We get this question often from prospective students, so we asked our ambassadors, experienced CS students to answer:
"As far as computers go, every CS student has access to the computers in the 3rd floor and basement labs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex for their programming and general purpose needs as well as the computers around campus in the libraries and other computer labs for general purpose use. The computer labs in Gates are open 24/7 for student use. Therefore, the type of computer that you should buy in preparation for coming to college should be one that you are comfortable using. There is no departmental preference between Windows, Mac, Unix, or Chrome operating systems. In terms of hardware, few classes will actually stress your computer to the point where processors overheating becomes an issue and for CS classes that require a lot of computing power for simulations or graphics, most students use the computers in the labs. Most computer science classes do not allow students to take notes on laptops during class, so laptop use in class would likely only be for non-CS courses and would probably consist of note taking. [For example, a student recalls using a laptop with a processor that was 2 or 3 steps behind the i3 as well as one with an i3 processor and had no laptop related problems.]
While having a laptop in college is not a requirement, I definitely recommend that students bring one just in case they need to use a computer while in their dorm room. As for the type of computer, the best, short answer that I can give is for you to bring the laptop that you are most comfortable using, because you won't have to do anything on your personal computer remotely that you wouldn't be able to do on a lab computer (besides take notes in class). It is definitely common for students to have basic laptops for general purpose use. For example, a student might primarily use their laptop for note taking and occasionally remote accessing to one of the CS machines at UT to do programming. If a student requires the use of a certain software or needs to be on the network (and etc), they typically choose to work in the labs. There are students who have more advanced laptops and even desktops, but it's definitely not required and most people use these more advanced systems for personal use such as gaming, not because it's a requirement of the major. This is why we suggest prospective students to buy whatever laptop they feel comfortable working on and has the capability to do what they would want to do outside of class."