Mac vs PC for Computer Science

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by MrPudding28, Jun 25, 2011.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2011
    #1
    I am thinking of going into a computer science degree program when I go to college and I need to get a computer. I am trying to decide between two computers, the Alienware M14x and the 15" Macbook Pro.

    The specs for the Alienware are:

    PROCESSOR Intel® Core™ i7 2720QM 2.2GHz (3.3GHz w/Turbo Boost, 6MB Cache

    OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows® 7 Ultimate, 64bit, English

    MEMORY 8GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1600MHz

    VIDEO CARD 3.0GB DDR3 NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 555M using NVIDIA Optimus™ technology

    HARD DRIVE 750GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s

    LCD PANEL 14.0" High Def+ (900p/1600x900) with WLED backlight

    WIRELESS CARDS Intel® Advanced-N WiFi Link 6205 a/g/n 2x2 MIMO Technology

    INTERNAL OPTICAL DRIVE 8x SuperMulti DVD±R/RW Slot Load Optical Drive

    SOUND OPTIONS Soundblaster® X-Fi™ Hi Def Audio - Software Enabled

    BLUETOOTH Internal Bluetooth 3.0

    WARRANTY AND SERVICE 3 Year Advanced Plan

    Total Cost: $2408

    Spec for Macbook Pro 15"

    2.2GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
    8GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x4GB
    500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
    SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
    MacBook Pro 15-inch Glossy Widescreen Display
    Backlit Keyboard (English) & User's Guide
    AppleCare Protection Plan for MacBook Pro - Auto-enroll

    Total cost (Student discount + 7% MS Tax) $2587.26

    Both of these computers have the same processor. They both have the same amount of memory, but the Alienware is 1600mhz vs Mac 1333mhz. I need a hdd at 7200rpm and the Alienware has a 750gb vs Mac 500gb. They both have the same type of disc drive. The Mac only has 1gb of video RAM whilst the Alienware has 3gb.

    I know that the Mac has lesser specs and is more expensive, but I like how almost every aspect of OS X has a polished look to it, such as all of the icons are smooth and look sleek.

    I will most likely go with the Alienware if I would have to buy a copy of Windows 7 to do either Parallels or Duel-Boot for the computer science software, because I don't want to spend more if I don't have to. I don't know if I would have to use Windows for the programming part of the computer science courses. I would snap up a Macbook immediately if I would only need Linux to do the programming and the like.

    If Linux would be the only thing I need, then how much of the hdd should I partition for Linux so I can run all of the software?

    If anyone has taken a computer science courses and could tell me what they used, what the rest of the students used, what programs they used, and how compatible a Mac would be for the software that was used it would be very beneficial.

    I know that Macs are expensive because only Apple makes them and they can charge whatever the want, but the price for the hardware like the memory and the lack of choice for the video card, and how Apple won't ever seem to get a blu-ray drive. Also what is up with how Apple won't offer a 750gb 7200rpm hdd when you can easily fit one in the case?

    I would like some impartial opinions (even though I'm on a Mac forum) for how well both of these machines could hold up In a computer science classroom.

    p.s I'm sorry if this is in the wrong section, because I couldn't find a more appropriate place.

    -MrP
     
  2. awer25, Jun 25, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011

    macrumors 65816

    awer25

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2011
    #2
    Macbook.

    -It supports 1600MHz RAM too.
    -Windows is only $29 with a student discount - possibly free depending on your school.
    -It runs Windows too
    - MBP is lighter and gets better battery life
    - Go hi-res - when you're coding you'll want to get as much on the screen as possible
    - Buy an 8GB RAM kit yourself and save $100
    - Get a Squaretrade warranty - it's one of the best rated warranties in the country and has accidental protection, so when you drop it or spill a drink on it, it's covered.
    - The M14x doesn't offer a Blu-Ray drive either
    - You can sell your OEM Apple drive for more than the cost of a new 750GB 7200RPM drive.
    - Your major will change.


    That said, you can get a substantially similar M14x for $1700 if you just don't max everything out.

     
  3. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2011
    #3
    Get the mac, alienware has a bad failure rate and are much clunkier. A macbook pro would last much longer then an alienware. Every college is different, you should call them and check out what they require. Your computer science program will probally have a program that allows you to pick up a windows lisence for very cheap or free.
     
  4. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2009
    Location:
    Somewhere
    #4
    Also, what's the battery life on the alienware compared to the macbook pro? :)
     
  5. Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #5
    It really boils down to how are you going to use the laptop and what apps you're planning on running.

    The majority of replies here will be pro-apple, given that you posted this question on a Mac site. Conversely if you posted this on a windows forum, you'll get people stating that the alienware pc is better.

    Ultimate its up to you. Is the alienware as light as the MBP? The last time I looked at alienware, they had some pretty hefty laptops. I'd hate to be lugging them around. I'm not sure if this model you have fits that category.

    Pick the model that best fits your needs and budget.
     
  6. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2011
    #6
    I haven't been able to see a student discount for the Windows OS disc could you paste a link?

    Also how do I obtain a Squaretrade warranty?

    Will people be willing to pay more for a hard drive that is like any other, but has a little Apple on it?

    Should I skip out on the Applecare and just get the Squaretrade?
     
  7. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2011
    #7
    Macbook pro wins by a long shot
     
  8. Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

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    Location:
    New England
    #8
  9. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2011
    #9

    Featuring NVIDIA® Optimus™ technology and weighing less than 7 lbs.2, the Alienware M14x is capable of up to 6 hours of battery life.
     
  10. awer25, Jun 25, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 26, 2011

    macrumors 65816

    awer25

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2011
    #10
    Integrated answer.

    Just an FYI - I've owned a LOT of laptops (although this 2011 MBP is my first Mac) and I've always found Windows battery life numbers to be greatly exaggerated. If it says "Up to 6 hours", count on 4 MAX, 3 more likely. The MBP though says 7 hours and I get between 5-7 hours consistently.

    I updated my original list too btw.
     
  11. Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

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    Location:
    New England
    #11
  12. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2011
    #12
  13. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2008
    #13
    OSX would be better for compsci. I switched to OSX during college because it is basically Unix which is what all the labs ran. I you go with the Alienware I suggest you dual boot Linux and code on Linux.
     
  14. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2011
    #14
    Does basically being Unix allow it to run the necessary software on OSX?
     
  15. macrumors 65816

    awer25

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2011
    #15
    If you're looking to save some money, you can always get this Dell XPS 17 for only $999 with coupon code B2X9T6F5PF9DFF. $1500 saved goes a long way in college ;)

     
  16. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2011
    #16
    It seems to me now that a Mac Laptop is the best portable platform, but I will be assembling a pc for gaming.:D
     
  17. macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Location:
    Cedar City, Utah
    #17
    I would probably get a PC to start this. Okay so a lot of people use Mac.. But in the business world and home, a lot of people use PC. If you are getting a computer science degree you would probably want the PC knowledge of hardware and software. Upgrading, managing your bios and all the intricate settings, as well as more about how the hardware works. Unless you can plunk down money for a Mac Pro, you won't have this real world knowledge of PC's. Even then the Mac Pro isn't a PC.

    There's knowledge you need on the PC side of things, integral to your degree. You can learn a great deal about how hardware works in computers by getting a PC. I would go that route. You can learn a lot about Windows on a Mac but it still isn't a true PC. Consider hackintoshing a desktop. That will also teach you a grip about how OSX works.

    That is just my opinion. If I was starting a computer science degree at this point I would want to know about the headaches on the PC side and resolutions before going into OSX.
     
  18. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    Syracuse, NY
    #18
    I use my mac for CS, going into my senior year (2nd year with the MBP). Developing on mac is easier at my school since most of my classes depend on gcc and I'm a Terminal junkie, probably my #2 most used app after Chrome.

    For PC knowledge, install Bootcamp.
     
  19. macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Location:
    SI, NY
    #19
    Depending on your college, the computer science curriculam differs. As an example some add programming, and since most of the world uses pc's so it might just be easier. but I would say get a Mac because even if u need to run windows u can, even Mac os an windows at the same time if needed. Even the hardware is better usually so I would think a Mac is better all around.
     
  20. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2008
    Location:
    NH
    #20
    Just a heads up . . . all those helpful links posted earlier in this thread ("Windows for $29!") will not get you Windows for $29. What they'll get you, if you're a university student, is an UPGRADE from the Student Windows edition to the Professional Windows edition. Absolutely no use at all to someone looking to buy the Windows OS disk!
     
  21. macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #21
    For Computer Science get a Mac. The Business and common usage argument holds no weight here at all, CS Departments dont care what the real world uses, and having a UNIX based terminal is a lot more useful. Im doing a CS Degree course right now, and guess what, not one of my lecturers uses Windows. Not one. They all either use Linux or Mac OS X. Windows has no place in CS courses, as it is useless and none of the tools youll need will be Windows only anyway. Also the BIOS etc is NOT computer science, that is IT, and has absolutely nothing to do with it. My Computer Science course doesn't do any IT at all because it just isnt relevant to a proper CS degree course.

    Also, as a matter of course, no good CS program should be teaching you to code using Visual Studio/"Insert Windows only IDE" as its a pile of rubbish, or in fact using anything more than a text editor and a linker + compiler - Mac OS X and a Text Editor is a lot better coding practise and coding style enforcer than any IDE. (In fact I still write a lot of my course code on a PowerBook G3 from 2000 with Mac OS X 10.1 on it, as it means I cant get distracted as all I have is Terminal and TextEdit, which is all I need to get stuff done). Get a Mac, it will be a lot more useful in the long run as otherwise your PC will probably end up running Linux within the first year or two anyway, as nobody really uses Windows for serious CS, as its just not really up to it.
     
  22. macrumors 65816

    macsmurf

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2007
    #22
    Depends on the courses. I would be very surprised if any of them depended on Windows. I'm a comp sci student but not in the US so I'm not familiar with the structure. I've never run anything that couldn't be run on Linux/OS X. Many other students and a lot of the faculty run OS X as well and the infrastructure is basically *nix-based anyway. But that's us :)

    I would personally go for a Macbook Air when the i5s come out and a large external monitor (at least "24). Specs aren't really that important but screen resolution and portability is.
     
  23. macrumors 6502

    eljanitor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    #23
    Go with the Macbook. You may get some crap from your fellow classmates. Then again they don't realize that it runs that precious slow super vulnerable Windows 7 just like any other computer out there, exactly how any Intel machine would.

    Some of your professors may act like you brought some kind of evil abomination into their class, and you will most likely be met with responses to Mac questions with the following: "I don't know anything about Mac computers the rest of the world uses PC's, sorry I cant help you." Translation: I cannot get a job in the real world anymore working in MIS/IT because I lack the knowledge to do so, so I teach a class where I can feel superior to my students who I can lord over.

    You will be happier in the long run choosing the Mac. It also doesn't matter how new the computer is that you choose, by graduation time it will most likely be underpowered, and you'll want a newer computer at that time anyways.

    Best wishes to you in your future plans.
     
  24. macrumors 65816

    macsmurf

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2007
    #24
    Not really. People who actually know stuff about computers have a fairly healthy attitude towards operating systems and know that neither Windows not OS X is crap.

    If you want religion, go with a vi(m) vs. emacs discussion instead :)
     
  25. Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Location:
    New England
    #25
    Actually it's technically an upgrade from Windows XP or Vista to 7, but it can and has been used successfully to install Windows on many Macs.

    MSDNAA makes this moot though, because (depending on the school's participation in it) MSDNAA should be give the OP access to download any MS OS for free or much lower than US$29. These also tend not to be "upgrade" licenses.

    B
     

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