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

Wharton Computing does not recommend specific laptops for students. These guidelines should help you determine which type of laptop will best suit your needs in our computing environment. Consider Penn Computing’s Laptop Purchasing Guide for configuration suggestions. 

Purchasing a laptop warranty is highly recommended. Warranties support the repair or replacement of your laptop in the event of accidents or technical problems.

Software Recommendations/Availability


Windows

MacOS

Chromebook

(2019+)

Chromebook

(pre-2019)1
Recommended
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
Printing?
  • via Email Printing
  • via Public Computer
  • via Email Printing
  • via Public Computer
Virtual Lab/Vmware?
Solstice Screencasting?
Virtualization
for Windows
N/A
  • 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).


Remote Work Considerations

If you are working at home you might want to consider the following:

  1. Internet Service Provider:  If you are living off campus, be sure to speak to your internet service provider for scheduling setup and installation prior to moving into your new residence. On the day of service installation, it’s recommended to allow yourself plenty of time to enable the technician to install your networking equipment, configure your settings, and test your wireless speeds and stability. On campus students will connect  to AirPennNet. 
  2. Additional Equipment: If you will be using video conferencing services (e.g., Virtual Meetings via BlueJeans, Zoom, etc.) for classes you might want to consider noise cancelling headphones, whether or not your laptop has a built-in microphone, and whether or not you will need at-home printing. We recommend wired headphones instead of wireless to reduce  the chance that you will lose your connection during class. Online courses are setup so that you don't need to print so it is a personal choice whether or not you like to print out course materials at home.
  3. Ergonomic Considerations: If you are spending a lot of time at home, you might want to invest in a desk, chair, and laptop stand that will support your body's own unique needs (e.g., back and neck support). 
  4. Designated Workspace: To make the work/life balance easier, you might want to designate a specific workspace for school work that is separate from your home life.
  5. Consider Best Practices for Video Conferencing:
    • Find a quiet area for video conferencing.
    • Mute your microphone at the start of a meeting. 
    • Pay attention to lighting and background in your work area.
    • Speak loud enough for your laptop mic or external mic to pick up sound.
    • If you are using a mobile device instead of a laptop, mount it on something to keep the video steady. 
    • Here are some additional Best Practices from BlueJeans.

Financial Considerations

All students with concerns about affording technology for remote learning can approach the Emergency and Opportunity Fund or Penn First Plus.

For more information check out Working and Learning Remotely - Students, Remote Working Checklist, and Virtual Meetings FAQ

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.