Architects and architecture students are inseparable from computers (actually, almost every profession is). This device is crucial, considering that almost all architectural tasks are performed on a computer, from designing in three dimensions, creating working drawings, calculating cost estimates, scheduling projects, creating three-dimensional visualizations and animations, to editing photos and videos.
Many architecture students or recent graduates are confused when it comes to buying a computer. With numerous options available in the market, they often wonder what kind of computer they should invest in. In this article, I will discuss how to choose a computer for architects and students. I won't delve into specific brands in this post and will only discuss general considerations according to the needs of architects.
Personal Computer, Laptop vs Desktop
Which is better, a laptop or a desktop? The answer is, there is no definitive answer. It depends on your needs. If you are a student or architect who doesn't have a fixed workspace, a laptop is the best choice. Conversely, if you have a fixed workspace and reside in one place for an extended period, then a desktop is the preferred option.
Laptops have both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is their mobility; you can use them to work from anywhere. However, they are slightly more expensive than desktops with similar specifications. As architectural work demands computers with high specifications, laptops also have limitations in terms of upgradability. If you are a student, make sure that the laptop you buy at the beginning of your studies will be sufficient for at least 4-5 years, compared to having to replace a laptop every 2-3 years.
Now, the question is, what kind of laptop? Since we need to work with architectural software that requires high specifications, the choice is a workstation laptop. Workstation laptops, designed for heavy-duty tasks, come with specifications suitable for professionals. Although they are not cheap, it is a worthwhile investment to support your work.
What about gaming laptops? For a student who also enjoys gaming, there's nothing wrong with choosing a gaming laptop. If you are a professional, look for a gaming laptop with a simple and slim design. Most gaming laptops are large and bulky, which may not be suitable for carrying to meetings or client presentations due to their weight and lack of professionalism in the eyes of clients. You can check my post on laptops for architects and students for further consideration in choosing a laptop.
For desktops, the choices are All-in-One (AiO) or custom-built. AiO is a computer that combines the monitor and tower into one unit, resulting in a simpler and neater appearance. However, because AiO devices are ready-to-use, upgrading their components is challenging. Like laptops, you'll need to buy a new computer whenever your needs can no longer be accommodated. In contrast, custom-built desktops require you to assemble components like CPU, motherboard, RAM, etc. yourself. This means that when an upgrade is needed, you don't have to replace the entire hardware, just a few components (e.g., RAM or GPU). However, not everyone is proficient at building their own desktop.
Compared to laptops, desktops are cheaper for equivalent specifications. However, make sure you're not someone who frequently moves before deciding to buy a desktop.
Operating System, Windows vs MacOS
Both operating systems (OS) have many users, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. I am familiar with both OS because I still use both of them concurrently.
Windows is familiar to everyone, and we have known this OS since childhood. Almost all architectural software is compatible with Windows. Windows is also compatible with almost every PC (laptop and desktop) available in the market today. However, Windows has some drawbacks. The most common complaint from Windows users is the threat of viruses. Microsoft also requires you to purchase the OS if you buy a new computer.
Unlike Windows, Apple provides their OS for free when you purchase a Mac device. MacOS is exclusive to Apple devices and can only run on Macintosh devices (although there's now Hackintosh, which is not legal). Some architectural software is also available for Mac users. However, unfortunately, some software is only available for Windows. However, you can run Windows on your Mac using Bootcamp, and this is legal, although it has some drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is that you have to reboot your Mac device when switching between OS, which I find to be a very inefficient workflow. In addition, Apple devices are known to be more expensive than devices from competitors.
As I mentioned earlier, the scope of work for architects is extensive. It involves not only designing, modeling, and rendering but also photo editing, video and animation creation, report writing, project budgeting, and all of these tasks require different software. Therefore, before deciding to use the Windows or MacOS operating system, make sure that the software you use is available for that OS. Don't let the choice of OS become a hindrance to your work because the required software is not available for that OS.
(+) More mobile, easy to carry and work from anywhere.
(+) Plug and play. No need to worry about hardware compatibility.
(-) More expensive for equivalent specifications compared to a desktop.
(-) Limited components for upgrades.
(+) Easily upgradable according to your needs and budget.
(+) Cheaper for equivalent specifications compared to a laptop.
(-) Requires space and is difficult to carry around.
(-) For custom-built desktops, compatibility issues between hardware may arise.
(+) More familiar and widely used.
(+) Compatible with almost all architectural software.
(-) More susceptible to virus threats.
(-) Sometimes not included for free when purchasing a device. For custom-built desktops, you have to purchase Windows separately.
(+) Comes for free when purchasing a device (both laptop and desktop).
(+) Can run two operating systems on one device (MacOS & Windows).
(-) Not compatible with some architectural software.
(-) Closed ecosystem, unless you have other Apple devices (e.g., iPhone or iPad).
To keep it concise, let's end this post here. In the second part, we will discuss the computer specifications needed for architects and students. Goodbye!