I'm just about to start a college to study GIS and I need new notebook computer. I would like a one that will last me for awhile and that can run the ArcGIS and ERDAS Imagine programmes that are provided for students without any problems.

One that I'm looking for at the moment is Toshiba Satellite 70-A-11h.

OS: Windows 8.1 64-bit (pre-installed) Processor: 4th generation Intel® Core™ i5-4200M processor with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 clock speed : 2.50 / 3.10 Turbo GHz internal resolution : 1,600 x 900 Hard disk capacity: 1 TB RAM: 8,192 (4,096 + 4,096) MB DDR3L RAM (1,600 MHz)

Could anybody tell me whether this is a good starter laptop for a GIS student or are some of the specifications a definite no no?

  • 2
    Really depends on how in-depth your schooling is! My training never really had me push any kind of complex geoprocessing so my laptop could handle day to day editing of relatively small datasets. However, most analysis I do these days would be difficult to do on a laptop.
    – rspencer38
    Jan 13 '14 at 18:58
  • 1
    My comment is, do you really need a laptop? If you don't, you can get way more machine (including dual monitors) than a laptop. You will be missing the portability but if most of your work is done at home, then the desktop would be the way to go.
    – user681
    Jan 13 '14 at 21:56

You can find the system requirements for ArcGIS 10.2 (the latest version) here and for ERDAS here.

The laptop you list more than satisfies the minimum requirements. For schooling you probably won't need a powerhouse and the machine you list will be more than adequate.

In the event that you want to upgrade here are some things to consider:

  1. Processor: an i7 processor will better handle running multiple programs at once, but it is by no means a requirement.
  2. Memory: more RAM is great, but 8GB is decent for a laptop.
  3. HD: A solid state drive would be beneficial (install the OS and programs on it), but it's tough to find an affordable notebook with this feature.

So, to answer your question, the laptop you list will do you just fine.

  • Note on the RAM: Until ArcGIS 11 comes out ArcDesktop is 32 bit only, and as such will only use 4GB of RAM. Radar's right, what you've specced will do just fine. Good luck! Jan 13 '14 at 19:43
  • @HeyOverThere: ArcGIS can actually use more than 4GB of RAM now, but only for geoprocessing. It's an addon for ArcGIS 10.1 and 10.2: resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.1/index.html#/…
    – Dan C
    Jan 13 '14 at 21:11

The overall hardware specs should be more than sufficient for basic tasks.

However, note that the display's vertical resolution of 900 pixels can be quite limiting during work with maps or satellite / aerial images. You could consider a notebook with higher resolution, e.g. a 1920x1080 display or similar. At least I recommend to do a hands-on-comparison of different screen sizes and check if your desired resolution really fits your needs. When it comes to everyday use, this is a lot more important than many other hardware details (like CPU speed) and working with GIS software on small, low-resolution screens can be a quite dreadful task.

(High resolution screens nowadays emerge on all different laptop scales, so this is not a sole high end feature anymore.)


I have an "older" 2011 HP with the specs show below. Consider this as a baseline for work with Erdas and ArcGIS 10.2. In other words, do not go with a system with less capability than this one as the lack of performance will likely be noticeable.

Realistically, any heavy geoprocessing you do is often on a school computer or a via VPN connection to a virtual machine maintained by the University IT dept. I would investigate what University computer resources are available to you prior to buying a laptop. A good rule of thumb is to not plan on using a laptop as a geoprocessing workhorse.

If I were you, I would get a portable (comfortable) laptop that can accomplish all the tasks needed for your schooling as opposed to a 17" i7 monster with an hour of battery burn time.

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.