Recommendations for your personal computer

Acquiring the Equipment

For second year (3rd semester) bachelor-level students, it is obligatory to have a personal laptop, but we highly recommended you have one from the beginning of your studies at EPFL.

You can purchase the equipment you need via Poséidon (http://poseidon.epfl.ch/), as soon as you are registered and have an EPFL e-mail address.

Of course, you may choose to purchase the necessary equipment on the open market, but be careful about the after-sales support and the guarantees (often valid only for one year, with an option to extend; even though federal legislation requires the material be guaranteed for two years).

The choice of an operating system is not important
Unix/Linux is the most commonly used in computer science, but Windows and Mac OS X also work well. (However, as of today, iOS and Android are not yet sufficient.) You can easily install a virtual machine on Linux, Windows or Mac OS, which will enable you to use another operating system, or you can configure your computer to boot up a choice of the three systems.
The choice of a brand, as well, does not matter
Acer, Apple, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba Acer (among many others) all provide quality products. (In general, Apple products are more expensive for the same level of service.) Currently, Poséidon offers only products from Apple, HP and Lenovo.
the processor
the brand – Intel or AMD – does not matter; recent processors have two or four cores.
The graphics processing unit (GPU)
If you are interested in all the aspects of graphics (images, videos, etc.), use a dedicated graphics card (Nvidia or AMD). For all other uses, the Intel/AMD chips with integrated graphic processors are sufficient.
RAM
Anything less than 4GB is insufficient, and 8 to 16 GBs are preferable for a processor with four cores.
Wi-Fi connection
essential, preferably with a/b/g/n or ac.
Data storage
SSD disks are light, consume little and are rapid for booting your computer and starting applications; but they do not increase the speed of calculations and are slow at transferring large files. They are expensive in terms of capacity and are limited to 256 GB, or to 512 GB at double the price. HDD disks (classic disks) provide from 750 GB to 1 TB and enable you to put all your data on your computer.
Screen, batteries, weight
You must optimize the three. The larger the screen is, the more the weight and power consumption increase; so to ensure energy autonomy, a large battery is necessary, but it is also heavy. The quality of large screens (15” and 17”) is often inferior to smaller ones (13”), but it is difficult to work on a screen of 11” or 12” (however, at home you connect your laptop to a large screen). The data storage space is limited in “ultrabooks” (thin, laptops with 12- or 13-inch screens.) Finally, with a larger laptop, when needed you can change the hard disk and the battery (which enables you to augment the autonomy, to replace it with a second one if needed and to replace the battery when it ‘dies’.)
important information
Keep in mind that a laptop is fragile (the Panasonic Toughbooks , and those of F9, AX, CF-BX, CF-SX, etc., are robust without being heavy or large, but they are more expensive; and when open, their screens are as fragile as the others). Therefore, we recommend that you purchase a protective case and perhaps also a sac especially adapted to your laptop; avoid dropping it and above all be careful with the screen.
At home
it could be useful to have a large screen (more than 20”) and an external (standalone) storage system are useful (for example, a simple box that holds one or two empty disks and that connects to your computer via a USB key 3.0 or another fast connection; this is easy to use, flexible and an inexpensive solution, an example is ”Icebox”). By storing your data separately, you will be able to keep a copy of all your data, with an unlimited storage capacity.