Engineering Student Advice

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by 123boom, Jun 1, 2008.

  1. 123boom macrumors newbie

    Jun 1, 2008

    I'm planning on going to college this fall and was looking for a nice laptop for school. I'm planning on an engineering major, and I'm intreseted in the Air. I realize the specs are relatively low, but my university has a link to reccomended computers and the specs on those are even lower (1.3 GHz processor). I was wondering if this would be an okay option. Keep in mind price is not a determining factor, but I especially like the backlit keyboard, brighter screen, and importantly weight (my classes are spread out all over campus).

    Thank you for any advice!:D
  2. neven macrumors 6502a

    Oct 10, 2006
    Portland, OR
    The Air is a fantastic machine. Don't believe all the talk of it being underpowered; unless you're rendering video or running other high-performance apps, it will purr.

    I would mention only the following as the possible reasons for NOT getting one:

    - You absolutely need more than one USB port at all times
    - You typically connect to the Internet by Ethernet cable, not wirelessly
    - You use optical media a lot
    - You're on a budget

    If none of the following applies to you, get it and enjoy it! :)
  3. queshy macrumors 68040


    Apr 2, 2005
    Will the air be your only computer? If so, then be careful. Although many people use the Air as a sole computer, I wouldn't be too happy with it. Mind you, a look behind my 24" iMac shows that I have the power cable, my speakers plugged in, and my iPod hooked up to one of the 3 USB ports. Therefore, the Air could be used as my sole computer, but I wouldn't be happy with it. I have more than 80 gigs of stuff, and my iMac has a way faster hard drive. Not to mention the screen is (obviously) bigger. So if this will be your only computer, the regular macbook or even the macbook pro is of better value to you. If you already have the desktop at home, you really don't need all the power that the MB/MBP offers while at school. In class, I use my air exclusively for note-taking and recording my lectures w/ the built in mic. While on break, I go on MSN, browse the web, etc., but I never need the optical drive or USB port. The Air is a great choice because of its lightness.

    The Air is really not underpowered. When you're taking notes, browsing the web, going on MSN, etc., it's just as fast as my 24" iMac.
  4. kockgunner macrumors 68000


    Sep 24, 2007
    Vancouver, Canada
    I for one have never used more than 15 GB of hard drive space! I have word documents and a few movies and I'm also not the type who has 1000's of songs on their iPod (more like 100 hehe). The Air is definitely not slow unless you get the overheating ones which my friend got. Even then, when it cools down, it's just like any other computer. Since you're not doing video editing, hard drive speed shouldn't bother you. I'm going to university this year and am interested in an Air too. If I do get one, it would be my only computer too.
  5. Heavenkittykat macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2008
    Im in a university (Biology Major) and I use the air as my only computer too and it works fine. I don't really need more than 20 GB of hard drive and I don't use DVD/CD anymore in my laptop
  6. psychogasm macrumors newbie

    Jun 1, 2008
    No real disadvantage to owning a mac...

    I can see in earlier years, owning a mac would be laughable to an engineer; many programs were just not made for mac (AutoCAD, Mathematica, MatLab and the like), but with the possibilities to run windows on your mac, you're pretty much home free.

    You could always ask your advisor to see what's recommended, assuming you'll have that opportunity before school starts (summer advising and whatnot). Good luck. Have fun in college ;)
  7. shahr04360 macrumors regular

    Jun 4, 2007
    What engineering you are into anyway?...

    BTW, i'm final year student in Mechanical Eng. As for me, MBP really awesome machine to carry with do heavy task software to run engineering application. Doing presentation on Keynote always make peoples impress and drool. Besides, as student, you might want musics, movies and images play in your machine. Sometimes you need to encode to transfer to your iPod and burn do back-up to DVD. Hard-disk space much bigger. Everything in one compact machine. All of these might be just too heavy to put into your back-pack compared with MBA. But if money not the matter, I'll go for MBA.
  8. queshy macrumors 68040


    Apr 2, 2005
    I have about 17 gb of music. But I don't need to keep it on my air since I have an iPod. However, it's all loaded on my iMac, and I have a pair of h/k Sound sticks II to play the music. Since I use my desktop a LOT, for me, it would kind of be annoying to always have to plug in the air to the wall and plug in my speakers. Not to mention I prefer to work on a larger screen.

    As for the overheating problems, mine gets hot, but one of the cores never shuts down and I get no slowdowns.

    I don't really use the DVD drive on my iMac - only sometimes - maybe I burn 2 CDs a year, watch maybe 2 DVD movies a year, reinstall the OS once a year, etc. Very light usage.

    If the OP does get the MBA as a sole computer, I'd highly recommend s/he pickup the external optical drive, just in case, and maybe a USB hub, and a wireless mouse.

    I'd also recommend that the OP takes a good look at the MB/MBP and decides if s/he would like a larger screen to work on at home/dorm (in the case of the MBP). The Air is a great choice though, as long as you don't care for extra ports.
  9. rinux macrumors newbie

    Nov 23, 2007

    Im studying to become a automation-engineer and we use MatLab and matemathica all the time. MatLab and matemathica can run well on the MBA, but when u need to simulate stuff in simulink over a extended period of time, the MBA will not be any dream for you. I have tried with a macbook and a powerbook and none of them are pleas-end to work with. I would say that a MBP is the way to got. I too must move all over campus, but that is no problem with my MBP in my shoulder-bag.
  10. Kajo macrumors newbie

    Feb 25, 2005
    More horsepower is always better for solidworks - especially if you are going mechanical.
  11. wPod macrumors 68000


    Aug 19, 2003
    Denver, CO
    It depends on the type of engineering, and what you want to use the computer for. Most engineering programs are designed for Windows. Yes, you can run windows on a mac, but with the engineering programs (AutoCAD, Solidworks etc,) you do not get the same performance as you would from a windows computer. That being said, I survived 4.5 years of engineering school while using a PowerBook (which did NOT run windows). If I ever needed to use one of the engineering specific applications I would just go to the a computer lab on campus. But, for everything else college related, and NOT engineering specific, the Air would be great for word, excel, etc, which you will probably use more of your first year or 2 before you get into the engineering intense classes in the later years. If price is not a determining factor, then maybe start off with the Air, then in a few years when you see what all engineering programs you will want to run, reconsider your computer needs and see if the Air is the best then.

    As for the non-academic side of college, if you go for the Air make sure you get a big external hard drive so you can put lots of music, movies, games and other sorts of media a college student might desire.
  12. atszyman macrumors 68020


    Sep 16, 2003
    The Dallas 'burbs
    There are versions of Mathematica and MATLAB available for Mac and they work just as well as their Windows versions. In fact I remember back when I was in college Mathematica ran better on Macs at the time since it Graphical nature. Our math department even had a special Macintosh lab for that reason.

    AutoCAD is still a problem but you can always install Windows and use Windows software.

    If it meets the minimum requirements you should be fine, but keep in mind that the minimum requirements are likely to increase every year as new/more demanding software comes out. You may want to look at an MB(P) for a little more future proofing. If you're already carrying around a bunch of books for class, the extra pound or two probably won't even be that noticeable.
  13. /V\acpower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 31, 2007
    Go for the standard MacBook, it way better "power for $" ratio, and still it is a very portable computer.

    MacBook Air is for a very specific market that already have another computer, need to carry a computer everyday and do some basic stuff on it...and have the money to spend several hundred dollars more for some expanded portability.

    Dont underestimate the basic Macbook.
  14. neven macrumors 6502a

    Oct 10, 2006
    Portland, OR
    I basically disagree with everything in this post.

    Unless you're willing to wait for the next generation of MacBooks (and it'll be a few months) you'd be buying an end-of-life product. They're plasticky and stain and scratch easily; they're significantly thicker (which translates to real-life problems; just try picking one up off the table with one hand); their screens are nowhere near as good.
  15. mwpeters8182 macrumors 6502

    Apr 16, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I've picked my MacBook up one-handed plenty of times, with no problems. And also, the MacBook, even though it's nearing the end of it's life, is more capable (computationally) then the Air is. You can't deny that.

    I'm also an engineer - I would at least go for the macbook (maybe with an external montitor, since that would cost the same as the air), and maybe the pro if you can swing it. If you're going to be using it as your only computer. If you're going to be taking any mechanical engineering classes, you'll probably want a bigger screen for CAD work.

    The Air's a wonderful, quite portable computer, but I think the MacBook/MacBook Pro would probably be best for your use.
  16. evirob macrumors member


    Mar 31, 2008
    Sunny Singapore
    The MBA functions as my primary computer when travelling overseas for 2-3 weeks.

    Applications I'm running will most likely be MS Office, Keynote, ACad LT, PDFs and occasionally photoshop.

    Using MBA for the last 4 months with ACad LT installed on Win Xp via boot camp. Must say it's pretty problem free so far. Will recommend getting the Superdrive as u'll be needing it to install some applications in XP.

    On the entertainment side, it's pretty ok as most of my stuff are stored in a ext. HDD which I'll leave in the hotel or at home. Love the LED backlight playing vids.

    Only complaints though are the non removable batt and sometimes u'll wish for a bigger screen especially when using ACad.
  17. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    What? The MacBook design is similar to the classic iBook design. You can dream that it'll be changed to the MBP look but why would Apple make MacBooks into same design as MBP (PowerBook)?

    I carry around MBP 17" with one hand easily. Looks like someone need to workout if the person can't even pick up a MacBook which is very light compared to pc laptops.
  18. keehun macrumors regular

    Mar 17, 2008
    I say if "money isn't an issue" with MacBook Air, I highly suggest you get a MacBook Pro. More bang for the buck, and MBP is fairly portable, too.

    Also its hilarious watching Engineers trying to be persuasive about what to buy. ;)

    keehun :D

Share This Page