Architecture/photography student... what to buy?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by crank heart, Jan 14, 2008.

  1. crank heart macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2008
    hmmm, im about halfway through my degree and ive never owned a mac! but im constantly using them at uni and love them. my dilemma is that im not quite sure what to get. I would really prefer portability... but if its going to be to expensive to get what i need in a notebook, i guess i can stick with a desktop. I was thinking about the cheaper MBP + perhaps getting a large widescreen monitor to go with it for home use.

    Sadly I'm going to need to use windows as well... but the programs are mainly:
    -RHINO (windows)
    -Autocad (i think this is only windows? but not sure)
    ... and a few other rendering/3D apps. + Music software: Logic, Reason (windows)

    My main concern is whether the 128Mb card in the cheaper MBP will handle all the 3D work... atm i have a 256Mb thing in this PC and it seems to handle things ok. Also, RAM-wise... 2gb or 4gb (is there a way i can get more RAM thats cheaper than just customizing it through apple?)... anyway, just wanting some advice as to how to solve this issue as cheaply as possible. im a poor uni bum, and everything is expensive in australia!
  2. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    I'm sure you have your heart set on the MBP, 256mb would probably be more beneficial by the way, but I'm going to reccomend you at least look at a Lenovo thinkpad t61p, not only does it come with a 256mb Nvidia Quadro FX 570M which should far outperform the 128mb 8600GT on any professional 3D applications, but you are going to be working in windows anyway it and it will likely be cheaper. Shop around too you might find a reseller selling them cheaper.

    Start with 2GB of memory regardless and see how you do, you will want to buy memory 3rd party anyway. It only helps if you are actually using it (though by the sounds of it you will probably benefit).
  3. Jebaloo macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2006
    Hi, I'm exactly in the same situation as you.

    I'm a photographer, who until recently was an architect student (graduated last summer). So I know exactly where you are and can tell you exactly what you should get (based on my mistakes).

    You'll be wanting a MacPro. Most of these 3d programs are seriously demanding, and if you're ever expecting to produce a nice 3d animation of your model you won't be wanting to wait up to 5 days for it to render as I used to.

    Seriously, get a Mac Pro.

    Portability's lovely, but honestly with the software that you're using, and the number of late nights you'll spend working away, you'll want a nice large display.

    I did my entire 4 yr architecture degree on two computers. For the 1st two years i had the old iMac, which was way too slow, and waste of money because I couldn't upgrade it. Then I got a 12" PowerBook (great for train journeys, lectures etc. but...), which was a big mistake, tiny screen which is awful, especially when you're working in photoshop on bits of paper the size of a small wall for crits and presentations.

    Ask yourself how much you need portability, and if the answer is that it's just something you'd 'like', then be sensible and get the pro, expandable, big screen MacPro.
  4. Jebaloo macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2006
    p.s Vectorworks is a fantastic bit of software that a lot of London practices use. For students it is incredibly cheap and works on mac.

    It combined the 2d of archicad, and the basic 3d functionality of rhino (though not quite as good, but not bad either). Not as hard going 3d as Form Z though, if you're ever used that.

    If you're a photographer too, those big Tiff or Raw files will struggle on a low end MacBook Pro.
  5. arkitect macrumors 603


    Sep 5, 2005
    Bath, United Kingdom
    Just to let you know the development of Rhino 3D running on Mac OS X is under way…

    So far so good although a few functions are still disabled.
    Looking good for the future though. :) :D

    PS. Forgot to say: Mac Pro. You will not be disappointed.
  6. hulkster macrumors newbie

    Jan 15, 2008
    This is the problem i'm having as well. I'm an architecture student from the uk who's completed my first three years and am applying to go back for my final two in september.

    I've never owned a mac before but have decided to make the jump before september. I'm looking at a newly upgraded (hopefully!) 17" MBP with all the trimmings.

    :apple:2.6 GHz processor
    :apple:4GB memory
    :apple:200GB hard drive

    Luckily I can get it through my workplace minus vat (17.5%) so it doesn't work out too bad! :D I've gone with the 17" as i know i'll need the screen space yet will need to move it around from time to time

    Obviously programs like photoshop, illustrator, indesign etc etc will work perfectly on it but I use Microstation as my main cad tool which unfortunately is PC only and actually requires the right click button! Does anyone have any experience with this or let me know how it works. I really want to switch but can only do so if I can get Microstation to work perfectly on it.

    In regards to my spec would you think it'd be ok to run photoshop and create 3d photo renders??

    Thanks in advance, your help is greatly appreaciated guys

  7. Maccleduff macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2007
    I have a 2.2ghz MBP and I use it to run Autocad under VMware Fusion running winXP. It only runs in software mode at the moment but runs just fine.

    For heavier duty work like 3dstudio max I tend to boot into WinXp usingn bootcamp so I have the full capabilities of the graphics card.

    It runs photoshop just fine under mac OSX and 4gb is plenty (i have 2gb and looking to upgrade soon)

    Dont worry about the right click, its simple, you can put two fingers on trackpad for right click (one finger for left). I normally do my CAD work using a usb mouse as its so much easier, (i use the middle mouse button to pan).
  8. Jebaloo macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2006
    You will be able to run photoshop, and create 3d photo renders, but if you're thinking about creating 3d animations, then I'd avoid the MacBook Pro ad spend your money on the MacPro.

    As far as I know Micro Station will work fine on the MacBook pro with Boot Camp, which comes free on all new Macs, but you'll need to buy Windows separately.

    Right click is no problem. Just buy an external mouse (the apple mighty mouse looks like it only has one button, but actually has more). and you can always 'control click' when you're without your mouse.
  9. hulkster macrumors newbie

    Jan 15, 2008
    Thanks Maccleduff & Jebaloo. So glad i finally registered on here, you guys are wise beyond your years! :D

    Why do you say to avoid the MBP if i wanted to do animations by the way?? I would have though a top end MBP would have been able to handle creating them? In reality I would be creating photo renders 98% of the time but i'd want to have the possibility of creating animations if i ever needed to
  10. fivepoint macrumors 65816


    Sep 28, 2007
    Ok, first... you are a very heavy user. If you CAN afford it, a MacPro woudl probably be your best option. However, for most people... they are simply out of their price range. That being said, I will stick with the MBP or the iMac for my recommendation.

    Do you NEED portability?
    If so, the MBP is the only logical choice.

    Do you NEED more hard drive space?
    The MBP maxes out at 250 GB (if you are willing to select a slower HD) but the iMac handles up to 1TB (always at 7200rpm). I, personally, have over 500 GB worth of photos/videos... so the MBP isn't even an option because of this.

    Do you want a bigger screen?
    You mentioned that you'll be editing photos and video on your new mac. Doing those kind of activities will be almost unbearable on the MBP... you will be able to do it on the road which is nice, but when you are at your desk you will want an external monitor to make your screen useable. (a screen is going to cost you upwards of $500)

    Do you want a slightly faster machine?
    The iMac will beat the MBP in almost every performance benchmark. There are exceptions, but almost all... It isn't a big difference, but something to at least consider.

    Both the MBP and iMac would be a good option for you. They both will also run windows perfectly. I would suggest you definitely go with a 256 Graphics Card for the work you do... and I would also suggest you max out the RAM in whichever one you get (just don't buy the RAM from Apple. Get it from or something similar... its about 1/4th the price)

    You basically have to decide between portability and everything else (speed, screen size, hard drive, etc.)

    Either machine will suit you well!
  11. Jebaloo macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2006
    It just doesn't have the juice. Admittedly my experience was with older generation gear, but software becomes more demanding as computers become more capable, so I imagine the same problem is still relevant today. Go for a MacBook Pro (Top of the range 15", with the fastest drive 7200 rpm, which is smaller in volume), if you think that animations are just an after thought. I went through a period at uni where we were doing 3d projects and I would literally just have to sit my laptop down for a week and come back to see how it was doing rendering a 1 minute animation. No joke. Even then I once had to quit (as it was predicting 9 further days work), endless hassle.

    I guess, the thing is with laptops and iMac's is that they are limited in one way or another. If you're a serious heavy using student (which you appear to be), then I would maintain my original suggestion. An external screen with a MacBook Pro is great, but you're gonna need a new computer in 2/3 years if you're still expecting to be able to do the same stuff with newer software. With the same money spent on a Mac Pro you could extend its life greatly up to 5 years, and maybe buy yourself a low-end portable when you've saved up enough at a later date for those essential away from the desk moments (lectures etc.)
  12. Maccleduff macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2007
    It kinda depends on what program you think youll be using. I use sketchup quite a bit , works great under mac osx, and i use it for simple flyby animations. Granted its not the most taxing of programs.

    The MBP should serve you well, the portability is useful for when you want to show stuff in crits, and for presentations etc.
    Youd also be able to hook it up to an external monitor for more screen real estate when using photoshop.
  13. Jebaloo macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2006
    Maccleduff is right, for Sketchup animations, even a low end MacBook would do the job. I'm assuming that you'll be dealing with much more complicated 3d's than this though.
  14. hulkster macrumors newbie

    Jan 15, 2008
    Yeah, as useful as sketchup is I would be looking at using more powerful/draining programs. I would guess I would mainly be woking on photo renders but obviously don't want to limit my future options.

    I'm returning to uni in september so by the time I'm looking at buying my new MBP/MacPro they will all hopefully be upgraded ever so slightly. Think i'm looking to buy around june/july time at the mo.

    There's so much to consider but I just want to be definate that I'll be buying the best machine for my money at the time and obviously want to be 100% confident that it can do anything i throw at it when i need it most
  15. crank heart thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2008
    Thanks for all the suggestions!

    That lenovo one looks quite good, but seems to be around the same price as the MBP over here

    Rhino on macs is going to be awesome... and I've never really played with Vector works before, hopefully i can give it a go this yr!

    mmm, yeah it seems i really need a mac pro. If only i could afford one.. haha. I guess with what you guys have been saying if i go with a MBP ill need to spend a little more to get the 256Mb card... and use it with an external monitor, and in this case do more of the hefty render/3D stuff at uni on the fleet of sexy mac pros they have. hah, see the bonus here is i can get notebooks through my mums salary sacrifice thing and save... but cant get desktops.

    OR.. i could do the 24" iMac. Im thinking this will probably suit me more... and is kind of in the price range

    OR... (dont hate me lol.) i save some money and put together another damn pc like i seem to do every 2 yrs.
  16. janitorC7 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 10, 2006
    North Hollywood, CA
    without reading all of the thread, the photo thing tells me you need the screen size so I would say eaither a MBP for a MB/MBP with a ACD
  17. mac000 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 6, 2005
  18. wm26668 macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2008
    Maccleduff: middle button pan problem!

    I noticed that on your response above you say that you use AutoCad via VMware fusion. I have just tried the same but cannot get the middle button pan function to work... instead of panning it just allows me to oscillate between windows.

    I have mbuttonpan set to 1 in AutoCad (incidentally in Bootcamp I don't have this problem...). Any ideas? I think I use middle button pan more than anything else!

    Hope you see this!
  19. Maccleduff macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2007
    Hmm ive never had this problem, im using a usb mouse middle button to pan. running autocad 2008 in winxp. i didnt change any settings its all default.
  20. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    I agree with your recommendation, but I don't think your experiences are going to be the same as it would be for this student. A new MBP with 4 GB of RAM may be faster than what most architects are using right now! Were you using a G3, G4 or G5 Mac throughout university?

    I agree with you, and I would also recommend that he buy a similarly priced Mac Pro over the MBP. It's faster, and when speed counts, it counts. There's no other way around this other than to buy a desktop. However, in all honesty, if I was in the OP's shoes, I'd probably buy a MBP anyway. :p :D The advice someone gives is sometimes different than what he'd do in the same situation. That's the case right now.

    If your school will always have fast Mac Pros lying around, then definitely get the MBP and use the uni computers when you need the speed.

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