Best MacBook for College

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by mikecassidy97, Jun 6, 2016.

  1. mikecassidy97 macrumors newbie

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    Sep 28, 2015
    #1
    Hey everyone,
    I am going to college in the fall majoring in computer science, and I was wondering what MacBook would be the best for this. I am torn between the 12" MacBook and 13" MacBook Pro. Thank you for the advice in advance.
     
  2. Oynnad macrumors newbie

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    Jun 6, 2016
    #2
    Personally I feel if your budget allows for only either, then go for the 13" MBP, and max out the ram to 16GB at checkout as the ram is soldered and it doesn't allow for user upgrade.

    But this is prior to any potential updates to the macbooks at WWDC on Monday
     
  3. superscape macrumors 6502a

    superscape

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    #3
    Hi,

    Personally, I tend to go for the highest spec Mac I can afford. Sure, if it's overkill then so be it - when that super-fancy app that requires a heap of extra disk space comes out in a years time, hopefully I'll be able to run it.

    I'd also check with the college/university in question and see if they have any recommended specs for students' computers. No point spending your money and finding it's not up to the job.

    Also check that you'll be able to use a Mac - going back many years to when I was a student, things were heavily Windoze biased. Hopefully that's not so much the case these days.


    Hope that's of some help.
     
  4. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    Jul 29, 2011
    #4
    1. I assume you mean the 13" "MacBook Pro with Retina Display (rMBP for short)?" Apple still sell the non-retina 13" MacBook Pro, presumably to satisfy the niche needs of some large corporate/government customer - you really don't want that.

    2. Find out from the college whether there are any requirements/guidelines for the course (its unlikely they'll need anything that the cheapest Mac can't cope with but, e.g. if you need the ability to run PC software, 128GB of storage will get very tight).

    3. Wait until the WWDC keynote speech has happened in case new MacBook Pro models are announced. OK, you can play the waiting game forever and there's no guarantee of an announcement, but it's only a week away.

    That aside: The 13" rMBP wins on bangs-per-buck*, raw power and connectivity - and is still pretty darned thin and light. The 12" MB sacrifices power and connectivity (the single USB-C port is its big flaw) for ultimate portability and battery life.

    Your choice.

    *You do have to pay about $200 extra to get the rMBP with 256GB SSD (which I'd recommend) whereas the 12" starts at 256GB.
     
  5. superscape macrumors 6502a

    superscape

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    #5
    ...this is very wise advice!
     
  6. jaduff46 macrumors regular

    jaduff46

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    #6
    Our youngest daughter started off freshman year with a fully loaded 15" MBP at my insistence. Loved it!

    Upon finishing grad school we gave her a 13" rMBP which really has served her well since then.

    Like superscape above, I've always gone for the best I can afford since I keep cars and computers a long time (2007 Highlander with 140k miles, 2010 iMac, iPhone 5).

    Wait to see what comes out of WWDC before buying anything.
     
  7. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #7
    This advice applies to any college student at any institution in any field of study. Talk to the department before you decide what to buy - ALWAYS. They can not only help you choose the right hardware and software, they can often help you find deals on either or both.
     
  8. WinstonRumfoord macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Certainly wait until after WWDC!

    Ditto on Storage, that is probably going to be your main "bottleneck", running out of room, especially if you need Windows on it.
     
  9. LotusLord macrumors 6502

    LotusLord

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    #9
    Definitely wait until after WWDC. If you had to choose right now, the highest spec 13 inch Retina Pro you can afford. For a Comp Sci degree you very likely will need Windows for at least some classes, so you'll want enough storage for either a Boot Camp partition or a virtual machine. I can't see the 12 inch rMB working for full time use over a 4+ year college career in that particular field.
     
  10. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    #10
    Absolutely - you'd get your butt kicked in the college Call of Duty tournament and will never get picked for the Folding@Home team. Should be fine for the actual comp sci, though, unless you're obliged to use Windows.

    Of course, a real computer scientist would know that the solution to any assignment could be represented by a Turing machine and built in Lego or Minecraft - in which case you'll need the infinite paper tape attachment.

    ...but, seriously, I'd still check; and would prefer the rMBP for power/flexibility given the relatively small price difference.
     
  11. LotusLord macrumors 6502

    LotusLord

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    #11
    It really depends on what you're doing. I could see having to run multiple virtual machines, which would be a challenge on the 12 inch. Programming, depending again on what you're doing, could be overly taxing.
     
  12. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #12
    Definitely find out what you need before spending the money, its always smart to flesh out the requirements beforehand.
     
  13. smallcoffee macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Idk I don't have any issues running VMs.

    But I would suggest a 13 inch rMBP anyway.
     
  14. blut haus macrumors regular

    blut haus

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    #14
    Any hardcore heavy lifting computationally for actual compsci stuff you'll need to do will be done on a cluster you remote into anyway. You can easily get by on the regular 12 inch MacBook. Why waste more cash on a MBP? What I read here are lots of folks who think specs are everything and don't really look at your use case. For a college student I'd recommend as ultra portable a machine as possible.
     
  15. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68020

    Ulenspiegel

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    #15

    You should buy a computer, not a toy. Go with the rMBP.
     
  16. blut haus macrumors regular

    blut haus

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    #16
    you gonna buy it for him, or are you just a spec whore like everyone else?
     
  17. dasmb macrumors regular

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    #17
    Get the pro. Upgrade it to 16gb. Minimum 256 gb drive. Software engineering is one of the last fields where many tasks are just computationally intensive and while you can and may perform much of the most complex work in the cloud, you will have a leg up if you can work locally.

    If you have any interest in systems programming or web programming, you should consider the 15" for quad core (not to mention the greater resolution, which means more lines of code on the screen at once). If you have any interest in machine learning (and you should, it's already a money field and will become even more so), you'll want to go top of the line and get a discrete GPU.

    Definitely spring for AppleCare. You do not want to be without a computer.

    Of all the expenses you are going to incur over the next 4 years, the one you will never regret is buying a great laptop. With any luck it should carry you into industry.
     
  18. blut haus macrumors regular

    blut haus

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    #18
    even with applecare if something goes wrong you'll be without a machine. '

    Ladies and gents, while YMMV, I spent 10 years in college getting a BS, MS and Ph.D. spending crazy cash on a laptop is a poor poor investment. There are always lab machines, and especially in compsci your heavy lifting is done on clusters. The most you'll be using your laptop for is facebook and typing some random papers and probably surfing some interesting sites.

    ha, carry it into industry? Okay.
     
  19. dasmb macrumors regular

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    #19
    Spec whoring aside, a strong predictor of high code quality is a low cycle time (this is the time it takes to code, compile and test a program). This is because the number of iterations (build->test->fix->repeat) is limited by time available divided by the cycle time. So if you've got 1 hour to work on code, a 20 minute cycle time gives you a maximum of 3 cycles, e.g. 3 tries to make the program good. A 15 minute cycle gives you 4 tries and a 10 minute cycle time gives you 6.

    Programming is a task that taxes CPU and disk performance and can occasionally be ram hungry. Modern programming tools are commonly concurrent and tend to scale well with core count, so multicore performance matters.

    As such, the same program will have a 30-200% longer cycle time on a Macbook vs a Macbook Pro 13, and a 40-300% longer cycle time vs a Macbook Pro 15. Frankly, it's worth the money.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 12, 2016 ---
    Well I only spent 4 years in college, so my computer was a little less out of date.
     
  20. blut haus macrumors regular

    blut haus

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    #20
    Sheesh. Programing doesn't tax a CPU, compiling does. Any halfway decent compsci program will have a cluster to compile code.

    Also, I bought a new computer for each program because I could afford it. What is this, luddites cave when it comes to years spent but at the same time "NEED ALL THE HARDWARE SPECS" otherwise?
     
  21. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68020

    Ulenspiegel

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    #21
    Everyone's wrong. No worries, we understand your state of mind.
     
  22. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

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    #22
    Usually I'd agree with you but a computer science major is likely to want a fair amount out of their laptop beyond school and a bit of social media so specs will be a big consideration.
     
  23. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    #23
    ...and an enthusiastic comp. sci. major is probably going to end up owning more than one computer.

    On the other hand here (and in several other threads) we have a Comp Sci major asking which computer they should buy without, apparently, doing any research into what the requirements/recommendations for their course were, mentioning what their particular interests within comp sci. were or what other things they wanted to use the computer for. Maybe they just want to get the bit of paper so they can fund their real hobbies...?

    As far as I know "comp. sci." could cover anything from "Visual Studio for Dummies" to "3 years of formal logic, lambda calculus and information theory before you even touch a keyboard" depending on the school & options.

    Programming as in "compiling an application with 30,000 source files and 9,000,000 lines of code"[1] taxes CPU and disk performance (although I hear there's a cutting-edge bit of software called "make"[2] that only re-compiles files that have changed since the last build).

    Programming as in "writing a 500 line program to solve a wave equation" or "demonstrate 3 alternative sort algorithms and use them to verify your analysis of how many iterations each would take"... well, back in the day, that would be a pain if you only had a single floppy drive, so I think you could justify one of those modern hard drive thingies for college.

    [1] OpenOffice apparently - " approximately 20 hours on a single CPU Pentium III with 256MB of RAM" Hmm. A rMB with 2 cores and an SSD should smoke that, but maybe OpenOffice has grown a bit since that was written .

    [2] Although I'm not sure that these even newer-fanglered build systems written in Node.JS with names you daren't google for like "grunt" - that prove that there is a syntax worse that a makefile and its name is JSON - have cottoned on to that trick yet... but every time I look there's another one trending.
     
  24. OrangeCougar macrumors newbie

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    Dec 19, 2011
    #24
    Either one will be just fine. I was trying to decide between the 12” MacBook and the 13” Retina MacBook Pro a few months ago and spent some time looking each one of them. I was replacing my old 13” MacBook Pro from 2008 that I used in my CS classes for my Masters program. The guy at the Apple Store will tell you to go with the MBP if you are doing any development, but don’t be discouraged if you are truly interested in the 12” MacBooks. Programming in general will not be very taxing on either of these computers. Seriously - most programming is just sitting in a text editor. Sure, you may wait a little bit longer on builds with the 12” MacBook, but with the size of the programs you will be doing in your classes you will notice very little difference. Make sure to run a VM for any Windows only software, especially if your college is big on Microsoft technologies like mine (Visual Studio, SQL Server, weird Excel plugins, etc). Both of those systems are more powerful than my old laptop I used, and it was more than fine.

    It really comes down to portability, preference, and price. I ended up getting the 13” MBP (8GB RAM and 256GB SSD), not because it was so much better, but because the store didn’t have the color of the 12” MacBook that my wife wanted. Make sure you try out the new MacBook keyboard and are happy with the small screen size. You will be typing a lot more than just programs in your other classes. The portability of the new MacBook is impressive. It is so thin and light. You will be carrying your laptop around everywhere you go so that size may be a big advantage.
     
  25. t2nerb macrumors newbie

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    Feb 22, 2008
    #25
    I'm entering my last year in Comp Sci, and my 2013 rMBP has easily gotten me through school. My rMBP had 8gb RAM, with a 512gb SSD. Every rMBP has the processor to handle all of your coursework, so i'd focus on upgrading RAM and storage.

    I recommend at least a 256 gb SSD. You will be required to download quite a bit of software, such as Matlab, Mathematica, LaTeX, and a virtual machine with various operating systems (Ubuntu, Windows, RedHat). There will also be a bunch of developer tools that you will want to play with, so upgrading system storage is a must.

    I strongly advise you stay away from the 12" Macbook. The reason is during a systems-level programming course I took, processor speed for compiling is a MUST. You don't want to sit there waiting for your code to compile, and in the case you corrupt your kernel, reinstalling will take forever. (It takes forever on the rMBP, so i'd assume much longer for Macbook 12")

    As for the RAM, since the rMBP's entry model already comes with 8gb of ram, you'll most likely be fine.

    All recommendations aside, I think you should wait a week or two for Apple's WWDC and keep your fingers crossed for the unveiling of the 2016 macbook pros.

    Edit: Typos
     

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