Best laptop for law school/main computer?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by unsolvedmistere, Dec 3, 2010.

  1. unsolvedmistere, Dec 3, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    unsolvedmistere macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2007
    #1
    I'll be attending law school this coming January. Class begins around the 10th so I will hold off as long as possible in the event Apple MAY release a new MacBook/MacBook pro. Given they don't, I still need to purchase a laptop primarily for law school based on the current lines. Besides the typical law school work load, it will be my main computer as well. I definitely want it to run smoothly when playing/streaming full HD content. Additionally, I play games such as WOW every so often and want to retain the ability to do so if I choose. I dont mind reducing visual settings, but i definitely dont want to have the sense that it is "struggling." Besides that, I do very little graphic editing in Adobe PS, but again, I want to retain the ability to do so as well. Obviously cost is important and I'd like to remain around $1500 after the student discount or below if possible. Ill be using this computer for approximately 3 years if not more so i want it to last. Can I get by with a MacBook Air and enjoy the portability and convenience of size or should I opt for a MacBook pro? If I can get by with an air, what size/configuration? If I need a MacBook pro, I'm leaning toward the 15" given it will be my main computer, but I'd still like your input. What are your opinions? Any current or former law students able to chime in? Thanks in advance and I look forward to reading your comments.
     
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #2
    Any current Mac will fit your needs. Buy the one that fits your budget and/or aesthetic preference best.
     
  3. unsolvedmistere thread starter macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2007
    #3
    Thanks for your input. I just realized the Airs don't have backlit keyboards. I'm assuming that will be a huge disadvantage if/when lectures will be given with overhead projectors and lights turned down/off. I'm thinking I will have to choose from the MacBook Pro line.
     
  4. TheAshMan, Dec 3, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    TheAshMan macrumors regular

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    #4
    The best computer for any school is...

    ...a Windows convertible Tablet PC.

    A little background on my 2 cents: I use an iMac at home and have a Macbook Pro for work and use both Windows 7 and OS X all the time so I am very familiar with both platforms.

    I love OS X and Macs, but the absolute best application for collecting, organizing and finding information is OneNote which is part of MS Office and I think comes with every Tablet. The HP TouchSmart tm2t series is a good model and it starts at <$800, so you would have the spare cash to purchase software and other things you need. Absolutely nothing comes close to OneNote for a virtual notebook and it has too many great features to start listing here. I have tried virtual notebook apps for the Mac like EverNote and CircusPonies Notebook and they pale badly in comparison. The Office 2010 version lets you store and synchronize OneNote notebooks in the cloud so you can have edit access to your data even when you don't have your laptop with you. That is free with a Windows Live account.

    A major benefit of a convertible tablet is the fact that you can flip the screen down and write notes which is great for class or anywhere. Then those notes are always backed up to the cloud, you don't have to worry about losing your precious legal pad.

    Also with the Windows file system you have the built-in "previous versions" feature which lets recover the previous version of any file or save you if you accidentally delete something. You get that without any backup to a separate drive, but use something like Dropbox so you can access documents from anywhere.

    I'm sure many here will tell you to get a Mac which is nice, but for getting the most benefit for your buck for serious work and to make your life easier, get a convertible tablet with Windows 7. If you don't like the HP model, Dell, Gateway and others have the same. Even when you don't use the flip down screen, it will be a great lightweight laptop. I have used 2 over the past 7 years and would choose it again for work or school over a Mac laptop.

    A Mac is great fun to use, for work and home depending on your use case, but you are limiting yourself. In law school you need every edge you can get. The Tablet will make your life easier.

    Good luck in school!
     
  5. unsolvedmistere, Dec 3, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    unsolvedmistere thread starter macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2007
    #5
    Wow, thanks for your very informative reply, TheAshMan. I'd like a Mac given I've used one ever since the classic II was released and I'm nowhere close to as familiar on windows. It might not be in my best interest to start familiarizing myself at this time. Is there anything stopping me from using bootcamp to use the features you listed? You definitely bring up a very good point as to which software to use and I'll have to research that on the Mac side.
     
  6. Troilus macrumors newbie

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    Nov 11, 2010
    #6
    I'm using a new Macbook Air 13 (sometimes attached to a dell monitor) for my PhD/JD studies. The portability was a huge selling factor for me, and it goes everywhere with me now. I haven't needed a backlit keyboard, however, when I've been to lectures with the lights dimmed--not off. This could, of course, pose a problem, but (for me) it wasn't enough of a deterrent. Just my two cents. Good luck with your JD.
     
  7. TheAshMan macrumors regular

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    Clarksville, Maryland USA
    #7
    Sure. Hmmm... never used Windows? Then my idea may not be such a good fit, although I'd bet you would be fine after a few weeks of learning Windows. Especially with W7 which is the best version of Windows so far. You can use OneNote and anything else in BootCamp, though you wouldn't have the ability to write on the screen which is nice. Everything else is great and will function just fine though.

    One thing I forgot to mention is using the Tablet as a reader. When you flip the screen down and read documents or PDFs it works great, kind of like a fat iPad. That mode let's you highlight on the document and also write/edit on a Word file which is known as "inking". It is quite a great way to review documents. I have to read a lot of PDFs and it works great with the full screen mode as a reader.

    Best of luck whatever you do!
     
  8. 7thMac macrumors 6502

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    May 10, 2010
    #8
    Law school won't be that demanding on a computer. Mainly you will use a browser and a word processor. Use your other needs to determine which model is best.
     
  9. thegilly macrumors member

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    Auckland, New Zealand
    #9
    I know it sounds like work, but, honestly, learning to touch type will serve you well in almost any future career, and will also obviate the need for a back-lit keyboard. Personally, I'd consider the opportunity to get a matte screen a much stronger reason to get a 15" or 17" MacBook Pro. I've sat in so many lectures watching the kids in front of me fiddle and fiddle and fiddle with their screen angles trying to avoid the glare from overhead lights--and watching the perfect reflections in their super-shiny screens as they pick at the keys--while I'm happy with my matte-screened machine (first an iBook, then a 15" MBP with anti-glare screen). YMMV.
     
  10. unsolvedmistere, Dec 3, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    unsolvedmistere thread starter macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2007
    #10
    I know word processing is going to be the least of my worries and that's why I didn't focus on it. I'm wondering if I can get by on a MacBook Air. The problem with the air is the lack of a backlit keyboard and matte display. I Was hoping maybe someone in law school/similar scenario can give their opinion when it comes to typing in dimly lit lectures and or problematic glare.
     
  11. unsolvedmistere thread starter macrumors member

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    #11
    Good point. Thank you.
     
  12. unsolvedmistere, Dec 3, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    unsolvedmistere thread starter macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2007
    #12
    Thanks for sharing your experience with an air. I think I've narrowed down my choices to either the MacBook air (still not sure what size) or a matte 15" pro. The air because of it's portability, weight, size, and price and pro for it's matte screen, backlit keyboard, and i5 processor. So basically, in order to cut the Air out of the scenario, I need to conclude it won't last/serve me 3 years for one resson or another. Maybe it wont last physically or perhaps the C2D won't cut it at some point within 3 years. Or possibly the lack of an antiglare screen or backlit keyboard will be a big enough problem. And to cut the 15" Pro out of the scenario, I need to conclude the extra money doesn't warrant the features/options the MacBook air lacks.
     
  13. jahala macrumors regular

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    Feb 7, 2008
    #13
    What are testing requirements?

    Have you looked at the testing requirements for your school? At least one law school in the country requires that all students have laptops running Windows because of the testing software used. Dual booting is explicitly disallowed and each laptop is checked before tests. Hopefully, a Mac will be allowed at your school.
     
  14. TheHareBear, Dec 4, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2010

    TheHareBear macrumors member

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    #14
    If I were you and it was my main computer I'd go for the MBP. If you can afford it go for the hires antiglare upgrade: as this is for law I presume you'll spend a lot of time writing essays and comparing sources so the more screen real estate the better? I've just finished an MBA using a 15" MBP (and Dell Mini 9 hackintosh) and it was fine, but more screen would have been a bonus. Using Spaces was invaluable for multiple fullscreen apps.
     
  15. frank.deale macrumors regular

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    Jan 23, 2010
    #15
    I teach in a law school and I believe the major downside to getting a MacBook Air is the absence of a port to lock your computer to a desk.
     
  16. brucem91 macrumors 6502

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    Dec 9, 2009
    #16
    I wouldn't worry about the C2D not being good enough in three years. Look at it this way. If you were to get one today, it would run perfectly. 3 years from now you will probably still be at law school using the same version of office/iwork. It won't "suddenly" become too slow(well, without taking a hammer to your laptop, but being slow would be the least of your worries at that point). As far as the 15" MBP anti-glare, it's not that bad in the portability department. I used to bike two miles to school with a 15" MBP in my bag, no problem. It's still pretty thin though and probably one of the smallest 15" laptops available.

    As said before, *any* portable mac will serve your needs just fine, as long as your school allows for it.
     
  17. ChrisRC macrumors newbie

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    Oct 14, 2005
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    Chicago
    #17
    I'm a 3L in law school. You could basically use ANY laptop for this stuff. You just need Word (at least for exams). I've seen everything from 17" MBPs to those 9" mini laptops. Some of my classmates even take hand written notes (crazy to me - but I'm not a big note guy as it is).

    I have a 15" MBP. I like the bigger screen size. If you're on a strict $1500 budget, I'd say either go new 13" MBP or refurb 15".
     
  18. unsolvedmistere thread starter macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2007
    #18
    I have checked and the school supports macs. Thank you for thinking of that. I most likey would have assumed mac support without even checking if I didn't already come across it before.
     
  19. unsolvedmistere thread starter macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2007
    #19
    I'm not too worried about that in class, however, it does bring to my attention the possibility of theft in the library. Thank you.
     
  20. unsolvedmistere, Dec 5, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010

    unsolvedmistere thread starter macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2007
    #20
    I wouldn't say im on a strict $1500 budget, but id like to stay closer to $1500 than $2000 given i wil likely have to pay tax in addition to the price. Would suggest against the 13" air? After ram upgrade to 4gig it practically comes out to the same price as the 15" i5 which already comes with 4gig ram. I don't think the difference in SSD will be obvious in my use.
     
  21. FSUNoles macrumors newbie

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    Nov 24, 2010
    #21
    Hey unsolvedmistere, I will also be attending law school next fall, and I went ahead and bought the base 13" pro. I think with either the air or pro you'll be fine, like previous posters said its mostly just word processing. I'd recommend the pro just because it has some more power, in case you'd want to do light gaming occasionally as you mentioned.. Just curious, what law school are you attending, I know most admit in the Fall of every year...also, how was your lsat score..I'm taking mine this Saturday, wish me luck lol.
     
  22. skate71290 macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 14, 2009
    Location:
    UK
    #22
    15.4" 2.4GHz i5

    I highly recommend the 2.4 i5, it will be more than capable for your needs, and as recommended earlier, try and get the Hi-Res display, it is great for having several Journals and a Word Processor (recommend Pages) open simultaneously :)
     
  23. RAWphenom macrumors member

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    Nov 4, 2010
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    606/859, KY
    #23
    are there younger people out there who still don't know how to touch type?? i'm a sophomore in college and, at my school, we had keyboarding classes as early as 5th grade IIRC... i can only assume most schools were the same....

    now this is out of pure curiosity, but why is it you're so hung up on getting a backlit keyboard?? if you can touch type, then i really can't see any need for having one...
     
  24. Ibjr macrumors 6502a

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    Eastern seaboard
    #24
    I am not reading the rest of this thread because I do not have time to deal with ridiculous mac rumor users... I will check back and answer questions but I have a brief to finish.

    1) Is this in the United States? If so, you should know that the legal profession is in the midst of a horrible transition and I know unemployed 2009 and 2010 grads from schools like Columbia, UVA, Duke, UGA, and Berkley. The flood of new lawyers have driven down the pay.... there are ADAs that start out making less than paramedics (and they only need a GED).

    2) If you do insist on going, you need a laptop with 4gb of ram because MS Word is a terrible ram hog.

    3) The only reason you probably need a laptop is for exams; most of the exam software is something like EBB (electronic bluebook).

    4) American professors don't teach the law, they ask a bunch of stupid questions.... just realize you shouldn't be typing all the time.

    5) If you are in an American law school, buy http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Maybe-Excel-School-Exams/dp/0890897603 . Law school exams are only graded on organization and style... By my third year i was prepping 8-9 hours for an exam w/ an old outline after having done none of the reading for the entire semester and getting better grades than my 1L year when I read everything.
     
  25. Ibjr macrumors 6502a

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    Eastern seaboard
    #25
    I have no clue why anyone would ever have several journal articles open and, even if they in some bizzaro world they did, why they would need an 2.4ghz i5 processors for 3 safari windows + an MS word doc. In law school students have free lexis and westlaw printing....

    No one in their right mind would ever recommend pages for law school. Stick to something you know about.
     

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