Confused on which MBP to get for Engineering (on Budget)

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by SMC1991, Sep 18, 2009.

  1. SMC1991 macrumors member

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    Sep 18, 2009
    #1
    Hey everyone,

    I'm a Computer Engineering student, about to start my first year. I had a 24" iMac, and 13" MBP earlier this year, but due to complications, I had to return them and get lousy PCs. Now, I am in the market for a new machine, and I have a few questions.

    1) Do you think I can suffice with just a laptop. I used to subscribe to the mind set that I needed a desktop, but now, I'm not so sure. Ideally, I'd like to run one machine for the convenience of file locations.

    2) Do you think I can work with the 13" MBP (more affordable), I don't need a lot of processing power, but since I had so little time with it, I was wondering how people were making out with the 1280x800 resolution.

    *Also, please note I have a budget ceiling of about $1600 (before tax).


    I guess those are my two main questions for now. I appreciate all responses.

    Thanks,
    Steve:apple:
     
  2. iBookG4user macrumors 604

    iBookG4user

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    #2
    I think that if you got the 13" MacBook Pro in addition to a 23" or 24" display it would be ideal for your situation. The resolution on the 13" is a bit low, but the external should help a lot with that :)
     
  3. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #3
    remember you will have computer labs so id get the 13
     
  4. SMC1991 thread starter macrumors member

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    Sep 18, 2009
    #4
    Thanks so far for the responses guys, you both make very good points.

    @iBookG4User: I'd most likely get some sort of display (I do have a 23" 1080p display), and maybe a mighty mouse if I felt I needed it. I guess that for internet browsing, email, MS Word, and even XCode, I could probably deal with the 1280x800, like I deal with the 1336x768 on my CrapDell. For AutoCAD (which I'll have to boot into Windows for), would be when I'd use the display.

    @duke I am a commuter, but this is a good point. I feel most stuff I do Engineering wise will be done in a lab, with the basic work done on my laptop.

    Thanks again guys, and I hope to hear more insight,
    Steve :apple:
     
  5. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #5
    you will appreciate the smaller size if you are commuting i would think

    to put it in perspective

    i got by with an emac my first 3 years and then a first gen mb for the last couple in engineering so i would think you could easily get by with the 13, not to mention its cheaper!
     
  6. SMC1991 thread starter macrumors member

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    Sep 18, 2009
    #6
    Yes, I have a 16" Dell Studio XPS, and it's a pain to move with me. When I had that 13" uMBP back in July, it was a blessing, and I guess that wouldn't be as great if I get the 15".

    The price is definitely a big factor, and the difference allows me to buy either an iPod touch (great pocket PC), or Airport Extreme with the money I save.

    So engineering school isn't as computationally demanding tech wise as people claim?
     
  7. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #7
    From my experience, you use the labs to run the software (largely software license issues as you most likely wont have a license to run it on your personal computer) as well as the fact that the workstations and servers are way more powerful than any laptop you would be using

    When I was in school, I used my computer largly for reports, internet, and movies/music

    All the hardcore engr programs were done on the lab computers. I prefered that anyways as you will have a directory on your schools network so its very nice to save stuff to that as oppossed to maintaing two save directories in a sense

    The social aspect of working in the labs is fun too as you will work with people you have classes with most likely and its nice to talk and what not

    Just what I had expereinced
     
  8. SMC1991 thread starter macrumors member

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    Sep 18, 2009
    #8
    Cool, thanks a lot for all your insight. Moving files is def. a pain.

    So far I'm leaning toward the 13".
     
  9. NC MacGuy macrumors 603

    NC MacGuy

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    #9
    Another vote for the base model 13 w. 4GB RAM & 23-24 display.
    It has more than enough processing power, ports and features for an engineering student.
     
  10. SMC1991 thread starter macrumors member

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    Sep 18, 2009
    #10
    Thanks,

    I'm also guessing 250 GB HDD should suffice, I only have about 5 gb worth of music/photos and video.
     
  11. m85476585 macrumors 65816

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    Feb 26, 2008
    #11
    I have a desktop in addition to my MBP since it's easier to run Windows on the desktop. I don't like Bootcamp since it requires rebooting, and VMWare is slow and does not work well with anything that uses the graphics card, like CAD programs and games.

    This semester I'm taking Digital Design Lab, and we are using Quartus which is windows-only. I also prefer to run Matlab on Windows since it is a lot faster. Finally, I use Windows whenever I want to do something nontrivial in MS Office. iWork and Neo Office just aren't good enough, and I haven't tried Office 08 yet, but I know it isn't 100% compatible with the Windows Offices.

    I have a nice 22" monitor, so I have plenty of screen space on the desktop (or my MBP, for that matter, if I plug it in), and it is a lot easier to upgrade the desktop.

    For me the ideal situation would be a 13" MBP for portability and cost, and my desktop, but I already have a 15" it's good too.
     
  12. SMC1991 thread starter macrumors member

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    #12
    Well that's an interesting take. Rebooting isn't too terribly inconvenient to me, but I do know that using anything requiring 3D acceleration can't be run seriously yet in a VM.

    On the software side, I didn't know about Matlab being faster on Windows, though it doesn't surprise me that Windows is probably their target platform. AFAIK, Office 2008 is file compatible with everything on the Windows version, just that the VBA support was removed from the program. I really like iWork, and I'd prefer to use it for the times when I could. The free office programs are worthless to me.

    I'm a commuting student (going to Drexel), and the desk I have doesn't really accommodate a tower, printer, and all that well. I figured if I could eliminate the desktop, I could work with my books, papers, and laptop all at the same time on the decent sized desk I have. I could have room for my 23" monitor and a mouse and keyboard as well. I'm not sure how necessary upgrading will be, I'll probably do so every 12 to 18 months.

    So I really think I'm going to go with the 13" MBP, for portability purposes, since the 15" would cost me $200 for the same specs with a bigger screen. At that difference, I can buy an iPod Touch as a pocket PC, or get an Airport Extreme.
     
  13. m85476585 macrumors 65816

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    #13
    I have had some formatting issues opening Office 08 documents in Office 03. I haven't tested it in Office 07, though, so I don't know if it is just an issue with 07/08-03 compatibility or an 08-07 compatibility issue.

    Upgrading is very important for me because I never have to buy a new computer. I can basically spread out the purchase over time, and I am saving money by reusing parts. This computer started out as a Dell, then I replaced the case and motherboard. A little later I replaced the power supply, added a hard drive and upgraded the RAM. This summer I put a quad core in it, and this fall I replaced the video card with one that can actually run Vista/Win 7 and some games (though I'm still on XP). The next step is to replace the main hard drive with something faster since I still have the original one that was in it when it was a Dell and a second one that is faster, but still not fast enough. Farther down the line I will go to 8gb of RAM. At some point I will have to switch to the latest platform (meaning new motherboard, CPU and RAM) since Intel is no longer making new LGA775 processors, but the CPU I have now will last me a few years (I used the Pentium 4 for almost 5 years).

    Desk space is a problem for me. I have almost no space for papers and there is a mess of wires everywhere. My printer is the biggest space hog, but I will probably move it to the shelf on the other side of my room.
     
  14. SMC1991 thread starter macrumors member

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    #14
    For the Office thing, are you sure you're saving as .doc? And if not, do you have the compatibility pack installed on the 2003 machine?


    Anyway, I definitely understand your upgrading thing, but honestly, the whole building my PC thing just doesn't interest me, and I'd rather buy pre-built laptops, with relative frequency but I do understand.

    I feel that I'd be more productive/organized as a student having my laptop and all work on my desk, but this may be all mental. Working on the floor was a bad HS habit I want to snap out of.

    On another note, the battery life on this Dell Studio XPS 1640 sucks, big time.
     
  15. m85476585 macrumors 65816

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    #15
    This is using docx format, and I have fileformatconverters installed otherwise the files won't open at all. I still use .doc format when I can, but sometimes I get a docx file and have to work with it.
     
  16. airplaneman macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    If you get a .docx, can't you just open it and save it as a .doc?
     
  17. m85476585 macrumors 65816

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    #17
    I could, but at least on Word 2003 that doesn't for the formatting issues from having a docx initially. I still don't have Office 08 installed, and I am kind of putting it off because I have too much stuff installed on my MBP already. The hard drive is almost full, and it is becoming fragmented and slowing down. I need to clean out some of the data (I am in the process of converting home movies from VHS to DVD), then either restore from TM or do a complete reinstall. Alternatively, I might just upgrade the drive as soon as the WD Scorpio 640gb comes out.

    Sorry about hijacking the thread.
     
  18. Kalison macrumors member

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    Jan 8, 2008
    #18
    I have never had an issue with the 13" macbook screens, which I don't know why they bother me less than comparative 13" Windows Machines. Maybe the OS X just works better with fonts.

    Anyway, its not bad. I did purchase a nice 22" 1920x1080 monitor and the mini display port to DVI adapter and I love it!

    I say go 13" especially if the power isnt important and you need some portability.
     
  19. airplaneman macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    I see. Worst comes to worst, copy the text onto a new file in compatibility mode;).
     
  20. SMC1991 thread starter macrumors member

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    Sep 18, 2009
    #20
    Good call. I looked at the 13" studio XPS the other day, and Windows didn't feel as fitting on the screen, which was the same resolution.

    I'll probably go for the 13", as the screen doesn't bother me for most tasks, and I really want the portability. Plus the specs are enough, and I can save money and put it toward another Apple purchase.

    Thanks for the suggestion.
     
  21. klee1987 macrumors regular

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    Jun 20, 2009
    #21
    I wonder how long it will be before shambo comes in and says the 13" MBP is a load of c**p.

    anyway I think the macbook pro 13" is a great machine - the base model is great value for money, IMO.
     
  22. Richard1028 macrumors 68000

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    #22
    Allow me to play the devil's advocate here. As an engineering student should you even be considering a mac? Really, does this make sense?

    Like it or not, (and bootcamp aside), PC's are thoroughly embedded in the engineering field which you will soon find out for yourself. And while AutoCad (an industry standard) is considering a mac version I wouldn't bet the farm on it.
     
  23. SMC1991 thread starter macrumors member

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    #23
    Well, at student orientation, they told us we could use either. Mac users WILL need to use Windows in some form, according to the Dean of Engineering, but he said most of our software does have Mac versions. He himself uses a Mac.

    The main reason I want a Mac is because I enjoy working in the operating system better, and this Dell gets very hot, and horrendous battery life.

    For AutoCAD, I can dual boot, but I do see it unlikely that Autodesk brings the product to the mac.

    I understand your point, and appreciate your input.
     
  24. kate-willbury macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 14, 2009
    #24
    and how will you be enjoying the OS X experience when you have to boot into windows most of the time for your programs? seems like you just want a mac for the sake of having one despite it being obviously inconvenient for your needs. but meh whatever, its your money.
     
  25. phixiuz macrumors regular

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    Aug 25, 2009
    #25
    I think you'll be just fine with the base model of the MBP 13". Having a desktop and a laptop is just overkill and not really convenient. It's good to have all your files on one device (though don't forget backups ;)).

    Though if you are just about to start engineering, I seriously doubt the use of purchasing a 1k+ laptop right now... Seriously, you don't need it yet, you first gotta prove yourself in the first year and most of the stuff is still pretty general, atleast that's the situation over here... For my first year I had enough with a 10" netbook running OSX (costed me 400), did everything perfectly and I sold it again with only 100 loss and now I bought the brand new model, so happy I didn't buy my Macbook (Pro) last year... I would have so regretted it.

    But hey, if you have too much money, go wild I guess :). Otherwise I'd say stick with the Dell for one more year and if your studies go well, spend your money on a mac next year.
     

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