Question What laptop should an online only college student majoring in computer science get for school?

Sep 20, 2021
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Hello everyone,
I’m looking for a laptop for when I start school next year, but if I get a laptop, I want to make sure that it will still be fast enough to last me all through school so at least 5-6 years. On the schools website that have their minimum requirements but I was hoping to find a laptop that I could upgrade my cpu, gpu, etc later down the road if I need it. I know cpu/gpus in laptops normally aren’t replaceable, but I did find an Alienware 51m laptop that is fully replaceable, it’s just expensive. Or if I get like a 9th gen i9, will that still be fast enough in 5-6 years? The schools minimum requirements are below. Any help is appreciated!



Operating System: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel 8th Gen i5 or i7
Memory (RAM): 8GB RAM
Hard Drive: 250+ GB
Graphics Card: Built-in (Intel)
Wireless: 802.11 a/c dual band
Office Suite: Office 2013 Professional or newer
Antivirus Software: Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
Optional Accessories: CD/DVD drive, external hard drive, extra power cord and headphones/earbuds
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
What software do you expect to be installing and running while in school?

Most software products list hardware requirements in some form of "minimal", "required", and "best".

You do not want "minimaL" ( e.g. 8 GB RAM) and you do want as much "best" as you can afford.

Windows 10 - fine. That includes Windows Security which should be more than sufficient for AV application. On or off campus.

Noted that you deemedl Alienware 51m laptop expensive - fair enough and acceptable. Begs the question: what is your budget?

Contact the school and more specifically the Computer Science Department ( or applicable Department) to find out what laptop/specs they recommend. May not be the same as "the school". [Seek a consensus - talk with more than one or two people. Students, staff, Instructors, Grad Students, Professors etc..)

Also remember that you, as a bona fide student at the school, may be eligible for student discounts via some manufacturers. Ask about that as well.

Personally (full disclosure) I would be quite wary of trying to look ahead 5 - 6 years. No harm in doing so per se but things are likely to change even much sooner than that.

Get the hardware you need for the first couple of years. Take care of it and stay focused on using using that hardware to further your education versus game play etc..

After two years or so you will know what hardware will be necessary for the remainder of your program/degrees.
 

mrmike16

Honorable
Mar 10, 2016
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I agree with the previous post. And if you're asking us for recommendations, I think you should add some more details, such as the minimum and maximum screen size that you want, what type of laptop (2-in-1, 3-in-1, notebook, ultrabook, etc), what your budget is, etc.

If you want this laptop to last more than 4 years, make sure it's compatible with Windows 11 (And I don't think an 8th Gen Intel processor is compatible). Windows 10, from what I saw on Google, has an end of life date set for 2025, which means that if they don't extend it, then your PC will become less secure.

8 GB of RAM is OK for most consumers for the next 2 years or so. 16 GB would future-proof it more, and I think 8 GB is low even now- Especially if you use the Google Chrome browser.

Hard drive storage is up to you- It depends on how many files you have, while leaving more room for later on as the files and amount of programs/apps expands. If the school requires 250 GB, you should calculate the storage you need personally + 250 GB + some extra for later on. Note that SSDs (Solid State Drives) are more expensive per GB but they are much faster than HDDs.

Personally, I find either Microsoft's built-in Windows Defender or a free edition of another anti-virus such as Avast to be enough for most users.

Processor- I think getting an Intel Core i9 processor is overkill. As is getting an Alienware laptop- You're getting this for school, not for heavy gaming. For computer science, I think the RAM is more important for this than the graphics. Unless you're doing graphic-intensive work such as photo or video editing, the integrated Intel graphics should suffice. I would personally be fine with an i5 processor, maximum i7, but I'd try to get the newest generation or second-to-newest generation of it if I want to future-proof a bit.
Note that each Intel Core processor has different models- For example, Core i5-11600 is more powerful than Core i5-11300.
 
Sep 20, 2021
3
0
10
0
What software do you expect to be installing and running while in school?

Most software products list hardware requirements in some form of "minimal", "required", and "best".

You do not want "minimaL" ( e.g. 8 GB RAM) and you do want as much "best" as you can afford.

Windows 10 - fine. That includes Windows Security which should be more than sufficient for AV application. On or off campus.

Noted that you deemedl Alienware 51m laptop expensive - fair enough and acceptable. Begs the question: what is your budget?

Contact the school and more specifically the Computer Science Department ( or applicable Department) to find out what laptop/specs they recommend. May not be the same as "the school". [Seek a consensus - talk with more than one or two people. Students, staff, Instructors, Grad Students, Professors etc..)

Also remember that you, as a bona fide student at the school, may be eligible for student discounts via some manufacturers. Ask about that as well.

Personally (full disclosure) I would be quite wary of trying to look ahead 5 - 6 years. No harm in doing so per se but things are likely to change even much sooner than that.

Get the hardware you need for the first couple of years. Take care of it and stay focused on using using that hardware to further your education versus game play etc..

After two years or so you will know what hardware will be necessary for the remainder of your program/degrees.
On the schools website, I didnt see specific programs I’d be using but I will be learning some of the below…
  • Apply collaborative strategies for software projects
  • Create a portfolio of software applications
  • Develop software with agile software methodologies
  • Gain experience with full-stack development
  • Develop a security mindset
  • Aligned with industry standards: SNHU's online CS degree program employs industry-standard software development and testing tools like Eclipse, OpenGL, Cucumber with Maven and Junit testing
  • Use industry-standard software development and testing tools like Python, Java and C++
  • Also Full-stack development and cloud integration using JavaScript, NoSQL and Amazon Web Services
As for my budget, I was trying to stay under $1,700. The reason I’m looking so far ahead is if I’m going to spend a few thousand on a laptop, I’ll want it to last me through all of school at least. I probably wouldn’t be able to afford another computer half way through school unfortunately.
 

punkncat

Dignified
Ambassador
Laptops of traditional design don't offer the ability to upgrade the CPU and such. Some of them might allow you to upgrade the RAM and possibly the storage.

There is a new brand/type of laptop called Framework that might fit your desire.
 
Sep 20, 2021
3
0
10
0
I agree with the previous post. And if you're asking us for recommendations, I think you should add some more details, such as the minimum and maximum screen size that you want, what type of laptop (2-in-1, 3-in-1, notebook, ultrabook, etc), what your budget is, etc.

If you want this laptop to last more than 4 years, make sure it's compatible with Windows 11 (And I don't think an 8th Gen Intel processor is compatible). Windows 10, from what I saw on Google, has an end of life date set for 2025, which means that if they don't extend it, then your PC will become less secure.

8 GB of RAM is OK for most consumers for the next 2 years or so. 16 GB would future-proof it more, and I think 8 GB is low even now- Especially if you use the Google Chrome browser.

Hard drive storage is up to you- It depends on how many files you have, while leaving more room for later on as the files and amount of programs/apps expands. If the school requires 250 GB, you should calculate the storage you need personally + 250 GB + some extra for later on. Note that SSDs (Solid State Drives) are more expensive per GB but they are much faster than HDDs.

Personally, I find either Microsoft's built-in Windows Defender or a free edition of another anti-virus such as Avast to be enough for most users.

Processor- I think getting an Intel Core i9 processor is overkill. As is getting an Alienware laptop- You're getting this for school, not for heavy gaming. For computer science, I think the RAM is more important for this than the graphics. Unless you're doing graphic-intensive work such as photo or video editing, the integrated Intel graphics should suffice. I would personally be fine with an i5 processor, maximum i7, but I'd try to get the newest generation or second-to-newest generation of it if I want to future-proof a bit.
Note that each Intel Core processor has different models- For example, Core i5-11600 is more powerful than Core i5-11300.
Sorry I left out those details. My schools all online, so I’d rather stick to laptops instead of desktops just for portability. I probably won’t be hauling it around everywhere, so I don’t mind if it’s heavy, and for the size at least 15"

I’m not really looking for an ultrabook, or touch screens, just a regular laptop. Weight isnt an issue. I

For my budget, I was hoping to stay under $1,700

The i9 probably is overkill, but my train of thought is, if I’m spending a couple thousand on a laptop, I’ll want to be set for 4+ years. I believe it will be a lot of virtual environments, I’m not sure how cpu intensive those are.

I agree with you in the graphics, integrated gpu should be fine then right?
 

mrmike16

Honorable
Mar 10, 2016
247
12
10,715
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With that budget, I suggest you get a business laptop. They usually last longer, and are more focused on productivity and durability than on graphics.
Here are some examples:
Dell Latitude 5520 15 Inch Laptop | Dell USA

Amazon.com: 2021 Lenovo ThinkBook 15 Gen 2, 11th gen Intel i7-1165G7, 512GB SSD, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, Anti-Glare, Thunderbolt 4, Win 10 Pro - Mineral Grey : Electronics

HP EliteBook 850 | HP® Official Store

ASUS ExpertBooks seem nice too, but the 15 inch ones are out of stock.

You can also go for a gaming laptop, but I don't think that would be necessary, since you'd also be paying for a dGPU. But some of those have good deals as well.

Integrated GPU should be fine.

Just make sure that whatever you get, it's going to be fully compatible with Windows 11, has an up-to-date processor (For Intel the current generation is 11) and that it has 16GB of RAM, since they usually solder it to the motherboard these days.

I haven't seen any i9 processors within that price range. i7 should be more than enough for your needs, though.
 
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