Choosing a right Macbook for a student

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by kapawozniak, Jul 4, 2015.

  1. kapawozniak macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2015
    Location:
    London, UK
    #1
    Hi everyone,
    I am looking for a new laptop for my studies and as my budget is quite limited, I want it to last as long as possible (4-5 years preferably) is my main working machine. If I buy a Mac (heard a lot about their durability, and also 3-year warranty is always nice) I was looking mostly at the 13" Pro range, as it's not much less portable than Air, but has Retina and more horsepower.
    I am not a heavy user, but I play some games like CS:GO, Total War series and Football Manager. In terms of work, I would use it mostly for Internet-based research (loads of tabs open) and paper writing/data processing in MS Office, maybe some light photo editing.

    So with my budget I could go for 13" 2.7GHz (or 2.9), 128GB SSD, 16GB RAM or 13" 2.7GHz, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM (both early 2015).
    Do you recommend getting less storage, but more RAM (and saving a few quid) to "future-proof" or to go for a bigger storage option with less RAM?
     
  2. theluggage macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    #2
    TLDNR: If I had to choose I'd get the 256GB SSD over the 16GB RAM - and if I was on a tight budget and did think I could live with 128GB then I'd stick with the $1299 128GB/8GB entry model and use the savings to buy an nice portable USB3 or Thunderbolt external drive.

    First, however, check that all the software you want/need is available for Mac OS (or what the Mac OS alternative is) and, if so, find out whether it is going to cost you money to obtain Mac OS versions. If not, you're going to need to budget for a copy of Windows and (optionally) Parallels or vmware. Secondly, if you're going to be running Windows on your Mac then forget about the models with 128GB SSD - that's just not enough if you're going to be dividing it up between Windows and OSX.

    128GB SSD is a bit tricky. Personally, I wouldn't get out of bed for less than 512GB, but for the uses you describe, 128 is probably tolerable. The space killers include:
    • Running Windows via BootCamp (forces you to semi-permanently split the disc between Windows and OS X)
    • Running Windows or other OSs via Parallels/vmware (produces huge virtual disc files - although these can be moved to external storage)
    • Video editing/production
    • Large media files (esp. videos or lossless audio - mp3s not so much).
    • Having lots of large games installed (including local storage in Steam etc.)
    Now, most of those can be delegated to an external drive, but that means frequently fettering your super-portable laptop and losing the advantage of the super-fast internal SSD, so if any of those are on your list I'd go for at least 256GB (and you'll still need some discipline to keep that clear) so you can at least have your current projects on the internal drive.

    As for RAM: OS X is efficient with RAM and 8GB RAM is plenty for the sort of general use you are talking about (yes, some people need more, but not for the sort of applications you are talking about - don't be deceived by the free memory readout, look at 'memory pressure' instead). I'd say the 16GB upgrade is something to get for future-proofing only if you can afford it. All "future-proofing" is a gamble - your Mac could be obsolete in 2 years time because it lacks the WeHaven'tThoughtofitYet (pat. pending) chip that's going to be released in 2016. Meanwhile, there are now a shedload of users with non-upgradeable 8GB and even 4GB Macs out there, so developers aren't going to write applications that need 16GB.
     
  3. kapawozniak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2015
    Location:
    London, UK
    #3
    Thanks a lot for clarifying the RAM thing, I'll probably go for 256GB/8GB RAM and invest in an SD storage extension when things start to get a little bit excessive. Just waiting for a Back To School promotion to get a free gift card :)
     
  4. dacreativeguy macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2007
    #4
    What are you studying? That makes a difference in how much power you need. The 16GB RAM is really helpful if you ever need to run VMWare. If you can stretch for 16GB RAM AND 256GB Storage, that would be the most future proof. Otherwise, the 8/256 should be fine.
     
  5. kapawozniak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2015
    Location:
    London, UK
    #5
    I'm studying Biomedical Sciences, so far I haven't seen a lot of Windows-only software involved and I wouldn't need to do programming or work with design software. Even with student discount, 16/256 is a bit too much for me.
    I'm just not sure if 8 GB RAM will be enough 3-4 years down the road.
     
  6. dacreativeguy macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2007
    #6
    More is always better. Balance the cost of a few bucks more now and having a more usable computer in 4 years vs. potentially feeling a slowdown after 2 yrs. and wanting a new computer after 3 yrs.

    Take a look at the Apple Refurb store, you can get 2014 models cheaper. The 2015 really only adds force touch, which you likely won't miss.
     
  7. bubbleboil macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2014
    #7
    8 GB is pretty sufficient on my MBA, even playing decent games from steam or running parrellels, with 2 netbean compiling codes .

    128gb ssd is really hard to survive. My window partition barely had space
     
  8. kohlson macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2010
    #8
    In general, I think 8GB will last for 4 years. My daughter just graduated from college (with a term at UCL) with the 2011 MBA - 4GB was all you could get back then. 256GB was a bit tight, and last Christmas I was able to upgrade that to 512GB with an OWC SSD. In general I am a fan of putting the most memory you can on a system. But 10.10 and later model Macs have the processing power to compress memory on the fly, and the disk I/O speed to greatly minimize the pain of swapping to virtual memory. That said, you should reach out to other students where you will be studying and find out what apps and devices they have. The son of a friend took his Mac to school and for second year studies needed an app that only ran on Windows. So if Windows is a requirement, then you will certainly need more than 128GB storage - a Windows VM is typically 30-45 GB. There are workarounds to keeping it on your system disk, but it's better to have it there. And, when Windows is running in a virtual mode (such as Fusion) then you will have approximately 4GB of memory dedicated to it, which means that much less for your Mac environment. Don't buy a Mac because it's a Mac. Buy the laptop you need that will help you get through school. Find out what others in your program use, and start there.
     
  9. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030

    Ulenspiegel

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2014
    Location:
    Land of Flanders and Elsewhere
  10. kapawozniak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2015
    Location:
    London, UK
    #10
    I'm actually studying at UCL now :)

    Thanks a lot for your insight, I think I'll get 8GB/256GB, there's no point is splashing out too much on a computer.
     
  11. TechFann macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2014
    #11
    I don't have a Mac, I have Windows but as a college student as well I feel I could be of some help. I only have 6GB of RAM on my computer but it has been plenty for me. I have had about 20 tabs open at once, word documents, PowerPoints, and Spotify open at once and had no trouble running it all. I have also worked with coding and virtual machines and still had no issue. Storage is definitely the big thing though. I have a 640 GB HDD and I've used about half of that in just 3 years. So go for the largest amount of storage you can afford and don't worry too much about RAM; 8 GB should be more than sufficient.
     

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