One must have their own personal laptop for the Computer Systems Technology program. Given its name, that much should be obvious. To someone entering CST without a lot of knowledge about computer specifications, it is an easy mistake to choose an underwhelming laptop in an attempt to try and save a couple of bucks. You are going to need something you can rely on to help carry your way through this program. The last thing one wants to do is wind up having to replace or upgrade their hunk of junk at the expense of their own time during the semester. Being laptop-less even for a few days can quickly make the schoolwork pile up. I will be going into a bit of detail on what kinds of things you should be looking out for when looking for your new partner in crime.
Operating Systems: Windows or Macintosh?
I am a bit biased since I grew up with Microsoft products, but surprisingly both operating systems are suitable for your Computer Systems Technology needs. Some lecturers/professors do their development on an Apple computer, but the majority of them use Windows. Most instructions in different programs are given for both versions. The only main advantage of choosing one over the other is whether you know if you want to be doing iOS development in the future. If you do, getting a Macbook as opposed to dealing with running a dual-boot computer on a Windows/Linux would be my recommendation. If you are planning on getting a Macbook or something of the sort from Apple, be sure you get a model from the past five years would be the most ideal. The hardware specifications for those models will run most programs necessary in CST pretty smoothly. Since Macbooks are more inaccessible to upgrade on your own, the rest of the article will focus mostly on Windows Users (though Macintosh users will still find useful information).
Processor Specifications (CPU)
Your processor deals with the heaving lifting for your computer, so running a dual-core processor is my personal minimum specification. If you use tools like CPU Benchmarks, try to look for a processor with more than 2.5GHz clock rate. Most Intel I3 processors and AMD equivalent ones would meet my expectations, and ensuring they have the options for virtualization/emulation are key for some CST stuff. A few students during the first classes of the semester found out their computer was not capable of virtualization, and was forced to upgrade their CPU or get a entire new one! So before this happens to you, make sure your device have these capabilities!
Your memory should be at least 4GB. Plain and simple. Having Google Chrome/Firefox open with your programming tools of choice open at the same time is the standard I am personally using for being a “minimum”. If you can’t search on Stack Overflow while implementing solutions in Eclipse without the computer lagging, it makes it very hard to program at a regular speed. In my personal opinion, 8GB is ideal and more than that is just extra padding if you want more browser tabs open. If you have the know how to upgrade your computer memory yourself, be certain that the RAM you buy is the correct kind your computer can take.
Do not be like my friend last semester who rolled in with their “new” 64GB storage Macbook . They was forced to put a few programs on a SD card so it would have enough storage. I think at minimum, 128GB HDD (Hard Disk Drive) or SSD (Solid State Drive) would be sufficient if your laptop is only for school purposes and are not storing anything else extraneous on it. I am slightly more in favour of getting an soilid state drive if possible, but they are definitely more expensive if you are on a tight budget. Once you upgrade to an SSD however, I can say with experience that it is hard to go back.
My first laptop I had when I started back in first semester had only about two and a half hours of battery life when left unplugged. For those three hour lecture blocks, if I could not find a seat near an outlet, I waited thirty minutes into the class before using my laptop. There exist some good study spots on campus that don’t have accessible outlets, so having the option to not worry about it with a laptop with a large battery is kinda nice. If you know for sure that you will be close to power for most of your development, this quality is less of a priority.
A quick note on brands: Asus, HP, Dell, and several other brands of laptops exists on the spectrum of Windows operating ones. While some are particularly loyal to a brand, I look more at the specifications…and their customer service history. Warranties (if getting a brand new device) are always wonderful policies if you can follow their process to the letter, and some companies do it better than others. Do your research, and remember to not throw away the packaging, for most laptops inevitable return!
With your fantastic tool for programming in tow, you should be ready for success in Computer Systems Technology. If there are any more questions pertaining to laptop specifications, or if I used to much jargon, I would be happy to talk about it in the comments below!
And so we go,