August 31, 2012

Getting a Laptop for Architecture School

A laptop for architecture school is the most likely type of investment an architecture student will make as opposed to a desktop PC – we’re constantly on the go, we need something that can be easily transported, and we need a computer to work on when the computer lab is full, to work in studio or home, or the library. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having a bulky “PC Replacement” that just failed on me constantly.

Realize that the more features that you want on your laptop or a PC, might mean that you will spend more money and your laptop will get bulkier and heavier and there are limitations with what a laptop can hold in terms of size – that becomes a question of whether you want to be lunging a heavy and bulky laptop while you’re travelling. (It’s quite a drag for a commuter student...)

Anyways. Thanks again to my good friend, Sebastian for assisting and providing us with some good info on what to look for in a laptop.

(DISCLAIMER: Realize We're Architecture Graduates and not Computer Engineers, so take our opinions with a spoon of salt and do your own homework on what is out in the market before your decision making. Use your own discretion - We do not accept responsibility for any loss of property, damage, or injury for your decisions on buying a laptop or computer for architecture school. You, yourself, are your own captain to your ship).

System Memory (Random Access Memory / RAM)

© Alfdaur | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

From our last post, this is the wait line of actions to the CPU. More RAM is ideal in order to efficiently use the design software like Adobe Creative Suite applications.
For a laptop, 4-8gb of RAM will help you survive, and check if your laptop can have space to be upgraded for more in the future. If your laptop can handle it, try and max it out to 16GB.

Storage (Hard Disk or Hard Disk Drive / HDD)
© Saxonchik | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
This is about storing the data and files for your laptop. There are two types of Hard Drives:
Solid State (SSD) : Really Fast, Cannot be damaged by shock, can die from Electrical Surges and you won’t be able to recover your work after that. A Consumer SSD Hardrive can max out of at 512GB.

Solid State drives are good for speed so that you can use graphic and modelling intensive programs like Adobe CS, Rhino3D, Revit, 3DS Max can opperate efficiently.

Typical Rotary Hard Drive (Moving Part): Classic hard drive, Max capacity that can be found on the market today is  1TB. It can be damaged by shock, but you can recover the files.
They can hold more information onto it, however they are slower.

Video Graphics Card

A lot of laptop video cards are optimized for outputting 3D  imagery...not necessarily great for calculating renders. I remember one of my professors mentioning that he wouldn’t render on a laptop since they aren’t built to efficiently do the job (render with a laptop at your own risk). I suggest try to NOT use your laptop for some serious rendering.

Some Accessories to Consider

(So that sh*t doesn't hit the fan near your studio deadline)

External Laptop Fan/Cooling Pad
you definitely should get a platform with a fan that you can plug into the USB drives to keep air flowing through your laptop. Laptops can get overheated which is a bad thing.

Laptop Bag
Backpacks might not be the best means of carrying your laptop. Some companies actually have their own special bags - I'd get a trendy office laptop bag just because it's sleeker and fits other things as well.

Laptop Lock
It's good to lock down your computer in studio if you have to grab a bite to eat. Check first if there are places you can wrap your lock around studio (furnace, pipes, conduits, bolted down bars?). Personally keep an eye on your laptop or ask a friend - from experiences, asking a friend doesn't really help. (and I've been on both ends of the scenario to realize that every student is busy and stressed for the most bit to even realize you've left them with your laptop)

Warranty & Technical Support
GET IT! Anything can go wrong. Have some back up so that you can fix your laptop whenever you need to.

Wireless Mouse 
© Mauhorng | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

You cannot do your architecture stuff, quickly and accurately without a mouse. you just cannot Don't rely on the touch mouse on your laptop.

USB Key and a External Hard Drive
© Pmphoto | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Having a hard drive to put your files means more file space for other important things like software files. It's also good practice to have multiple copies of your work on different drives so that you won't lose hours and hours of work (a lot of students can agree with this) incase a virus happens. USB's are great for taking to the print shop or lab. External Hard drives are great for storing your work throughout the years, and bringing with your here and there for yourself!

Antivirus Software
get a good software to keep those bugs, trojan horses, and malware off your computer. I personally have enjoyed downloading AVG, and MalwareBites Anti-Malware Software. I remember losing a lot of important files at the end of my first year.

© Rugbyho | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Not everyone will appreciate your music, you definitely don't wanna make enemies with the people you will live with everyday in studio!


It's good to look at what other architecture schools are recommending for their students, especially if a school makes it mandatory for their students to purchase a laptop, though from my experience showing specs to friends, some schools just give you the bare minimum which isn't always a good thing - it'll give you a good hint of what to look for. Here are some architecture schools that do this:

Sebastian has a personal blog, COMP-THIS!  where he writes about computer shopping from time to time. You can also contact him by emailing us ( where I can foward your questions to him

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