Buying a computer set-up for college next year.... need opinions

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by TSE, May 5, 2011.

  1. TSE macrumors 68030

    Jun 25, 2007
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    Hi guys. So... I need a college set up for next year and am going to buy either this spring or early summer... I brought the call down to two options.

    I am going into industrial design. I have been using Windows 7 for the past couple years and have been almost completely satisfied with it.

    Option #1, iMac + iPad:

    -Current generation base iMac, $999 w/ student discount and selling the iPod from the back to school promo
    -Current Generation iPad, $499
    -iPad Case w/ Keyboard - $99
    -Parallels Desktop - $69
    -Windows 7 - $49 with student discount



    Option #2, Thinkpad PC Setup:

    -Thinkpad X220, $1099
    (Core i5, IPS display, 9-cell battery (good for realistic 10 hours), 4 GBs RAM, 320 GB HD, etc.)
    -Dell Ultrasharp 2211H 1920x1080 IPS Display, $279


    Advantages of option #1:

    1. More flexibility, since I can run iOS, Windows, and Mac apps
    2. I really enjoy my dad's first generation iPad
    3. More power, much better graphics performance (AMD Radeon 6750 vs. Intel GMA 3000 HD)
    4. Support my apple stock

    Cons/concerns of option #1:

    1. I would most likely use Parallels on my iPad to access my iMac at anytime so I can access Microsoft Word for when I need to type notes up in class, not sure if this is reliable or not
    2. Am I able to tether my Samsung Galaxy S 4G from T-Mobile to the iPad if I have the tethering plan?
    3. Look like every other college student
    4. More expensive

    Advantages of option #2:

    1. Portability and all my files are right there everywhere I go
    2. I like the professional impression the Thinkpad gives off
    3. Stronger, well built design
    4. Cheaper
    5. The Dell Ultrasharp monitor is IPS whereas the iMac is not, it's also matte

    Disadvantages of option #2:

    1. Much less horsepower = much less futureproof
    2. The Thinkpad X220's touchpad is terrible
    3. The X220 is ~3.5 lbs with the 9-cell battery and awkward to use on the couch with the protruding battery

    So what do ya'll think? Has anybody actually used the iPad to run Windows + Mac apps over the internet?
  2. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    Based on my continued experience using my girlfriend's most recent two thinkpads...I would never buy one. I won't even list the many things I dislike about them. I also think they're really ugly.

    As far as the iMac+iPad/Thinkpad+monitor idea goes—I never did any homework in my room, I went to the library or other places on campus. A laptop was absolutely necessary. Anything that was tied to my desk would have been a waste. Trying to do work in the dorm was futile with people coming and going all the time, music playing etc. My philosophy was that if your room is where you sleep, work and play, getting work done is much harder because you associate the environment with sleeping and playing. I also absolutely never brought my laptop to class, as I'd wind up taking notes for 5 minutes and then playing Sporcle or something. ;)
  3. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6


    Aug 17, 2007
    Personally, I don't think an iMac is a good choice for a college dorm room. It takes up too much space and transporting it every summer or winter break would be a royal pain in the butt.
  4. paolo- macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2008
    Why not a macbook pro with an external screen instead of the thinkpad? Actually, if possible, get the 15" because the Intel GMA 3000 HD will get molested when you'll start doing some CAD and rendering. Mind you, the card in the iMac isn't ideal, it probably works okay for 3d work but nvidia workstation tend to work much better. You'll probably be able to do most of the stuff with the macbook pro, heck my 3 year old macbook does it, takes a while though (like 3 hour renderings and jittery when modelling).

    You might want to check with your university if they have computers at your disposal for ID work. If so, they are probably much more powerful they most stuff you can afford and will come with all the software pre-loaded so you don't have pay for them or have to get them illegally. Don't think this is the cheap-skate way of doing it either, some of this stuff can be time consuming with a slow computer. Also, working in a studio environment can be great, sharing with people doing similar stuff...

    Also I don't see why you'd want to access your iMac from your iPad, that would be super laggy, there's pages for iPad that would work well for typing notes. Also don't spend on windows, you can get lots of Microsoft software free through a lot of universities.

    I'd personally go with a macbook pro. I think you'll be spending quite a bit of time in photoshop/illustrator too, which would work awesome on a macbook pro. Oh and get a back up drive too.
  5. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    Trust me in a college dorm, if you get any laptop, invest in a lock (to desk) lock. In dorm room parties something always goes missing.
  6. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    take it from someone who just finished his 5th year in college (I lived in the dorms for the first four too)... get a laptop. an imac is going to take up valuable space in your dorm, and you can't bring it to class/the library/home for break/your friends room/apartment/house. these are things that you WILL WANT to do at some point. trying to do homework in the dorm is REALLY difficult. there are always things going on, always distractions, etc. sometimes you just want to be able to pick up all your stuff and go to the library or somewhere else quiet to study.

    get the macbook pro (any size).. if you think you want an external screen, get one. i had an LCD TV that had a computer input so I could either use it with my computer, the cable, or my ps3. these modern laptops have plenty of power for just about all uses, and if you really need to do something crazy, your school definitely has computer labs.

    or party in someone elses room. ;)
  7. wordoflife macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    The iMac seems a bit inconvenient for a dorm. Also, you are spending quite a bit on an iPad + keyboard. you could just buy a real laptop for that price and have both a desktop and laptop.

    If I were you, I would buy just one computer - a laptop. I'd look at a Macbook Pro (even refurbished).
  8. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    yup. don't even try to do the whole 2 computers thing. you won't have time to try to sync all your stuff. things are always so crazy at college that you will spend WAY less time on your computer than you think to begin with, so you really don't want to have to deal with all that stuff on top of all of the work/partying you will have ;)
  9. tktaylor1 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 16, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    I just finished my freshman year. Listen to the previous posters. Don't get an iMac, get a Macbook Pro with an external monitor. That's what I have. I have a 32" TV hooked to my MBP. Works perfectly.
  10. cherry su macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Feb 28, 2008
    What sorts of things will you doing with the iMac? Is it possible for you to get away with a MacBook Air + Monitor? You'll have a big screen and portability (minus power).
  11. TSE thread starter macrumors 68030

    Jun 25, 2007
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    If I go the laptop route, I am going to go get the X220 because it's basically just a 13" MacBook Pro but with much better battery life and better display, two things that are valuable to me.

    Thanks for the help guys! :)
  12. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816


    Nov 7, 2004
    If you're doing industrial design a base spec laptop might be slow for any sort of complex assemblies in 3D CAD. My 13" MBP can cope well with simple assemblies, but assemblies featuring textures or a few hundred components get pretty slow at times.

    That said, a laptop + external monitor is pretty much the perfect solution for college. I had an iMac in my first two years, and sold it for the MBP. It's so much better being able to take my computer to the library/workshop/home, and an iPad doesn't come close to being able to replace it: Would you be able to carry out any useful design work on one?

    For most work I stay in OS X using MS Office as the Mac edition is way better than what they offer for Windows, but if I have to do any Solidworks or FEA work I use a Win7 Boot Camp partition.

    edit: Think about how much you really need Parallels. I've tried the trial a few times, but never been satisfied. The only Windows-only software I use (CAD) is too hardware intensive to run in Parallels, and it always makes a bit of a mess of my Windows activation. I can read/write the Boot Camp partition from OS X (and vice-versa), or use a Dropbox folder, so file access isn't a problem.
  13. (marc) macrumors 6502a


    Sep 15, 2010
    the woods
    Definitely buy a laptop. Don't buy an iPad, it's useless. Take notes with pen and paper, this solves your Microsoft Office problem. (If your college is any good, you'll never see Office files anyway, everything's PDF).

    I had thought about that, too, but Mac trackpads beat anything else in the market by lengths.

    BTW: What are you going to study?
  14. TSE thread starter macrumors 68030

    Jun 25, 2007
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    I'm going in for industrial design.

    To be honest, I have thought of going for the MacBook Pro with the AMD Radeon 6750HD, but I really worry about battery life. I absolutely HATE carrying a power cord with me... I don't see the point of a portable computer when you are connected to a wall all the time. Apple advertises 7 hours but I see it's more 5-6 hours.... I don't think that's enough at all.

    I really wish Apple would have just had a dual-core 15 inch MacBook Pro with the 6750 that gets 7-8 realistic hours of battery life, that would have been the absolute perfrect notebook. In fact my father and I were ready to purchase one if it had that. He offered to buy me the 15 inch MacBook Pro but I just couldn't bring myself to it because of the battery life.
  15. tktaylor1 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 16, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    I've had my 13" MBP since May of last year and it still has a 10 hour battery life. I get up at 7 every morning and go to sleep around midnight leaving my laptop on all day, only using it for around 8 hours a day, and it lasts all day. Never need a power cord.
  16. paolo- macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2008
    The X220 looks like a pretty good computer, especially for the price. I'm trying to see it on Lenovo's site but I can't get to the customize page, also says shipping in 20 days... kind of interesting as they compare it to the MBP.

    On that, I'll say, I think you'd enjoy the MBP better. Having a 12,5" screen might be nice when lugging it around (but really is it that big of a difference?) but it'll be way to small to do any amount of reasonable work in ID. Sure, you can have a second screen at home but that's just not practical.

    Also, I don't think the graphics card in the x220 will cut it. I have an Nvidia 9400m in my laptop, it's benchmarked a bit lower than what's in the x220, but not that much. When using CAD software, it sucks. The assembly stutters when spinning it around, you're stuck with the minimum visual quality. The part that sucks the most is when I import into rendering software. Setting up shots is a pain in the neck as I have to wait about a minute every time I move the assembly the slightest. This might not be something you realize now if you haven't used CAD and rendering software.

    I guess this is personal preference but I really don't see battery life as an issue on a university campus, if you're going to use your computer sitting down, there are outlets everywhere. Also, I think Apple's estimate of 7 hours makes sense for some day to day not too intensive work, they've changed they're test recently.
  17. mrat93 macrumors 65816


    Dec 30, 2006
    Just a suggestion for choice #1...

    You may want to consider buying from MacMall.

    The iMac is $30 cheaper that retail (I know, I know, still $20 more than it is from Apple with the education discount.) BUT, Minnesota has 6.875% sales tax, which is about $77 extra if you buy from Apple. So just on the computer, you can save $57.

    But what about the free iPod touch? Last year, MacMall offered the same free iPod touch promotion, so that's not an issue (assuming they do the same thing this year.)

    Both stores offer a free printer after a rebate. However, MacMall ALSO offers Parallels for free (after the rebate.)

    This is what I'm doing for college (with a MacBook Pro instead.) Just my two cents...
  18. TSE thread starter macrumors 68030

    Jun 25, 2007
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    My one question is this:

    How the hell does Anandtech get 9 hours of battery life out of the 15 inch MacBook Pro?

    Is that a realistic expectation?
  19. Purestang macrumors member

    Dec 22, 2010

    I had a dell xps 1330 when i lived in the dorms. After about 2 weeks, i missed having a monitor, keyboard (mainly the number pad since I do alot of finance and excel, especially as I progressed in my finance degree) and a mouse. So I bought the 3 and had myself a nice little "portable desktop."

    oh, and the library will become your friend and 2nd home at school. I spend about 4 hours a day in the library in addition to my classes.
  20. Purestang macrumors member

    Dec 22, 2010
    yes it is a realistic expectation. From a full charge, no backlighting on my keyboard and lowest possible display brightness (comfortably able to see) i can get about 9 hours out of my MacBook Pro 17. Of course this is for light internet and email use. I can probably work on Word and Excel and browse the internet (rigorously doing homework) for a good 7.5 hours.
  21. FX120, May 12, 2011
    Last edited: May 12, 2011

    FX120 macrumors 65816


    May 18, 2007
    I'd get the Thinkpad and spring for on-site service and support with accidental damage coverage.

    Nothing is worse than having a final due in a few hours and dropping your laptop.

    Apple Care is a joke compared to the business class service and support you get from Lenovo.

    Also take a look at the T420, it's pretty light weight and also gets amazing battery life but it will have a little more graphics horsepower in reserve if you need it.

    And don't worry about the touchpad. Once you get use to using trackpoint, there will be no going back.

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