Considering a laptop - need suggestions

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by Maritan, Nov 6, 2003.

  1. Maritan macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2003
    #1
    Hey there folks,

    I've been browsing through this forum and been looking at a few of the Mac vs. Wintel threads.

    I did find answers to some of the questions that I had, but I still felt that maybe you folks could help me decide if I actually asked you a pointed question.

    I'm a Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering specializing in Signal Processing and Communications. I'm looking for a laptop which will be powerful and efficient.

    Why? Because I will be running a software called MATLAB. It is basically a programming tool except it is geared towards engineers. Now, the programs I write are basically a set of statements in a for loop that I have to run about 100,000 times. Some simulations sometimes take a day. For these type of simulations, I will use desktops that I have available in my lab. I'm looking for a laptop that will, however, be able to manage simulations that take an hour or two to run.

    I will not be doing this all the time however. Most of my work is going to be writing reports on some word processor, reading pdf files and searching the net for info. I don't care about gaming capabilities. I have a console for that. DVD playing capabilities - maybe, not very high on my priorities. I barely get time to watch movies and even then I go to the theatre. Battery life, not the most important thing either, though I wouldn't like it to be abysmal. Almost everywhere I go on campus, I'm close to an outlet but I would like to take the occasional breaks and work outside. Wireless connectivity is important. Preferably compatible with the 802.11g/54g standard.

    I like the Apple laptops because they are unique. I don't need to constantly worry about any virus or updating the OS with myriads of security patches. Do you think a powerbook or iBook will match my needs? (I do need lots of RAM, but from what I gather from your forums, it's not too bad installing more RAM - bought from a third party -in the laptop.) If so, which one is a better choice? (I will be going for the 15" PB or the 14" iBook)

    Or will it be better if I stuck with a Windows based machine? If I do go for a Windows based machine I will most probably buy something that's Athlon XP-M based.

    So please let me know what you think. (I'm in no "hurry" to buy a laptop. I do want to get one by mid-December though.)
     
  2. leet1 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    #2
    If you want raw power, the windows machine will be your best bet. The amd xp mobile version is also great. When your doing simple word processing or hell any other task when your not needing full CPU, it turns the speed down and uses less processor.
     
  3. switchingGeek macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2003
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    #3
    I'm doing my PhD in EE(Networking), and so is my friend (DSP).

    Both of us just bought 12" PBooks. I bought 3rd party RAM (512MB) and installed it myself - very easily.

    Matlab runs well on OS X, and my friend does just that. I am planning to purchase Maple, and will be using it on my PBook, or may be my Linux workstation - haven't decided yet.

    Don't know which univ you are in, but mine has 802.11b EVERYWHERE!! The Airport Extreme card allows me to browse wherever I want!

    If you have the money then go for a 15" Pbook ( we didn't have the money :-( ..

    The 14" Ibook is useless for our purposes - the resolution is still 1024x768, and the processor is SLOWER than the 12" Pbook.

    So get the PBook, you will definitely not regret it. Battery life is good, the Wi-Fi antenna rocks - it's much better than most cheapo Wi-Fi cards!! Bluetooth to iSync your cellphone, Instant Internet sharing, remote login, file sharing etc.!

    If you work on Linux, you will feel right at home. You will need to download a few 3rd party tools (SideTrack, calendar apps, ITerm, etc) to give you all the apps you use in Linux, but once you do so, you will never go back!!

    One point is that, the 15" PBook has had a few teething problems. So I'd suggest you wait till apple gets over them. Also make sure you get the edu discount. Try with an online reseller, that way you can skip both the tax AND get the edu discount. You'll have to slog for it though.

    Also, you might look into the prices AFTER christmas I guess, or in the conference in Jan/Feb. This might be cheaper.

    My only complaints with the PBook - gets a little warm, not too much though..

    So Rock On with a PowerBook!!!
     
  4. crazzyeddie macrumors 68030

    crazzyeddie

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2002
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    #4
    I would try to get the 1.25ghz 15" PowerBook. The RAM is expandable to 2GB and ots faster than the 12" by 1/4. Also, the better graphics card will help in 2D also... Even if you get the 1ghz 15" PowerBook my suspicion is that it would be slightly faster than the 12" PowerBook.
     
  5. Maritan thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2003
    #5
    switchingGeek - Man, you gave me exactly what I was looking for.

    It's good to know that MATLAB runs pretty well on the PB. I definitely want the 15" - I'm set on it. Are the teething problems you mentioned with those bright spots on the screen? If so, I definitely want to wait. (How soon do we expect them do be sorted out?)

    Did you or your friend buy the PB online? If so, which website did you visit?

    I was going to wait till after the Thanksgiving period to buy the comp, but now there's information (going both ways) about performance boosts/price cut after the Mac Expo. I'm not sure exactly what I should do - if I should wait, or just buy one because the PB's just got an update.

    One last thing - if I can't wait till after the expo, then should I wait for the after Christmas period, or just the after Thanksgiving period?

    Thanks to all those that replied and those that do.
     
  6. jxyama macrumors 68040

    jxyama

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2003
    #6
    the newest version of MATLAB is version 6.5 for OS X. but it's a pretty poor port. they basically took the UNIX one and kluged it to run on OS X on top of Xwindows. it's faster than running 5 via Classic, but the GUI is all wrong. i'd hope they will release a Carbonized version of updated MATLAB 5 for OS 9 soon...
     
  7. switchingGeek macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2003
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    #7
    Yep - teething problem = white spot. Have no clue on when it will be resolved :)...

    Both of us bought them at the apple store online. Basically we did that two days before the 200$ for the Ipod got over, so we went with the apple store online. But I've heard on the forum,that if you call other retailers, they offer both the edu discount, AND no tax. So depending on your state tax, it might be good for you to try other online retailers.

    Oh, and I had complained abt it getting hot, well it just got really cold today, and the PBook was the (second) best thing I could have had on my lap, if you know what I mean ;-)...
     
  8. birdMan macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2003
    #8
    I'm EE(although only a sophomore) too and I just got the 15", It has some "white" spots on the screen but they are really not anything to worry about. You have to really look for them and get the right kind of background set up to see them. Matlab runs as well as I could imagine it could. The only problem i've run into is that we use Altera MAX Plus for circuit design stuff and there is no Mac version or linux version. So I installed Virtual PC and run it on that. Its a little slow on the compile, but it wires and stuff like that just fine. Since it does unix stuff pretty well i could imagine other EE progs that are unix based could be run natively.
     
  9. manitoubalck macrumors 6502a

    manitoubalck

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
  10. Dr. Distortion macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 2, 2002
    Location:
    Eindhoven, the Netherlands
    #10
    For more rediculously overspec'd (and overweight!!!) laptops you might want to visit the Liebermann website: http://www.go-l.com/laptops/index.htm

    -Dr. D.

    P.S. this is in no way a recommendation, I'd stick to a powerbook 12" or 15"
     
  11. jefhatfield Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #11
    Re: Considering a laptop - need suggestions

    i too, am a PhD student in the computer/high tech field and i will tell you right now, get a PC

    in almost all other cases, i would steer people to a 12 or 17 inch powerbook...especially for an undergrad student of graphic design who wanted portable power and could afford it
     
  12. AmigoMac macrumors 68020

    AmigoMac

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Location:
    l'Allemagne
    #12
    I use MATLAB...

    It's crazy, runs really great... if you accept it as X11 app. You need just RAM and go, get a 15".
     
  13. jefhatfield Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #13
    i have considered going to a PC as my main machine thru the rest of grad school and this is one machine i have speced out as one that could give me what i need as an engineer

    if money were no object, i would buy this, a 17 inch powerbook, and toshiba's 17 inch laptop and i would never need a desktop again;)
     
  14. sahnert macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle
    #14
  15. jxyama macrumors 68040

    jxyama

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2003
    #15
  16. Maritan thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2003
    #16
    I pretty much have decided that I'm getting the PB. The only question is how exactly I'm going to finance it.

    So, why did I reach the decision? Well, there's a prof here that has had a PB (677 MHz IIRC) for about a year and a half. I talked to him about it for about 10-15 minutes. He is VERY happy with his laptop, and hasn't had a problem with interfacing with all the other PCs out here. He has the Jaguar installed and he runs Matlab sims on the previous version of the Xwindow (is that right?) - not the X11. It did cause his computer to hang a few times, but he feels with the X11 it should be ok.

    On the whole, he recommended the system. So if a prof is happy, why would a Ph.D. student like me be unhappy? :D

    Thanks for all your replies. As I said, it's just a matter of time and me financing the laptop.

    One last question: Is there a thread here, or a website somewhere which gives me keyboard shortcuts to the basic functions. For example, on Windows, to maximize the window, it is alt+space+x. Basic keyboard shortcuts like those.

    Thanks!
     
  17. fraeone macrumors regular

    fraeone

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    #17
    Wow, I would like to echo that request, I am about to get a Powerbook and it has ocurred to me that I don't know some of the basics (like an equivalent to ctrl-alt-del)

    Definitely in need of a cheat sheet with all of the OS X keyboard shortcuts.
     
  18. sahnert macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2003
    Location:
    Seattle
    #18
    when you do get your new macs, just look in Mac help. Most or all are listed.
     

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