August 29, 2012

Things to Look for in a PC for Architecture School!

Having a PC in addition to your laptop is definitely valuable for architecture school. Heck, some students would actually bring their PC to studio and lock it down...or assume that their peers and the security locks to the building and studio will be okay =S. I know how it feels to look for a computer...and believe me, I still struggle with knowing what is best and I would go to my friends for help during the search.

(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 discreation - 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).

So this article will focus on the basics you need to know when in dialogue with a computer salesman - what's what and how does it work. This issue will focus the PC first since, many of the main components can be found in a laptop. In addition to knowing the billions of things we need to learn about in architecture school, you definitely should get a grip on some of the parts of a computer and what they do so you will not look stupid or get bamboozled when dealing with a computer salesman. 

My good friend in architecture school, Sebastian, did a bit of part-time work as a computer salesman, so he was our go-to guy for buying computers or getting legitimate advice when shopping for the right one. Special thanks goes out to Sebastian for providing advice with the following things you need to consider.

This should be easy. There’s Windows (Vista, 7, XP) or Apple (OS X Mountain Lion, OS X Snow Leopard) , there’s also Linux. Windows 7/ XP/ Vista are the predominantly used platforms on the market, which means that a lot of designed software is catered to operate well on these platforms.

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The CPU is the brain of your computer and processes all the information – including doing the calculations for your digital renderings. It allows you to multitask and that’s vital in architecture school –  (I had times when Adobe Illustrator and Rhino3d and CAD and Photoshop were ALL OPENED AT ONCE!!!). The speed of your CPU is measured in Giga Hertz (GHz)

You want to look for a Quad Core Processor. There are different models and you should look for a CPU that is faster than a 1.8GHz Quad Core. CPU Features like Turbo Boosting and Hyper-Threading are good as they will streamline the performance of the CPU as well as your work.  
            i7 - 2720 QM with 2.2 GHz
            i7 -  2760 QM with 2.4 GHz

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This is the temporary memory that your computer uses to cache your actions before being sent to the CPU.  Think of it as the wait line  to the CPU. The more RAM you have, the better the performance for your computer to easily use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and for Rendering. For a desktop PC, consumer System Memory can max out to 64 GB, while laptops range from 4-8GB, maxing up to 16GB.
Some good RAM brands are Kingston and Corsair.

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This is about storing the data and files for your computer – Obviously. You need space to operate the software and save the files.
There are two types of Hard Drives:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


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For most of the time, you can get away with something basic – it is not the end all nor the be all for the work we do in architecture. An intense graphics card is needed to game or render 3d Walkthrough or Animations.
Graphics cards are important. Some video cards for Desktop computers focus more on cranking out 3d imagery quickly, while others tend to focus more on rendering out the image properly which can take longer.

From personal experiences, it's definitely good to GOOGLE the computer you are buying and check out the ratings from customers (issues like overheating with a crappy fan, random freezing up, screen not working e.t.c.)

Search at the websites of different architecture schools, as they have prescriptions on what to get and what not...especially those that make it a REQUIREMENT to buy a laptop. 

GOOD WEBSITES: - I found cnet a good site that reviews computer and electronics  - i see the magazines at the library, so it looks legit as well.

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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