Computer Recommendations


Laptop Recommendations

We don’t require it, but many students opt to buy their own laptop. Listed below is a table of laptop components and our recommendations for those components in three categories: Good, Better, and Best.   We realize you will see laptops with a myriad of components in them.  This table is to help you compare different components and pick the best fit for your budget.

Please keep in mind these recommendations are just that, recommendations. If you purchase a laptop with other specifications, it will still work! If you find your laptop can’t handle a particular Engineering application, we have remote options available to shift that burden from you to us.

If you have any questions about specific items listed here, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us! We’d be happy to answer any of your questions.

  Good Better Best
Processor Intel Core i3 Intel Core i5 Intel Core i7
Cores 2 4 4
Memory 4 GB 8 GB 16 GB
Storage 128 GB 256 GB 512+ GB
Type Spinning Disk SSD SSD
Video Card Integrated 1-2 GB nVidia GeForce or AMD Radeon 2+ GB nVidia GeForce/Quadro or AMD Radeon/FirePro
Resolution 1366×768 1680×1050 1920×1080
Warranty 90 Days 1 Year 3 Years + Accidental Damage
Typical Use Case Web browsing, Microsoft Office-type applications, connecting to a remote computer Running engineering applications for software programming, scripting, and development IDEs Running engineering applications for 2D and 3D modeling

Specific Models

We have partnered with Dell and Apple to have the following models for sale at TechCyte at the ISU Bookstore at the Memorial Union.  As mentioned above, practically any laptop will work.  These are ones that we would pick knowing they have full support and work well with our software portfolio.

  DELL XPS 13 (9380) DELL XPS 15 (9570) MACBOOK PRO 13”
Processor 8th Gen Intel Core i5 8th Gen Intel Core i7 8th Gen Intel Core i5 8th Gen Intel Core i7
Memory 8 GB 16 GB 8 GB 16 GB
Storage 256 GB SSD 512 GB SSD 256 GB SSD 512 GB SSD
Video Card Integrated 4GB NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti Integrated 4GB AMD Radeon Pro 560X
Resolution 1080p 1080p Retina Retina
Warranty 4 Year + Accidental Damage 4 Year + Accidental Damage 3 Year (AppleCare+) 3 Year (AppleCare+)
Price $1549 $1949 $1898 $2858

Operating System


For Windows computers we recommend Windows 10.


For Mac computers we recommend macOS Mojave (10.14).

Laptop Support

The ITS Solution Center offers support and service for students and their computers.  The Solution Center is certified with Dell and Apple and can provide hardware warranty support here on campus as long as the computer is covered by an active warranty.

Laptop Borrowing

Laptops and other media equipment are available for currently enrolled students to check-out for no charge.  See the equipment check-out page for further details and list of available equipment.


Iowa State University has a large wireless network and many students bring their smartphones or tablets.  All devices are supported and work without major problems.  This includes, but is definitely not limited to, iOS devices, Android devices, Microsoft Windows Phone devices, Microsoft Surface, and all the other variations out there.

We don’t recommend one particular tablet/smartphone over another.  They all have their place and it ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Available Software

Engineering students, as soon as classes start4, are eligible to download the following software titles at no cost for their personal computer.

  • Autodesk Inventor, Civil 3D, Revit Building
  • CambridgeSoft ChemACX, ChemBioDraw
  • CES EduPack
  • IHT
  • JetBrains PyCharm Professional
  • JMP
  • MathType
  • Mathworks Matlab
  • Various Microsoft Products (including Windows, Visual Studio, Visio, Windows Server, SQL Server, and more)
  • PTC Creo
  • SolidWorks 3D CAD
  • Tecplot 360
  • VMware Fusion and Workstation
  • Microsoft Office

4 We do not receive complete enrollment lists until the first day of class so are unable to verify your Engineering status and grant access until the first day of class.

Software Compatibility

By and large, any computer you buy should be able to run the available engineering applications locally.  However, how well they run is directly related to the components you have.  In any computer, the best places to boost components are in RAM (memory) and your hard drive(s).  A speedy processor can slow to a crawl if it runs out of memory or the hard drive can’t keep up.  For best performance in engineering applications we strongly recommend at least 8 GB of RAM and an SSD (solid state drive) for at least your operating system.  They do cost a little more, but they’re well worth it.

If you’d rather not spend a lot of money on a computer, that’s fine!  Our remote options work great on any computer, including tablets and smartphones.  They even work on Chromebooks!

Education Discounts

  • ISU faculty, staff, and students have access to education discounts on Dell and Apple computers purchased via Tech Cyte.