What Computing Resources do I need for Design Computing at the GSD?

**For the Fall 2020 semester, due to our shift toward distance learning, please note the following additional computing requirements:  In order to fully participate in video conference calls a computer with a fully functional webcam, microphone and speakers will be essential.  Webcam, microphone and speakers can come in many forms including headsets, ear-buds 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 we are physically on-campus, 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.

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 same is true for AutoCad.  ArcGIS is offered exclusively for Windows as well as the popular rendering plugin, VRay.  A Mac running Windows (via Parallels or Bootcamp) is a viable solution but it can also be a more complicated solution since you'll have to maintain two different operating systems.

In June 2020,  Apple announced their plan to transition to a proprietary computer chip called M1.  CAD software and virtual Windows running on the new M1 chip are largely untested and may be problematic.  However, Apple will continue to offer Intel-based computers which works better for Design computing.   A Laptop running Windows is often the simplest solution but if you do plan to purchase a Mac we recommend one with an Intel Processor.

Minimum hardware specifications

8th or 9th Generation Intel Processor with 16GB of RAM memory and a graphics card capable of displaying resolutions at 1920×1080.

Nice to have

9th or 10th Generation Intel dual or 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

10th Generation (or higher) Intel quad-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

  • An HDMI adapter is useful for connecting to projectors and electronic display screens located in various meeting spaces throughout Gund Hall and other GSD buildings.
  • 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: