Student Tech Requirements


Information for incoming Freshman & Transfer Students

Updated: Sept. 2019

Portable Computers

Apple MacBook Pro portables are the preferred and supported platform.  Selected configurations best suit departmental coursework, and should have a long working life.

Purchasing Tips:

  • All students (Graphic Design, Photography, and Studio concentrations) are required to procure laptop computers.
  • While it may possible to procure models that are lower cost, these may hinder work efficiency, and will likely have a shorter usable life for professional work.
  • On campus purchasing—with educational discounts—can be made through the Cal Poly University Store
  • For those not yet on campus, be sure to use Apple's Education Store for best pricing. 

Option 1 - Preferred Model:

  • 15 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
  • 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor
  • Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
  • 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory
  • 512GB SSD storage
  • Optional: AppleCare Warranty Protection Plan - $239
  • Approximate cost with educational discount: $2,599 (+ $239 for AppleCare)


Option 2 - Basic Model:

  • 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
  • 2.4GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
  • 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory (optional configuration: 16GB)
  • 512GB SSD storage
  • Optional: AppleCare Warranty Protection Plan - $183
  • Approximate cost with educational discount: $1,899  (+ $183 for AppleCare)



NOTE: Apple portables CANNOT have their RAM OR SSD storage upgraded after purchase.  You MUST select the amount of RAM and SSD storage you will need over the entire life of the computer!

• Preferred RAM: 16GB
• Preferred SSD: 512GB

Required Software

  • Adobe Creative Cloud.  NEW!  $29.99 per year for all Cal Poly Students. Get all the information over on the Cal Poly Adobe CC page.
  • Microsoft Office 365 University.  Free for all Cal Poly Students. Find this and more available at the Cal Poly Service Desk.

If you feel the need to dive in and get familiar with the tools early, both Adobe and Microsoft offer a free trial subscription that you can download and install immediately.  Students can license the software once their Cal Poly user account is in place and active.


Recommended Peripherals & Accessories

Backup Hard drive or Cloud Service

Every computer should be backed up! Hard drives are fragile mechanical devices, and are subject to unexpected failure, not to mention damage, loss, or theft. Laptops suffer more data loss than desktops, so be prepared. Plan to purchase and use a secondary external hard drive and/or back up service.  

Every student gets 1 TB of cloud space on Microsoft OneDrive.  USE IT!

Simply log into the Cal Poly web portal, and click on Cal Poly OneDrive in the left menu. 

Access it anywhere you have an internet connection. OneDrive is a great way to backup work in progress and share with other students for group projects.

External USB (or wireless) mouse

Graphics programs require high levels of precision, and the touch pads built into laptops are not optimal for long-term work. Select a good quality optical or laser mouse, as inexpensive mechanical mice require frequent cleaning and are not precise.

USB flash drive

This small device will help you transfer files from one computer to another quickly and efficiently. 32GB should be sufficient for simple files, although larger sizes are available.

External Monitor

This will provide the user a larger viewable and working area which will increase productivity. A larger external monitor is useful for professional design tools in order to access necessary panels, settings, etc while still viewing your work, turning your notebook into a workstation.

Protective case or backpack

Keep your laptop protected from minor drops, scratches, and whether using a protective case that wraps snugly around the machine and has hard material to protect your computer.  Spills and drops cause costly damage, loss of data, and device deaths.

Warranties and Insurance

Because of the large financial commitment you will be making, we recommend that all students consider an extended warranty or insurance.  We strongly recommend purchasing an Apple Care protection plan, or a third party plan such as Square Trade, which extends coverage to most accidental damage as well.

Please read the Terms and Conditions carefully in order to decide if either is the right coverage for your needs.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I really have to supply a portable computer?

Yes. Many classes directly integrate computing technology in the classroom and in many cases students are expected to bring their laptops to class to work on projects. While the Department of Art & Design does have computer labs, most of these labs have a schedule and/or access limitations, so your own machine is often the best way to get work done on time and with the greatest flexibility.

2. What if I want to purchase a different brand or model of computer?

Students who choose to use another platform will find limited support from Art & Design staff. We have selected computers that are capable of running the professional software used by the discipline and associated industries. These Macs are also compatible with the University infrastructure (network, etc.) and are designed with professional use in mind. The recommended computer is also configured to have the best possible longevity within the disciplines.

3. What about computer upgrades/options?

Here is a short list of upgrades/components and what benefit they serve:

• Memory (RAM) - This is the single best upgrade to increase the performance and longevity of your computer. RAM affects your ability to run multiple programs simultaneously and can greatly improve the responsiveness of your computer. Some applications (like Photoshop) will use all the RAM they have access to. 8GB is the minimum, but 16GB will serve you well in the future.  NOTE: Current Apple portables cannot have their RAM upgraded; you must purchase the amount of RAM you will need over the entire life of the computer!

•  Processor (CPU) - The processor is the ‘brain’ of your computer and is involved in every aspect of its operation. Although getting the fastest processor will certainly make your computer faster at specific tasks and functions, there are many aspects of computer use that are not bound by the speed of the processor, so this is not always the most economical upgrade.  Students planning on doing extensive video production work should opt for all the CPU speed their budget allows. Faster CPUs typically extend the usable life of the computer as well.

•  Hard Drive/Solid State(Storage) - Traditional hard disk drives typically have greater capacity at low cost, while solid state drives are much faster, but at a higher cost per unit of storage. Keep in mind that general documents such as papers, spreadsheets, and email do not take up very much space. Video, photo, music, and high-resolution graphics files are typically very large files, and require the most storage space. Departmental recommended computers include ample storage for your projects and assignments, but large personal projects or libraries of content will likely require increased storage capacity or devices.

4. What sort of support will I receive at the Department of Art and Design?

The Department of Art and Design provides technical support for department-approved laptops. We provide the following services:

  • Connecting to the University network and servers. 
  • Required software installation.
  • Operating System maintenance and support.
  • Using the Department computer labs and printers.


5. Can I expect support for my personal hardware?

Yes.  While the department can assist with some basic diagnosis or troubleshooting, we cannot perform significant repairs.  If there are physical problems with your hardware, you will need to contact the manufacturer or an authorized service center, such as the Cal Poly University Store.

6.  What can I do before I arrive to be prepared?

  • Purchase all the necessary hardware and software as required for your concentration
  • Become familiar with the basic operation of your computer. Powering up, charging the battery, using media, etc.
  • Install the necessary software on your computer following the manufacturers' instructions.
  • Dive into Adobe Creative Cloud.  Adobe has some great tutorials here.
  • Look into purchasing some helpful accessories and/or peripherals.



Questions?  Contact Information:

Matt Corippo
LAN Coordinator
Phone: 805.756.1566
Building: 34 -160B



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