Laptop or Desktop (Film School)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by iZiv, May 15, 2008.

  1. iZiv macrumors newbie

    May 15, 2008
    In the fall, I plan on applying for graduate film school and was wondering if I'd be better off with a laptop or desktop. Obviously, I'll be doing a lot of editing with Final Cut.

    Do most students use laptops for convenience or does it come down to personal preference. While money isn't really an issue, it does pain me to see how much I'd be paying for a laptop vs. what I'd be paying / getting with a desktop.

    With that said, I want to buy a computer that will last me through school. (3 years or so) Additionally, I don't want to regret getting a laptop or desktop only later to wish I had the other.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. edesignuk Moderator emeritus


    Mar 25, 2002
    London, England
    A desktop of course gets you a lot more power and longevity than a laptop, but then of course it's not portable. It really is down to personal preference. Sacrifice power for mobility, or sacrifice mobility for power.
  3. djkny macrumors 6502

    Sep 30, 2003
    Which grad film school (I graduated from one)? Each has their own quality and level of editing suites, so that should help you determine what you need personally. Most likely, if they have Mac Pro desktops to cut projects, then go with the MBP. Better to have a machine to edit on on-the-field (or, in between travels, on-the-plane.)
  4. brn2ski00 macrumors 68020


    Aug 16, 2007
    If you want to bring your mac everwhere you go, then get a portable. Otherwise, get a desktop.
  5. Mikey- macrumors regular

    Mar 18, 2008
    You could buy a laptop for portability and when you want to use a desktop hook it up to a external monitor or your TV.
  6. mperkins37 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 17, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Personally, I would opt for the MacPro, as you will have a lot more flexibility & Power than a laptop, It will be much more future-proof and expandable also.
  7. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    If you are going to be cutting on your computer, a Mac Pro. If not, a laptop. Of course, a MacBook Pro basically gives you a portable iMac (which is quite capable even if you are cutting video), so an MBP may be your best bet.
  8. iZiv thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 15, 2008
    I'm going to be applying to schools mostly in California. Usc, Ucla, Chapman, Art Center Collage of Design, & NYU.

    There has been mention of mac pro in this thread. quite honestly, i wasn't even thinking about that. I was considering getting an imac fully upgraded (1000GB, 4GB ram etc)

    From the responses here, it seems it really all comes down to personal preference. I doubt (& correct me if I'm wrong) that any school would require you to have a laptop.

    My main hang up is seeing what I can get for the laptop and seeing what I'm able to get with a desktop. Also, being able to backup my work directly on the computers hard drive (as opposed to my external drive) is very important to me.

    At any rate, thank you for all the responses. Please keep them coming. Buying a computer for me is time sensitive as I fear my external hard drive may be dying and I value any opinion I can get.

  9. SpaceMagic macrumors 68000


    Oct 26, 2003
    Cardiff, Wales
    Desktop all the way. I miss my PowerMac so much even if this MacBook is quicker as the number stuff.

    It just always seemed to gear up to the pressure and my raptor hard disk was awesome!!

    Next year before Uni ends I will buy a Mac Pro. . . so i get my discount innit. :cool:
  10. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    A Mac Pro is going to be much faster simply due to the type of processor used in a Mac Pro, its clock-speed, and the number of cores you get. It could save you hours at a time.

    However, check to see what type of computers you have at uni. If the computers at this school are fast, and they're Macs using Final Cut Pro, then get the laptop and let the uni desktops do the job for you when you need speed.
  11. closeupman macrumors member


    Feb 15, 2008
    Can you wait till you start school?
    You can ask your professors or other, more senior students what you should get. Also, you may get more of a discount at the school's store on the apple hardware.

    If you join the student developer program with Apple($99 to join) you can get a NEW low end MBP for 1600+tax or a MP for around 1900+tax.

    Also check the Apples online refurb store and/or Amazon(can get good rebates + NO tax).

    If you're not going to be using Motion or Color anytime soon a MB will suit you fine, I have a classmate who edits with FCP on his MB. You can then buy a powerful desktop when you get into Motion &/or Color.
  12. Imhotep397 macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2002

    Having been in a similar situation where I bought a desktop and then bought a laptop later (mostly due to me commuting long distance to get to school.) Personally, I am the type that just doesn't like being in a school lab hours after hours and a lot of times felt like I was being watched, by peers while working, which is a little unnerving when starting out and made it more difficult to really just get on with the work and do what I needed to. (I didn't find out I was like that until I got the laptop) I got a desktop and ended up never having the time or energy to really work on it. I didn't get the laptop until I was close to graduation, BUT if I had it to do all over again I would have gotten the laptop first I was able to put so much more work in just by having that flexibility. I probably effectively learned more and more efficiently in the last 6 months than in the entire 2 and a half years before that.

    With the number of options for cutting with low rez proxies and exporting cut lists etc. The biggest problem for you will be figuring out a good workflow for moving back and forth between your system and the school's (Which you would have to do anyway.) Closer to the time when you're finishing you can get a desktop system that will be more powerful (A year or two later) and ready for your thesis and then a couple of years beyond.
  13. Imhotep397 macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2002
    ...Also it makes a lot of sense to wait until you get to school to get it, especially when buying Apple. You get the most favorable prices, by far, when buying through the University computer store. Also make sure to find out whether the price you are actually getting is the student or institutional discount. The institutional discount is always less and ultimately as a student they know that you can order direct from Apple yourself, as a student, and get the student discount so if they do have the student rate on it and you ask they'll usually give you the institutional rate.
  14. thinkband macrumors regular

    Dec 22, 2007
    What is the institutional rate on average for schools like the UCs. My school has an Apple department inside the bookstore and they let you play with a macbook air, pro, and macbook along with imacs/ipods/iphones etc.
  15. marioman38 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2006
    Elk Grove, CA
    I edit soley on my MBP, although it is the 17"er, if I had the $$ I (from what I know now) would go for the 15"er and an ext. display (apple or dell)...

    With "only" 2gb RAM, FCP is a speed demon in my opinion... I frequently run FCP, Livetype, and Adobe PS CS3 concurently, with no major slowdowns/problems... Just my $0.02 ;)

    you mentioned your ext HDD is dying?? FW800, and built in RAID 0, up to 2TB, sexy looking, mac matching, and a competitive-ish price (for the 1000GB at least)...
  16. Hawkeye411 macrumors 68000


    Jun 6, 2007
    Canada EH!!!
    If money is not an issue, why not get both?
  17. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    For Film School I'd definitely recommend an MBP. Laptops are practically a necessity in college. I would hate having a desktop. An iMac is pointless because it uses the same components as the MBP, so by getting the laptop you're not sacrificing any power.

    Obviously, all of these schools that you're applying to are going to have great edit workstations for final cut and/or avid media composer, so it seems pretty pointless to buy a Mac Pro. If you are working on some part of a project where you really need that much power, you could just go and use the school edit lab.

    So, get the MBP. It's the same components as the iMac (so you're not sacrificing any power [yes, the graphics card is a little bit different but editing is mostly cpu intensive, not gpu]). You're going to need to use an external (FW800 or E-SATA) drive for your capture/scratch/render disk, so the smaller hard drive in the MBP isn't going to matter. Go for a 7200rpm drive (200GB i think is the one they offer, i haven't checked in a while). That will give you plenty of speed for running the apps plus enough room for all of the content that comes with final cut studio. Get 4GB of ram and a matte screen (better color accuracy).

    I've done HDV and DV projects on my MBP (2.2SR, 4GB RAM, FW800 scratch disk) and performance is great. I also use AE CS3 a bit and it runs great (although it can only use 3GB of ram :()
  18. Imhotep397 macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2002
    The rate changes, I pretty sure, based on how many computers you purchase (mainly for entire departments) but typically the institutional rate for a single computer purchase is a couple of hundred to $1,000 difference even from the student rate. The Apple displays don't really get discounted that much though, as I recall, which sucks. So a tower might be $1999 to the general public and then $1799 at the regular student rate and then like $1399 or even a $1099 as an institutional discount (if the store is trying to make room for new models or whatever.)
  19. Help! macrumors regular

    Nov 16, 2006
    Laptops are not a necessity for college, no one is expecting you to own a laptop and in the end i think it comes down to personal preference. If you are the kind of person who likes to take notes on a computer or work on your own computer in the library or coffee shop or whatever then consider the MBP. But if you are going to be editing at home at all you will want more than a 15 or 17" display; and if you hook up an external display to a MBP when you are at home I think you will find your self less likely to take it with you (attaching and reattaching cables is annoying). There is no point in using the MBP essentially as a desktop. Additionally, if you find yourself wanting to work at school sometimes and at home other times, a firewire hard drive will allow you to take your work easily from one place to another.

    I started school with a powerbook and have since purchased a MP and have been much happier.
  20. ZiggyPastorius macrumors 68040


    Sep 16, 2007
    Berklee College of Music
    Astray from the usual portability vs. power comparison, I'd probably ask myself:

    1. Does the college I am going to have computers with Final Cut in the majority of places I will be studying at, or in a convenient location for me to use when away from my dorm?

    For me, it would all come down to that question (apart from the fact that I'm going to a music school, and the only choice is a Macbook Pro). If the answer is no, I'd say get a laptop, as you'd probably need it for practice and stuff during and after lessons, without having to go back to your dorm to work. If the answer is yes, then I would get a desktop, as a desktop is obviously gonna have way more power for that work than a laptop, and you won't need the portability. Even better, though, ask a counselor at the school, or even another student there, and see what they think about the issue of portability on that particular campus.

    Hope that helps :)
  21. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    Actually, some colleges (including mine and some of my friends') require all students to own a laptop.
  22. Battlefield Fan macrumors 65816

    Battlefield Fan

    Mar 9, 2008
    what ever machine you go with get the bare amount of ram from apple. You can by 3rd party ram that is just as good for almost half the price(just make sure it has a good warranty) crucial ram is reliable and they have a easy to use ram finder.
    Also I saw you are thinking about going with the iMac. Please keep in mind they use the same componets as the mb and mbp. The macpro uses a desktop/server grade processor.
    if money isnt a factor I would go with the mac pro. Final cut is very intense and if you upgrade to a newer version in a couple of years you'll need even more power.
    Start out by picking a good processor(s). You can always add on any other componants later on when you may have more money or more of a need for them. :apple:
  23. Help! macrumors regular

    Nov 16, 2006
    I wasn't aware of that, however, that is not the case in this situation. Either way it seems to me that most students think a laptop will suit them better (because they are often marketed this way) when a lot of people don't need the portability.

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