Best Laptop for School/University?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by thesimplelogic, Jun 29, 2014.

  1. thesimplelogic macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2014
    Hello everyone,

    At the end of this year I am planning to buy a new laptop for school. My hopes are that the laptop which I buy I will be able to use for quite a few years.

    For the moment, the decision is between the 13'' Retina and the 13'' Air. This is a very common decision, I am just having trouble knowing what would work well for my needs and what would be overkill.

    Air Specs;
    1.7 i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB
    Retina Specs
    Not sure about processor - i5 or i7? 8GBs RAM minimum, maybe 16, and 512 GB SSD

    The uses should not be too intensive, so to say. I would be using it for the obvious word processing/presentations etc, internet, mail, but from the school I am able to have Adobe CS6 installed, which I will not use massively but basic PSing, LR, etc.

    I will be running LPX on my iMac - I don't think that I will be using it much on what I choose, however if I do, which laptop would be able to run it better and what would accommodate it (CPU, RAM?) I understand that Logic doesn't run great on 13'' screens, however I do not want to carry a 15".

    The one thing which I definitely need to have is a large SSD. I am thinking that I would get 512, and maybe get an external if I need it.

    Could I please have some advice?
  2. thesimplelogic thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2014
  3. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    1) the i5 is faster in more than a few instances than the i7 ( typically the i7 power is very rarely tapped, having said that I run an i7 for software development ).
    2) I currently run 16G of ram on my go to machine, but 8G on my spare. I rarely have seen the 8G swap page, the 16G is probably an overkill. I run a lot of open applications simultaneously for development: XCode, Coda2, CyberDuck, Safari ( with about 6 tabs open ), Chrome ( same, 6 tabs open ), MAMP, Terminal, Sketch, Pixelmator, VirtualBox
    3) Definitely get the 512GB if you can afford it.

    Personal Business Note: I've used Adobe for 15+ years, but dropped them as soon as they went to the subscription based model. I still have PS6CSe on my Mac, but haven't used it since getting Pixelmator ( no mater how tempting ). Pixlemator seems to handle everything I need for development.
  4. thesimplelogic thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2014
    Thanks for the insight :)
    Yeah, the subscription isn't great about Adobe. However, since I can get CS6 free of charge... it's not too bad ;)
  5. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    These two machines aren't that different. 16GB will definitely future-proof it, though. You could add an external SSD, but it'll start to become pricey.
  6. Alphabetize macrumors 6502


    Oct 6, 2013
    Ah! I was in a very similar predicament as you not too long ago... the 13" Air or the 13" Pro, hmm!

    Both machines are certainly more than capable of what you want to use your machine for, but I will vouch for the MacBook Air all the way. I am doing very similar things with mine, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Lightroom... and it handles great!

    I had the chance to visit the Apple Store and test out the two machines in person, and graphically, I believe the MacBook Air handles better. I was able to have more tabs open in Photoshop without it getting laggy and choppy, whereas the 13" Pro became laggy and had choppy animations pretty quickly.

    The MacBook Air also had a seriously awesome battery life. I use Illustrator at work, and I went the entire work day (that's 8.5 hours, from 100% down to 0%) unplugged, only using Illustrator.

    The design of the MacBook Air is also highly attractive (at least to me) and it's super lightweight, a joy to carry around.

    In real world performance tests, the CPU of the 13" Pro did beat the 13" Air, but only by a small margin. In iPhoto exports (100 high-res JPGs) it exported them about 10 seconds faster. Video also encoded faster, but only by a couple of minutes, depending on how large the videos were.

    The 13" Pro also has the Retina Display, which looks fantastic, but I believe that it hurts the graphic performance. At a normal working distance, I can hardly tell the difference between the two anyway (I sit about 27 inches away from my MacBook Air) and at that distance, it is on the cusp of the Retina threshold.
  7. thesimplelogic thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2014
    That was a very good way of putting it, and especially that you made that decision as well.
    I don't do a lot of video encoding and iPhoto exports, so it might not even be worth going to a Retina then!
    Hopefully I'll be able to do what you did and test out the Retina vs the Air on Logic. I now know that for everything else, either machine can handle brilliantly, so it's up to LPX to decide ;)


    Yes, that's my only worry - the Air can't be upgraded to 16, can it? I have an external backup disk at home, and a big 32GB usb - If I ever need really important documents, I'll probably just use that. :)
  8. crzdcolombian macrumors 6502a


    Nov 16, 2010
    I don't get the whole future proofing. If you are paying 1/4+ the price of the computer to future proof it why not just buy the base model. Save the extra 25% and buy a new one in 2/3 years and get half the money you spent on the one you buy now.

    I almost always buy the base model. Sell it for 100-200 less then I bought it for after 2-3 years and buy a new base model. Future proofed :):rolleyes::cool:
  9. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Would you care to share your technic to get such a good deal when selling? Surely not many can buy for $1200+tx and resell after 3 years for $1100.
  10. crzdcolombian macrumors 6502a


    Nov 16, 2010
    I get student discount and a place called micro center near MIT in Boston has crazy deals that they are 200 cheaper then the apple store. If you find an open box they are 300-350 cheaper.

    I also install office that I get free from work and have over 20k songs on iTunes I include. I've sold computers for more then I paid for them before :)
  11. thesimplelogic thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2014
    Unfortunately in Australia computers are quite expensive! (I'm not from Aus, but it's where I live :))

    The new base iMac is $1300! For me, it's cheaper to have something running for longer, and replace less :)
    But I can understand that different things work for different people.
  12. crzdcolombian macrumors 6502a


    Nov 16, 2010
    haha my last girlfriend was from Australia.... minimum wage there is like 17 bucks or something insane like that. :eek:Your stuff is going to be more expensive
  13. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Sure, but even if you get $350 off, making it $950, how can you expect it to last three years under your careful fingers, while the underlying technology gets older and less desirable, and still sell for MORE than you paid for it? It would work if you immediately load it up with added-value software such as MS Office and resell it.

    I sold a 2009 MBP for $700, loaded with MS Office, back in early 2012, paid $1700 at the time, and it was a very good price.
  14. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    One thing to check is whether your planned curriculum requires a specific type computer. I've seen some departments require Windows with strict hardware requirements.
  15. thesimplelogic thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2014
    For my school, you can choose to either go Mac or PC. It's up to you :)
  16. iLightspeed macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2014
    I would opt for the MacBook Pro based on your situation.
  17. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Then why would you care? You'll laugh when eventually your colleague's cheap PC laptops will die just before an important assignment.
  18. thesimplelogic thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2014
    Haha, are you referring to my signature? :D
    Yeah, I honestly don't trust cheap laptops. They can either work very well, or very badly and for all the school laptops (which were expensive) were the latter. Never have I had a problem with Macs. I've always been able to fix something or recover data.
  19. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Hehe actually I wasn't, but now you're saying it :cool:

    Never trust a cheap laptop, or Windows for that matter. I see far too many of them queued up for emergency repairs and reformats as the trimester approaches its end and their owners having no backup, while the thin Windows clients in the library slow to a crawl due to overloading.

    40% Macs, 60% non-Mac PC on average among students, yet only 10% of laptops at the help desk are Macs. I guess it speaks for itself.

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