Computer Science Major - Which MBP?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by jsol92, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. jsol92 macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2010
    EDIT: My original question has been answered, thanks everyone!
    The topic has changed to careers/majors in computing. (Computer Science majors, Software Engineering, etc.)
    Mods, feel free to move this thread to a more appropriate forum and/or change the title.

    I'm considering going into a computer science major and I was just wondering which macbook pro would be best to buy?
    I want to keep it portable so the 17" is out of the its between the middle and higher end 15" models.
    Will I be doing a lot of high level computing or will the middle model suffice?

  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    You tell us?
  3. mcruzader macrumors regular

    Sep 10, 2008
  4. mikes63737 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2005
    I'm a Computer Science & Engineering major at UConn, and I'm using a 3-year old 15" Macbook Pro (2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, 120 GB 5400 RPM HD) and it's been more than enough for my freshman year.

    The way I see it (and this depends on your school), CS is about learning how to make the computer do what you want it to do, not necessarily taxing the hardware to get research done quickly. For example, my first semester involved little more than writing little scripts in Matlab to do simple math. For my second semester, we're using Java to make graphics using simple shapes (my homework: create two aliens using rectangles, circles, and rounded rectangles).

    To be completely honest, even a 13" white Macbook should easily fit your needs for the first year. After that, it will still probably be fine.

    Don't forget, you will probably use it mostly for Facebook and writing papers.
  5. jsol92 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2010
    Awesome, exactly what I needed to know :)

    As I said before, I'm considering the major, I haven't chosen it. I'm still in the process of getting familiar with it.
  6. mikes63737 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2005
    Glad I could help :)

    It's a great major. You definitely learn to think about things in a different way.

    What are you doing to become familiar with it? (Please don't say learning HTML...) I, along with others on this forum, can give you ideas on where to start if you're not sure.
  7. Mernak macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2006
    Kirkland, WA
    Yeah, pretty much any computer available right now would be more than enough for a Computer Science major. Unless you are going to be working with CAD or 3d graphics programs (probably more for an elective class), you will be perfectly fine. The most important thing is being able to install the latest versions of programming languages, the actual amount of processing power you will use will be minimal (unless you do a Thesis on something like a new algorithm for use with a large relational database). Screen real estate is really more important than anything, especially when dealing with IDEs, so a 15" makes sense.

    Note: I'm a Sophomore in Mathematics & Computer Science
  8. aaronw1986 macrumors 68030

    Oct 31, 2006
    My 15 inch MBP has been perfect for my computer science classes. Do you have an external monitor? If the laptop is the only screen you will be using, definitely get the 15. Otherwise, 13+ monitor will be good for coding...also portable.
  9. akm3 macrumors 68020

    Nov 15, 2007
    Way too many people get 'computer science' degrees because they want to work with computers.

    This is like going to get iron ore smelting degrees to learn how to make nails because you want to be a carpenter.

    Be SURE you want to be a computer science person and not a 'programmer', or 'web-designer', or 'server administrator' or something.
  10. jsol92 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2010
    Thanks for the advice everyone :)

    I'm currently looking into careers in Software Engineering.
    I'm not going to lie, I barley started considering it within the past month. :D I'm a Senior in high school right now so I've been trying to weight all my options before I have to choose a major. (I still have a while :p)
    I was thinking of Biology...but I'm really not a life sciences person. I have a passion for computers so I figured I'd start looking into careers that have to do with that.
  11. stgben macrumors newbie

    Jun 5, 2007
    This. I'm a 3rd year CS major at UC Davis and I see a lot of people drop out when they have to take a lot of the theoretical upper division classes and have no clue what is going on. That said, stick it out if you can because there is light at the end of the tunnel.
  12. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    +1 for using a 13 inch + external monitor OR 15 inch.

    You can never have enough screen real estate when using and IDE.
  13. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Absolutely. I made the same mistake myself. Computer science is THEORY, THEORY and more THEORY. Your most useful tool will be a pen and paper, for working out algorithms, pointer arrays, and representations of complex maths theories. You'll be doing a lot of maths. With pen and paper, not calculators.

    It's the type of maths where calculators don't really help at all. A 10 year old computer will be fine for it. You'll be learning about the deeper theories behind computer languages, and writing your own compilers in machine code.

    To be honest, it was completely the wrong degree for me. I wish I'd done law or anthropology or something like that, but these weren't really options for a country boy like me.
  14. aliskr macrumors newbie

    Nov 9, 2009
    jsol92 I'm glad you're considering reading Computer Science (CS) at university. May I suggest that you also strongly consider mathematics/statistics/physics and/or economics in combination with CS.

    It is also important that you understand the CS course in terms of its content at your chosen university. For example, not all courses allow one to explore pure/applied math in depth but limit their focus to discrete math and logic. Again, not all courses even cover discrete math/logic in sufficient depth. Also, some appear as CS but produce mostly second-rate programmers. CS != programming as someone highlighted before. Areas in CS where you can add value and earn very good income increasingly require advanced mathematical/statistical skills, so if you get these skills and a decent CS knowledge - you'll do very well indeed.
  15. Chris Rogers macrumors 6502a

    Chris Rogers

    Jul 8, 2008
    my house
    Great advice here aside from the purchase :)

    Before I got into business/finance I considered CS. 874,975,238 years later I'm still not completely opposed to it, but don't have any regrets about choosing business/finance especially since CS is kind of my hobby :)

    I hated that you have to decide at 17/18 years old what you want to do for the rest of your life, but do what makes you happy.
  16. jbrenn macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2008
    Any mac will work fine for computer science. I had a very crappy 6 year old hp. It was more than enough power.
  17. chkenwing macrumors regular

    Jan 27, 2010
    I doing a CompScience degree in UK.

    Look into what the course actually offers, some will have more enthasis on programming than others. And as said before, identify what you want to be.

    Unfortunately for me, my CS degree is more programming focused and I hate programming. Eugh.
  18. jsol92 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2010
    God, I know....that's why I figured I'd go for a major that I'm interested in rather than one I'll have a higher paying career with. You can't buy happiness ;)

    As for the comment on's almost perfect because I'm currently an AP Statistics student and I love it! (I'm weird like that :D )
  19. logimech macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2010
    That's how I used to think too when I was your age. If it's an interest, why not keep it that way? Learn programming on the side, while you pursue a major that will get you paid (and allow you to "retire" earlier to do what you really love).

    It's not a trivial decision, the difference in pay is staggering.

    A programming job coming out of a top school will make around 50-70k a year (I've heard of 90k, but those are much more rare). In 3-5 years, expect to make 70-100k. In most cases, you'll likely max out at around 120-150k. Also, you're wracking your mind all day maintaining legacy systems, mostly developing skills to do more programming. If you're a top-notch world-class programmer in a very competitive position in the financial services industry (and lucky), you'll be able to get around 400k per year.

    A investment banking job will make 80-120k coming out of school (70k in the deepest times of the recent depression). In 3-5 years, expect to make 200-700k. Also, you're mostly preparing spreadsheets, presentation materials, analyzing financial statements, and engaging with clients, but developing skills to move cross-industry and into management positions anywhere. If you're a pretty good banker you'll end up with $1-20MM++ per year.

    A management consulting job will make about 70-80k coming out of school. In 3-5 years, expect to make 120-250k. You're mostly preparing presentation materials, thinking of business strategy, and engaging with clients, but developing skills to move cross-industry and into management positions anywhere. If you're a pretty good consultant, you'll end up with $1-5MM+ per year.

    My personal approach was to major in business, while developing my skills in programming as an interest on the side (double major works too). Skills talk more than major in the programming industry, mine were good enough to get me through the Google interview... (ultimately turned the job down for one of the other two choices listed)

    Going the other way is a lot harder, a math/CS/phys/stat major will be type-cast on paper as a geek (unless you have a double major in a liberal arts field). You'll be fighting against this for the rest of your life if you decide that you want a client-facing (higher paid) role.

    Sure there are exceptions, and people will tell you if you want to do it you can make it work, but why fight an uphill battle when the other route is SO MUCH easier.
  20. ayeying macrumors 601


    Dec 5, 2007
    Yay Area, CA
    I'm a compsci major and Im doing all of my work on a MacBook Air...
  21. aliskr macrumors newbie

    Nov 9, 2009
    I disagree with the statement above in bold. All I can say is that the investment bank I work at would be more than happy to hire, say, MIT grad with above majors if some other competitor is stupid enough to type-cast someone as a geek. This is not high school. Our competitive advantage stems from hiring people from top schools with these skills.
  22. DarthSnuggles macrumors member


    Feb 10, 2010
    I got my CS degree in '04. I went to school with a 400MHz AMD and a Pentium Pro Thinkpad. It was sufficient. Things won't have changed that much. For the first 2 (probably 3) years of your program, you'll be dealing with concepts that are not particularly taxing. Later on you might have to run things and build things that are more interesting, but the most taxing software will probably licensed and thus you won't be able to run it on your own machine anyway.

    Also, if money is your prime motivator, then listen to logimech. But otherwise, he's being ridiculous. Don't choose your occupation based on pay. You will be rich, but unfulfilled. Remember that the majority of your waking hours will be spent doing your job. If you don't like will suck. I have a friend making the big bucks on Wall Street, and he loves it, but I wouldn't trade with him.

    Last thing: You're only type-cast as a geek if you come across as one. People usually get their first impression of you before they know what you do or your education is. For client facing roles, no one cares that you have a CS degree if you are a friendly, sociable person that communicates well.
  23. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

    - Confucius
  24. khirok macrumors newbie

    Jul 10, 2009
    I graduated in 05 with a CS degree from UT-Arlington (great CS program for anybody in Texas btw and compared to UT and A&M is a LOT cheaper and arguably a better undergrad degree). I used an iBook from 2001 for most of the program and it wasn't until I got into a graphics and distributed computing class that I needed to use something more powerful than that.

    So in other words the basic MacBook should do fine for you. If you want screen real estate then get the 15" MBP, been using mine for almost 3 years now and it still works excellent for my transaction processing modeling and testing I do for work.
  25. jsol92 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2010
    To be completly honest I would be fully satisfied making 80-100k a year. I just want to be able to support a family without being a workaholic.
    My parents combined income is a little over 115K and we're living perfectly happy upper middle class lives. We have a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood and they have no problem putting food on the table. That's honestly all I need in life.
    Of course, if I'm making what they make on a single oncome (keep in mind they only have their associates) then my household income would be well over that depending on my wifes occupation.

    So, in short, a programing job would be fine for me :)

    Is a computer engineering/programing degree more favorable than a CS in the working feild?

Share This Page