The Computing Requirement

It is a requirement that all undergraduate students at Michigan State University have a laptop computer that can be connected to the Internet. Beyond that, this page has some recommendations for computing that will serve Computer Science and Computational Data Science students well.

The basic requirements for computing and accessories (including special requirements for Fall Semester, 2020:

  • A computer with sufficient power to run engineering software or to access that software through a remote portal provided by the College
    • Only Windows and Macintosh laptops are recommented. Chromebooks are specifically not recommended.
    • See below for specific recommendations.
  • An internet-ready camera (e.g. webcam or smartphone) with video capability. Integrated webcams in laptops are just fine.
  • A way to scan handwritten exam or quiz responses for electronic submission
    • A cellphone camera with Adobe Scan or Cam Scan (both free software) works well
  • Speakers/headphones and microphone for video conferencing (either through a computer, tablet, or smartphone)
    • If you are planning to use public resources (college labs, coffee shops, etc.), you should obtain a USB-based headset with a built-in microphone.  Many lab computers do not have speakers, cameras or microphones. Even if you are using a computer with speakers, you will want a headset to minimize disrupting others in a public setting.
  • An internet connection with an download speed of at least 1 Mbps (check your speed at speedtest.net – free website or app works with desktops, tablets, and smartphones)
    • Traditional internet connection OR
    • Cellular connection with an appropriate data plan and good coverage (depending on your phone and service provider, you can use your phone to connect your computer to the internet)
    • Campus services will always provide sufficient bandwidth.

Computing Recommendations

A good general recommendation for a suitable Laptop system for Computer Science and Computational Data Science would be a late model Windows or Mac system as they will provide the most flexibility. A Chromebook or tablet will likely not support many of the needs you will have. Linux-based systems can be used, but consider that an advanced skill.

Here are a few thoughts on a minimum recommended configuration:

  • i5 minimum (i7 better) processor
  • 16GB computer memory/RAM (no lower than 8GB in any case)
  • Device ports -- the more the better, and USB 3.0 or USB-C/Thunderbolt specification
  • Computer storage: SSD disk drive, 256GB minimum. SSD is not mandatory, but it makes a big difference in performance (and weight). However, it is also more expensive than traditional storage (hard drive).
  • Graphics -- don't need high end graphics adapter unless you plan on doing a lot of video editing or gaming. Consider an external output such as HDMI mandatory. Your display should have a minimum resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p).
  • Network connectivity -- support a/b/g/n and both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies; an Ethernet port is nice to have, but wireless is mandatory. Also, computer should have bluetooth capability.
  • You may want to consider an external monitor to provide large screen viewing. (Many of the LCD TVs can double as a computer screen).

Finally, here are a few links that might help you with your search also:

One thing to avoid is looking for the "perfect" system. There is no single "best" system. You want to get an acceptable system for both today and the foreseeable future.