Almost any big-box notebook or laptop computer in the $400 to $500 range will meet the needs of a student starting out in chemical engineering, but check the course catalog before spending any money. Engineering schools often list minimum requirements and may even offer recommended packages with highly competitive student discounts. Here are some typical requirements along with tips to get the most for your money.
The curriculum for an undergraduate chemical engineering student includes math, science and engineering. In addition, all students must take English, humanities, social sciences and other electives. Engineering students should also consider finance and business courses for a well-rounded degree. The notebook or laptop will need to run word processing and presentation software, book readers, be able to access the Internet and connect to the school network.
Each school offers its own suggested or minimum computer requirements, but most suggest a fairly standard mid-level machine with better than standard graphics. These standards include:
• Windows based notebook or laptop computer
• 2 GHz dual core processor
• 4GB RAM memory
• 250GB Disk
• Minimum video 1024 by 768
• DirectX compatible video adapter, 256 to 512MB
• DVD read / write drive
• Hard wired Ethernet and / or Wi-Fi wireless network adapter
• USB connections for Flash memory drives
• External USB-based hard drive for backup
• Windows 7, 64 bit, Home premium or Professional edition
Software requirements vary depending on course needs and professors’ preferences, but word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software are essential for all students. Microsoft Office Standard - Student edition provides this functionality at a somewhat reasonable cost. Other software may include mathematical analysis tools, molecular modeling, statistical tools and other special purpose software. Hold off purchasing any software until it is needed, then check the campus bookstore or computer store to obtain discounted student editions.
In addition to the computer and software, consider a good, padded carrying case with room for books and papers as well as the computer and power adapter. Also consider a small portable printer. Most work now gets submitted via drop box or email, but hard copy still makes the best backup. 2 or 4GB flash drives or other portable media also work well for quick backup and to carry papers and presentations from one computer to another.
Where to Buy
With the school recommendations in hand, take a trip to a big box electronics store and get a feel for brands and prices. Unless portability is essential, go for the largest, most readable screen in your price range. Your student will spend many late night hours staring at this screen, so a good display and graphics are essential. Next, compare these prices to the college bookstore or computer store to see if they offer a better package.