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 Design Software is increasingly 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 great solution.  Since Apple developed its own “M Series” Computer Chip the performance and stability of virtual Windows has taken a step backward.  Performance and stability may be an issue. There may be other software incompatibilities that cannot be overcome, and at this point printing from within Parallels is not supported.  A Laptop running Windows is the simplest solution for most students.

Minimum hardware specifications

12th Generation Intel Processor i7 or AMD Ryzen 7000 Series, 16GB of RAM memory and an integrated graphics card. (SSD) solid state drive 500Gb or Higher

Preferred hardware specifications

13th Generation (or higher) Intel processor i7/i9  or AMD Ryzen 7000 Series 7 or 9 with 32GB of RAM memory and a (SSD) solid state drive 1TB. Dedicated Graphics card with dedicated RAM 4GB or higher.

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: