Advice for Engineer - MBP/MB

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Mac One, Feb 11, 2008.

  1. Mac One macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2007
    I'm starting a 4 year Engineering degree at Melbourne uni at the end of this month. I will probably be majoring in Civil systems, but will try and keep my options open in the first year so, I if I want to, I can change to Mechanical.

    I'm not really too sure which portable Mac to get. I think either a mid MB or low MBP would be fine for the first two years of the degree as I don't think I would be doing much intensive work in MatLab or Solidworks. After that I'm not too sure.

    What I want to know is if I get a low MBP now, will it happily run the software I need to use in 3-4 years?

    If not would a better option be to get a mid MB, with the thought to upgrade it to another MB or a low MBP in 2 years time? (I don't want to find myself buying two MBPs over the 4 year period).

    The low MBP is just within my price limit and I wouldn't consider the mid MBP. I've been keeping an eye on the Oz refurb store and it moves rather slowly so I don't think that is an option. Bottom line is I want to buy a Mac at the end of the month that will run intensive programs when I need it to - in the final 2 years of my degree. Any comments, opinions, etc. will be appreciated. Thanks in advance

    Note: I know there are a couple of threads with information about Engineering and uni/college but most don't go into much detail about running the software towards the end of the degree.
  2. gauchogolfer macrumors 603


    Jan 28, 2005
    American Riviera
    I'd say that a Macbook will be more than enough for you. If your university is like most, any serious modeling software will be run in computer labs, not on your laptop.
  3. TEG macrumors 604


    Jan 21, 2002
    Langley, Washington
    Go with MBP. That way you won't be pining for a new computer until after you've been working for a few years. That will allow you to pay off any college debts before you get to the point where you need a new system.

  4. Mac One thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2007
    Thanks for your fast replies gauchogolfer and TEG

    One thing I forgot to ask is how good is the X3100 at CAD work. I mean everyone knows its not too good for the latest games, but I manage to do basic RhinoCAD work on our old PC with 5mb of VRAM, so surely it can't be too bad?

  5. VforVelveta macrumors regular


    Nov 16, 2006
    Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    I'd say either one should really do the job. I just finished my degree in '06 and did a lot of work in AutoCAD, Matlab, Maple, SPICE, etc. on the laptop I got my freshman year. Pentium 3 back then, don't remember the graphics card but I'm sure the X3100 could match it.

    My advice is the low end MBP. I've got a 17", one friend of mine has the 15" and another has a MB, and the 15" seems to me to be a pretty good compromise between the extra portability of the MB and the power of the Pros.
  6. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816


    Nov 7, 2004
    You'll be fine with the MB.

    Matlab is all on the CPU, which is more than enough in the MB. 2D CAD programs will also not touch the GPU and 3D CAD will run smooth enough. My uni uses computers much worse than my iMac for programs like Matlab, UGS NX, ProE and some CFD software and they aren't horrible to use.

    Most importantly, you'll be saving a hefty amount of £$£. If you sell the computer after a year, you'll normally make more than your money back and be able to buy a new version. I sold my white C2D iMac for more than I paid, and was then able to buy a new alu one with edu discount.
  7. LtRammstein macrumors 6502a


    Jun 20, 2006
    Denver, CO
    I'm an EE major at my university. I'm in my 3rd year (junior), and I actually use my iMac quite a bit with engineering work (CAD -- if necessary, Xcode, open source programs, etc.)

    Since you are going into Civil Systems you will be doing a lot modeling of trusses and buildings with shear designs, or even equipment design.

    I recommend a MBP.

    One, it can handle a much bigger load than the MB can, especially with analyzing data, CAD work, and programming.

    Two, it has independent graphics, so CAD will run a lot smoother on it.

    Three, you can always use Boot Camp to it's fullest on a MBP. That means if you really need to use their stuff, the MBP w/ Boot Camp can handle a bigger load than the MB w/ Boot Camp.

    Four, screen size makes the difference when it comes to designing something. Usually labs have a 17" minimum, so 13.3" MB is stretching it, but a 15" MBP would do well.
  8. Mac One thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2007
    Thanks for your replies VforVelveta, SpookTheHamster, LtRammstein

    One final thing: is it worth getting Parallels/VMware or should I just stick with Bootcamp?
    Will the work I will be doing be too taxing on a virtual system?
    If it's not too bad, how easy is it to transfer data between a program in a virtual environment and a program running through a booted OS? (if this even is an issue)

    Thank you for all of your help.
  9. psingh01 macrumors 65816

    Apr 19, 2004
    IMO the biggest difference between MB and MBP is the video card which you don't "need" but is nice to have. I made it through engineering and grad school with a couple of powerbooks. My preference for a stronger video card had nothing to do with school work though, I just wanted it :)
  10. skd macrumors 6502

    Aug 27, 2006
    carmel, ca
    get a refurb 15" MBP and use bootcamp....I'm an architect, and bootcamp's performance is so much better than Parallels or VM for doing "work" - and I would get a external display to have in your room.

  11. bmwpowere36m3 macrumors 6502

    Nov 8, 2007
    The question is whether you can actually get the software for your computer ($$$), because I'm also a mechanical engineering student @ Northeastern University I use ANSYS, SolidWorks, MATLAB, etc... and I don't believe I can get a copy of the stuff. I have to resort to use the computer labs to do that work and use my MBP (2.2Ghz) for word, excel, pp, internet browsing, etc...

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