Hardware requirements for Bootcamp at NSS

Sep 25, 2018
John Wark

Students must provide their own laptops for classes at NSS. In light of 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 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.

  3. No matter which technology you will be learning, you can use either a Mac or Windows laptop that meets our requirements as outlined below.

  4. No matter whether you are going to use a Macbook Pro or Windows laptop, you will need an i5 or i7 processor or the equivalent from other processor makers.

Apple Macbook Pro

Our benchmark laptop is the Apple Macbook Pro. Any Macbook Pro manufactured since 2012 will meet your needs at NSS as long as it has a minimum of 8GB of RAM (or, even better, 16GB of RAM). You will definitely need 16GB of RAM if you plan to use your Macbook Pro in a C#/.NET bootcamp. If you are running an older version of OS X, please upgrade to the current version before the first day of class.

Windows PC

It is also possible to use a Windows PC for any of our bootcamps. You should have a machine which at least matches the raw hardware specs of a Macbook Pro built in the last four years. Just as with a Macbook Pro, your Windows PC needs at least 8GB of RAM (16GB is better but not required) due to the memory requirements of the software you need to run in any of our bootcamps. We will be using Windows 10 in class, please upgrade if you are running Windows 7 or earlier.

Considering a New or refurbished Laptop?

For those of you planning to buy a 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. If you can afford 16GB of RAM that’s better but not required except for the C#/.NET bootcamp.

    For those looking to save some money, a refurbished 2013, 2014, or 2015 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. Be sure to check any refurb to ensure it has adequate RAM or it is capable of being upgraded - the most recent Macbook Pro models are not upgradeable. A Macbook Air is also usable but, again, make sure the processor and RAM meet our requirements.

  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. Many 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, a new XPS 13 with Windows, i5 processor (minimum we’d recommend, don’t go with an i3), 8GB of RAM and 128GB solid-state drive starts at approximately $1,050 before taxes, shipping, etc. There are several configurations with either i5 or i7 processors and either 8GB or 16GB of RAM in the price range between $1050 and $1400.

As to other hardware specs, e.g. hard drive type and/or capacity, graphics card specs, etc. These are secondary considerations as it relates to our class. For the most part you can make these choices based on any other requirements you may have (e.g. are you a gamer - then you’re going to be concerned about graphics cards, etc.). As to your “hard drive” choices, you can use either a solid state drive or traditional disk drive. Solid state drives are still a bit more expensive for a given amount of storage but will perform faster. For our web developer bootcamps this performance dimension is not critical.

In terms of capacity, even a relatively small (in today’s terms, that means 128GB) drive is enough for anything you will use in our class although you should assume you won’t have room for pictures, videos, music files, etc. If you can afford more, buy more - at least 256GB.  But you can always add a full terabtye or more of external disk storage in the form of a portable drive for a very nominal price.

The one exception to the disk storage advice above is for those using a Macbook Pro for the C#/.NET class - you should view 256GB as the bare minimum as you will need space for two full operating systems and associated files. Much better would be 512GB.

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