What type of computer do I need for Design Computing at the GSD?

In-person instruction often involves formal and informal gatherings in various locations where software is actively used.  So, ALL GSD STUDENTS ARE EXPECTED TO HAVE A LAPTOP.  This requirement reflects the reality that students with only a desktop, will not be able to fully participate in the variety of educational opportunities and activities that occur in our graduate degree programs.

In order to fully participate in video conference calls on Zoom and other collaboration tools your computer should be equipped with a webcam, microphone, and speakers which come in many forms including headsets, earbuds, or built-in components or accessories connected via Bluetooth or USB.  Additionally, a strong, high-speed internet connection will ensure that you can converse and collaborate seamlessly with your instructors and colleagues when you are operating remotely.

PC vs Mac

Although software is increasingly web-based and platform-independent compatibility issues with the Mac Operating System still exist.  For example, Rhino is now Mac compatible but it’s not full-featured like its Windows counterpart, and the popular rendering engine VRay which is often used in conjunction with Rhino is not Mac compatible.  Similar shortcomings apply to AutoCad.  ArcGIS is offered exclusively for Windows.

A Mac running the Windows operating system (via Parallels) is no longer a good solution.  Since Apple developed its own M1 Computer Chip the performance and stability of virtual Windows has taken a step backward.   Apple does still supply some models with an Intel processor which is better suited for running Windows but these models are becoming dated.   A Laptop running Windows is the simplest solution for most students.

Minimum hardware specifications

9th Generation Intel Processor with 16GB of RAM memory and a graphics card capable of displaying resolutions at 1920×1080.

Better

10th or 11th Generation Intel quad-core processor running 16GB of RAM memory and a (SSD) solid-state drive.  Graphics card capable of displaying resolutions of 1920×1080 or higher.

Even Better

11th Generation (or higher) Intel ten-core processor running 32GB of RAM memory and a (SSD) solid state drive.  Graphics card with dedicated RAM capable of displaying resolutions higher than 1920×1080.

Additional Notes

  • Laptops with very small display screens may be difficult to navigate during classroom exercises.
  • Some students find it useful to connect their laptop to a larger, free-standing monitor (between 27-32 inches) in their assigned desk space.

Vendor Requirements

Here are some specific requirements provided directly from the software developers.

Discounts for Harvard Students

Harvard students are eligible for computer discounts!  To learn more, visit the link below and supply your HarvardKey credentials when prompted:
https://huit.harvard.edu/personal-purchases