Student Laptop Recommendations

For the 2019–20 academic year, AAP strongly recommends that all students have a personal laptop computer powerful enough to support the demanding video and computational requirements necessary for coursework, as well as adequate storage to accommodate new software releases. Most students will build digital portfolios and render using Rhino in addition to writing papers and email. Some AAP classes make extensive use of Blackboard for class management and syllabus distribution. The college provides and maintains two high-end computer labs for classes, but is moving steadily toward a mobile computing environment.

Jump to:

Recommended Specifications

It is strongly suggested that each student own the recommended laptop computer, accessories, and base software listed below. The mobility of owning a laptop is essential as much of the work is collaborative and happens in a variety of locations. Please note that the AAP IT Solutions service team is available to provide free support for student-owned laptops.

A lightweight alternative: Students looking for an ultrabook that meets the recommended laptop specs should consider the Asus Zenbook (architecture, art, or CRP), Microsoft Surface Pro/Laptop (CRP only), or Microsoft Surface Book (architecture, art, or CRP). These devices exist with several options but can be found with AAP's specific recommendations.

Gaming branded laptops: Most new gaming laptops will work well if the specs below are followed. These are sometimes less expensive than workstation branded laptops but unfortunately, sometimes have lower build quality.

The Cornell Store: The Cornell Store provides laptops at a discounted rate that meet the specs below. The store offers both Windows-based and Macintosh laptops.

Architecture Students

Laptop Specs

  • Intel i7 or i9 Quad or Hex Core processor
  • Windows 10 x 64
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • Dedicated video processor should be one of the following or greater: Nvidia® Quadro® K2100M/K1100M/M1000M/P1000, Nvidia® Geforce 950 M, 1050 M, 2060 M, AMD Radeon R9 M370X, Radeon Pro 555X/560X, AMD FirePro M4000 Mobility Pro
  • 500 GB hard drive (SSD hard drive preferred)
  • Wireless adapter (at least 802.11 g/n)
  • Three-year warranty (recommended)
  • Theft and damage insurance (recommended)
  • Total estimated cost: $1,849 for the lightweight Dell Precision 15 5520/30. Models with high-definition (retina) displays are available as an add-on for $300 more.

WARNING: With the release of the slim MacBook as well as the Retina MacBook Pro, AAP IT Solutions can ONLY recommend the highest-end model of MacBook Pro, the 15" version with an AMD Radeon Pro 555X/560X video card. The other models come equipped with an onboard chip that is considerably less powerful than the 555X/560X, and will not work well enough with 3D software and complex models. NOTE: MacBook Pros and other lightweight PC options are not able to be upgraded as most of the components are soldered to the motherboard. What you purchase now is what you will be stuck with for the life of the computer (this may force you to spend more initially).

Desktop Specs

Tower caddies are present in the studio desks:

  • Dell Precision
  • Quad Core Xeon or i7/i9 Processor
  • 16 GB of DDR3 RAM
  • Windows 10, x64
  • 2 GB Nvidia Quadro video card or GeForce 1060 or higher
  • 1 TB hard drive
  • Includes three-year warranty
  • Total estimated cost: $1,710


  • USB thumb drive (32 GB)
  • USB storage hard drive/backup (500 GB–1 TB)
  • All architecture student desks in Milstein and Sibley halls, Cornell in Rome, and AAP NYC are equipped with 27" LCD monitors

Art Students

Laptop Specs

  • Apple MacBook Pro
  • Quad Core i7 Processor (it's the 1.7ghz add-on)
  • 16 GB of DDR3 RAM
  • Mac OS 10.14
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645
  • 512 GB SSD hard drive
  • 13" built-in LCD
  • AppleCare three-year warranty: $269
  • Total estimated cost: 13" MacBook Pro: $2,049 (without AppleCare) on the Apple education site (NOTE: RAM in the retina series MacBook Pro cannot be upgraded as it is soldered to the motherboard. Due to this, AAP It Solutions recommends selecting the 16 GB version)

NOTE: The use of Mac computers in art-related professions is rooted in the culture. However, for a lower price, a student can purchase a Windows-based computer with similar or more powerful specs. All but a few pieces of software will run on both (Final Cut Pro is Mac only but Premiere is cross-platform). If students purchase a Windows-based computer and need the use of Final Cut Pro, there is a 13-seat, high-end space with Mac Pros available for student use. AAP IT Solutions suggests determining the need to run Final Cut Pro on a laptop and purchasing based on that need (students can also check with their advisor).


  • USB or Thunderbolt storage hard drive (1 TB)
  • Antivirus software installed and properly configured

CRP Students

Laptop Specs

  • At least an Intel Core i5 processor (i7 preferred)
  • Windows 10 x 64
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • 500 GB hard drive
  • Wireless ethernet (802.11 g/n)
  • Three-year warranty (recommended)
  • Total estimated cost: The price of laptops with these specs can range from $500–$1,500. AAP IT Solutions recommends investing in a better laptop now that can last a student through their years at Cornell. Less expensive models tend to be less durable and unreliable.


  • USB thumb drive (32 GB)
  • USB storage hard drive (500 GB)

Software Used at AAP

Below is a base list of software typically used at AAP. This list is never complete, nor is all software required by each discipline since curricula change as students move through their educational years. Use of nonbase applications by instructors will be screened for cost and support issues by the chair of the department, and, if approved, the college/department will purchase the nonbase software on behalf of the students affected.

Architecture Students

Art Students

  • Microsoft Office (free for Cornell students)
  • Adobe CC (Adobe subscription, Cornell Store)
  • Total estimated cost: $19.99 per month Adobe CC subscription

CRP Students

Other Non-Base Software

This software is currently available on AAP teaching computers:

  • Audrio
  • Processing
  • Inventor
  • Revit
  • Zbrush
  • Stata
  • Arc GIS (we also offer a free student edition)
  • Final Cut Pro X
  • Google Earth Pro
  • Google Sketchup Pro
  • Global Mapper
  • Geolytics
  • Community Viz
  • Maya

Purchasing Software and Hardware

The Cornell Store carries equipment that matches some of the specs above. The Cornell Store sells a variety of software from Adobe and others at a discount specifically for higher education.

Internet Access and Printing Services

Cornell has a wireless network that covers most of the campus, including AAP's buildings, so network access is easily obtainable. Cornell also offers network-based printing services for a small fee per page. AAP has numerous Net-Print printers throughout its buildings; however, printing in a student's dorm room may require a personal printer.

Computer Security at Cornell

Keeping personal computers secure takes far less time than recovering from a security breach. If a computer is compromised, the user will likely lose access to it for at least a few hours, and possibly several days. Users may also lose any work done since the last computer back up. If the security problem puts sensitive data at risk, or if a computer is lost or stolen, the effects can be far-reaching. Any unsecured computer puts the entire network of users at risk. Please review Cornell's recommended antivirus software.