macbook or macbook pro............yeah i know!....... (ECE major)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by solaris7, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. solaris7 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    #1
    Hello! I am planning to buy a macbook (over a macbook pro) for college(for ECE) because i generally think a macbook pro is overkill unless one is a hard core design student. I am not really into video or photo editing, although occasionally i might do it. I was wondering if typing out long papers or researching a bit on the internet is a chore or very comfortable on the macbook.
    Also, I plan to keep the macbook for the full 4 years and was wondering if the brightness of the screen will reduce by a large margin over the months, thus being very uncomfortable. This is where i think the macbook pro is the winner, but i don't need the graphic card or the keyboard back lighting, though i would def. like the larger screen and LED-backlit feature. Also, i don't plan to take notes on the laptop unless it is a CS class.
    An external monitor is out of the question because my dorm has small rooms and i don't have space for the extra monitor+macbook+notebooks on the desk. I was told often that I would be spending most of my time in clusters so i don't really see the point of a macbook pro, the clusters in my university are outfitted with superb computers(iMac's + Mac Pros+(and some windows machines ) ) and they are open 24/7.
    Am i doing it right by choosing a macbook? or should i splurge the extra cash(my father said he would pay for it, but if i don't need it, why buy it?).
    Thanks in advance for replying.
    (Also, i am not planning on playing the waiting game)
     
  2. neiltc13 macrumors 68040

    neiltc13

    Joined:
    May 27, 2006
    #2
    For what you want to do MacBook will be more than sufficient. The only real advantage that the Pro has over it is the graphics card, and since you said you won't be using that there really is no point spending the extra money on the Pro.

    I have owned two MacBooks now and I loved both of them. I had the very first 1.83GHz Core Duo white one and then I moved up to my newer 2.2GHz black one last year. I love the design, it's easily the best looking and best laid out computer that Apple currently sells and the keyboard is the best feature.

    The display is fine. Mine is nice and bright and is comfortable to look at for long periods of time. Sure, it might not be as high quality as the one in the Pro, but for writing text documents you don't really need 100% colour accuracy.

    I think the black model is a bit more subdued looking and will help you blend in with others in your class who will no doubt have Vaios and Thinkpads.

    Power wise you won't notice a difference between the Pro or the regular MacBook for what you want to do. The 2.4GHz processor in the MacBook and the 2.4GHz processor in the MacBook Pro are the same.

    Go with the MacBook.
     
  3. tompon1923 macrumors 6502

    tompon1923

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    #3
    I got the base line macbook, stock ram (see my signature). I play games like CounterStrike Source, half life 2, Editing some movies (Imovie), pictures (using Photoshop cs3) and it amazed me about the performance. The GMA x3100 is an massive graphic card upgrade over the GMA 950. Especially if you have to go from class to class, the macbook is much more portable compared to the macbook pro. The macbook's screen is great if you do things like text editing, surfing the web, etc.

    Go for the macbook and upgrade the ram.

    Good Luck!
     
  4. iOrlando macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2008
    #4
    Yeah..you dont need the pro if you are a college student just doing normal stuff.

    Buy the lowest base model and just get the memory upgrade ($100). YOu could proly do it yourself, but I figure..heck just have apple do it...that way it be completely guaranteed. Sometimes its not worth doing it yourself in an attempt to save 20-30 dollars.

    The cpu differences between all macs and mac pros arent noticeable.

    And I think you said you were going to buy it now. I think that is the best choice. Refresh probably will be october or so.

    Enjoy the ipod touch.
     
  5. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    Dec 22, 2004
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    Chicago, Illinois
    #5
    MacBook. You certainly don't need the Pro. You'll love the keyboard, and the screen should be fine.
     
  6. solaris7 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Feb 17, 2008
    #6
    Could you guys please comment on the LCD screen brightness, and whether the decrease in brightness over a period of time is gradual?
     
  7. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago, Illinois
    #7
    Well, I had an iBook G4 for 4 years and never noticed a decrease in screen brightness. I used it quite a bit every day too. I just got the new black MacBook a few months ago, and so far the screen is really bright. I rarely use it at full brightness, unless I'm on a train or bus during the day. You will want to calibrate your screen for sure to get the color and contrast right.
     
  8. jroller macrumors regular

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    Jul 24, 2008
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    #8
    I'd recommend the MacBook as well. I have not heard any issues with screen brightness dimming over time. I do not think that will be an issue for you. I would also strongly recommend that you add AppleCare coverage for your new laptop. Frankly, it is shortsighted not to do so. A laptop does not just sit on a desk for its lifetime; it is moved, tossed, jostled with regularity and certainly subject to more potential for damage than a desktop. I promise that it is money well spent.
     
  9. neiltc13 macrumors 68040

    neiltc13

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    May 27, 2006
    #9
    If you are attending a University in the United Kingdom you get AppleCare included for free along with a ~17% discount. You didn't mention where you were so this may be a consideration.
     
  10. AliensAreFuzzy macrumors 68000

    AliensAreFuzzy

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    Madison, WI
    #10
    I'm an ECE major too, and I've had a MBP since they came out 2.5 years ago. I find that really I don't use it to its full potential most of the time for doing my school work. The biggest difference for doing my ECE stuff is definitely the screen size for when I'm coding.
    I'm buying a new laptop this fall and, depending on what the next revision holds, I'm most likely going to go with a MacBook (Though I have an external 20" monitor).

    That being said, whatever you decide to go with, be sure to get the minimum RAM from Apple, buy 4GB from NewEgg or OWC because you can get it for much less.
     
  11. jroller macrumors regular

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    Jul 24, 2008
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    #11
    Wow... that's a good deal.
     
  12. rightlyso macrumors member

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    Jul 29, 2008
    #12
    Can someone explain to me what the advantages of a faster graphics card are? I do not play games on the laptop, but would want to get decent performance in the following apps:

    (1) Photoshop and Illustrator.
    (2) Aperture.
    (3) iMovie, and possibly a higher end movie app.

    I more or less have a grasp of the need for faster processor, more memory and faster hard disk, but I haven't a clue whether the video card on the MacBook will hinder anything.

    I plan to attach a 23" LCD panel from time to time. (It's a Dell, but has same resolution as Apple 23" LCD panel. It has both VGA and digital inputs.)
     
  13. eXan macrumors 601

    eXan

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    Russia
    #13
    It doesn't matter which graphics card you have for Adobe apps, as none of them use it for rendering.

    I've heard reports that Aperture runs a lot better on computers with dedicated graphics, although I didn't test it on my MacBook because the screen is too small and bad to be usable.

    Recent version of iMovie benefits in some cases from having a dedicated GPU, but I could be wrong.
     
  14. Mjmar macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    #14
    I just got the MacBook, and I tend to keep it only at half brightness most of the time. I also thought that the screen would be too small, but the MacBook has really impressed me in that department. The layout of everything on the screen makes it seem larger than it actually is. My sister has a 14" Dell, and I'd much rather use my MacBook just due to the better quality of the screen. Also, I don't think that the fading brightness will be much of an issue if you take care of your machine. In your case, the Pro is not really worth it. You'd be surprised at how much the MacBook's portability comes in handy. I used to have a 15" laptop, and now that I have a MacBook I realize how much the other one held me back.
     
  15. zahque macrumors member

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    Jun 24, 2006
    #15
    i was debating the same issue before going with the pro. the extra few inches of real estate on the LCD makes a pretty big difference for me, especially if you're used to 15" displays and downgrade to the 13.3. i also don't like the spaced/embedded keyboard on the macbook, or the speaker position/sound quality.

    also, someone mentioned the blackbook blending in nicely with vaios and thinkpads, but the truth is that the blackbook is a bit of a waste. you're paying an extra 200 dollars for a black case and a few extra gigs of hard drive space.. really hard to justify. all of the other specs between the blackbook and the higher end white macbook are identical.
     
  16. tompon1923 macrumors 6502

    tompon1923

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    #16
    but if you go for the blackbook after all, you might need to consider a refurb macbook pro which is about the same price.
     
  17. BlizzardBomb macrumors 68030

    BlizzardBomb

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    Jun 15, 2005
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    England
    #17
    That is correct, iMovie does benefit, but it isn't too much of a difference. Snow Leopard may increase the advantage, but that's some way off.
     
  18. pinktank macrumors 6502

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    Apr 5, 2005
    #18
    I'm now selling my macbook pro because I find it a burden to carry and the screen too prone to bruises.
     
  19. muldul macrumors 6502

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    Apr 21, 2008
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    West Sussex, England, UK
    #19
    Sounds like you have your mind already set, the macbook is a great machine
     
  20. AppleGuy1980 macrumors member

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    Jun 7, 2008
    #20
    Anti-MBP Bias on the Forums

    Personally, I'd just like to point out that there's a lot of what I would call anti-MBP bias on these forums. Yes, the MBP is quite a bit more costly, but even for an average user like you, it's much nicer than the MacBook.

    You can't underestimate the impact of screen size, particularly if the laptop is going to be your primary computer. A 13" screen is fine if you're just after portability, but a 15" screen is a minimum for your principal computer. Keep in mind that the 2.4" increase in the diagonal length of the screen means around a 35% increase in the actual area of the screen. Also, the MBP supports 1440x900 native resolution, a much nicer looker display.

    As for the brightness issue, yes the MacBook brightness will decline over time, but I haven't heard too many complaints about it. However, the LED backlit MBP will give you a crisper and better looking picture for a long time.

    Honestly, the quality of a computer's display should be a major consideration. Trust me, as a college student, you will spend many hours in front of the display, and you want a nice one. I would say that the nicer display alone justifies a substantial part of the price gap between the MB and the MBP.

    Secondly, if you're buying for the long-haul, as you said you are, you NEED a nice computer. Maybe today you don't think you'll need a dedicated GPU, but you might decide in a couple of years that you want to do some design work, or you might start gaming. Even if you don't, the basic graphical tasks that computers face are increasing every day. If you want a computer that will still function well in 4-5 years, you need one that exceeds your needs today, not just one that meets them.

    That said, my advice is: If you can afford an MBP, buy one.
     
  21. Rooneirella macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    #21
    Wow, it sounds like you all really know your stuff!

    I have been doing a lot of research but are still rather unsure about choosing MB over MBP, but could use some "expert" advice.

    Point blank, I am hard on a PC. Right now I am at work (using a Dell) with 3 MS Word docs, a MS Excel workbook, Filemaker Pro (4 databases opened and minimized), 3 internet browsers and MS Outlook all open and minimized. I am worse on my laptop - especially when doing genealogy research.

    I a torn between getting the 2.4 GHz white MB and upgrading the harddrive and RAM, or, buying a MBP.

    I currently run Photoshop 7 on my PC at home and would like to be able to run a similar program on a laptop. I take a lot of digital photos (will need a large external drive) and I also design webpages now and then. Again, I do a lot of genealogy research and scan old photos and docs for archive. Dabbling in Dreamweaver may be a future possiblity - have a Intuos drawing pad, too. I'm trying to think long-term - will probably start on my MBA in a year or two.

    I currently have a POS HP pavillion DV model I bought about 4 years ago that is on its last leg - a 2nd hard drive crash 2 years ago clinched it. When I bought, my primary concern was a dedicated graphics card. My major concern now is multi-tasking capability and being able to keep up with me - can't stand having to wait on the computer.

    Any thoughts?
    :)

    Thanks!
     
  22. neiltc13 macrumors 68040

    neiltc13

    Joined:
    May 27, 2006
    #22
    I don't think I'd call it bias. It's advice more than anything and when you look at the MacBook Pro you see that it is massively overpriced compared to similarly specced machines from Dell or Asus.

    There are definitely people who can benefit from buying a MacBook Pro and in my opinion they are only those who actually need the GPU. That said, MacBook itself has a GPU which is by no means slow itself. I've tested it and run countless 3D games and video editing programs just fine.

    As the original poster has already stated, if he needs it then he has access to computers with dedicated graphics and no doubt machines which blow the MacBook Pro away in terms of that performance.

    It's like buying a car with snow chains when you live in the desert. You'll have them, just in case it ever snows, but it isn't snowing today and it hasn't snowed for the last five years. However, these are REALLY expensive snow chains and they're going to double the cost of your computer.

    As I repeatedly state here, aside from the graphics card, MacBook and MacBook Pro are the same computer. Both have slight advantages over each other. For example, MacBook is easily the best looking and has the best keyboard but on Pro you get a FireWire 800 port to make up for it.

    Rooneirella, MacBook will be fine for you. As will 2GB RAM.
     
  23. Rooneirella macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    #23
    Thanks for the help! You seem to hear something different depending who you talk to (sales people wise). I was hoping for a "less cluttered" answer here. :)

    Thanks!
     
  24. goinskiing macrumors 6502a

    goinskiing

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2008
    Location:
    Meridian, ID
    #24
    Macs for ECE

    Well, I was in the same boat as you not too long ago and let's just say I'm glad I got the MBP.

    I am in the ECE program and I do a lot of simulation related work for simulating different circuits/logic/etc and I rather enjoy the extra mmph the MBP delivers. The software I have used is ispLever w/ModelSim and this upcoming semester will be the Xilinx ISE Suite w/Modelsim. I am focusing more on the EE side of the ECE program and I know these programs are HOGS. We have copies available to us to use on our own machines and there are a good number of students who use these development/simulation suites on their MBPs. I just boot into Windows natively and it works like a charm. Not only that, I don't have to do ALL my simulations in the lab, I can do them at home (where I'd much rather be anyways).

    Now, if you're doing more of the CS stuff than, yeah, you really won't need the MBPs extra mmph, doesn't hurt, but isn't quite neccesary. I guess if you want your programs to compile a little faster than the MBP would be helpful.

    I just know I LOVE my MBP and I am happy I spent the extra bit (being a fellow poor college student) to get more performance. The MBP is a wonderful machine and I don't think you could go wrong with it. Just my two bits.
     
  25. AppleGuy1980 macrumors member

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    Jun 7, 2008
    #25
    It's not really like buying snow chains, and it certainly doesn't double the cost of your computer. With the standard education discount, the top white MB is $1199 and the bottom MBP is $1799, so it costs $600 (adding about 50% which is a lot).

    But as I originally pointed out, just the larger, higher resolution screen is worth quite a bit if this is your primary computer. And, unlike snow chains, a dedicated GPU has benefits no matter what you're doing; the benefits are just relatively small on average tasks. Personally, I'd say the larger display is worth at least $300, so there's only a $300 gap to close between the two, and the MBP packs in a lot of little extras: backlit keyboard, multitouch, firewire 800, audio line-in, etc.

    What I'm getting at is this: No matter what you're doing, the MacBook Pro will do it better than the MacBook. The cost difference is large, and the performance difference on many tasks is small, but a 35% larger screen, greater potential for future use, and a lot of extras make it worth it.

    In closing, I'll part with a metaphor too. The MacBook is a Toyota and the MacBook Pro is a Ferrari. Sure, if you're just driving down the highway they'll both get you there, but the Ferrari can go 150 when you need it to, and it has a lot of little extras that help make up for the cost difference.
     

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