College Engineering Student Buying Advice

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by darederek, Jun 15, 2014.

  1. darederek macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2014
    Hello all,

    This fall I will be beginning my degree for Mechanical Engineering at RIT.

    I have been saving for my college computer, and up until recently i was sure i was going to get a fully loaded 15" retina. However, i recently realized that i could get a 11" air and a 21.5" imac for the same price. For an engineering student, which would be better?
    I need something with a dedicated graphics card for CAD and other engineering software. Being that i haven't been to school yet, I'm not really sure what all I will need my computer for in class. I am under the impression that i will probably be using it for notes and general browsing, because any classes involving computers will be held in a lab. Any cad work i would probably be doing in my dorm anyway while plugged in. So down to the real question, which would you do?

    15" Retina MBP:
    2.7 ghz i7 with 3.8 turbo
    16GB ram
    512 gb SSD
    GT750m with 2gb ram


    11" MBA:
    1.7 i7 with 3.3 turbo
    8GB Ram
    128GB ssd


    21.5" iMac:
    3.1 i7 with 3.9 turbo
    16 gb ram
    1tb hard drive
    GT750m with 1gb ram

    The combo option would be slightly more expensive. One machine will be boot camp no matter which option i decide to go with.

    Let me know what you guys think. Thanks in advance.
  2. v3locity macrumors newbie

    Sep 20, 2013
    Just completing a Masters in Aerospace engineering and i have a MBA 13" with the i7 processor and 8gig ram with 256gb hard drive.

    This laptop is hands down the best machine i have ever used. I dual boot into windows for CAD and finite element analysis and this machines completely wipes the floor with the university machines we can use.

    For CAD a bigger screen is definitely an advantage but why don't you save the money and get a screen for your room and get either the 11inch MBA or maybe the 13" retina. The 15" retina would be a complete beast of a computer and would be amazing to have but it is complete overkill.

    Maybe consider an iPad and laptop combination. Although i find that i always took hand notes as equations are tough to get down on a laptop/ipad.

    For me i would get a 13" retina a nice screen and spend the rest on beer.
  3. darederek thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2014
    The main drawback to me doing that is the dedicated graphics card. If they had a retina 13" with dedicated graphics I would jump on it but they don't unfortunately. I just can't seem to justify spending that much on the 13 and not taking the step up to the 15 with dedicated
  4. COrocket macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    I would get the 15" rMBP and get an external monitor to plug in if you want a larger screen to work on in the dorm. A 21-23" monitor can be found for around $150. That way you always have your stuff just as you left it, and a really powerful computer no matter where you go. The large SSD would be really nice to have when running CAD software. The workstations at our school are notorious for taking several minutes to open up CATIA.
  5. darederek thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2014
    Yeah that's probably what I'm going to do. I will probably just use my TV when I need a bigger monitor.
  6. Zwhaler macrumors 604


    Jun 10, 2006
    The 15" is really powerful and really portable. I wouldn't advise an 11" MBA, it's simply too small to be useful for design in my opinion. The iMac will be nice but I think you won't regret a top end MacBook Pro 15" retina. Keep in mind the 15" Retina MBP 2.6GHz option is about 40% more powerful for multi core tasks than the baseline 21.5" iMac. Source
  7. darederek thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2014
    I did just notice that. At first glance I thought all imacs have the i7 but that isn't true. Also they have less video ram. So I would be spending more money in the end to have less performance potential.
    That was kinda the nail in the coffin for the combo idea. Retina mbp it is. Thanks all
  8. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    Sounds like you made the right choice. rMBP is a fine machine. I have an antiglare hires 15 in MBP and I use a 1080p external monitor (Asus I think). I picked the MBP because I wanted to be able to do my own RAM and HDD/SSD upgrades.

    I bring this up because you might be considering having Windows on the thing. I would rather spend a little more up front on RAM so you can virtualize Windows and live in OSX all of the time rather than messing around with rebooting to use Bootcamp.
  9. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    Guess it's too late, but having been thru an engineering BS and MS, I too would go with the Air.

    Plus you probably won't need it for much actual engineering stuff the first year anyways.

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