Computers for Students and Young Pros

Getting Started

Graphic design computers are pricey little numbers. What should you buy? How do you do it on the cheap? What if you’re a student unsure of your major or staring down your post-grad loan payments? In the personal opinion of, with all the requisite legal mumbo-jumbo about not representing anybody else or being qualified to advise anybody about anything, here it is:

BASIC ART / DESIGN SETUP * $1120. – $2550.

1) mac mini with core duo intel chip and superdrive (used is fine)
2) imac with core duo intel chip and superdrive (used is fine)
3) mac book (laptop) with core duo intel chip and superdrive (used is fine)
4) core2 duo, core2 quad, i5, or i7 hackintosh, OSX 10.5+,  (if you don’t understand that, don’t do it)

MEMORY: $0. – $200.
* minimum 2gb RAM
* minimum 200gb hard drive
(Most of the above choices already have this.)

MONITOR: $70. – $200.
* viewsonic 19” CTR -OR- 19” LCD
(laptop folks can save money by getting a small screen machine but having a large screen at home for working at long stretches)

PRINTER: $0. – $75.
* cheapie inkjet

INPUT: $0. – $75.
* cheapie keyboard, mouse & scanner; get a $100. tablet if you like to draw

SOFTWARE: $400. – $600. (Student Prices)
* First Buy: Photoshop and Illustrator
* Then Buy: After Effects, Dreamweaver, Flash and InDesign as needed

Well, that’s it. That’s what you get. Check our resources section for links to equipment vendors. Oh, you wanted a little more information, some general recommendations? What about eighteen core quad towers? What about PCs? It boils down to this: Computers are like cars. A student or new [poor] professional needs a reliable computer that is easy to fix. Not the lastest / greatest, not something too old and prone to breaking, and certainly not the sporty little high end laptop that requires a special certification to pop the hood. Sorry.

What you need is an older F150 or an newer economy car. You can fix it and hotrod it yourself or just drive it around without hassle, you have a win-win choice between an exceptionally stable, known platform or great mileage, there’s enough room in the back for tools and, it has resale value when you are ready to buy the sports car. Well, at least more resale value than a PC. Speaking of PCs, get a Mac. Most commercial artists and therefore all college design departments use Macintosh computers. Yes, they are pricier but the intel chip based ones, such as those listed above, can also run PC applications. Just bite the bullet. You can always sell it if you change your major or decide to drop out and tour Tibet. Two hundred bucks is two hundred bucks, no?

To continue the metaphor, software is a tool. Buy the best tools. One at a time, if you need to. Once you’ve worked with industry grade software you will never go back to the cheap stuff. Student discounts get you in the door for thousands less than professionals have to pay so go ahead and get the good stuff- but ONLY as you learn how to use it. There is no sense driving around with a bunch of tools you don’t really use slowing you down. But then again, no one said our purchasing choices make sense… except those loopy neoclassical economists. That’s a discussion for a different semester.

Good Luck!


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