Laptop Specifications for Class of 2019 | UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (2023)

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These are the laptop requirements for incoming students. Every student must have an Apple laptop in order to complete the program. Many of the courses provide special software and peripherals that only work on Apple laptops.

The following information will let you know the type of laptop you should purchase if you don’t have one, and the minimum requirements if you already own an Apple laptop.

Minimum requirements for students who already own an Apple laptop:

If you are planning on bringing an older laptop that you already own, it must be one of the following:

  • A Macbook Pro 15" Early 2013 or newer.
  • A Macbook Air 13" Early 2014 or newer(for print/writing students only) (only has 8 gigs of ram)
  • A Macbook Pro 13" Early 2014 or newer.
  • (Regular "Macbooks" that aren't Pros will not work.)

How to check if your existing Mac meets the minimum requirements:

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Click on the Apple Menu in the upper-left hand corner of your screen and select "About this Mac."

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In the window that appears, it will tell you the version of the laptop you own based on when that model was released.

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Options for students who will be purchasing a new laptop:

You may purchase one of the following new laptops from Apple for the program:

  • Macbook Air (for print/writing students only) (only has 8 gigs of ram)
  • Macbook Pro 13" (for students who do not plan to specialize in video, such as radio or non-video new media students.)
  • Macbook Pro 15" (for new media with a video focus, photography, television/video, and documentary students)

It is important for documentary and video students to purchase a 15" laptop!

Note: New Media is a broader category that includes students who specialize in web-video, data/investigative reporting, or interactive/coding. Non-video new media students may opt to purchase a smaller 13" laptop. However, the larger MacBook Pro 15" is essential for any video students, especially documentary filmmakers.

If you are uncertain about your planned concentration of study, it's important you equip yourself with a laptop that meets the potential area of study you might pursue.

How to purchase a new laptop from Apple using the Apple Educational Discount:

Visit and scroll to the bottom of the page, and select "Shop for College" link under For Education menu.

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You will be purchasing a "build to order" computer--this means you will be ordering items that are not in the default description. This is very important for students purchasing in an Apple Store. Tell them, " I am doing a 'build to order' laptop."

All Apple laptops after 2012 are NOT upgradable. Therefore, you get one chance to make the proper selections on a new "build to order" laptop.

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Only select the Macbook Air (print students) or Macbook Pro (all others). Do not purchase a standard Macbook. Note: That the Air will struggle doing video, so if there is any potential you plan to pursue video storytelling, you should elect to get a Pro. The Air only has 8 gigs of ram.

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For the Macbook Pro, you will choose between the 13" and the 15", which refers to the screen size and the level of power in the processor selections. The "touch bar" is an optional feature and its usage will not be included in the curriculum.


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NOTE ON PROCESSOR OPTIONS: A laptop is an investment in your education and career. Choosing a more powerful processor means it will last longer and potentially save you money in the long run since you will not have to replace this laptop as quickly. We've seen students get 5-7 years out of their laptops. Also, when on deadline, having a powerful laptop means you will be more efficient and have the ability to jump between more apps. However, we are mindful of the considerable expense a laptop adds to the total educational cost. Technically any processor offered in these new laptops will suffice for the program. We recommend speaking to alums on the Facebook group, or your J-sibling mentor for advice on which to get. Again, our recommendation is to go with the highest level if you have the means.

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Graphics (not shown): Documentary and video students should increase the video memory to "Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory." This will ensure the video editing software runs smoothly. Caution: this is a very expensive upgrade.

Memory: Apple will offer configuration options. You must have a minimum 16 gigs of RAM not matter what your computer selection is.This is also called "RAM memory," and will substantially increase your ability to edit multimedia like audio, video, and photos.

Storage: You must have a storage of at least 512gb, which means you will have more space to save your personal files. Many students have run out of hard drive space during their time with us. This is a good option if you don't feel you're very organized with your computer and cleaning out unnecessary files.

Processor: This processor is the general speed of the laptop performing tasks like opening applications. This option isn't as essential as the other two.

Important note on USB Adapters:

New Apple laptops no longer have the standard USB-A connections that most people are familiar with. They have been replaced with a newer port called “USB-C.” This means you will not be able to plug anything with the old style USB connector without using an adapter. This includes plugging in phones, hard drives, printers, or many other peripherals.

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We recommend ALL students who are purchasing a new laptop also buy one or more of the following adapters in order to plug in existing devices they may own:

There are other similar USB-C to USB-A adapters, docks, and otherperipherals you might find out there. These are two cheaper options we found.

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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

All APPLE SCHOOL: We are an all Apple Mac school. We do not accept any Windows based laptops to be used with our curriculum.

OPERATING SYSTEM:Purchasers of new equipment will automatically get OS 10 Sierra,howeverif you are bringing your existing laptop, you must upgrade to OS 10 Sierra in order to be compatible with school's curriculum and equipment. If you are not comfortable doing the upgrade on your own, see Roy Baril the first week of school he will help you.

SOFTWARE: The University will supply you with MS Office for Mac (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) and the complete Adobe Creative Cloud Suite (Premiere, Photoshop, etc.). Stay tuned for a follow-up email that will give you instructions for downloading this software.

SOFTWARE AFTER GRADUATION: You get to use the University supplied Microsoft and Adobe software for the duration of your time here at the school. After you graduate, the software will most likely cease to function.

APPLE EDUCATIONAL DISCOUNT: As a student, you are eligible for the Apple education discount. See the Apple Store for Education for details. If shopping online, this link should give educational prices:

LOANS: If you plan to purchase a new laptop and you purchase it between July 1, 2017 and May 30, 2018, you can submit it for a Cost of Attendance Adjustment to request an increase your federal loans to assist with covering the cost. Go to the financial aid website for more information.

HARD DRIVES: J-School students will need to purchase a portable, external hard drive for their media. Recommendations will be made in a separate email. Please wait on ordering a hard drive until we send you a list of vetted drives in August, as hard drive speeds, durability, video editing needs and compatibility will all be important factors. It is also wise to consider a back-up (at home) external drive for redundancy reasons. Each drive would cost about $150-$250 ($300-$500 total for 2 drives).

GEAR INSURANCE: All students, especially media production students are HIGHLY recommended to purchase 3rd party (renter's) insurance. The J-School has vetted a company called GradGuard who can offer such monthly insurance. GradGuard's insurance offers protection for theft of J-School (3rd party) gear, as well as your laptop and home/apartment all under the same policy. Rates vary but are usually about $30/month. Theft is a normal (but ideally infrequent) part of using gear. If a student does not have insurance coverage, then they are responsible for replacement costs. Direct questions to Chris O'Dea, J-School Production Manager. We will give full details during orientation week, students should wait until then to sign up. More information can be found here: J-School specific link to Grad Guard.

POWER:There are many locations throughout the school to power up your laptop in the event you forget your AC adapter.

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GEAR/LABS: We'll do a complete tour of labs and gear during orientation.

WIFI:There is ample WiFi access throughout the school.

QUESTIONS: If you have any additional questions, please feel free to either call or email Roy Baril, Director of Technology at 510-643-9215.


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