Best dorm mac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by 8thMan, Dec 29, 2006.

  1. 8thMan macrumors regular


    Feb 17, 2006
    My son is saving to buy a new mac to take to college in the fall (I'm helping out a little). The eternal question is laptop or desktop. He's decided to go with a pro machine either way, but is unsure which is most conducive to dorm life (mostly writing papers, internet stuff, probably [undoubtably] some gaming, etc.). When I was in college we used typewriters and Atari 2600s, so I am no help. Any college students out there care to chime in on this question? Thanks!
  2. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Absolutely a many wireless access points on college campuses these days. He'll want to take it to the library, the coffee shop, classes, outside and everywhere else for group projects, convenient access to other resources, and changes of scenery.

    Just get him a secure cable lock to help prevent it from being stolen and he'll be fine.
  3. dpaanlka macrumors 601


    Nov 16, 2004
    I've had a PowerBook of some sort since I started college in 2003. The laptop is probably the best choice for most college students. If you go into a college library, you'll see almost everybody has a laptop.
  4. xJulianx macrumors 6502a


    Oct 1, 2006
    Brighton, UK
    A MacBook will be your son's best bet. If he is only going to be writing essays and surfing the internet that is. It all depends how much he wants to play games on whatever he gets, in which case a MacBook Pro might be a better idea.
  5. trainguy77 macrumors 68040

    Nov 13, 2003
    Laptop for sure. My brother loves having a laptop on campus being able to work anywhere its great.
  6. VicRattlehead macrumors regular

    Dec 17, 2006
    laptop all the way. i had my powerbook in college and took it all over.
  7. pianoman macrumors 68000


    May 31, 2006
    people will tell you a MacBook is good but try out the MBP. i was surprised at the differences, despite all the similarities, such as better speakers. i also like the enclosure better and the little extras (i.e., keyboard backlighting).

    go to the store and let him decide, but don't discount the MBP just because it's more expensive.
  8. bill4588 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 2, 2006
    Kennesaw, GA
    I'm a freshman in college and I would say to get a laptop. It's nice to be able to take it anywhere at anytime. And if your son has work to do when he visits home, he won't have to bring his iMac/ Mac Pro with him; just a one-inch thin device. Having a laptop is very convenient. Also, instead of getting a MacBook Pro I would recommend getting a MacBook with 2GB of RAM and the biggest hard drive you can afford, that way you get more performance for the same amount of money (maybe even less). But if he's gaming then maybe the MacBook Pro would be a better choice.
  9. 8thMan thread starter macrumors regular


    Feb 17, 2006
    Thanks for all the input; it seems unanimous!
  10. puckhead193 macrumors G3


    May 25, 2004
    i think it depends on what he's doing with it. If he needs something with a lot of storage get a desktop, if not a lappy will do just fine.
  11. moesker007 macrumors member


    Jun 28, 2005
    Minneapolis, MN
    Laptop, 100%, almost every campus these days is wireless and he can sit in his bed if he wants, or down at the library, all over. I'm going to college 2007 and i'm just waiting and crossing my fingers for a smaller MBP. But ya...even if he needs extra storage just pick him up an external hard drive that he could leave @ the dorm and back up his stuff to.
  12. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816


    Nov 7, 2004
    What course is he doing? If he's doing anything where he's likely to draw diagrams when he takes down notes, a laptop would be pointless.

    I've got an iMac at uni at the moment, nobody I know with a laptop takes it out their room. The iMac is great because when I go home for the holidays (like now) it's still quite portable and easy to pick up and put in the car.

    The other question, why a pro machine? The current iMac is a great machine for everything you've listed he'll be doing on it.
  13. MartyMoe macrumors regular

    I vote laptop, but if you go with a laptop, there are a few things to warn him about:

    First of all, speaking of Coffee Shops, make sure he knows: absolutely no food or drink within three feet of the laptop, for any reason, even for "just a sec". I work at a school myself, and we see liquid spills that (best case scenario) ruin a keyboard or (worst case scenario) fry the entire computer for good if it leaks down onto the motherboard. The school here uses a brand that has the full accident/spill/drop insurance, but the one thing that saddens me about Macs is that they don't offer that. I can understand why, smaller market and so on, but until they do, tell him to be very, very careful with it. We try to warn people as much as possible, but since we have seen spills, even from teachers, it always bears repeating.

    Favorite spilled item, damaging a computer: Ranch dressing. Usual suspects are Coke, tea, water, and Gatorade.

    Most impressive spill, scored on artistic impression: One of our students had a big pitcher of water on the tall bookshelf above his desk above the laptop, and when he slammed the door behind him, he heard a huge splash... :eek: one of those times where he didn't even want to go back into the room because he knew exactly what just happened.

    Definitely. These things have legs and can "walk away" if you are not careful, especially at a place with a lot of people milling around, like a school. Make sure you have something by way of insurance... and there are actually places that can track a stolen laptop, but I can't remember off the top of my head.

    Also.. some sort of good case or padding to protect it-- next most common form of damage here is jamming the laptop into a backpack, putting in books, squeezing it, shoving in more books, squeezing it, putting in more books, and crack! There goes the screen....

    That being said... if you take care of it, a laptop is great. I had a desktop and breaking everything down and reassembling it every time I moved-- which was often-- really got to be a huge pain. Once I had a laptop, I don't really see myself buying a desktop again, for what I do; most laptops today have plenty of capacity and power, unless you do serious video or tons of photography. In that case you should be making backups onto another drive anyway, so storage is not as much of an issue unless you know for sure, without a doubt, that you will definitely need a lot of it.

    P.S. Sorry if this was long-winded... I do computer repairs, and if this prevents even a few accidents, tech people like myself everywhere will be extremely grateful. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that stuff.
  14. sushi Moderator emeritus


    Jul 19, 2002
    I would second looking at an iMac.

    As you said, portable enough to take home with you on the weekend/holiday. There are nice carrying cases for them -- I have one that will work with 17 and 20 inch iMacs -- so it is easy to transport an iMac.

    Plus with an iMac you get a lot more for your money like a bigger HD, full sized keyboard and mouse, better speakers, bigger display, etc. With a laptop you pay for the luxury of portability.
  15. MartyMoe macrumors regular


    I do agree with that-- good point. but only because I am really not a big fan of taking class notes (or diagrams) on a laptop anyway, as when it fails you lose everything... and they all fail. Second, the logistics of actually making it work for notetaking don't seem to work out well, ever-- it seems more like a distraction to me.

    I was speaking more in terms of desktop vs. a 'desktop replacement", a more portable computer for most tasks like email and paper writing, but for notes, I honestly prefer taking them by hand for the reason above. Plus, my pen won't run out of batteries halfway through the lecture....

    Also, I am at a high school, so kids try to dodge things all the time by saying "my laptop won't work, I can't take notes"... but when it is college, there is far more is on the line and it is more serious if it doesn't work. I prefer the tried-and-true technology. (Only pens, mind you, 4-color Bics, but NO pencils. I don't like pencils for some reason. Probably because of all of those standardized tests... no... no.. not the #2 pencil!!)
  16. xfiftyfour macrumors 68030


    Apr 14, 2006
    Clemson, SC
    I wouldn't do college without a lappy, personally. I take mine everywhere and love being able to access everything from anywhere. Group projects, down time between classes, library... it's just convenient. It helps, too, that my school is one of most "connected" (internet-wise) in the US.

    Though I must admit, the web is quite a distraction in some of my more boring lectures, lol.
  17. theprizefight macrumors member

    Oct 29, 2006
    absolutely a laptop. I went into college thinking that my desktop would be just fine. After freshman year I realized that I really needed a laptop and regretted not having one all year.
  18. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
  19. shellbryson macrumors 6502


    Dec 28, 2006
    Another vote for a laptop... and to back up the warning about food and drick too. I keep my PowerBook in a crumpler hymbook bag (pretty much a second skin for the laptop). Even when using it, I leave it sitting in the bag - if someone knocks over coffee on the desk... brrr. No thanks. Having seen this done very dramatically by a sales lady who came to see me a year or two ago; shakes my hand, puts her papers on the desk, pulls out her laptop to show me some demos. With seconds the poor lass has knocked her coffee across the desk, soaking all of the papers and made her laptop audibly go "pop". End of demo, and I suspect RIP laptop...

    Another tip - nobody EVER seems to remember backup their laptops. Even me. This is a Bad Thing. So buy an external hard drive to go with it for backups. Well worth the effort. I backup my PowerBook onto a very nice Lacie F A Porche 320Gb drive that was less than £100 - it's automatic so, being lazy I dont have to worry! Either that or a stack of 8.5Gb DL DVD-Rs!
  20. devilot Moderator emeritus


    May 1, 2005
    8thMan, does your son have a preference?

    I know that I actually prefer using desktops to laptops whenever possible. I saved up and bought a 12" PowerBook in '04 and found that though I did and could take notes on it (liberal arts oriented at the time, definitely not in need of drawing ornate diagrams and all that), it wasn't ideal. That tiny laptop was still feeling cramped in the lecture halls w/ those tiny tiny desks. That and even at approx. 5lbs, it was a drag to carry everywhere (yes, most of you will say it's not that heavy, whatever, personal preferences, ok?).

    Add in the mix that laptops are much more likely to be stolen or damaged (accidentally, even), I do say go for a desktop. Oh yes, and precisely because there are so many hotspots and so many peers do have laptops, your son won't need one. ;) Most campuses have a ton of computer labs and stations all over to use and there's almost always someone who wouldn't mind letting you check your email for a quick sec on their computer if it's absolutely dire.
  21. 8thMan thread starter macrumors regular


    Feb 17, 2006
    Does my son have a preference? Yes: A 3ghz Macpro for the desk, and a 2.33ghz MBP for on the go. And that's the dilemma. I know some would recommend maybe an Imac + MB, but I'm not sure that he really needs TWO computers. My question is really what machine has the most overall utility in a college setting. This thread has helped me to appreciate the virtues and liabilities of each option.
  22. devilot Moderator emeritus


    May 1, 2005
    Ah, I see. Yes, I think quite a few professionals don't even have a pro desktop and a pro laptop. ;)
    Well then in that case, if we're talking singular "machine" and "overall utility," I think I'd have to reluctantly but truthfully say the MBP. (And how long until you or he purchases a newer machine? If no longer than 1-2 years, opt for the MB instead). What a lot of people seem to find as a suitable solution is to have an external display to be hooked up w/ the laptop (as well as keyboard, mouse, etc.) for desktop use. Probably the simplest and most efficient way to resolve yours and his concerns.
  23. dpaanlka macrumors 601


    Nov 16, 2004
    I personally feel the same way. As much as I loved my 17" PowerBook, it has now been replaced by a Mac Pro, which I prefer. But I find most people who've see it have said things like "why would you want such a big tower" and stuff like that... I think a vast majority of college students prefer laptops overall. I even had someone just a few days ago refer to the Mac Pro sitting here as a "complete waste of space" - I could not give him enough reasons to justify why it exists, is so big, and is on my desk.

    If nothing else, they're very "in" right now.

    I guarantee your son is just about the last person in the world to need a Mac Pro. You basically described word processing and web browsing as his computer needs. He sounds like more of a Mac mini user...
  24. devilot Moderator emeritus


    May 1, 2005
    Well, I like desktops much more... but I'm not a huge fan of towers for myself. ;) I <3 me some iMac and even the Mac Mini. Mmm.
  25. aaronw1986 macrumors 68030

    Oct 31, 2006
    my vote would be for laptop too. More specifically, macbook pro. Laptops maes college life a lot easier, and are just nice in general.

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