On Thursday, June 19, the Rensselaer Division of the Chief Information Officer released details on the Mobile Computing Program for the 2014–2015 academic year. The annual program includes a laptop, various accessories, software, warranties, and technical support.
The laptops included in this year’s package are Lenovo Thinkpad T440s Ultrabook computers, with an Intel Core i7-4600U processor and 8 GB of RAM. Storage includes a 256 GB SATA-3 SSD, making this the first year that the DotCIO has elected to utilize a solid-state hard drive over a traditional spinning disk. The computer additionally includes a six-cell lithium ion battery, rated for up to nine hours on idle. The total cost of the program, including warranties, services, and accessories, is $1,620.
Current students have already weighed in on the matter. A few students on the social networking site Reddit noted that the battery life should be better than in previous years. Many also mentioned that the switch to solid-state drives is a positive change.
This year’s program has not been free of criticism, however. A number of students have expressed worry about the lack of a dedicated graphics processing unit, or GPU, and the implications that lack would have on running graphics-intensive programs, such as computer aided design software and games. Other students have noted solid state drives’ inherently smaller amount of storage space compared with that of many current laptops. Previous laptops from the MCP have incorporated hard drives with up to 500 GB of storage space, albeit in spinning drives. Some students have also suggested it would have been beneficial to allow for a choice between two laptops—a heavier, more powerful laptop, or a lighter, less powerful, tablet-like laptop.
Many of these concerns have been responded to Representatives from the Help Desk stated that during their testing, the laptops were able to be used for many graphically intensive programs despite the lack of a dedicated GPU. Additionally, with regards to the limited storage space, many students suggested using external hard drives for storage purposes, citing the fact that computers utilizing solid-state hard drives are often faster than their older counterparts.
Students who wish to bring their own laptops are allowed to do so; however, they are encouraged to make sure that their own laptops meet Rensselaer’s minimum specifications as listed on the DotCIO website. Distribution of laptops for participants of the Mobile Computing Program will take place during the Navigating Rensselaer and Beyond events at the beginning of the Fall semester.
The Mobile Computing Program was introduced for the 1999–2000 academic year as a way to “standardize the toolkit,” enable cross-campus computer usage, and reduce class preparation time. The original package included an IBM Thinkpad 600E running Windows 98, powered by a Pentium II processor.