Engineering Student - Which laptop to buy?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by mnsportsgeek, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. mnsportsgeek macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    Let me start by giving you some background information. I am a senior in high school and currently typing this to you on my main computer (1 Ghz ibook G4 with 1.25gb Ram). I will be going into engineering at North Dakota State University next year and need a laptop. I have decided to go apple because I love apple and if I need any engineering specific applications I will have no problem running them in boot camp. Best of both worlds is the way I like to think of it.

    The big question is which laptop to get? I have a 24" Westinghouse monitor so screen size is not a factor. The big thing I guess is whether or not the graphics card is worth it in the macbook pro to justify my spending another $500-900. Could somebody, preferably a current engineering student enlighten me on what programs I will need to run and if the macbook will run them sufficiently or will I need the macbook pro. And when I say sufficiently I mean flawlessly... I'm sick of this 1Ghz ibook and i want something snappy.

    Big thing here...


    Thank you for your help.
  2. adamvk macrumors 65816


    Oct 29, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
  3. Nuc macrumors 6502a


    Jan 20, 2003
    Sign up for student developer. You can send in your acceptance letter (I believe) if you have one. Once you become a student developer then you get a rather large discount.

    Get a Macbook Pro you won't be sorry.

    I bought a 17" for my graduate work 2 years ago. I think the new 17" is a sweet deal since you get everything maxed out (just about). If you don't like the 17" then get the top of the line 15". I got a nuclear engineering degree so I had to use a lot of windows apps through VMware.

    Good luck,

  4. mnsportsgeek thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009

    Either Electrical, Computer, or Mechanical.
  5. foxx0775 macrumors member

    Feb 10, 2009
    im majoring in physics and have a MBP penryn at the moment. it suits me perfectly as i do audio production outside of class. it runs programs like matlab and maple really smoothly - maybe c.a.d software would be handled better by the new GPU on the unibodies though..

    Go MBP you won't regret it..
  6. mnsportsgeek thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    How was the portability?

    How was the portability of the 17"? I was kind of shying away from the 17" because I have a 24" monitor in case i need the extra work space.
  7. mnsportsgeek thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    So the impression so far...

    So the impression so far is that I should go with the 2.8Ghz 15.3" Macbook Pro or the 17"? The only thing that impresses me about the 17" is the battery life.

    I'm getting the feeling that macbook would not suit my needs as an engineering major. If that is not true please correct me.
  8. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    get the mb

    any real engineering coursework wont be done on you laptop as you will use the they have the license to the software

    you will use your computer mainly for typing up reports as far as engineering goes. even if you can run engr software, a mb will more than suffice. i was able to run ProE just fine on my first gen mb in terms of hw assignments

    i dont see any advantage a mbp would give you in terms of what you need. graphics card? not really a factor. slightly faster proc? sure but youll pay for it and its not worth it to me to be honest

    save the money and get the mb

    then again, im the guy who got through mech engr with a emac for my first 3 years and then a mb for my last 2
  9. Agurri macrumors 6502


    May 8, 2005
    Québec, Canada
    I'm an undergrad student ( almost 3 years done ) in EE. My laptop, a CoreDuo Macbook 2gb 200 gb fits my need very well. It's light, small and does whatever I want to do. I run Vista on both Bootcamp and Fusion, run Matlab on both OS too. I think the 17" is too big, too heavy to bring along.

    I just want to say that with my 13.3" screen (+ 17" CRT at my home), I have plenty of space and power...
  10. BiffWebster macrumors newbie

    Jun 11, 2008
    Honestly as an MSEE in the field...I would say to go with the pro. Four years is a long time. I have to say that Windows under vmware runs noticeably better with the 9600 than the integrated graphics. If you are looking to future proof yourself...I think that upgrading the memory is a must. However, if SnowLeopard supports more than 4GB of memory on the current notebooks than it's a tossup.
  11. mnsportsgeek thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    That's very re-assuring

    The thing that popped out to me in one the above posts is that PRO/E ran well under boot camp. I'm under the impression that PRO/E is one of the most graphic intensive engineering applications out there, correct me if i'm wrong. So if I can run that on a macbook, I will definetely jump on that.

    I wasnt likeing the idea of spending nearly 3 grand on a 2.8Ghz 15.3 mbp with applecare.

    $1,800 sounds like such a better deal... IF it can indeed run Pro/E sufficiently.
    Can the person who posted about Pro/E please go more in depth? Did the program ever hang up on you or anything? Any slow downs? Framerate troubles? If I can get by with just a macbook I would be happy.

    I game on my xbox 360 and ps3 and I've never been much into photoshop or editing for that matter. The most complicated stuff I do is putting DVD's on my ipod, and that takes like 8 hours with my current computer. My computer cant even run youtube without stuttering. So any kind of upgrade will be HUGE for me.
  12. mnsportsgeek thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    to Biff

    I wont be using VMware or any simulation. I will be using boot camp. Will it run smooth under boot camp? I've also heard that the new Nvidia integrated graphics are much better than the old intel graphics.
  13. mnsportsgeek thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    If i were to go pro...

    If I were to go with the macbook pro, would the 2.4ghz with 4gb ram and 256mb Vram be sufficient or would I have to spend another $400 for an extra 256mb vram?
  14. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    why would the graphics card make vmware run better again? that makes no sense (esp with the 9400) unless you are trying to run 3d apps which arent supported that well by vmare to begin with

    the 9400 is not a slouch really

    ProE for what you may use on a laptop will be limited to hw assignments. Even with a mbp, it would be limited to hw assignments. This is assuming you dont do it in the lab to begin with, which you may have to as you may not even have a licesne to run it on your personal computer (they arent cheap)

    Why? because once you start making models with a gazillion features, the mbp will suffer as will the mb. For that, you will be using your lab computers which will be like a 16core server with 32gis or so of ram for example.....aka will blow your laptop out of the water. Not to mention, any project work will be stored on the school servers which is alot easier to do when using a computer connected to it as opposed to your own

    Keep in mind, ProE ran well on my mb with the gma950.......a much much much worse integrated chip than the 9400

    Get the mb, save your money and if you need to, spend the money you saved from not buying a mbp to upgrade your computer when that time arrives

    hope that helps
  15. mnsportsgeek thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    Thank You Duke

    Thank You Duke, that was a very good explanation. I'm surprised that Pro/ E ran so well on your macbook with intel GMA graphics. That says alot about the macbook. The new Nvidia graphics are said to have 10x better performance so I think I should be fine for my school work. When I become a real engineer in 5 years (Scary to think about), then I will be able to afford a macbook pro. The macbook just seems to be a better move financially especially in this recession. I will be saving nearly $1000 by going with the macbook. I keep needing to remind myself that Pro/E can do so many things and no laptop would be able to run it. I once saw a guy create a 6 cylinder engine with Pro/E. I cant imagine what kind of computer he had.

    I think I'm going to go with the the macbook 2.4ghz with 4gb of (Crucial) Ram. I'll ask for apple care as a graduation present.

    That will bring my total to about $1700 and nearly $800-900 in savings.

    Thanks for everyone's help.
  16. shaynes macrumors member

    Dec 4, 2008
    As a sophomore Biomedical Engineer at Purdue, I can tell you that I am perfectly happy with my macbook, bought 2 years ago (2.16 GHz, 2Gb RAM). I can run MATLAB, miniTab, and other 'engineering' software remotely from the universities server, and I've had no problems with graphics, performance, or anything. I also can't imagine carrying around a 15" screen or larger around campus. Especially if you have an external monitor for home/dorm use, I'd recommend the smaller screen/portability/price tag of the MB - I don't think you'll notice any performance/graphics problems with your course needs.
  17. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    shaynes has a good point. 17" laptops can be a PITA after awhile. 15" tends to be easier to carry around.

    Others have mentioned the use of a lab computer as well, as this could be the only way to access specific programs. (Limited physical access via keypads, key cards, ... as part of the security implementation, so remote logons may not be possible).
  18. mnsportsgeek thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    Anyone tried?

    Has anyone tried running their engineering software under Windows 7 on a Unibody Macbook? And how does that hold up?
  19. SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604


    Jul 4, 2008
    Silicon Valley
    I suggest you stick with XP/Vista. XP preferably unless the software is very new, and has support for Vista. Windows 7 is very stable, but still in beta. No one is sure how programs will behave (incorrectly or correctly) under 7.
  20. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Certainly good advice. ;)

    Particularly since it took ~1 year to get Vista to an acceptable level of stability. :p Though it may not take that long with Windows 7. They've done a better job this time around. Very stable, considering it's a Beta version. :) But there are bugs being reported. I wouldn't trust it as your primary Windows OS. Not until it releases formally at least. ;)
  21. wahoo10 macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2009
    Third year EE here.
    I don't currently own a Mac (spring break! hopefully!), but plenty of my engineering friends and teachers have them. Most have the 15" and have no problem carrying it around, and the slimness of the new designs would be fine I think. A 2.4 is plenty (I have a 1.83 right now and it does the job) fast enough to run whatever. The biggest thing will to be upgrade your RAM to 4GB, that will help run VMFusion. If you run strictly BootCamp (I doubt you will though), 2.4 is definitely fast enough. But I'm planning to get the MBP15" 2.4, 4GB-RAM.
    Also, any huge programs will be too expensive for your school to give you, so that eliminates the need for a super-lappy. Or you'll remote connect. Either way, don't worry about getting the 2.8. 2.4 or 2.53 will be plenty.

    Also, why don't you look at the refurbs? Much cheaper, just as good.

    A question of my own: how much is the student developer discount? Say I'm looking at a MBP15 2.4
    Answer: 20%
  22. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    I think you're wrong. The processing power is around the same, the difference being the graphics card. Are you going to live on campus and play games? If you are, then may as well get the MBP. If not, then get the MacBook. The specs of the MBP won't really help you with school-related work, so decide based on what you do in your free time.

    For the price of a high-end MBP, you could have bought a MacBook today, and a much faster MacBook in 18 months.

    Saying that, people who are saying that the MBP isn't necessary aren't considering the fact that we don't always buy things that can only serve us as we want.
  23. Hal1980 macrumors member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Think About Buying in UK

    You could save a substantial amount of money purchasing here in the UK. If you go to the Apple Store, and show your acceptance letter, you can buy with a student discount.

    Also, you can buy the computer and get the VAT refunded back. In the states, sales tax is added onto the price, but in the UK, the sales tax (called VAT) is included in the price. If you are not a resident of an EU nation, and leave within 3 months of purchasing the computer you can get a refund of your VAT (15% - commission of about 3-4%). If you do this, make sure you do the paperwork right and research it a bit before doing it.

    But if you do this, you can save at least 25% or more from the educational pricing in the US (when you compare post sales tax US HigherEd purchase to post VAT refunded UK HigherEd purchase figuring the exchange rate). At the worst you could probably finance a free trip to London, but you could probably end up with a bit extra. Just food for thought.
  24. hajime macrumors 601

    Jul 23, 2007
    As new products come out all the time, you should wait until you enter the university. Then, you can get the latest model with great student discounts. I would recommend getting a 17" MBP. If you use CAD softwares, you would appreciate laptops with big screen size and high performance GPU.

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