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Which kind of computer do I need and how do I order it?

Which kind of computer do I need?

In general WIN recommend Apple Mac computers. We have a lot of experience with Apple equipment and our infrastructure is geared towards a Mac eco-system. Having said that our HPC equipment is based on non-Apple computers running Linux; we can certainly support non-Apple desktop/laptop environments, would recommend Linux, and could even be persuaded to support Windows use-cases with a little moaning.

Most people at WIN can make a use-case for getting a laptop but this is expensive and requires additional accessories (keyboard, mouse and full-size monitor) to complete the work-place environment. Please consider this when selecting a device.

The cheapest and most eco-friendly solution would be a desktop configuration. There are more configuration options and these devices are often more powerful, have more disk space, support GPU add-ons (non-Apple), have more varied connectivity and display options, etc.

Laptop options

MacBook Air (M1/M2)

M1 M1 8 (4+4) 7 8/16G 256G-2T
M2 M2 8 (4+4) 8/10 8/16/24G 256G-2T

Good general purpose laptop. Plenty powerful enough for running: Office365; light-weight processing (e.g. Python, Julia, R, FSL or Matlab); visualisation tools; Email and Web browsing, etc.

Arguably the M2 option doesn't make a lot of sense as you are unlikely to need the additional processing and the Air doesn't have fans so speed throttling is likely going to be a frequent factor. If you need the power go "Pro" instead.

MacBook Pro

13" M2 8 (4+4) 10 8-24G 512G-2TB
14" M1 Pro 8 (6+2) 14 16-64G 512G-8TB
16" M1 Pro/Max 10 (8+2) 16/32 16-64G 512G-8TB

Suitable for some heavier weight processing tasks. Best option if you wish to do some production processing/software development on your laptop.

Completing the Office Environment

If you choose to buy a laptop computing solution then you must consider the rest of your desktop. For ergonomic reasons you should avoid dependence on laptop keyboards, touchpads and displays. A separate, decent quality, keyboard, mouse and display is essential. WIN has been equipping some shareable desks with suitable devices but if these aren't going to be available then you need to keep some money back to buy these essential accessories too.

Desktop options

All the desktop options could be useful for mid-weight processing. The Apple Silicon M1 and M2 processors are multi-core, have built-in GPUs and Neural Engine cores1 can be configured with plenty of RAM if needed.

Apple Desktop Computers

iMac 24" M1 8 (4+4) 8 8-16G 256G-2T
Mac mini M1 8 (4+4) 8 8-16G 256G-2T
Mac Studio M1 Max 10 (8+2) 24-32 32-64G 512G-8T
Mac Studio M1 Ultra 20 (16+4) 48-64 64-128G 1-8T

iMac: All in one desktop solution. Good for someone wanting a compact desktop system.

Mac mini: Relatively cheap device2. Suitable where you intend to re-use existing accessories. Good option where you want a different video than the iMac (24") display or the expensive Apple displays.

Mac Studio: Heavy weight processing option2.

Non Apple machines

We have some non-Apple laptop/desktop options running Linux and, occasionally, Windows. The University's preferred supplier, DELL, has an extensive catalogue of Oxford configurations available. If there isn't a suitable standard option then WIN IT can help you investigate a custom build for your needs.


Here are a few examples of what we'd suggest depending on your use-case. 

Mainly for Communications

If your needs are simple: document production; presenting; email; web; Teams, etc., then an iMac or a MacBook Air would be a good choice. Opt for 16G of RAM and 512G of HD as a minimum.

Software Development 

An iMac, non-Apple desktop, MacBook Air/Pro would suit you. Again, 16G RAM and 512G HD as a minimum.

Serious Number Crunching

A Mac Studio/non-Apple desktop machine would be best. Get >32G RAM (contact WIN IT to see if cheap after-market RAM is available).Consider if you should be using a more modest (Communications) machine instead, after all, you're probably going to be better off interacting with one of the HPC compute clusters and only need SSH/VNC viewer on your local machine.

Ordering My Computer 

All orders should be placed via WIN IT ( Please make sure you have obtained a suitable grant code, cost centre and expense category from the grant holder. 

New Macs and iPads will be enrolled in WIN IT's Orchard Apple management suite ensuring compliance with WIN IT policies. Orchard user documentation will be provided to users.  An overview of Orchard can be found on the following page. . 

New Apple computers are sourced from XMA. We should be able to obtain academic pricing slightly cheaper than the prices shown on the Apple website. The main benefit of purchasing from XMA is that the purchase price includes an additional three years of warranty provided directly by XMA on a return to base arrangement.

Examples of pricing comparison are shown in the table below. Accurate as of March 2023.

Model Apple part code Apple store price (ex VAT) XMA price (ex VAT)
Apple MacBook Pro w/ 4 Year Warranty M2 Pro Notebook 36.1 cm (14.2") Apple M 16 GB 1000 GB SSD Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) MPHF3B £2249
1 year warranty
4 year warranty
Apple MacBook Air w/ 4 Year Warranty Notebook 33.8 cm (13.3") Apple M 8 GB 256 GB SSD Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) MGN63B £832
1 year warranty
4 year warranty
iMac 24" Blue - Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine - 16GB RAM - 512GB SSD storage - Magic Mouse - Magic Keyboard with Touch ID (British) - UK Power Z12W41644UK £1665
1 year warranty
4 year warranty

 Accessories are usually purchased from Insight.





  1. Neural Engine processors are a kind of GPU specifically designed to accelerate Machine Learning operations such as convolutions and matrix multiplies.

  2. You will still need to get a keyboard, display and mouse separately.