College List! (Updated)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Cricketman, Jun 25, 2011.

  1. Cricketman macrumors regular

    Nov 30, 2008
    Hi guys. I am going off to college in the fall to study Pre-Med. I am looking for a setup that will last me 4-5 years. I do not game much but this computer will be my main machine for movies, music, online streaming of live sports, lots of papers, notes, photo management, and some mild video editing. I also want the option of dual booting into windows to run a few specific programs.


    I am still debating between the 13" and 15" MBP. Although I enjoy the form factor and portability of the 13" model, I find the screen to be a bit too small for when I really want to get my work done. I like having 2 windows side by side, 1 for research and 1 word document for example, while writing a paper. I haven't really found an efficient way of doing that on my current white Macbook. On the other hand, this would definitely be possible on the 15" but it is more expensive and probably less portable. One thing I am not sure of is HOW MUCH less portable is it... is it as bulky and heavy in comparison to the 13" as people claim?


    With the educational discount, I get 100$ rebate on a printer of choice. Which is the best one? I want the ink to be relatively affordable and more importantly widely accessible in case I run out of ink the night before a big paper is due or something. For this reason I want to go towards a brand like HP, but am willing to hear suggestions. Also, I want to be able to scan like crazy and digitize all of my notes into PDFs. Which would be a good printer for this purpose?


    I need a good, solid backpack that will be able to take my MBP, a few notebooks, binders, and probably 1 heavy textbook at a time. I don't want to break the bank on this - less than $100 would be nice. I like Swiss Gear as a brand.

    Any accessories that can utilize apple's new Thunderbolt Port?

    Sleeve and Case recommendations for the laptop.

    Any other college gadget I might have missed :p

    Thank you so much everyone!! and sorry for the long post!
  2. peapody macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    First off, congratulations. Very exciting time in your life!

    Second - do you have a budget in mind. I ask that because there are other routes you can go and there are some other things that are not on your list that will be very helpful for you down the line. I just finished my pharmacy doctorate and I just wanted to offer some advice of what kind of set up I would get - and on a budget.

    Laptop - portability is important but it depends if you plan on taking your computer to class everyday to take notes. If you take your notes by hand then chances are you wont be bringing it along everyday. I personally typed my notes (which helped because I eventually had a catalogue of searchable notes by keyword, accessible to me on my ipad on rounds. THIS WAS MONUMENTAL, so I urge you to consider it). Chance are you will be taught with power points so electronic notes may be the way to go. Anyway back on subject - I would suggest going 13" for portability in that case. The 15" is too big and blocks all my classmates views in class, not to mention it is heavier.

    You should probably consider a MBA + iMac combo which if purchased right can be the same price as a mbp. Used base models of the 11" are around $700 from the right source, and iMacs can be as low as $700 for the 20" or 24". This set up can last you beyond 4-5 years, and into your professional program.

    Printer - Anything but canon. I have had a lot of canons fail on me. While the scanner thing might be nice - I would highly suggest a laser printer. You are going to be printing A LOT of notes through out your college career. I made the mistake of getting those 3in1s which I trashed every year, due to failures to get a really reliable laser. The toner is more expensive but will last you 10 times longer. HP is a great brand. Digitizing notes got really old for me after a while because those cheaper 3in1s where slow as molasses. Just beware of that. If you plan on doing that, I would invest in a faster scanner.

    Backpack - Swiss gear makes nice backpacks that will last you a long time no doubt. I think you made a good choice there. Also consider northface, or STM.

    Accessories for thunderbolt are going to be $$$$. I would avoid for now.

    Things to consider not on your list:
    1. Headphones - A good pair will go a long way when you need to view webcasted material.
    2. If you do a mbp, get a monitor. Will be VERY useful and increase productivity allowing you to view webcasted material on one screen and your notes/ other material on your main laptop screen.
    3. External Harddrive - Your harddrive will crash in your MBP. NO MBP is invulnerable. Set up time machine and forget about it.
    4. Flash drive - You can get a portable external too, but I have one of those lacie iamakeys that sit on my keys. Saved me from many a tight jam.
    5. Digital voice recorder - if it is important for you. My mind sometimes wanders in class, so recording it has saved me a lot too. Also great to just hear the lectures on the commute. I just bought 2 sony IXu200s from ebay for $40 and they were $100 on ebay. Great little recorders.
    6. VERTICAL Laptop Sleeve - Don't mess around with those horizontal ones because you might as well get a vertical one since your laptop is sitting horizontal in your backpack. Get STMs vertical sleeve. Great item.

    Sorry for long post, but these are the things that I think are really important. Good luck with school!
  3. Airforcekid macrumors 65816


    Sep 29, 2008
    United States of America
    The 15 inch macbook pro and even 17 inch feel similar when closed compared to the 13 inch to me. I always say go for two if you can afford it such as iMac/MacBook Air (Pro 13 INCH) or ipad.The cost is about the same and an iMac will likely out last a macbook pro plus with iCloud keeping them in sync should be fairly easy. As for accessories I recommend the BookBook case for anyone in college it offers protection from scratches and theft. Wait for thunderbolt external hard drives are released and invest in as much space as you can for backups or look into carbonite or Mozy.
    As for backpacks apples site has several nice ones however I always went for a cheap one and just replaced it whenever it needed to be maybe once every two years.
    Printer get a non wireless printer if your living in a dorm USB is easier to connect and probably smaller in size.
  4. Cricketman thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 30, 2008
    I don't want to have 2 main computers. I'd like to go to college with just 1 mac, I feel it will be easier. I have an iPad but i'm not planning on taking it with me.

    I have thought about 13" MBP and an external monitor. The cost will be about the same (if not a bit more if you add cost of mouse+key board, adapter, and an optional griffin elevator) as the 15" but gives me both portability and real estate. But the drawback to this is that the internal guts are not as good. I want to make this a long term investment and I fear that the dual core i5/i7 may not last 4 years.

    Budget - as low as possible but I don't want to exceed ~$2500 total.
  5. jamisonbaines macrumors regular

    Dec 14, 2007
    if you plan on typing notes in class consider a macbook air. the smaller and lighter the better.

    everyone overestimates what they need. college coursework simply doesn't require a powerful computer the vast majority of the time and in the instances when it does there will be on campus computer labs for you to do it. so buy what you want. a 15" pro is going to be more future proof with the quad core and it does offer the higher resolution.

    as for printers, again you're going to use the labs and campus printing services more often than not. you get better quality (laser) and don't have to stress running out of ink/paper. read the printer reviews on the apple store to get an impression of what you could expect.

    it's fair to say computers will be leaps and bounds ahead in a 4 year period so buy what you want now. if you're a computer guy then throw down on what you want if it's just casual use save some cash and buy some clothes. any current machine is going to handle the tasks you listed.
  6. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2009
    United Kingdom
    If it is just for notes and youtube,facebook,email etc get a MacBook Air (I have an 11" MacBook Air for this purpose as even my 13" MacBook is too heavy to carry around everywhere, but with the 11"er I can just have it in my bag all the time), but if your sure you need the extra power (And for everything that doesnt involve running CAD tools, or editing Video/Audio you probably dont - Ive done all my Computer Science and Mathematics coursework for the past year on my PowerBook G4, and only have a Mac Pro to do video editing and audio work) then get the 15" MBP over the 13", as the 13" is too small to let you use any of the software (Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, AutoCAD, Bryce etc), that can use even the 13" to its full potential.
  7. Cricketman thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 30, 2008
    I considered the air but I the majority of internet on campus is through ethernet and I don't want to carry that little dongle thingy with my everywhere. Defeats the purpose of it being an ultraportable imo. And I always feel like i'm going to break the air...its too small!!

    And the fact that it is C2D - I want this to last. C2D is already old, imagine it 4 years down the line.

    thanks for the suggestions. I do not need the power of the 15" model but it is just a matter of future proofing and ofc the screen real estate.
  8. peapody macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    Well two things.

    1. Your school if it is a school with courses for premed students - will have wireless internet.
    2. You are starting in the fall. Should wait for July release of the upgraded airs which will last for years to come. Hell I had a unibody Core i5 and my ultimate 13" was just as snappy if not snappier. There is no such thing as future proofing. Only what is best for your situation and requirements. sounds like our suggestions are going on deaf ears and you are set in what you want to do. Just get the 15" if you are concerned about "future proofing" as it should handle all the tasks you may throw at it in the next few years.
  9. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2009
    United Kingdom
    (1) C2D 4 years down the line. So what. I do most of my CS Degree assignments on a 400Mhz G3 from 2000. That machine is 11 years old, and brilliant for programming and office documents and actually getting stuff done as theres no internet getting in the way, so I cant be distracted by facebook etc. For all the things you do for your studies a C2D will be absolutely fine, it will also cope with web browsing fine for the next 4 years. (Although given the impending MacBook Air revision to Sandy Bridge this point will soon by moot anyway).

    (2) The ethernet dongle is absolutely tiny, and in no way defeats its purpose. If you look at the 11" Air, It couldn't physically have Ethernet built in as the laptop body is actually thinner than the ethernet port, and the dongle is tiny and adds very little weight.

    (3) The Air is a lot more robust than people seem to think, just as its thin doesnt mean its not very very strong, and easily able to hold up being carted around campus, and by being so small, it means you can always find enough space to sit it down and do work, including sitting cross-legged between library shelves looking for a reference, quote or example to quickly type up.

    (4) If you really want to ensure your laptop will last a decade, get the 15" MBP - Its as future proofed as its possible to get (Since it pretty much matches my Mac Pros capabilities for number crunching), and the extra display space will come in handy (My desktop is currently 2560*2464 in effect, and I still want more space), it just will start feeling very heavy very quickly (This is from experience.. before my Air my main luggable was a 15" PowerBook G4, which got annoying after about an hour - no such problems with the Air).
  10. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    Well as the two posters have said above me, it isn't about "future proofing", it's about getting what is good enough for you and what WORKS for what you need. Getting something overly powerful is just more money wasted for a little psuedo satisfaction.

    Right now i'm a student majoring in Microbiology. 2nd year. I have an upgraded blackbook from 2008. 2.2ghz dual core, 4 gigs of RAM. Am I thinking about upgrading sometime soon? Of course, who isn't? However after using my machine for years now, I can't find anything that I would like to change performance wise other than a higher graphics card. That's it.

    The computer never lags, never slows, down, and I only feel that I need more ram when I'm using a VM in Parallels. That's it. I can watch 1080p video while surfing the web, stream multiple HD feeds at once; anything. On a Core 2 Duo.

    I'm not saying you have to "settle" for one, I'm saying that it isn't "settling". Futureproofing is something that the average consumer doesn't have to worry about, it's been said so many times on forums however that people start thinking they have to worry about it as well. You don't.

    I'm either going to sell this and upgrade to a new Air, a refurbished Air, or a refurb iCore MBP. The only benefits for me for going to a new machine is a higher graphics card and longer battery life; I don't need the multitouch trackpad as it's faster and easier for me to just use keyboard commands; I also love having a tactile mouse button under the trackpad.

    All in all, get what you need. It's hard to actually know what you might need until you use a machine for a while but for the average user (and I mean average as in, anyone who isn't doing serious video editing or something of that nature (high CPU usage)) the C2D machines will be fine.
  11. Capt Underpants macrumors 68030

    Capt Underpants

    Jul 23, 2003
    Austin, Texas
    I think you should get a refreshed Core i5 air.

    I'm a senior in college and my 2007 Core 2 Duo Macbook is still more than adequate for everything I want. The added screen real estate of the 13" Macbook Air would make it a perfect machine.
  12. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    You know that isn't out yet right? But high five for the last gen MB :D
  13. kshat28 macrumors member

    Jun 4, 2008
    I use a North Face Surge backpack for carrying my Macbook Pro. It is well made and has a dedicated notebook compartment. You can find it online for around 80-90 bucks.

    As for the notebook, i would suggest a 13in. with ssd.
  14. willmtaylor macrumors G3


    Oct 31, 2009
    A Natural State
    Ditch the backpack and get a Timbuk2 messenger bag. They're bomber and last forever. You can buy one with a laptop sleeve or you can buy one without and buy a dedicated sleeve separately.

  15. Cricketman thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 30, 2008
    Thanks everyone for the responses.

    I had a chance to go to the Apple store this weekend and compare the 13" and 15" side by side. I REALLY like the 15's screen, especially the HR model. Gives me ample space to put a couple of windows next to each other without feeling cramped. I feel I can use that for hours on end if needed. However, I will admit that it is a bit heavy, and the footprint is def. larger than the 13" model. With the 13" I feel a bit constricted for space, I do not like the screen as much. However, it is a dream to close and carry around.

    How would you guys compare the 13" (i5 model) with an SSD, maybe 8GB of RAM to the 15" with just the HR upgrade? The thing that still concerns me with the 13" machine is a) the screen size itself, and b) I do not think the 128GB SSD will suffice. I DO NOT want to replace the optibay with a regular HDD as I have a large CD collection that I rip and watch a lot of DVDs on a regular basis. I want my iTunes library (~1,000 - 2,000 songs) on my computer itself but do not mind having photos on a seperate drive, although that will be kind of cumbersome after a while. The other option is to get the 256GB SSD and stick with 4GB of RAM. But at this price point I still feel I am paying too much per gig of storage. I am confused guys! Should i go for a souped-up 13-incher or should I go with the 15" model that I love but feel is too much computer for my needs?

    After looking at the Macbook Air I have decided it is not for me. Yeah, its wonderfully light and thin, but I need the optical drive and i would like more ports for my only machine.
  16. jason221 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2009
    I'm going to college in the fall, too. Here's what I got: MBP 15" with 2.2 GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Hi-Res Antiglare display. With the education discount, it came to $2224 before tax. In my opinion, it's hard to beat $90 for a 128GB SSD. I also have a 2TB external HDD, though, so that's where I'm storing my iTunes library. The only drawback is that I have to have it plugged in to access my library, and since it's a big 2TB drive it has to be plugged into the wall whenever I use it. There are more portable drives that don't need to be plugged into the wall, but I don't know if they get bigger than 500GB.
  17. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    Well if you're willing to put up with the weight, get the 15. If not, get the 13. it's like you're posting this to us like we can directly help you with this issue. You used them both for yourself, make a decision. We can't tell you more than you can see for yourself, especially if you actually went in and compared.

    I don't see why you need the SSD and 8 gigs of RAM; if you have a lot of music, then you obviously can't go the SSD route. Get one with a larger internal HDD and you'll be set. Again you're answering your own questions: SSD is too small and you don't want to pay the high price. Don't get it then.

    You aren't paying 90 for an SSD, you're paying 90 in TOP of what they're charging because the internal HD is swapped FOR it. You'd be paying 90 if it ALSO came with an extra internal HD, which it does not. Just pointing that out. It's easy to assume you're getting storage for a low price because of the way Apple words the upgrades. You're paying 90 on top of the machine with the internals already priced.
  18. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Excellent post. I agree entirely re your suggestion on the external HD and can write from personal experience for the HD of my MBP did indeed crash.

    Agree also re printers; to the OP get a laser printer (again, the voice of experience speaks) from a good manufacturer, a small, solidly made one (that is what I have); HP are good. Forget inkjets or the three-in-ones.

    Headphones are also useful. Re a possible digital voice recorder, remember that not all teachers permit recording in class - check beforehand.

    To the OP, congratulations on starting college; this will be an amazing and rewarding period of your life and take the time to enjoy it. Re computers, bear in mind that portability will probably make a considerable difference over time, hence my recommendation of the 13" MBA over the 15"MBP, but it is your choice. Specs and screen versus portability, you have to decide what you really need or want.

    I honestly cannot see why 8GB RAM would be so necessary at this stage, or what it would add; 4 GB RAM will be more than enough to see you through several years.

    Re the large iTunes library, get an external HD; in the medium to long term, I'd imagine that the price of SSD will come down, at that time you should be able to invest in a larger capacity SSD drive.

  19. Vader, Jul 5, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2011

    Vader macrumors 65816


    Oct 11, 2004
    Saint Charles, MO
    They go up to at least 1 TB in portable drives. Bought a WD 1 TB portable on Black Friday last year.

    I can put another vote on getting a laser printer. Not sure how the $100 off a printer works now (thought they were doing a $100 app store coupon, or is it both?) but 4 years ago, they did not have any reasonably priced laser printers. I got a $100 inkjet, so it would be free, and sold it for $70 and then bought a used HP LaserJet 1012. Now that I have graduated, I finally used up the cartridge it came with. I did alot of printing with it, but also did alot of printing on campus, so your usage may differ.
  20. Airforcekid macrumors 65816


    Sep 29, 2008
    United States of America
    Always go for the SSD have you seen the iMac boot with it and open all apps in under 15 seconds. Go aftermarket on the ram you can get a lot more cheaper. As for the 13 inch either get an iMac or TV with dvi hookup for a bigger display. My MacBook pro died yesterday from 2010 still unsure why always invest in online storage or a second device.
  21. clyde2801 macrumors 601


    Mar 6, 2008
    In the land of no hills and red dirt.
    What are the specs on your white macbook that you already own? If it has anything but the older intel integrated graphics, you may want to consider maxing out the ram and adding a large 7200 rpm or hybrid drive to coax a little more life out of it. You can find a decent LCD monitor relatively cheaply, and can use that to compare documents side by side when at your desk.

    If you can coax a little more life out of your current machine, you'll have a newer machine when you enter med school.
  22. Mitchelino macrumors 6502

    Jun 24, 2009
    Ontario, Canada
    I'm not very familiar with the new MBPs, but I will tell you my setup which is going into it's 4th year.

    15" MacBook Pro (bought in September or October 2008 for my 1st year of university). It was a few months before the unibody ones came out.
    2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. 2GB DDR2 RAM. 200GB HDD. I think it was the base model for 15" back in the day.

    It's still running strong, although the lag can get bad with iPhoto & iMovie, as well as some newer apps. 200GB is also not much storage. I use my computer for similar tasks, such as browsing the web, listening to music, writing papers, streaming video, editing the occaisional video, writing music, and I used to play a few Steam games on it.

    The base 15" setup worked fine for me. But I do recommend a large HDD, especially if you plan to edit the occaision video. Looks like my setup may last me 5+ years, as it's still going strong and still supports the latest software (that I use) and the latest OS. You shouldn't have a problem with that either :)
  23. ebolamonkey3 macrumors regular


    Apr 9, 2011
    As someone mentioned before, it may be better to use two separate setups.

    IE: a 11" MBA + an iMac, or a 13" MBP + an external monitor.

    My friend is a graphic designer and he uses a 15" MBP with a 24" monitor at home/work. If you want enough power to last you 4-5 years, I'd suggest a quad core (only 15" unfortunately), but if you want portability, a 13" MBP is probably your best bet balancing power and portability.

    A MBA by itself does not have the processing power to last you 4-5 years, so I'd recommend that only w/ an iMac or another desktop at home.
  24. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2009
    United Kingdom
    Depending on what the OP does it may well do. Heck, Plenty of Mac Users I know are still happy with their first generation AlBook G4s from 2003.... and those are easily outclassed by a Current MacBook Air.
  25. stonyc macrumors 65816


    Feb 15, 2005
    Why not a 13" MBP and an external monitor?
    - gives you the portability on the go.
    - gives you screen real estate back at the dorm.
    - spring for the SSD if you can afford it, single best upgrade you can possible make to ANY computer.
    - add an external hard drive for storage/backup back at the dorm.

    I've had both a 13" and 15" MBP, and while I'm no weakling, the difference in weight and footprint is pretty significant if you're making long cross-campus walks. Plus, this is just me, but because I could "feel" the weight of the 15" MBP in my backpack, I felt overly conscious (and protective) of it being there.

    Personally, if it were me, I would wait for the refreshed Airs... with the upgraded processors, the Air will last you throughout your college years. With pre-med, you're probably not going to be doing anything overly CPU-intensive anyways. Even in Bioinformatics, I find that most routine coding assignments are well-handled by my i5 MBP. Any hugely computation-intensive task gets thrown at my lab servers or cluster, anyways.

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