Students must provide their own laptops for classes at NSS. In light of Apple’s recent release of the next gen Macbook Pro models, as well as the passage of time since our last review of hardware requirements, we have just updated our recommendations and guidelines for student hardware.
Here are our recommendations for laptops to use during our full-time or part-time bootcamps.
First, a couple of overall thoughts on hardware.
1) You do not need a new laptop for NSS - many machines manufactured since 2011 or 2012 will work just fine although some may benefit from upgrades (in particular to RAM).
2) Even if you are going to acquire a laptop it need not be a brand-new machine. Many students acquire used or refurbished machines.
Our benchmark laptop is the Apple Macbook Pro. Any Macbook Pro manufactured since 2011 will meet your needs at NSS as long as it has a minimum of 4GB of RAM (or even better, 8GB or 16GB of RAM). All of these machines can run the current release of the OS X operating system. If you are running an older version of OS X, please upgrade to the current version before the first day of class.
It is possible to use a Windows PC for the bootcamp as well. You should have a machine which at least matches the raw hardware specs of a Macbook Pro built in the last four years. If you use a Windows PC at NSS, we will help you install a development environment including a virtual machine and a version of the Linux operating system. We strongly recommend that any Windows PC hardware have at least 8GB of RAM due to the memory requirements of the software you need to run.
For those of you planning to buy a brand-new laptop for use at NSS we have a couple of specific hardware suggestions:
1) If you are going to buy a Macbook Pro, any off-the-shelf model will work since the minimum RAM on any standard model is 8GB. For those looking to save some money, a refurbished 2012 or 2013 model with 8GB of RAM is equally acceptable and possibly preferable to the newest models given Apple’s decisions about eliminating certain types of connectors, price levels, etc.
2) For those of you who need to purchase a new machine but are put-off by the price point on a new Macbook Pro, there are other options. Lots of manufacturers make solid laptops that match our requirements. One that we currently like a lot is the Dell XPS 13 series of machines. This is available with Windows or in a “developers edition” which means it comes with Linux installed and properly configured.
At this writing, an XPS 13 with Windows, i5 processor (minimum we’d recommend, don’t go with an i3), 8GB of RAM and 128GB solid-state drive is approximately $1,050 before taxes, shipping, etc. The developers edition of the same machine, which comes with Linux pre-installed instead of Windows, is about $100 less.
A couple of special words to all students planning to attend a bootcamp where you will learn the Microsoft developer stack including the C# language and .NET libraries and frameworks:
1) RAM is the most common performance bottleneck that our students confront in this class due to the frequent use of a virtual machine environment and due to the size of much of the required software. Anything less than 8GB of RAM in any machine will likely prove frustrating at times and 16GB is even better. If you can afford to upgrade to at least the 8GB level we recommend that you do so.
2) Windows laptops are obviously appropriate for this class although you should remember that the front-end web development first half of the bootcamp will require the use of a Linux environment. This can be installed and configured on your Windows laptop at the beginning of class.
3) MacBooks are also appropriate for this class since we can install Windows and a virtual machine environment on your Mac.