Computer choice Mech. Engineering

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by BSME, Sep 11, 2006.

  1. BSME macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2006
    hey all, i've read and re-read the forums here, and it looks like i've picked a pretty good time to go back to school/re-enter the Mac world...

    just a background on my situation. i'm just entering my freshman year of school, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. i will end up a patent agent when all is said and done, though i'm not sure if i'll pursue engineering as a career or not. it does seem interesting.

    i'm married, and we share our laptop at home.

    i've decided i need a computer dedicated to my schooling. we've got a dell inspiron 8600 laptop at home, and it's still running strong with the original 256k memory for the last 3 years.

    i've narrowed my choices down to the following 3 options, but am unsure as to what's the wisest move...

    1) purchase 17" iMac + applecare ($1,272) and macbook + applecare ($1,232) together for a total of $2,504. step up 17" with ATI card, used for cad stuff at home, notebook for mobile use when i just can't handle working at home anymore. would be nice for her to contact me via iSight camera when i'm off on my own.

    2) purchase 15" MacBook Pro + applecare for $2,038, or upgrade to faster bigger hard drive for $2,218. our laptop works well for what she does, and she's used to it. this would be my dedicated workstation throughout school, and i think it'll handle everything i can throw at it since i think most complex modelling, etc., will be done in labs.

    3) purchase 24" iMac with upgraded HD and video (since i'm unsure as to upgradability of these, pictures didn't look to promising on HD) + applecare for $2,365. in this case i'd use the old laptop for mobile use when i get out, and i'd share the computer with her for normal use, and when she needs to check e-mail/web stuff when i'm working at home, she can just use the laptop.

    to be honest, i'm not sure how in-depth most of the stuff i'll be doing is. i'm going to specialize in thermal mechanics (more specifically in automotive applications), so i have a feeling there'll be some pretty cool stuff i'll be able to do, but that leads me to believe i'll need as good as a video card as i can handle. worst case, when i realize what i'll need, i can set up a windows box to handle the complex stuff. i do know that i need some form of dedicated graphics in school though, and i can run solidworks on the x1600, so i'm sure pretty much anything i'll need at home can also use this card.

    to re-hash simply, small iMac to handle cad with MacBook for mobile work, MBP for an all-in-one solution, or 24" iMac for sweet home computing, yet limiting my options while mobile. it'd be nice if you can give reasons for your advice if at all possible...

    thanks in advance,

  2. jessep28 macrumors 6502


    Sep 8, 2006
    Omaha, NE
    I am kind of in the same boat as you, only I am a senior in college and going to graduate with an accouting degree in May. I have been a long time PC user.

    I would look at your labs and ask what software is used for your degree. Then look at 1) If there is a Mac Version 2) What the requirements are. You can always load Windows if you run into serious compatibility issues via Boot Camp or Parallels.

    Although you will benefit greatly on maxing out RAM if you want 2 OS on there.
  3. Gurutech macrumors 6502

    Jan 22, 2006
    I'd recommend MBP option if it had the merom chip inside.
    At this moment, that option doesn't sound that much compelling.

    If I were in your situation, I'd choose MB+iMac Combo.

    As far as softwares and compatibility go, I wouldn't worry too much. We now have Parallels and Boot Camp.
    Only issue that I've encountered with my MBP so far is lack of serial port. Yeah I know that 's pretty old legacy port.. but still some of the old lab equipments still use it. Doesn't matter really though..
    BTW i'm EE major.
  4. BSME thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2006

    i'm not at all concerned about software compatability with bootcamp in the picture. i'm thinking by the time i acually need some of this stuff, bootcamp will work pretty seamlessly.

    i'm also not worried about upgrading ram. i'll do so in the days after ordering. this is merely a "what the hell should i order from apple as they're such kick @$$ options" thread.

    i really, really like the MBP, and like i said, i could build a box for intense CAD stuff pretty cheaply down the road, but it should handle what i need for a while.

    i really, really like the iMac 24", would be awesome to end up using as a media center for the bedroom later in life.

    i also really like the MacBook, and getting my wife switched over to OSX woud be awesome because all she does is check e-mail, work on her website (over complicated compared to iWeb when using publisher), and mess around with pictures and making greeting cards (any good programs for mac...). so she could use the MacBook when i'm using the iMac, and i could take the MacBook when i want to get out and she'd not be going back and forth between operating systems.

    this is one hell of a tough choice, considering i'm not going to get a computer for a long time after this....
  5. theBB macrumors 68020


    Jan 3, 2006
    If you use Bootcamp, only one OS is running at any one time, so no need to max out RAM just for that.

    Anyways, I'd go with an iMac 20'' + MacBook option. You can wait on Applecare for 12 months after your purchase, so no hurry to pay up now. If iMac does not get moved a lot, Applecare would probably be an expensive insurance that in my opinion is not worth its price. I would get iMac 20'' w/o Applecare instead of iMac 17'' + Applecare if your budget is limited. I use CAD tools everyday and larger screen is great to have.
  6. bearbo macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2006
    first... are you doing undergraduate mechanical engineering study? if so you need a macbook... you do not need dedicated graphic card, in fact, you won't be doing most of your hardcore calculation (if any) on your personal computer, because you will most likely not be licenced for those software, not from school anyway

    now if you are doing graduate mechanical engineering study, then you want to ask someoen from your department what are the requirement are, whether you will be doing most of the work on your computer or they are gonna give you computer... and go from there

    now if you want to buy a computer that's not dedicated (and by that i mean, school work and only school work) for school, they you want to think about what you really need it for.

    i'm a chemical engineer, and i have friends doing biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering... none of us need our personal computer for complex calculations... (our computers are mainly for papers, if even that)

    and again: you want to ask your department, or your advisor to see how much do they expect you to perform on your personal computer

    edit: after reading some of your latter threads, it sounds like this is NOT gonna be a dedicated computer for school, then you really want to ask your self what are you gonna use this computer for... i'm sure you will like a very advanced computer... oh also, is your budget tight, around 2500?
  7. BSME thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2006
    budget is pretty set at about 2500. so 20" iMac + macbook would be close if i ignore applecare for the first year.

    either way i look at it, one of them is going to be my dedicated computer, but the dual option being where i'll only use the iMac for CAD stuff.

    i pretty well agree that my personal computer will likely be for papers and compiling my notes into searchable form, which is why i think a notebook would be best for that. i just want to make sure i have the power to putz with some basic CAD stuff at home. i've already got access to ProE and Mechanical Desktop, with SolidWorks available if need be. i'd like to be able to run these programs.

    again, i'll upgrade ram after the fact on my own.

    i did consider the Mac Pro, as i'm sure it'll last me YEARS with what i'll use it for, but upgrades are expensive, and i'd be using it with a 15" CRT, which almost seems a sin with such a machine.

    the sad thing for me is ALL of the options are good, quality options for me, but it's basically become:

    dedicated laptop for me, nice home workstation for me and wife, or one of each, sacrificing on both.

    i'm sure they're all overkill for what i REALLY need, but like i said, i won't be buying again until after i'm done with school (6+ years), so i want to make sure to leave as many doors open for the long haul.
  8. bearbo macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2006
    so you are doing ME for graduate study? (that's kind of important to what computer to choose...)
  9. BSME thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2006

    i'm going for undergrad now. i'm likely to end up doing graduate studies in german translation/technical writing (if i'm able to).
  10. bearbo macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2006
    right... i should've known... BS in ME...

    seriously, i really doubt you need anything more than very stock macbook for your school work. maybe when you do grad study, depend on what you do. but by then i'm sure you will want the best thing at that time...

    provided you have definite amoung of cash, i'd utilize school's computer lab for all the software you might be using (i never heard of school give undergrad software licences), if you download them somewhere, it might be cool in the first week or two, and it gets boring afterward... now if you can secure a copy of matlab, that might be something you want to try to get to run on your personal computer, just because if you do any kind of programming, you very likely find yourself sitting in front of your computer trying to squeeze out a simpler code 2am in the morning, and that's when you want to do it on your computer... as to ProE and Mechanical Desktop, with SolidWorks... just use the computer lab, that will be enough (i'm talking from the perspective of fellow engineer student, where do you go to school?)

    as of the other computer you do at home with your family... you want to think about what you want to do on that computer... is it surfing the net, email, is it casual gaming, or do you have expensive hobby like video editing and stuff...

    get only what you need... by that i dont meant what you absolutely need for life at this point, but what do you see that you will need in say a yr and half... you cannot expect any computer you buy now to work as a new computer 3 yrs later, by then if you need powerful stuff, you will have to get another one.
  11. BSME thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2006
    thanks for the advice.

    i'm glad to have found someone who is in/has been in my footsteps to give it.

    i think i'm going to end up going for the macbook, and just max it out with ram and a bigger HD aftermarket to save some cash.

    i might just be a nice guy and suprise my wife with a new macbook for our anniversary! i think she'd really love using OSX along with the stable, built in programs that come with iLife. as a bonus, i can then use my copies of XP Pro and Office 2003 for my own use.

    thanks again. maybe when i'm ready for a nice desktop, they'll have hologram monitors with games to match (here's to wishful thinking...).
  12. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    The Macbook is a nice machine, and not to rain on your parade...but transferring files between computers becomes a hassle very fast. I'd go for the MBP.

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