Laptop Computers & Software Recommendations

Laptop Computers & Software Recommendations

The Landscape Architecture Department has 24-hour general access computers, scanner, and printer located in the studio environments. The department has a requirement that all freshmen and transfer students have a laptop computer as they enter the program, and for the entire duration of their degree. In the profession of landscape architecture, computing is an integral component, and developing the ability to critically integrate hand and digital tools is a fundamental aspect of landscape architecture education. A laptop computer is key to having computing capabilities available at all times and at all locations. Financial aid may be available to cover the cost of the laptop computer (contact the Financial Aid Office for more information).

The studio environment has wireless access (as does the Cal Poly campus) to facilitate internet access to the web, email, instructional media, server storage, and student printing. The Landscape Architecture department has a PC-oriented facility; however, making the decision to purchase a PC (Windows) or Macintosh (Apple) laptop computer depends on the student’ budget and personal computing preferences. Certain software applications such as ESRI ArcGIS and Lumion only run in Windows operating systems (ArcGIS is a required class in the department; Lumion is not). AutoCAD for Windows performs better and is more popular in professional offices than the Mac version, thus the department teaches the Windows version. Windows 10 can only be installed on Mac computers that have an Intel processor (in 2020 Apple began transitioning from Intel processors to Apple M1 chips, which do not support Boot Camp and cannot run a PC operating system).

If a freshman student already has a device (Mac or PC) capable of running and using Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud, the student may use the device for the first year, and upgrade the second year to a laptop with enough power and storage to create 2D and 3D visualizations and multimedia used in design projects (Office can be installed on five devices, and Adobe Creative Suite can be installed on two devices). The department does not recommend using 2-in-1 convertibles nor 2-in-1 detachable devices as the main laptop device.

Recommended Laptop Specifications

  • PC or Mac: the department is transitioning to have only Dell computers in the 3rd and 4th year studios. A PC computer may be a better choice because some software is only available on Windows, or runs better in a Windows operating system.
  • Recommended screen size: 15”
  • i7 (9th generation or later) processor
  • 16 GB RAM (min.)
  • 8 GB (recommended) or dedicated graphics card
  • 500 SSD GB hard drive (min.)



Current version of the following software:


Educational Pricing

Adobe Creative Cloud is available at special annual pricing for all Cal Poly students. Microsoft Office 365 University is free for all Cal Poly Students. Cal Poly offers Sophos Central Endpoint Protection antivirus software to students at no cost. Find more about this and other software downloads at Cal Poly Information Technology Services Software.

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