What Type of Computer Do I Need?

Incoming students often ask, "What kind of laptop or desktop computer should I get?" The answer is: whatever you feel comfortable with.

Nowadays, even the slowest netbook can compile the largest program you will ever write for a class in less than a second. We use eclipse as the IDE of choice for CSCE 145 and CSCE 146, which you will be taking your freshman year, and in some later classes. Eclipse runs on Windows, Macs, and Linux, so you do not have to worry about which OS to choose.

A few things to keep in mind when choosing a laptop:

  1. USC has free wifi over all the campus, indoors and outdoors, so get a laptop with wifi.
  2. More RAM is better than less, especially since later on you might want to run a virtual machine to try out different operating systems.
  3. Eclipse (like all IDEs) has lots of little windows you can use. A 13" screen works well for most, and smaller screen sizes tend to be too cramped. Still, this is a matter of personal taste. If you can, install eclipse and try it out to see how you like it.

Desktop machines will run faster, for less money, than a laptop, but the extra speed is almost never needed for coding. However, a desktop machine can have a much larger (27 inch) monitor(s) and nicer keyboard, which can make it more pleasant to work with.