Laptop Buying Guide (Students)

Students should follow the recommendations below when purchasing a laptop to ensure it is optimized for the Wharton computing environment and course requirements.

Faculty purchasing laptops with departmental funds should contact their Academic Representative.

For mobile device recommendations see our Mobile Device Buying Guide as well as ISC's smartphone hardware recommendations.

Laptop Recommendations

To get a laptop that will work well in Wharton's computing environment, we recommend purchasing one that meets the standards of the computers sold by the Computer Connection, the University of Pennsylvania's Computer Store; you'll also be able to leverage the Computer connection's relationship with the computer vendors in case of problems with the machine, and take advantage of a negotiated 1-3 year warranty not generally available from an outside vendor.

Watch for the Computer Connection's Back-To-School Sale mailing or log into Campus Express after the beginning of June for the 2019 offerings.

Considering a Chromebook?  There are a few limitations you should keep in mind:

  • Chromebooks can't print to the Wharton networked printers (but you can use a public computer to print).
  • Older Chromebooks that cannot access the Google Play Store won't be able to use the Wharton Virtual Lab & Mersive Solstice software.

Software Recommendations

The basic software recommendations for students are designed to provide compatibility with the software in Wharton's computer labs and classrooms. 



Operating System:

Windows 10 ProMacOS Mojave 10.14


One of the following:
  • Office 365 University1
  • Microsoft Office 2019 ProPlus
One of the following:
  • Office 365 University1
  • Microsoft Office 2019 ProPlus

Internet Browser:

  • Microsoft Edge
  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox


Windows Defender Security Center
Included with all Windows 10 versions
Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.x
(free for Penn students)

Virtualization for Windows:

N/AWharton Computing Virtual Lab, Bootcamp (comes with MacOS), Parallels2, VMFusion2

1The University has partnered with Microsoft to provide Penn-licensed Office 365 options for students.

2It is recommended that your Mac have at least 8GB of RAM if you plan to install Microsoft Windows in VMware Fusion or Parallels.

Software Purchases

All of the software that is listed in the table above is sold at the Penn Computer Connection store at the generally available Education discount rate. Software needed for "Whartonizing" your computer is free, and is available via download using the directions in Whartonizing Your Device.

Hardware Recommendations

When looking to purchase a new laptop, it may be hard to distinguish what makes one model better than another. In cases like these, it is often helpful to compare hardware specifications. See below for some tips on how to determine the difference in hardware specifications.

Hard-Drive (a.k.a. Storage)

Your hard-drive is where all your data is stored, from programs to personal files like documents and pictures. It also houses your Operating System (Windows or MacOS) which can sometimes take up to 30GB -- so keep this in mind when looking at storage sizes.

Hard-Drives also come in two types: HDDs and SSDs. SSDs are better with speed, durability, and longevity, but come at a higher cost. Our recommendation is to have at least a 256GB SSD.

RAM (a.k.a. Memory)

RAM assists your computer's other hardware in order to run programs and especially helps if you plan to have multiple programs (or browser windows/tabs) open at once.

For RAM, the more the better. Our recommendation is to have at least 8GB of RAM.

CPU (a.k.a. Processor)

Your CPU handles all calculations your computer has to make, essentially making it the brain of your computer. CPU performance is measured by two factors: number of cores & clock speed (i.e. Dual Core @2.6GHz).

For CPU, the more cores the better. If you choose a CPU with more cores, it's okay if your clock speed is slower.

CPUs may also be listed by brand and model. In general, the higher model numbers are better (i.e. i7 > i5 > i3 OR Ryzen 7> Ryzen 5 > Ryzen 3).

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I use my company computer?
  2. Can I use my current computer?
  3. Which Smartphone will work best at Wharton?

Need More Purchasing Advice?

Wharton Computing and Information Technology supports research, instructional, student, and administrative computing at the Wharton School.