Advice for Computer Science student

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by billderry, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. billderry macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2014

    I starting a Computer Science degree in October, and would like some advice for buying a MacBook Pro. I know roughly what I need in terms of computing power.

    Here's what I'll use it for everyday:
    Browsing, e-mail, etc.
    Xcode for iOS development + iOS simulator
    VMWare for Linux virtualization

    Since I'll be using the computer a lot, I wonder if a bigger screen wouldn't be better for my eyes. I'll hook it up to an external monitor either case, but I will use it mainly on-the-go.

    Personally I see two options:

    Option 1 : buy a 15" rMBP with 2.0GHz quad-core i7, 8GB of RAM, 256GB or 512GB of storage, that I will keep four years.

    Option 2: buy a 13" rMBP with 2.4GHz dual-core i5, 8GB of RAM, 256 or 512GB of storage, that I will keep two years and upgrade after.

    I you have any personal experiences related to my situation, I'd love to hear them.
  2. cambookpro macrumors 603


    Feb 3, 2010
    United Kingdom
    Personally, I'd go for the 15" rMBP, with as much storage as you can afford.

    Both machines are great (you could probably even get away with upgrading the 13" one after 3 or 4 years as well), but Xcode on a 13" screen is a nightmare in my experience. It's amazing how much better it is on 15". Of course, an external monitor will be much better again, but for real estate vs portability, the 15" is a great solution.

    If you do plan on keeping it for 4 years, don't worry too much about the processor, but upgrade the RAM to 16GB. 4 years is a long time, and you don't know how your needs will change or how demanding apps will become, especially as now you can't upgrade it aftermarket.
  3. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I also think that 15" will give you more real-screen estate. But then again, the 13" can also do 1680x1050 if you are ok with smaller text.

    Performance wise, it does not really matter. 8GB will be sufficient for you (although 16Gb would give you some more freedom). The 256GB SSD should be quite enough as well.

    I believe, that in the end, its up to you to decide whether you want a bigger screen or slightly cheaper/more mobile computer. I'd go to the Apple store and spend some time in font of both, see what suits you most.
  4. itegypt macrumors 6502a


    Aug 6, 2011
  5. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    15" rMBP definitely, the extra screen real estate is worth it.
  6. Giev macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2013
    For your case get the 15" + 16 GB of RAM if you are on the go. But if you don't actually code on the go, and just need to do demo/presentation when you are mobile, I would go for a 13" + a ATP :

    13-inch MacBook Pro 2.4Ghz i5/16GH RAM/256 GB SSD + [B]27 inch ATP[/B] = $2,698.00
    15-inch MacBook Pro 2.0 GHz/16GB of RAM/ 512 GB SSD =  $2,499.00
    The 27" display would just make your life so much easier. Not sure if it applies to your case or not, but worth mentioning if you haven't considered it. :)

    The 13 inch is dual core i5, the 15 inch in quad core i7. But to be honest I have run loads of VMs as my own lab for testing etc, and have had zero issues on a 2011 13 MBP (8GB of RAM). You wont need the i7 processor unless:
    - You do video editing/encoding
    - Can stress the CPU hard enough to justify the additional two cores.

    I personally think CPU specs are overrated and base CPU configs would even suit most professionals.

    Just my 2 cents.
  7. s2mikey macrumors 68020


    Sep 23, 2013
    Upstate, NY
    Everyone seems to be jumping to the 15" models but as a student I'd think the portability would be something important. And, I have the 13" and I don't find the screen too small at all. I am doing some Xcode development on it too.

    You could save a good amount of money going with the 13" which is usually another concern for students. :)
  8. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    Just my few cents on the external monitors:

    a) the Apple Thunderbolt Display is a huge waste of money. You can get a 27" monitor for much less.

    b) many people have difficulty working with an external monitor after getting used to the retina display, the external monitors look very washed out and blurry in comparison. I have two FullHD displays on my desk, but I very rarely use them, precisely because of this.
  9. case2001 macrumors 6502

    Sep 9, 2010
    The difference between a 13" and 15" rMBP in terms of portability and weight is small.

    Consider this with the 13", an external monitor it will be where you live. If you have roommates, they may not be in a study mood when you need to work. Therefore you might be working for extended periods in the library, lab, or with a group in a class room. In those situations, the 15" will make you more comfortable and therefore more productive.

    If you are really considering a 13", what about an Air. It will be more portable the 13" rMBP. You can still use the external monitor and I think it would be cheaper.
  10. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    I prefer having 16gb when running virtual machines but I'm running Window so YMMV with Linux. Before I upgraded from 8gb my page out counts skyrocketed anytime I launched Windows. Never got a page out when running only Mac apps.

    For my ancient eyes, a 15" screen is the minimum size for coding. It really depends on how much coding/testing you will be doing away from your external monitor.
  11. Raffi macrumors 6502a


    Oct 1, 2013
    Shouldn't you be recommending to us? mr computer science! J/K. You should look at what other students are using.
  12. ChrisA, Jul 4, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014

    ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I was a CS major a while back. I've gone back to grad school. My opinion is that you will use this computer for general education classes more than for the computer science stuff. and you will be carrying this computer around with you all day. Get a computer that is physically small. One practical issue is the size of the desk surface in many classrooms. The 15" just does not fit. You'd be better off with a smaller, even 11" MBA.

    As for computer power, I know what student projects are and none of them are going to overtax any current Mac. Just make sure you have enough RAM for VMware.

    Software development do NOT use much computer power. But they do use a lot of screen space. I said buy a smaller computer, but also a large monitor. The largest one that you can fit in the space you have.

    If you do buy a larger size MBP, my prediction is that soon you will see that you want an iPad. You will buy one and then not cary the 15"MBP around leaving it on your desk. If this is the case you'd be better off buying a Mac Mini and a iPad. Just don't by a computer that is so large you are temped to leave it at home

    The MBA would be good for you but is has limited RAM. The 13" Retina MBP is very good. The screen is very clear and it is small enough to cary with you all day. Get lots of RAM if you use VMware a lot.
  13. jeremiah256 macrumors 65816


    Aug 2, 2008
    Southern California
    Agree with ChrisA. Especially starting out, nothing you'll study in the first few years is going to present a problem, CPU wise, if you go with either of the options you listed. I do recommend, whichever option you select, you go with 16GB RAM. You'll need it for both VMs and Microsoft Office for Mac (a resource hog).

    I’m back in grad school for Cyber-Security. Class is divided between PCs and Macs. Of those with Macs, only those few of us with computers older than 2 years have 15” MBPs. My computer is a beast weight wise (2011 15” MBP) so when I don’t need to lug it to class, I just pack my Nexus 7 (contains all my text books) and external keyboard in case I need to take notes.

    Talking to those with 13” MBPs (which are beautiful, btw), they have no problems with using a 13” screen in class. And they all have external monitors (some two) at home (all non-Apple monitors). None have mentioned any issues with going from the retina display to their external monitors, but admittedly, the subject has never come up; I’ll ask. I've seen no problems with multiple VMs on my older Mac (maxed to 16GB RAM) and while I don't use XCode that often (mainly simple Python coding in Vim), when I do play with XCode, I've had no problems. Hell, a few guys have the new Windows Surface and they do fine using both Virtual Box and whatever IDE they use for coding.

    In short, whatever option you choose, you'll be fine. Memory (RAM) is the most important item you'll need.
  14. billderry thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2014
    Thank you all for your replies. They were extremely helpful!

    I would rather go with the larger 15" base model, but with 16GB of RAM.

    I just wanted to add some information:

    1. I have a lot of programming side-projects (personal iOS/Android development) and think the extra processing power might be worth it. On my current 2011 MBP (2.2GHz, 8GB of RAM and SSD), iOS Simulator bugs a lot. VM run fine, though.

    2. I don't plan on using the notebook during lectures, only in labs, library, etc.

    3. I am going to carry it in my bag a lot (which fits a 15" without any problem), so weight my be a deciding factor. Just like jeremiah256 and glenthompson, I currently have a 2011 15" MBP, but it's getting too old IMO.

    4. I'll have an external monitor in my room, but I don't think I'm going to spend a lot of time there.

    (5. I'm keeping it four years, and might consider buying a 4K monitor in a couple of years.)
  15. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Sounds like you have it all vetted out, good luck with your purchase. 16GB will be more then enough for your needs, but I think its a smart move given your desire to keep it 4 years.
  16. billderry thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2014
    Yes, seems like it's perfect for my need. Thank you for your help.
  17. Brian Y macrumors 68040

    Oct 21, 2012
    If you're running multiple virtual machines, then the quad core 15" with 16GB of RAM is a no brainer.

    I have the same config, and I can comfortably run 6 VMs with 2GB of RAM allocated each without any noticeable lack in performance.
  18. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Same here, I have a quad core with 16gb and that bad boy doesn't blink when I spin up multiple VMs on it, and use other apps. Its a great machine.

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