Computer for Engineering

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by ds., Feb 18, 2012.

  1. ds., Feb 18, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2012

    ds. macrumors member

    Feb 18, 2012
    Hey guys, new to posting on here but been reading for a while. I just had a question to ask, so here it goes.

    Hopefully I'll begin going to university this September for either mechanical engineering or first year common engineering (undeclared). I was wondering if a base 13" MBP would suffice or should I just go for a Windows laptop. Max I can spend is for a base 13" MBP so the 15" and 17" aren't an option. Screen size isn't a real issue to my, I can use an external monitor in my dorm for that. Personal use is light for computer. Don't play games, only watch movies, tv shows, and social networking. So, just hoping to get your opinions and suggestions about what I should do.

    I'll be going to univeristy in Ontario, Canada if that makes a difference for curriculum requirements.

    Thanks in advance for all your help. :)

    EDIT: I will be waiting to buy the computer during the summer, so hopefully Ivy Bridge will be out and shipping with the MBPs by then and hopefully those processors will be good enough.
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    If it's just for personal use then it doesn't really matter what computer you get, as any modern computer can access the internet, watch movies, and play music just fine. If you have specialized engineering software you need to run (maybe find out from your department) and/or you are on a budget, maybe a Mac is not the best choice.
  3. Signal-11 macrumors 65816


    Mar 23, 2008
    2nd Star to the Right
    You'll be fine with whatever it is you get. If you like Apple, then get an Apple.

    You're not going to be doing much with specialized software in the first year or two anyway and you'll always be able to boot into Windows via BootCamp.
  4. ds. thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 18, 2012
    Yea, I'm not too worried about the first two years, but I don't want to buy another laptop after 2 years so this should be something I can use for the 4/5 years I'm at university.

    I can upgrade the ram to 8gb so with that in mind, do you think a base 13" is good?
  5. mat25 macrumors regular


    Aug 13, 2008
    Im also interested in this. Is a powerful computer necessary for engineering?
  6. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    That depends greatly on what you use the computer for. For example:

    If you plan on doing any CAD, or Finite Element Analysis, then yes, a powerful computer will help tremendously.

    If you'll only be doing 2D work, you can get by with a less powerful computer.

    If you need to do large calculations of any kind using, say, Matlab or Maple, then a powerful computer will make computation faster.
  7. GuitarG20 macrumors 65816


    Jun 3, 2011
    Seconded. Now that I am getting into CAD and matlab, the i7 is coming in handy. Of course, it barely manages to put a load on the i7, so a 13" would have enough power, I'd say.
  8. MeliFelipe macrumors newbie

    Dec 11, 2011
    screen size/resolution might be a bigger issue, im using solid works in bootcamp on a 15" and at times with multiple parts/assemblies open it can get a bit frustrating to deal with them, I can only imagine that it would just be more difficult on a smaller screen.
  9. rheb1026 macrumors member

    Jun 19, 2011
    I'm a junior undergrad ME student and I use a early 2011 base 13". I do have 8GB of RAM and an external monitor, but I've never felt as if the computer is underpowered. I've done both MATLAB and SolidWorks and never felt like the computer has been a problem. Granted a faster one might be better, but I've never felt like I've been held back by the 13"
  10. ds. thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 18, 2012
    I'll keep an external monitor in my dorm, so that shouldn't be too big of a problem. I doubt I'll be doing any extensive work where I need screen estate on the go, so the 13" is good.

    ME, I'm assuming is Mechanical Engineering, right? Nice to hear from someone who's had first hand experience. Do you feel that the 13" limits you in any way? For example, are there any programs that you are not able to run or do they all work? And do you use windows? If so, do you run it on bootcamp or using parallels or VMware?

    I know it's a lot of questions, sorry about that, but I just want to make sure I know everything before I buy my computer for the next 4/5 years.
  11. JacaByte macrumors 6502

    Dec 26, 2009
    My Early 2010 15" Macbook Pro handled Autodesk Inventor 2010/11 and Revit 2010 with ease, and can handle AutoCAD 2011 decently. (AutoCAD 2011 for Mac is buggy and crash prone.) Pretty much any laptop that Apple offers now completely blows away my MBP, so you should be fine.
  12. Signal-11 macrumors 65816


    Mar 23, 2008
    2nd Star to the Right
    You will upgrade in 2-3 years when you figure out your needs. Or you won't. No computer you buy now will be perfect. First year engineering students in any major won't really know what they should have gotten until after the fact, even with advice from previous students from the same department of the same school. That's just the way things are.

    Really, all this will depend on the curriculum at the time of your classes. Just get the computer you want. It'll be fine. And it's not like there won't be labs. Honestly, if I could give one piece of advice to engineering students, it's to get out of your dorm room to do your homework.

    AutoCAD through Parallels/VMware and native in OSX have issues. You *will* reboot into Windows.
  13. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    you will be fine

    as one who has a BSME and current grad student, any computer will be more than capable
  14. hawk1410 macrumors 6502

    Jul 5, 2011
    I think you'll be fine. You won't be using much specialized software early on. Even if you need to you could always use bootcamp.
    But if you're on a budget do look into HPs EliteBook lineup and think pads. You can get a decent 15in thinkpad for the price of a MBP 13.
  15. rheb1026 macrumors member

    Jun 19, 2011
    Yes your assumption is correct. I do not feel limited in anyway, but my actual use of SolidWorks has been for single part designs, or small multi part assemblies (10 or 15 parts). Though I do use bootcamp for SolidWorks because there is not a native one for Mac and the school provides the Windows version (I use Windows 7 Home). I believe I'm using the latest SolidWorks, either 2011 or 2012. I've never had any problems, but my use is pretty minimal relatively speaking... I've worked with engineers who use 2 30" screens and have hundreds of parts being assembled, but this is not something you'd ever encounter in University.

    I also use MATLAB R2011a and have never had problems. Though I have not done much in terms of 3D graphing, so I can't comment on that. My use has mostly been for solving and plotting differential equations that I don't want to do by hand. My school actually has a license for the native 64-bit version, so I run MATLAB on the Mac partition.

    I think these are the two most likely 'specialized' programs that you will encounter in University if you decide on mechanical engineering. I have friends who use Pro/E and AutoCAD as well, and although I haven't used either of them, I'm sure they'll run similarly to SolidWorks.

    If you have any other questions feel free to let me know
  16. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    You'd mostly be held back by the graphics card once it comes to large assemblies(1 year left of ME to do and an internship in a design firm under my belt.)

    The 15" would be much more proficient at more intensive work, but that's not the kind of stuff you'll get in university.
  17. cwillie macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2011
    OP, I assume you have applied to ME at Waterloo, and have Mac or U ofT as a backup?

    I am in my first year at Waterloo in ME. I bought the 13" Early 2011 2.7. I really need to upgrade the RAM as it hangs up a lot with just 4GB, even just doing simple stuff. I have Windows 7 running on bootcamp, with AutoCAD and Solidworks. You will use AutoCAD for the design class, but I found it easier to use the desktops in the labs. I also found it necessary to have the Windows version of Excel, as some of the commands are missing or different in the Mac version.

    Solidworks and autocad run decently but not great. The fans certainly spin up.

    For first year, you can certainly get by on any computer. This has served me pretty well, but it needs more RAM.

    EDIT: Make sure you use TimeMachine. I had to restore twice after it corrupted when booting into windows

    Looking back on my decision, I think I would have been equally happy with a thinkpad. For the same money you get a more powerful machine that runs cad much better.

    Go with what you are comfortable with, you don't really need much power, although it can be nice.

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