Mac vs. PC for Engineering Major

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by UWdawgs, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. UWdawgs macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2012
    Hey guys this is my first post on this site and I'm looking for some insight regarding what type of laptop to buy for college.

    I'm going to be attending UWashington next year as an incoming freshman. I am pre-engineering with hopes of getting accepted to the aero department there. Too be honest, I would prefer to buy a mac (probably the base rMBP); however, if the machine cannot run the programs (or the programs aren't made for mac OS) necessary to complete my engineering classes, I won't be able too.

    I understand this is a mac board, and that most of you are openly biased towards apples products, but I came here specifically because I know there will be more insight than a PC board. You guys buy macs because you love them, and I would really appriciate it if you would ease my concerns and sell me on a mac! Also, I have to convince my mom that a Mac won't cause any problems that a PC wouldn't.

  2. Drask macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2012
    If your biggest concern is not running the software on OS X, you can always bootcamp or use virtual machines. Though if all you're gonna do is windows based, I'd just recommend going for a windows laptop.

    And I'm sorry to tell you this but macs have also troubles (hardware/software) Such as a PC. IMO it's apple's customer service what makes it better than PC.
  3. Dragoro macrumors 6502


    Nov 27, 2010
    Yeah ya can just run bootcamp or parallels on the mac which will allow you to run windows on the mac.
  4. spdntrxi macrumors regular

    May 11, 2012
    really have to look at the software you will be using in the future... AERO will be alot of modeling, dynamics, sim.. etc.. The software will mostly be available in only a windows environment. Bootcamp will be the only option.. I would not even want these in the VM environment.
  5. beamer8912 macrumors 65816

    May 30, 2009
    Some of the engineering software works on Mac. Most of it is for windows though. You can always install windows via bootcamp.

    The rMPB is overkill for a college student but you probably know that. As long as you have the coin to drop on it then why not?

    Make sure you have an external HDD. An external monitor may prove beneficial as well.

    My setup during college:

    Custom built desktop PC, MacBook (white) and an iPad. iPad works well throuout the day, and the laptop is best for group projects. The desktop is a great workhorse. Having a desktop forces you to stay in your room and study, preventing you from temptations such as studying in social spaces.
  6. UWdawgs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2012
    Is it difficult or annoying to switch between windows and mac os?

    Also, I think a lot of the programs are starting to come out with mac compatible software. If I could make it through a year or two with bootcamp, I would probably be happier in the long run. If anyone has any input on this I would appriciate it.

    Also, I would really appriciate any suggestions on which PC's would be good for an engineering major.

    1 more question and I know it is pretty stupid but it is theoretical. How much of a waste would it be to buy a mac and only run windows on it? I know all of apples employees say that windows actually runs better on a mac, is this true? I wouldn't ever do this, but it may give me some more information.

    Thanks again.
  7. Mr MM macrumors 65816

    Mr MM

    Jun 29, 2011
    Its not difficult nor annoying to use bootcamp, I wouldnt use windows 100% of the time, though there are days that i do that.

    Regarding GPU support for your applications its better for you to use a notebook with a firepro gpu, since the kepler gpus in term of GPGPU are terrible right now, they actually got worse from the fermi cards
  8. T5BRICK macrumors G3


    Aug 3, 2006
    Just a reboot is required to switch between the two.

    It would be kind of a waste, and you're going to want to do some reading on Windows performance on the rMBP before you buy. Windows runs the same on a Mac as it would on a PC with the same specs. The main difference is that quite a few Macs are now shipping with SSDs now and a lot of PCs aren't.
  9. BigZ9 macrumors member

    Apr 2, 2012
    I'm going into engineering aswell, and I bought a base rMBP with 16Gb of ram. Because of the SSD booting into windows is not really a problem, I'd assume it'll take sub-30 seconds. One of the main reasons I got 16GB of ram is so I could use VMware Fusion to run windows on top of Mac OS X so I can use both operating systems at the same time. I plan on having a bootcamp partition that I can boot into if I need to give windows all the computer resources, but use Fusion to run that bootcamp partition within Mac OS X when I'm doing less intensive tasks.
  10. leenak macrumors 68020

    Mar 10, 2011
    I don't know engineering specifically but in computer science, the programs we ran weren't on our own computers. That may not be the case for you but who knows.
  11. markp99 macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2012
    New Hampshire
    This is what I am doing. Bootcamp with VMWare permitting light duty Windows tasks using Unity, apps look just like Mac apps. Nice.

    When I feel I might need exclusive access to CPU/memory, I just boot directly into Bootcamp and off I go.

    Just for giggles, I ran a few intensive queries on a HUGE client database using MSAccess. I wanted to see what the hit might be performing this task in Fusion vs Bootcamp. Turns out this was probably more a memory-intense task (vs CPU), so results were quite comparable w/16GB RAM. Totally blew away my old Dell laptop this RMBP replaced. :)
  12. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    same in engineering

    People on these forums think they need to buy a machine to run engineering apps

    You don't

    Most often, you won't even have the license too. That and lab computers are MUCH faster/capable

    I got through mechanical engr on an emac

    I find it amusing people think they need fast computers in college. You don't. All you need one for is writing reports and presentations really in addition to any entertainment you do with the machine
  13. Dronac macrumors member

    Jun 19, 2012
    I did my undergrad in Comp Sci using a 2007 base Macbook, and MS Word was by far the most used program I used. Second was Java based Blue Jay (Java IDE). I was usually the only person with a Mac in my classes, but never had any issues. As far as engineering goes, I cant say if you would run into Windows only programs, but you can always use a VM, duel boot, or use a computer lab.

    I'm started grad school in a few weeks and I actually need to use OS X for my thesis. The code libraries I need to use are OS X only unless I was to remake them myself for Windows.
  14. jtus macrumors member

    Jul 12, 2007
    The mbp will do everything you need. Microsoft office for Mac all of your docs or spread sheets are interchangeable with pc so no problem sharing reports and other stuff. Auto cad also is made for Mac so no problem there. I run windows xp and 7 with Parallels for the 2programs I need to use that are not able to run on a Mac. Apple customer service is enough of a reason to buy a Mac. Where can you even get service on a pc?
  15. TacticalDesire macrumors 68020


    Mar 19, 2012
    Most engineering software is Windows only, or works better on Windows. Don't bother with a mac. They're great and all but they don't have the software and driver support you'll need. Go with a workstation class laptop such as a Thinkpad W series or a Dell precision. You'll get excellent customer service as well with their workstation/business lines of machines. Especially with Dell. You'll be much happier in the long run. There's no point in getting a mac when you'll be on the Windows side 95% of the time.


    The store you bought it at or through the OEM. Cheap consumer machines typically have horrible support while the business class machines have better support than Apple from what I've experienced. At least with some of the OEMs.
  16. Exponent macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2002
    Silicon Valley
    My EE perspective

    When it comes to electrical engineering programs:

    All free FPGA programs are for Windows. None are for OS X

    All free and commercial chip design programs run under Linux (maybe a very few under Windows), and very few free ones run under OS X.

    My advice: Use your lab equipment, and have local access to both Windows and Linux VMs. Get unix on your fingertips.

    Beyond that, the Mac doesn't make a bad "home base" for all these things... ...just don't expect to run anything on the base OS itself.
  17. sharkman macrumors newbie

    Jun 14, 2012
    Ann Arbor, MI
    EECS here, and I usually just SSH in or use the lab computers. So i would say get what you want, all my profs use macs if that helps at all.
  18. AML225 macrumors regular

    Apr 11, 2010
    Graduated Mechanical Engineer here. Get a Macbook Air. Seriously. You won't want to lug around anything heavier and you won't be doing any engineering work (except for MS Office stuff) on your personal computer. It will all be on lab computers.
  19. Alameda macrumors 6502a


    Jun 22, 2012
    Of course a Mac can run Windows, Mac OS, and it already runs UNIX. And you can run a Windows app side-by-side with a Mac app, or you can boot the machine into Windows for maximum performance. You know all this.

    So one of the best reasons for doing all this is that Windows gets slower over time, especially as you install software. But with a Mac, you can limit all of your personal computing to Mac OS and use Windows strictly for those apps which require it and nothing else. The result is very fast Windows performance, and your virus threat is minimized as well.
  20. Mr MM macrumors 65816

    Mr MM

    Jun 29, 2011
    I do run all my software on my mac.

    mostly its excel, since it gives me more mobility in writing than word, strange as it may.

    I use, visual studio, xcode and some other IDEs, along several VMs.

    I do have computers in the classes that are required, but my mac is more powerful than whats available, and its a lowly mbp 13 2011.

    My friends on engineering classes also use their notebooks for CAD apps.

    When I was graduating in economy, I also used my notebook for statistic calculations.

    I guess it depends on what uni you are.
  21. iSayuSay macrumors 68040


    Feb 6, 2011
    Talking about engineering means you have to stick with Windows, which is fine actually.

    A lot of companies use proprietary engineering software, and they run on Windows.
    I would less bothered with OSX in this area.

    You can use Windows on a Mac. Not the other way around (well at least not officially). So I'd say focus on Windows. It's still the majority, means you'll get more job and opportunity.

    Consider OSX development as a bonus skill. Not the main expertise.
  22. Erasmus macrumors 68030


    Jun 22, 2006
    Hiding from Omnius in Australia
    My Aero degree consisted of lots of MATLAB (which is available for Mac and PC, but I always found the Windows version better) and lots of report writing. You should learn LaTeX as soon as possible, although it may not be covered in your course. It's free, and it is the best for report writing. It is cross platform.

    Also did a bit of CAD with Solidworks, but that was done on Uni computers. As others have said, you do not need a great computer to do an Engineering degree. Anyways, many aircraft still flying today were designed without computers, by hand.

    Anywhere that you need a particularly powerful computer, for example Computational Fluid Dynamics, I am sure you would be using a desktop owned by the Uni.

    So in summary, your Engineering degree should have no bearing on what computer you get. Get what you want.
  23. theineffablebob macrumors regular

    Jul 29, 2012
    I had a Windows desktop and laptop my first two years but will have a retina Macbook Pro going into my third.

    - Computer Science: Game Design major

    I plan on doing most of my development in Mac and booting into Windows through Boot Camp to use any Windows-only software such as Visual Studio.
  24. wethackrey, Jul 29, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2012

    wethackrey macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2007
    Redondo Beach, California
    Five years ago I would have suggested that an engineering major go with a Windows laptop. That's no longer the case. With modern OS virtualization, the options are completely different.

    If you run Windows in a virtual machine, switching between operating systems is absolutely not an issue. I often need to run a Windows or other OS environment. I use VMWare Fusion which has a "unity" mode. In unity, all windows, both Mac and MS Windows, appear in the same Mac desktop environment. You can switch between applications just as you would if they were also coming from the same operating system.

    The MacOS supports an environment called "Spaces", which is effectively isolated workspaces. You can drag an application window onto a new desktop and switch between desktops with a simple swipe on the trackpad. Very slick. I often run Windows 7 on one desktop, Windows 2008 R2 server in another and Solaris in another. If, for some reason, I want to collaborate between a Win7 and a Mac application without swapping desktops, I can just drag the appropriate Win7 app window onto the same desktop I'm using for the Mac app. This is far more complicated to explain than it is to do. It's pretty intuitive really.

    I think generally speaking your assumption is correct. Many more apps are starting to be released (or re-released) for MacOS. There are a number of scientific and engineering-oriented apps that have too small, too vertical markets to justify the expense of the developer coding for two operating systems. This is true for both Mac and Windows apps but for your specialty may be more the case with Windows apps. Virtualization eliminates that concern. Why not use the operating system you prefer and support the other(s) in a VM?

    You already named it. :) A MacBook Pro

    I think, in reality, you'd never do this.

    Virtualization is probably going to be a better option for you than Bootcamp. (Bootcamp isn't virtualization. It's a partitioning and driver support solution for Windows. With Bootcamp, your Mac runs EITHER MacOS or Windows but not both at the same time.) There are two prominent well-supported virtualization systems for the Mac: VMWare Fusion and Parallels. Both are very good and the two companies have, for years, leapfrogged each other in features. I use Fusion for a number of reasons, including the fact that I work a lot with their server and cloud virtualization solutions. Parallels is also a very good choice. There's even an open source virtualization solution now sponsored by Oracle called Virtual Box.

    Remember that you'll need an operating system installer for Windows, so factor that into your budget. Virtualized environments run very nearly as fast In Fusion and Parallels as they do native in Bootcamp or on a similar spec'd PC. They do share processor, disk and memory with the Mac though. Because of this, it's smarter to get more memory rather than less if you're going to run VMs. The MacBook Pro Retina has four processor cores and either 8 or 16GB of memory. In Fusion, I allocate one or two cores and 8GB to the VMs and leave the rest for MacOS.

    The only exception I'd make on my recommendation to use a Mac and VMs rather than either Bootcamp or a WinTel laptop might be gaming. If you're a nut about a particular game, look into the Mac version of that game. You may decide you want to run it native in a Windows environment. In that case, you could reboot into Parallels from MacOS. It's worth noting that you can run BOTH Bootcamp and Virtualization. Both Fusion and Parallels can treat a Bootcamp partition as a virtual machine.
  25. Gryz macrumors member

    Dec 27, 2011
    Engineering grad student here as well. While like most said, most programs will not run on OSX, most universities have a virtual server where you can connect to the lab computers and use those programs...even on a mac.

    Just food for thought.

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