Combination of devices for student?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by joemcneil, Jun 14, 2017.

  1. joemcneil macrumors newbie

    May 9, 2014
    Hello. I am an undergraduate student about to enter the realm of postgraduate research, and am looking to upgrade/simplify my setup. My current setup consists of two Macs, and I feel that things could be much simpler with a single computer. I feel that, for me at least, it's unnecessary to own two computers. If I change my setup to only one computer, it'd have to be a MacBook of some kind. I’ll be travelling a fair amount over the next year, mostly to Continental Europe and South-East Asia, and would like something portable to take with me to take notes, consume media, create documents etc. I would like the option for enough power to run illustrator/photoshop well, as well as some (very) light gaming, but this is not a deal-breaker. Cost is not a massive issue if I sell both old macs, but keep in mind I am a student.

    Current setup:

    Baseline 21.5” iMac (Late 2012) (2.7GHz Quad-Core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, GeForce GT 640M with 512MB dedicated memory)

    I use this computer primarily for more power-hungry jobs, such as the creation of geological maps, scientific posters, and figures (in photoshop and illustrator). I also use it for media consumption, and some very light gaming, i.e. Minecraft/World of Warcraft (when I get the time). Naturally, any replacement machine would have to be able to do the aforementioned tasks to the same degree or higher. This machine has been great, however, the 5400rpm HDD and non-retina display are starting to show its age.

    Baseline 13” rMBP (Mid-2014) (2.6GHz Dual-Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, integrated Intel graphics)

    I use this computer primarily for extensive spreadsheets, word processing, presentations, documents, emails, web browsing, communication, and so on. Generally a much lighter workload than the iMac. Still going strong, and a genuinely great laptop.

    Potential Setups:
    1. Sell iMac + rMBP, buy MacBook Pro 15” 2017 (+ External Display?)
    2. Sell iMac + rMBP, buy MacBook Pro 13” 2017 + External Display
    3. Sell iMac, buy iMac (4k or 5k), keep rMBP for a few more years.
    4. Something else?
  2. willmtaylor macrumors G3


    Oct 31, 2009
    A Natural State
    For travels, I'd recommend the MacBook Pro. You'll have to determine whether the 13" or 15" suits your needs better. If you know you'll be getting an external display, I'd recommend the 13" just for portability/convenience.

    You could also consider getting an iPad Air 2 or a 9.7" iPad Pro w/an Apple Pencil for notes, games, or media consumption.

    The iMac would give you more "bang for your buck" but at the sacrifice of portability/convenience. If you really don't think that would be an issue, I'd recommend getting the iMac and a 9.7" iPad Pro.
  3. Stefan johansson macrumors 65816

    Stefan johansson

    Apr 13, 2017
    If I where you,I would swap the iMac for an iPad Pro,and keep the MacBook. You can always change setup again after your studying is finished.
  4. BA Baracus macrumors member

    Mar 28, 2009
    As someone who has just completed a postgraduate diploma I would strongly suggest a setup that allows you to write copious amounts of text/beefy reports or assignments comfortably - i.e. decent sized screen and a proper keyboard.

    Therefore, get an iMac for the serious academic work and an iPad for your travels.
  5. smallcoffee macrumors 65816

    Oct 15, 2014
    North America
    1. Sell iMac + rMBP, buy MacBook Pro 15” 2017 (+ External Display?)
    that's the best solution. It'll easily power what you're describing as your use cases.
  6. mroy16 macrumors member

    May 28, 2017
    I see people recommending an iMac + iPad, and that suggestion really depends on your needs. As a graduate student in the sciences, an iPad simply doesn't run enough software to be useful for me. If you're in a similar situation, I would really recommend the 13" MacBook Pro with an external display. Unless you really need the additional power of the 15", the lower price of the 13" will allow you to get an external display, mouse, and keyboard for when you need to do more extended writing or desk work.
  7. MichaelDT macrumors regular

    Aug 18, 2012
    I'm in the sciences, honestly I have three machines. An older 2011 iMac for home use, an iPad for reading academic papers, and a 2017 MBP 13" for work and travel. Honestly, what you have now is probably fine considering any computationally intensive tasks will probably be done on a department cluster, if you're in the sciences. You could update the MBP to a newer version with more space if you'll be using MatLab or other behemoth apps that'll bloat your computer. Pick up dual displays and a mechanical keyboard (see das keyboard) and call it a day.
  8. Algus macrumors regular


    Jun 8, 2014
    You own virtually the same MacBook as me and I have yet to encounter something it couldn't handle. The 2014 unit is still a great model, even if it doesn't have some of the bells and whistles they started introducing a couple years ago. With your stated use case, I see no reason why you'd have to buy anything new at all. I would think your current MBP would be sufficient for your travel needs.
  9. krause734 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2010
    MBP 13" + Display. Portable for travel, yet good size for work at home. IMHO the iPad is a fun toy but not for work. I also dislike all in ones like the iMac for various reasons: they're overpriced, if something goes bad the whole thing is worthless, they become obsolete quickly while a 4k monitor will last a long time. Then you can just update/upgrade the desktop computer anytime you want. If you work from home a lot I would get a desktop computer but the Mac Mini/Pro are obviously not up to date so that leaves you with Windows 10. Therefore I'd stick with the MBP and Display. Apple may release new desktops sometime soon.
  10. epca12 macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2017
    Quite a hard decision, the iMacs would give you the best value and the most power but having one computer for all of your work might be more appealing
  11. Diving Capers macrumors 6502

    Diving Capers

    Jun 10, 2017
    I'd say...

    13" MacBook Pro + monitor

    10.5 iPad Pro

    And get one of the apps that lets you use your iPad as a second screen for your laptop, this way you'll have plenty or real estate on the road (when you need the software and power of the MacBook Pro) and you'll also have the option of only carrying the iPad Pro when you want to travel light.

    Plus this setup gives you the option of having triple monitors at home, double monitors on the road and the portability of the iPad Pro when needed.
  12. smallcoffee macrumors 65816

    Oct 15, 2014
    North America
    For me, personally, a setup like that drives me crazy because there's so much device and size overlap.
  13. Diving Capers macrumors 6502

    Diving Capers

    Jun 10, 2017
    for a permanent home/office setup I would go with 3 displays of equal size. But he is a student who travels extensively so portability would be important.

    For a working profesional the setup would be obviously different... I.e multiple displays connected to a desk top plus a portable (laptop or tablet) that accommodates their needs and use.

    Personal setups will vary depending on preference, space and type of work done on the system.
  14. smallcoffee macrumors 65816

    Oct 15, 2014
    North America
    Sure sure that's why I said "for me" :)

    I still think there is too much overlap with the 13" MacBook Pro and the iPad. I'd go with the 15" Pro and a larger size phone. The 15" isn't bad to travel with. I carry two every day (one for work one personal) and usually carry one for work travel plus my 6+. I just feel lile for the student budget it doesn't make sense to have so many devices.
  15. Diving Capers macrumors 6502

    Diving Capers

    Jun 10, 2017
    All valid points.... I wasn't being narkie .... I was just expanding on my post :)
  16. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Just get an SSD installed in the imac and continue using both perfectly good computers for another couple of years, seems the simplest and cheapest option to me.
  17. Scott Robinson macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2014
    You haven't said whether your current system is underperforming? I'd agree with getting an SSD for iMac. Will fly. If you're going to get an external monitor anyway why not keep the iMac (do 2012 iMacs allow target display, I forget). You haven't really given enough of a use case. What do you do with your MacBook currently? For those suggesting iPad: I am quite happy using an iPad for note-taking (mindnode, Omnioutliner), digesting reference material in lectures (Papers) and write papers (Scrivener) all within iOS. But I can't do any really "work" on it that includes more heavy Scrivener work and any design tasks. I think it comes down to where you want you processor power? At home (option 3) or on the move (1).
  18. mpConroe macrumors regular


    Feb 14, 2017
    Arbroath (UK) / Wroclaw (PL)
    If my opinion may help you, I would go with MBP 13'' and 27'' iMac. You will get laptop, which is necessary for student and a powerful machine at home - iMac 27''. That's what I'm going to do anyway: I already got MBP 13'' and I'm going to buy new iMac 27'' this summer, before the classes begins.

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