MacBook for an engineer?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by wahoo10, Feb 11, 2009.

  1. wahoo10 macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2009
    Hi all, like most, I'm thinking about switching over to the world of Mac machines. I have two iPods and an iPhone(2G) so I'm not new to the Mac-world, and I've been on here snooping for awhile so I know most of the solid facts, and I'm an electrical-engineer, so I know quite a bit about computers. So I'll try to make this easy :p

    I'm an engineering student. A third year, so I only have a year and a half left of undergrad, so I need to think about using this for both school and after I graduate. I plan on getting a MacBook 2.4 GHz, 2GB at least to start (may go to 4, not sure if it'll be a huge difference). I need the portability of the 13", and the base MBP is nice, but the big differences are the bigger screen and graphics card, and 15" are a pain to lug around and I don't hardcore game. I will need to run Parallels, or something similar, for engineering Windows-only programs.

    So here are my questions:
    1. how is the heat on the Macbook? My current Fujitsu tablet overheats like none other, I hate it. I'm talking about just regular use (iTunes, Firefox, Word, all at once)

    2. I do do some basic gaming in Sims - I'm assuming something basic like Sims will run on the MB without hosing it?

    3. How difficult is Parallels to use and install programs on? Some of my engineering programs are downloaded online and need a license.txt file saved, so I'm wondering if it'll be a hassle or not.

    4. Typical battery life? (using wifi, basics such as iTunes, Word, etc)

    5. Speaking of Word, does anyone use Office for Mac? Group work involves a lot of use of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, so I'm not sure the compatibility of all of that without Office (I can buy it for $10 through my school, so no biggie to get it, at all)

    6. I know technology ages and it won't be top-line in, well, a year, but is 3-5 years of use an acceptable expectation for a MacBook? I figure somewhere in that timeframe I'll have my own income and will itch to get a new one, but just in case the economy totally tanks...

    7. Any engineers out there using a Mac system to do their work on?

    8. Any other tips, advice, random info?

    Happy Mac-ing :cool:
  2. bumzo1 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 31, 2009
    Dallas, TX
    I think that a macbook would work well for you. But instead of using VMware or Parallels use bootcamp because when you use VMware or Parallels you are running two operating systems at once and the macbook isnt designed to do that but I'm sure I will get many quotes of people who say they do it and it runs fine but when doing intensive apps it slows the computer down quite a bit. in conclusion get the macbook and upgrade the RAM 3rd party ad you should be set
  3. Eidorian macrumors Penryn


    Mar 23, 2005
    1. It's cool to the touch but be prepared not to see the fans spin up until it's hot.

    2. The 9400M is more than enough for Sims, etc.

    3. Ah, license.txt. That takes me back. What do you plan on running that you think you can't run on OS X? ;)

    4. 4-5 hours
  4. wahoo10 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2009
    I'm surprised you said the MB isn't built to run Parallels. I know a bunch of friends who use it seamlessly, or so it seems.

    Matlab. And Mathcad. I think I can get Matlab for Mac, but Mathcad is windows-only and it's $12, so I can't refuse lol. But I'm thinking Mathcad isn't that intensive, so it should be ok on Parallels.
    And I expect heat, but the tablet's main vent is on the side and gets lightning hot (leaves marks on my skin)
  5. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    uh what?
  6. bronconash macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2009
    Hey. I just got my macbook and its my first one. I am a engineering master's student, I am running Bootcamp current for my windows apps, I'll receive my VMware tomorrow so I can post my views on it as I get it.

    As far as heat goes, it gets a bit warm on the left side, I'm not sure if this is normal. I need to test out even more. (Currently installing smcFanControl to monitor the temps)

    Performance wise, everything has been running smoothly, will update soon.

    Btw, I got a Unibody Macbook 2.4Ghz 250 gigHDD w/2gig ram. I will install 4gigs of RAM from Crucial which I just got in today after I find my Phillips screwdriver :D ... btw, crucial has 4gig DDR3 RAM for just 60 bucks!
  7. MuDPHuDStudent macrumors member

    Feb 8, 2009
    Hanover, NH
    I'm a graduate engineering student with a 2.4 unibody macbook. It works great for engineering apps (like Matlab). I also have Xp Professional installed on bootcamp and I have VMWare FUsion 2.0 (when I need windows for less intensive things) for the few non-OsX apps I need to use. This is laptop is (surprisingly) the best windows machine I've used (other than the fact that apple's touchpad drivers for windows aren't the best).
  8. desiringGod macrumors regular

    Feb 15, 2008
    I am chemical engineering consultant and use my MBP from home a lot for work and actually looking at the new MB to replace my laptop and simply hook it up to an external monitor at work.

    I share word and excel documents all the time between my mac and my windows computer and it is seamless. You should read about the differences between old versions of Excel and the 2008 version as there are some differences in functionality.

    I would suggest the following:
    1. Buy the 2Ghz MB
    2. Take the $300 you saved buy ram (4GB to run parallels better) and a 250 GB HD
  9. Eidorian macrumors Penryn


    Mar 23, 2005
    You'd be lucky to need more than $150 to do those upgrades. Even a 7200 RPM 2.5" drive is affordable nowadays.
  10. bronconash macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2009
    Corsair 4gig I just installed was for 60 bucks! :) ... no hicupps so far
  11. wahoo10 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2009
    I probably will upgrade to 4GB, just not from Apple (no hard feelings, it's just way cheaper and I can always slide the 2GB back in if I need to get it serviced and they make a stink). Especially since it sounds like I'll need the extra to run parallels a bit smoother. I didn't really consider a Mac when I began college (3 years ago) because a lot of programs were Windows only and Parallels at the time wasn't a secure option, and the thought of having to reboot to use BootCamp seems time confusing and a hassle. Parallels would have to run MatLab (which can get pretty resource-demanding though), Matlab, and possibly some other engineering programs, but that's about it. But running Parallels was pretty much my one concern, as there's little other reasons to not get one, besides the price, but I figure a MB will survive far longer than another Toshiba or HP or something.
    The interesting thing to watch the battery lifespan of the MBs' batteries, and especially the non-removable one for MBPs. High heat applied to only a few cells is what kills the battery life, but I know firsthand that Apple has been working on their battery issues for a lonnnggg time, with smaller companies and larger ones like TI to develop battery management chips. My main reason for looking for a new lappy is that my current one's battery is dying (on to the third battery in 3 years! yah!) and it's no biggie to just order a replacement, besides one to two hundred bucks. MBP however, is a whole other issue. And, the movement to the ALU is going to affect the whole line, I'm almost certain, in either the sense that the material is going to affect heat, the thinner body, or any changes to the battery itself. Just a rant...
  12. Phat Ham macrumors member

    Oct 15, 2008
    8) Take every class you can with Dr. Wilson. He is a great professor.

    SEAS '04
  13. wahoo10 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2009
  14. cal6n macrumors 68000


    Jul 25, 2004
    Gloucester, UK
    I used parallels, versions 1, 2 and 3. I was deeply unhappy with the features and performance. :mad:

    I now use VMware fusion and I am happy, once again! :)

    Seriously, though. Take a good look at both companies' support forums. See which product's users are receiving answers and which product's users are left hanging for weeks, or even months.

    Then decide...
  15. macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2007
    3'rd year EE student too.

    Modelsim and Multisim work without problem in a VM (I'm using parallels). VM's are VERY convenient and usually adequate for such things. Get extra RAM, specially for the MB. You can do everything you need.. even use a USB to serial adaptor to hook up your TI calc if you please.

    The newer unibody's run MUCH cooler than the older ones..

    Screen size is under-rated. I've got a 15" MBP and its obviously not as compact as the 13" but I don't find it too much to take to campus with me. The extra convenience of having screen space way over-weighs that for me, ESPECIALLY since this is the only machine I use. coding, simulations, writing or reading documents (often 2, side by side), etc.. is actually convenient. I'd have a much harder time with a 13". I'm very content with the balance of screen size/portability.

    The machine should be useable in a few years. I just sold my 2 year old MBP which was still very capable. I sold it at a sweet spot though, after 2 years with an extra year of applecare, and at a pretty good price.

    Use Spaces.

  16. herr_neumann macrumors 6502


    Mar 27, 2003
    Roseville, Ca
    I use ArcGIS on XP Pro under Fusion and it runs great. I am using a MBP, which is not what you are looking at, but it is a resource hog of a windows only program. I often use GIS while having photoshop, indesign, word, etc running simultaneously, which eats ram like nothing so get 4GB ( I would love 8).
  17. syntectic99 macrumors newbie

    Jan 16, 2008
    Office Mac vs. Office Windows

    I have Office Mac and run Office Windows using Fusion. For Word, I just use the Mac version as there's not much difference. I spend a lot of time using Excel, and pretty much hate the Mac version so use Windows version on XP and VMWare Fusion, which works great. As for Powerpoint, I vastly prefer Keynote.

    13" previous-generation Macbook, 2GB ram, 250GB 7200 rpm HD. This is a very powerful machine, amazes me. Of course, I'm a geezer who cut my teeth on a MacPlus.
  18. bumzo1 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 31, 2009
    Dallas, TX
    im just saying thats its better to use bootcamp when your are running intensive apps
  19. MuDPHuDStudent macrumors member

    Feb 8, 2009
    Hanover, NH
    If all you want to do is use Matlab, you can get the mac version. My school has licenses for all engineering students to have it on their personal computers, and yours might too.
  20. wahoo10 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2009
    What's the difference between Parallels and VMFusion? I've heard of both, and people seem to run Fusion more.

    Also I've been thinking about the MBP 15", but I use a 12" right now and get by perfectly fine, so that's why I'm thinking the 13" will be fine. I have an external monitor to work at home with, so it's not a big issue. I can actually get the MBP 2.4 for $100 more currently through a school special, but it's much bigger and while I don't take my computer everywhere, it does still need to be portable. If I can't get the MBP under the special, I don't see the need to get one.

    As for Office, I'll definitely do the $10 Mac version from my school, and see how it is. If it isn't working out, I'll drop another $10 for the windows version.

    Lastly, my school does give licenses for Matlab for free, but only for Windows/UNIX versions. I'm unfamiliar with the ability to install UNIX programs on OSX.
  21. akbc macrumors 6502

    Jul 11, 2008
    Hah, I was in a same situation as you before, as you can see in my sig, I used to use (and still do) the Fujitsu T4215MK. Though I wasn't exactly a "swticher" since I've used a Mac since their G4 times...

    Anyways, I switched to MBP 15" and loving it! My fujitsu did the work fine, but trust me, the MBP runs a lot HOTTER than Fujitsu. I actually never had any heat problems with my fujitsu even when I was running games.. (I play SC, D2, WC3.. all those good ol' blizzard games)

    I'm not sure about MB but MBP definitely runs hotter than my Fujitsu even when it's on 9400M mode.

    I use office 2007 Ultimate on my fujitsu and office 2008 on my mac, both work very nicely although I prefer the Windows version over Mac version.

    anyways, I'm sure you'll like it, and for your needs even the Whitebook would suffice, but the unibodys are just so sexy haha.

  22. Moriarty macrumors 6502

    Feb 3, 2008
    A program called Crossover is a way to run Windows programs on a Mac without the need for a Windows install:

    Basically, it runs .exe's, and creates its own essential Windows files that the program will need, but it only runs at about 100MB + the space required by the programs you will actually run.
  23. scottkifnw macrumors regular


    Jan 17, 2008
    Trophy Club, TX
    a couple of answers

    I use a an original MBA with Office for Mac. I use Word, PowerPoint, and a little of Excel- no compatibility problems with my Windows XP SP2 at work. You should be fine with Sims.

    You are gonna love it.
  24. Agurri macrumors 6502


    May 8, 2005
    Québec, Canada

    Also undergrad EE (2.5 years done, 1.5 to go, just like you). I've been working on an original CD Macbook 2.0 ghz with 2GB of ram and 200gb 7200 drive. And it's still rocking. I've installed Vista via Bootcamp and I run the partition via VMware Fusion. I've also installed Matlab on both OS... and I have to say that the Windows version is more stable. I still get some bugs/crashes with the Unix/Mac OS version of Matlab.

    Office:mac isn't bad. If you can have it for 10 bucks, go ahead; but don't except much for it. Word runs OK, as it's not that much compatible with the Windows version (one obvious flaw : no math equation, duh !) So, it's great to have Office and Excel around, for basic compatibility with everybody, but I mostly use Pages. But, with your college, you basically can have Office for Windows for free, so I would install on both OS.

    So , yea : I have 2 Matlabs, 2 Office and I find myself using all of them..

    And remember, I run all this from a first gen Macbook... and it runs everything basically very well. Nothing to complain.

    Cheer !
  25. SpecOps2087 macrumors newbie

    Nov 15, 2008
    Graduating Mech. engineering senior here.

    I won't reiterate everything said but yes a macbook will do everything you need just fine.

Share This Page