115)
Use Coupon Codes – MUN-Finale or MUN-PrintMusic at the checkout to apply the discount. If you already own Sibelius, Encore, Notion or Overture, you can get an even better deal on a Competitive Trade Up, costing $149.99 for the download version. There is no coupon code for the Competitive Trade Up, but you will need a valid serial number to activate the license.
Audio Editing Software
Word Processing/Presentation/Organizing Software
MUN Students are able to use Microsoft Office free of charge. You can find the download link at http://www.mun.ca/its/o365/. You will need your MUN e-mail address and password in order to log in.