Student Laptop Recommendations

For the 2023–24 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/VRay in addition to writing papers and email. Some AAP classes make extensive use of Canvas 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. Following COVID-19 protocol, AAP offers some of the lab equipment through a virtual connection. 

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 Microsoft Surface Laptop (CRP only). These devices exist with several options but can be found with AAP's specific recommendations. They can also be found heavily discounted on sites like Amazon as refirbished or renewed. 

Gaming branded laptops: Most new gaming laptops will work well if the specs below are followed. We've had great luck with Razer and their robust materials. Some gaming laptops are less expensive than workstation branded laptops but unfortunately, can have lower build quality (plastic).

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.

Architecture Students

Laptop Specs

  • Intel i7 or i9 processor
  • Windows 11
  • 32 GB of RAM
  • Dedicated video processor should be one of the following or greater: Nvidia Quadro, Nvidia® Geforce 1660, 2060, 3060, 4060 or greater.
  • At least a 500 GB hard drive (SSD hard drive)
  • Wireless networking adapter (for internet)
  • Three-year warranty (recommended)
  • Theft and damage insurance (recommended)
  • Total estimated cost for a high mid level Razer laptop (base model, just meets suggested specs): $1,799 at Razer.

WARNING: With the release of the new ARM chip by Apple: M1/M2/M3 Macs are indeed fast but will NOT run Windows via bootcamp. This means that you will not be able to run some apps required by your professor (ArcGIS, Software for Environmental Systems, VRay for Rhino). It is suggested that if you still want to purchase a Mac for your computing needs that you are aware of the limitations. Rhino can run but runs via Rosetta 2 (Apple's translation layer, not natively). 


  • 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
  • Apple Silicon (M2/M3 Arm CPU)
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • Mac OS 12
  • 512 GB SSD hard drive
  • 13" built-in LCD
  • AppleCare three-year warranty
  • Total estimated cost: 14" MacBook Pro: $1,849 at the Campus Store (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 at least the 16/18 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 Adobe Premiere is cross-platform). If students purchase a Windows-based computer and need the use of Final Cut Pro, there are Macs available for student use in the DIM Lab. 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 or 11
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • 500 GB hard drive
  • Wireless networking adapter (for internet)
  • 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. Lower end M1 Apple MacBook Pro's/Air's could be a good option for CRP students that are NOT needing to run Windows programs such as ArcGIS.


  • 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

  • Microsoft Office (free for Cornell students)
  • Adobe CC (Adobe subscription is provided, please wait for an email at the start of each semester)
  • AutoDesk Suite (free student edition)
  • Rhino (Cornell Store)
  • Total estimated cost: $99

Art Students

  • Microsoft Office (free for Cornell students)
  • Adobe CC (Adobe subscription is provided, please wait for an email at the start of each semester)

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.

Close overlay