Many Computer Science majors and minors want a laptop computer that will be useful for courses, research, and side projects in the program. Our faculty in Computer Science have some suggestions if you are looking to buy something that will work for you! 

  • Cost and general recommendations

A laptop is a serious investment for any computer science student. A good laptop for computer science applications (including GPU for gaming) should cost $800-$1,000. You may not need to spend that much if you have no plan for gaming, high-performance computing (HPC), or artificial intelligence (AI) applications. 

That being said, do not cut corners, and consider that for a little more investment (such as $1,500 instead of the lower end), you could have a laptop that lasts 4 years of school instead of 2 or 3 years. 

The first year of assignments does not require a beefed-up computer. The later courses add some assignments that will challenge conventional hardware. If cost is an issue, there is no need to rush out and buy a high-end laptop. Perhaps take a while to research the purchase if you already have a laptop for your first year. In addition, there are lab computers and online coding platforms to complete assignments if you do not have your own.

  • Battery life

Research the battery life of any laptop. A good rule of thumb is that the more you spend, the better the battery will be in your laptop. PCs vary in battery life, and MacBooks tend to have longer battery life.

  • Memory
Memory (not hard drive) is the next important choice. The minimum preferred amount of memory would be 8GB, with 16GB or more recommended.
  • Hard Drive
Hard drive size depends on what a student does outside of coursework. Pictures, videos, or games require a larger hard drive (1TB). Otherwise, a 512GB hard drive should be sufficient. It’s tempting to get a 256GB hard drive, but that usually causes problems with available space.
  • Graphics Card

With the emphasis on HPC and AI, you may want a laptop with a dedicated graphics card. This means it has separate processors (GPU’s) for computing-intensive courses.

It’s not always apparent if a laptop has a dedicated graphics card since the description will include something like “NVIDIA GeForce” (for example), which is the name of a graphics card but not clearly labeled as such. The most common keywords to look for are: “NVIDIA GeForce” and “AMD Radeon.”