Do you need a decent PC for college level computer science?

In summary, for your studies in computer science at the college level, either your current setup or your MacBook Pro would be sufficient for the first few years. It is recommended to wait and see what your specific computing needs will be before upgrading. Most computer science classes do not require heavy computing power, and the focus is on the student's abilities rather than the computer's capabilities. If you plan on majoring in high performance computing or supercomputing, you may need to work in a lab with expensive machines. However, for most assignments, a good keyboard, mouse, and screen are important for ergonomics. The goal of undergraduate computer science courses is to learn the concepts rather than solve complex problems.
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Hi guys I'm going to study CS in college this fall, but don't know if I need to upgrade my computer or not.
I understand you need a lot of computing power for some heavy caculation but just wondering is that going to happen at the college level courses.

My current set up is a pc with i3 3220, gtx650 ti, 8gb ram,and 560 gb storage(not ssd). Also a macbook pro 13 in.

Any suggests will be helpful.
Thank you.
 
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  • #2
Either one of those is fine for your first couple of years, and possibly fine all the way through your undergraduate career. You might want to get yourself on a three year update program, but that's just to have your everyday equipment be up to date (but for students, a three year update program is rather pricey).

If you're going to major in an area such as high performance computing, you'll be working in a lab or VPNing into a lab that has clusters of somewhat expensive machines, more than $10000 each. If you're going to major in an area that puts you on the path toward supercomputing, a good but not great supercomputer is very much out of reach. Even with cheap and powerful CPUs and GPUs, a mediocre supercomputer costs $50000. A good but not great one costs ten times that. You'll once again be working in a lab or connecting to one.
 
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  • #3
In college, I think the laptop will get more use on campus. Is the MBP fairly recent? I doubt you'll be doing heavy calculations on a local machine. Anything intensive, your school should to let you SSH into a server (or even cluster as mentioned above) if they maintain one. It seems the more modern way is to give students AWS credits and such to rent servers on the cloud, e.g. this deep learning course at Stanford: http://cs231n.github.io/aws-tutorial/ I'd hold off on upgrading for school until you find out you actually need to.
 
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  • #4
Your machine seems sufficient for running an IDE where you'd develop, build and run your code. If you were doing some heavy computational stuff it might take longer to do but will still complete in a reasonable time.

If you plan on gaming for recreational purposes of course when taking a break from your academics, it might be a bit slow. The laptop is definitely the preferred computer to bring. It's compact, portable and will allow you to go where it's quiet to study or be creative.
 
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  • #5
I concur on the wait and see approach. Size up the nature of the work you are performing, resources available at your institution and homework demands to assess your computing needs. No need to anticipate hardware demands before developing familiarity with them.
 
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  • #6
Wait and see is probably the best approach.

Just about any modern computer should be able to do what you need it to do. However, one thing to consider is the ergonomics. If you are going to spend a lot of time in front of the computer it is important to have a good keyboard/mouse and most IDEs are easier to use if you have a reasonably large screen (or even better, two screens). Hence, whereas it is possible to work in front of e.g. a small laptop it is not something I would recommend.
 
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  • #7
Your setup is plenty, if you are going to do something intense, you can either do it overnight, or in one of the computer labs. For the first couple of courses, you won't do anything that's terribly hard on your setup.
 
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  • #8
Note that most computer science classes don't demand much from the machines -- the demands are upon the student. If you write a compiler, a database, a client / server, it will be mostly you writing code and the computer doing a little bit of the final work.

There are exceptions (machine learning algorithms) but *you* will be the bottleneck with respect to most of your assignments and not the computer.
 
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  • #9
Thank you. This is very informative
D H said:
Either one of those is fine for your first couple of years, and possibly fine all the way through your undergraduate career. You might want to get yourself on a three year update program, but that's just to have your everyday equipment be up to date (but for students, a three year update program is rather pricey).

If you're going to major in an area such as high performance computing, you'll be working in a lab or VPNing into a lab that has clusters of somewhat expensive machines, more than $10000 each. If you're going to major in an area that puts you on the path toward supercomputing, a good but not great supercomputer is very much out of reach. Even with cheap and powerful CPUs and GPUs, a mediocre supercomputer costs $50000. A good but not great one costs ten times that. You'll once again be working in a lab or connecting to one.
 
  • #10
Much of the work you do you will be able to run the program using a pencil and paper. For undergrad work the goal is to learn the how and why of computer science rather than solve any major problems.

BoB
 

1. What are the minimum requirements for a PC for college level computer science?

The minimum requirements for a PC for college level computer science may vary depending on the specific courses and programs, but generally, it should have at least an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a solid state drive (SSD) for faster performance. It should also have a dedicated graphics card for tasks such as programming and data analysis.

2. Can I use a Mac for college level computer science?

Yes, you can use a Mac for college level computer science. However, some courses or programs may require you to use specific software that may not be compatible with Macs. It is always best to check with your college or university for their specific requirements.

3. Do I really need a powerful PC for college level computer science?

It depends on the specific courses and programs you will be taking. If you are only doing basic programming and coding, a decent PC with the minimum requirements should suffice. However, if you will be working with more complex tasks such as data analysis, artificial intelligence, or game development, a more powerful PC with a higher processor, RAM, and graphics card may be necessary.

4. Can I build my own PC for college level computer science?

Yes, you can build your own PC for college level computer science. In fact, building your own PC can be a cost-effective option and allow you to customize your PC to your specific needs. However, if you are not familiar with building PCs, it is recommended to seek help from someone who is knowledgeable in this area.

5. Is it worth investing in a good PC for college level computer science?

Investing in a good PC for college level computer science can greatly benefit you in the long run. A powerful PC can handle more complex tasks and allow you to run multiple programs simultaneously, making your work more efficient. It can also last longer and save you money in the long term, as you won't have to upgrade or replace it as frequently.

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