Recommended Kit List

New students to UAL Creative Computing Institute often ask us what we recommend you have available before you start your new course with us:

1. Your own computer

Owning your own computer is not a requirement of studying at UAL, however it is certainly a great benefit when it comes to time and flexibility of working for students, and if at all possible we strongly recommend students have their own laptop that they don't have to share with others at home.

If accessing a laptop is financially difficult for you, you may be able to access limited funding through the hardship fund which kicks off after the start of each year.

As a general rule there is no requirement for either a PC or Mac, you should pick what you are most comfortable with using. With the introduction of the new Apple Silicon (M1) Mac's the cost of a Mac has come down substancial making the comparison between the 2 somewhat less obvious, especially with student discounts available from Apple.

If you are specifically looking at a Windows or Linux computer you may get better value from purchasing a desktop computer for home use, then taking advantage of the large number of PCs and MacBook Pro laptops that are available on campus during and between classes.

BSc Creative Computing

Students studying on BSc Creative Computing you may prefer to choose a Mac as there is a unit in these courses where access to a Mac is required.

There are 48x MacBook Pro computers available across CCI's sites, and many more at UAL's Libraries across London so it's not necessary but perhaps slightly more advantagous to pick a Mac on these courses.

This information was updated Summer 2022 for the 2022-23 academic year.

Mac

If you are you are looking to purchase a new Mac we recommend the MacBook Pro 13" with M1, however if you need to save a bit of money the MacBook Air 13" with M1 is similar.

The main difference being it has no cooling fans which means as it gets hotter the computer will slow down to avoid overheating, which on longer workloads can be an issue.

The most important take away from this grid of specs is: Do not buy the 8GB memory option.

MacBook Pro 13" with M2

A B C
Processor 8 core 8 core 8 core
Graphics 10 core 10 core 10 core
Neural 16 core 16 core 16 core
Memory 16GB 16GB 16GB
Storage 256GB 512GB 1TB
Price with discount £1,429 £1,629 £1,809

MacBook Air 13" with M2

A B C
Processor 8 core 8 core 8 core
Graphics 8 core 8 core 8 core
Neural 16 core 16 core 16 core
Memory 16GB 16GB 16GB
Storage 256GB 512GB 1TB
Price with discount £1,329 £1,529 £1,709

We also recommend purchasing AppleCare+ or a similar warranty and insurance scheme for repairs.

AppleCare+ 3 years MacBook Air 13" with M1 MacBook Pro 13" with M1
Price with discount £175 £183

Around August/September each year Apple will run the Apple Back to School deal which in addition to the discounted prices above will include some kind of free giveaway, this has been gift cards or AirPods in the past.

PC Laptop

Generally we're pretty big fans of Dell (XPS, G Gaming, or Alienware) and Razer brand computers, however there is a large market and you should pick whats best for you, the following specs give you an idea of what to look for...

Check for USB-C charging and display connection as plug in stations at CCI all use this.

Minimum graphics
The minimum graphics required will depend on the course, if you are studying areas including machine learning, data science or 3D you should try to obtain any NVIDIA RTX series GPU.

PC Desktop

At CCI we primarily use Dell Precision 36xx series machines and can't really fault them for their value, reliability and performance, elsewhere in UAL we also use Dell Alienware although the warranties tend to be a bit more expensive with these.

2. A Reliable Internet Connection

There are a number of different courses at CCI with different modes of study, obviously students studying on fully online courses will need a reliable internet connection, however since the pandemic video calling has become a part of every course as it allows students to attend tutorials and access technical support from home.

As a general guide you should anticipate at least 6 Mbps download per person and 2 Mbps upload internet.

So if you live in a house with 4 other people (5 total) then you should be looking to have at least 30Mbps download and 10Mbps upload for a reliable experience.

You should avoid using mobile data (3G/4G/5G) data plans where possible as they're susceptable to massive variation network congstion which can affect your ability to take part in classes (even now with 5G).

As a general rule from our experience you should start your search in this order:

1. FTTH (Fibre to the Home) / FTTP (Fibre to the Premesis) / FTTB (Fibre to the Building)

FTTH/FTTP/FTTB providers are by far the best option for home broadband provision, often offering upwards of 3Gbps for prices that aren't that different to the 2nd and 3rd options on our list, meaning you could aim for a much cheaper 150Mbps package for about £25 a month on a 12 month contract.

Whats more most providers of 'true' fibre are symetrical service whcih means bout 150Mbps download and upload as compared to pretty much all the others on this list where the upload speeds tend to be somewhere between 1/10th and 1/3rd the download speed at best.

A lot of these companies are open to haggling if you want to get the same price but without the 12 month contract you might be able to get a rolling monthly plan.

2. DOCSIS 3 Cable

Virgin Media is the only cable provider in London, and the majority of the UK they offer DOCSIS 3.1 internet connectivity which can be very fast, however the cost of Virgin Media broadband when compared to FTTH providers can be pretty high, and there are parts of London where large numbers of customers put strain on the network and it can be very slow at peak times.

3. Copper Phone Line / FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) providers

VDSL and ADSL are the conventional way that that broadband has rolled out in the UK since it's inception, however running over decades old copper phone lines and in some highly congested parts of London a conventional BT (now Open Reach) telephone line isn't going to offer you either the best value for money or the best performance, but is preferable to a mobile data plan.

4. MNO (Mobile Network Operator) Mobile Data (4G/5G)

MNOs are people you get your SIM card from but also own their own network, in the UK there are only 4 consumer networks that own their own network with EE, Vodafone and O2 tending to be the best (but more expensive) options in London.

Three's unlimited data plans for low cost means they're very popular but they tend to have pretty slow service across the more densely packed parts of London.

5. MVNO (Movile Virtual Network Operator) Mobile Data (4G/5G)

We don't recommend using MVNO type broadband for remote learning.

MVNOs are often cheaper than MNOs because they have a kind of second class citizen status across the network, this can make 4G/5G even worse, and really is something we'd recommend you avoid at all costs for remote learning.

3. Headphones and a Microphone

Although most computers have a built in set of speakers and microphone using these for video calling can cause issues and we recommend that at very least you use a pair of simple headphones.

Depending on the design of your computer you may find a lot of noise can be heard on the video call when typing on the keyboard. For this reason ideally you would have a microphone built into your headphones as it dramatically improves the audio quality for the people you are speaking to.

Theres no need to spend a lot of money, you might want to get a headset which you can also use to listen to music, however if you are looking for a cheap purpose built headset, we give our staff the EPOS/Sennheiser PC Chat 5.

4. Webcam

Most laptops come with a built in webcam, if you don't have a laptop or you don't have a webcam in your laptop we'd recommend one. It's really useful when getting technical support from staff if you are at home.

There are plenty of cheaper options, we have looked at all the options and think the Logitech StreamCam is by far the best value for money while still being affordable.

5. Software

We don't recommend any specific software be procured before your course as you can access Microsoft Office for free as a UAL student and other software would be course/year dependent and we often try to avoid commercial options.


Revision #9
Created 20 July 2021 11:22:39 by Tom Lynch
Updated 29 July 2022 12:04:41 by Tom Lynch