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

We recommend purchasing a laptop that meets the standards of computers sold by Computer Connection, UPenn's Computer Store. Purchasing from Computer Connection will allow you to leverage their relationship with vendors in case problems arise, as well as take advantage of a negotiated 1-3 year warranty not generally available otherwise.

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.

Software Recommendations/Availability






Operating System
Windows 10 ProMacOS Mojave 10.14ChromeOS v77Chrome OS v77
Productivity Software
  • Microsoft Office2
  • Microsoft Office2
  • Office365 Apps
  • G Suite Apps
  • Office Online
  • G Suite Apps
Security SoftwareWindows Defender
built-in antivirus
Symantec Endpoint
Protection 12.x
Security features included
on all Chromebooks
Security features included
on all Chromebooks
  • via Email Printing
  • via Public Computer
  • via Email Printing
  • via Public Computer
Virtual Lab/Vmware?
Solstice Screencasting?
for Windows
  • Virtual Lab/Vmware
  • Bootcamp3
  • Parallels4
  • VM Fusion4
  • Virtual Lab/Vmware

1Some pre-2019 Chromebooks may have access to the Google Play Store and thus can install Android apps.

2We recommend using either Office 365 University (available for free to all Penn students) or Office 2019 ProPlus.

3We recommend that your Mac have at least 256GB of storage space if you plan to use Bootcamp.

4We recommend 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. Use in conjunction with Cloud Storage Options to maximize productivity, performance, and durability of your data!

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 a minimum of 8GB of RAM, but 16GB is preferable for improved performance.

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.