MBP for Engineering Student

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by jdmac, Jun 15, 2011.

  1. jdmac macrumors newbie

    Jun 12, 2009
    I'm going back to school after getting a J.D. to get a B.S./M.S. in Electrical Engineering. I have a 2007 Black MacBook that I love but it's starting to wear out. I'm pretty sure that using it every day and all the dog hair in the keyboard have pushed it to it's limits. :rolleyes:

    I'm looking at the 13" and 15" MBP as the most likely candidates. I know that I'll be doing most of my "intense" coding/math crunching/design work on school computers and I'm pretty sure I won't be taking notes on the laptop since diagrams and such are so difficult to do. So I guess this will be used for homework, projects, papers, etc. I'm a fairly short girl and so I kinda feel like the 15" will weigh me down too much and is just too much screen real estate for me.

    So my question really is, will the 13" have enough power?
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Yes, a Macbook Pro will run Microsoft Office perfectly fine.
  3. JML42691 macrumors 68020


    Oct 24, 2007
    A 13" will have more than enough power. Since you plan on doing your most intensive work on the school's machines you should be fine with just about any Mac for your personal and regular HW use.
  4. ojaysimsanson macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2010
    I don't recommend the 13" models basically because they dont have any graphics power. The Intel graphics are pretty cheesy and wont run Soliworks AutoCAD Labview MATlab and all those as good as you might want it to. Im going into third year electrical engineering and im upgrading from a 13" to a new 2011 15" with the AMD graphics ;)

    Id recommend you got to the low end 15". I'm getting the high end one, but the difference is purely personal pleasure.
  5. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    An EE major will probably have to run the student version of Matlab. This will run just fine on the 13 in MBP. You might also consider the Macbook Air as it is even lighter and easier to cart around to classes. Remember to pick up the external optical drive as there will be times you will want to use it.

    Another thing to consider is there may be software that is available only in Windows only so a larger HDD will make it easier for you to run Windows in a parallels or vmware fusion "bottle" when you need it. I would hate the thought of depending on campus computers to get through a degree program so that's why I mention you consider a computer that can run all the software you need. The ability to do your homework on your schedule rather than waiting in line for a machine is priceless.

    Check with the school you are planning to attend to find out what software they provide free of charge. For instance, Michigan Tech provides ees to students who are actively enrolled and while I got it to work under Crossover, it runs best under Windows.
  6. Peteman100 macrumors 6502

    Apr 28, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    The 13" will be fine. However, I think you'll find yourself using the school computers less often than you think. Most of my undergraduate days were spent in the library with study groups. Computer labs are way too depressing....
  7. G$$ macrumors newbie

    Aug 25, 2010
    I work for an Aerospace technical publication company and we have a team that uses 1 year old maxed out MBP, although they use a lot of PC program via Boot Camp, these machines are able to handle anything, be it Solid Works, CATIA, Auto Cadd, 3DMAX, or whatever’s thrown at them, and in most cases the MBP’S work better and faster than our traditional PC’s. So I believe you will find the latest MBP any size will more than meet your needs.
    Work hard and Good luck I wish you the best.
  8. SPBMacintosh macrumors newbie

    Jun 7, 2011
    I don't think the 15 will 'weigh' you down [​IMG] but i would go with the 13mbp, the graphics card might struggle with autoCAD etc but it will still manage it a damn site better then most laptops
  9. Orlandoech macrumors 68040


    Jun 2, 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
    I recommend the 15" but the 13" will be sufficient enough for your needs.
  10. ojaysimsanson macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2010
    15" is the way to go, dedicated graphics are way better than integrated.
    it wont weigh you down theyre pretty light laptops.
  11. jdmac thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 12, 2009
    Seriously guys. I'm now more confused than ever. I'll be running MatLab, some Mathematica & AutoCad. I clearly understand that for my basic needs any Mac will do but I'm just unsure about how much power I need for the engineering programs. I really love the size of my MacBook, which makes me inclined to get a maxed-out 13" but will the ingegrated graphics card cause AutoCad to lag?

    Also, I have a year old iMac at home that I can use, but I LOVE working in libraries/coffee shops. I own a home and will be a commuter student rather than living on campus if ya'll think that makes a difference too.
  12. uller6 macrumors regular


    May 14, 2010
    Go for the 15

    Hey JD.

    I'm an engineering grad student with a 2010 13" MBP with the integrated Nvidia 320 graphics, and I spend a lot of time in Autocad and matlab. The 13" can run matlab fine, unless you're doing some SERIOUS computations.

    Autocad is a whole other story. The 13" CAN do autocad, but certainly NOT well. Once I get more than 30 parts on screen it starts to lag really badly even selecting menus, and it can't even handle freeview without lagging with 2 parts on screen. Also, the resolution on the 13" screen is really small for design work so things are horribly cramped. I'm really regretting not getting the 15" now, so I'm planning on selling my 13" to upgrade to the new 2011 quad core 15". I highly recommend you don't make the same mistake I did - go for the 15" and you'll be much happier.
  13. KylePowers, Jun 18, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2011

    KylePowers macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2011
    3rd year electrical engineering undergrad here,

    I had (and still do) a Sony Z for my first 2 years, which served me relatively well when using Mathcad, MATLAB, and a few other engineering specific programs. But I wanted to upgrade my computer this year, as my PC began to bog down and get horrendous battery life.

    So I too started looking at MBPs like yourself, but I didn't want anything bigger than a 13in (those things are heavy!) and I for the life of me didn't want to downgrade to the 13in's 1280x800 resolution (especially coming from a 1600x900 anti-glare screen). So I decided to just go for a 2011 MBA (1440x900 = crucial).

    But! I decided to think about it and realized that I (have learned to) never bring my laptop to class (they're super distracting and are pretty useless in classes where you have to copy down a lot of equations and diagrams) and I also hate going to libraries to do work (seriously, they're just places to socialize). So, I weighed my options and pulled the trigger on a 2011 base 27in iMac. It just made sense to me. A 27in iMac is better in every way compared to an MBA (aside from portability) and I still have a pretty good laptop to suit my mobile needs. I plan on upgrading my iMac's RAM to 8 or 12GB eventually, since I expect to be using a VM quite often... and am hoping to install or get a Thunderbolt SSD down the road (when prices are cheaper).

    Now from what I've read (I only skimmed), it doesn't sound as if you have a laptop already. But you did say you have an iMac. So I was thinking what you (and I) could do would be to maybe go for a 2011 (or 2010 refurb?) 11in MBA and use our iMacs for everything more computationally demanding?

    Just a thought :)
  14. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    the only thing that will really tax anything you can possibly buy is CAD. you'll have to be doing some serious Matlab to push any recent computer.

    I would just buy a 13" for the portability - basically being able to do some report writing or Matlab outside of your room. any CAD should be reserved for a desktop, be it your own or in the computer lab. I think buying a bulky 15" just to do CAD isn't really a good decision.
  15. ojaysimsanson macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2010
    3rd year electrical eng

    Hey bud,
    Like I said a dedicated graphics card will really be needed for AutoCAD, I work with it everyday.
    The Macbook Air will not suffice if you like working in libraries and stuff simply because you dont have computing power. Maybe wait to see what they put in the next ones, sure theyre quick because of the SSD, but lets not overestimate the Intel Core Duo that is generations old that they still carry. So maybe the next one.
    When you are at school youll want to pop up your projects compare them with classmates, ask proffs questions. Youll want a laptop thats capable of running these programs on the go. Also with the MBA youre getting a SSD, in engineering youll probably end up installing Bootcamp and Windows 7 I know I do for Solidworks and AutoCAD, so you want a drive bigger than 256gb.

    Some tips...
  16. trip1ex macrumors 68000

    Jan 10, 2008
    Don't think I'd bother with a Mac as an engineering student. Not when you'll be using Windows all the time.

    I'll make an exception for the IMac because it's an all-in-one and pc all in ones don't seem alot cheaper so why not. And an all-in-one saves quite alot of space if your quarters are cramped which they usually are for college students.
  17. tortura macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2011
    yeah something like this

    yes and no ... for the most programs you will need Windows,
    but since even windows runs perfectly on macbook pro and you want have a stable system, you just should go for macbook. (may be take thinkpad instead, but thats a question)

    another note, even 13" is good for the most of things,
    i prefer 17" ... you will see, that even matlab and madlab addons like simulink and xilinx stuff, may be some pdfs and even webpages, any word program, and some other stuff (you will be running Virtual machine windows, after many tries, it is the best solution) will need hyperopic (i didnt find the right word)

    look a lot of programs, but no space on 13" :D

    as an engineer you need space on paper and on desktop, dont think you wont need it on your computer.

    i underestimated this and bought 13", ive cried blood with so small of space amount :S

    better see all at once! see whole :D

    sorry for bad english, i just wanna help
  18. dreadyboy macrumors newbie

    Jun 18, 2011
    Same boat

    So I don't have any computer right now, going to buy a laptop going into first year engineering. I'm looking at getting either a refreshed macbook air when they come out or an hp dv6t quad.
    The hp is 15", has a 2ghz quad core SB processor, 8gigs of of Ram, 1080p display, 750gb hard drive, 5 hour battery with minimal use (9 hours with 9 cell battery) and it's only $1250 with a free xbox 360.
    My question is will i actually use the hp for engineering tasks or will all of my work be done in a lab? If I won't actually be using it then there isn't too much point in getting it (besides future-proofing I guess). So will a powerful laptop be useful or should i stick with a macbook air and its portability?
  19. dreadyboy macrumors newbie

    Jun 18, 2011
    It also has a 2gb ddr5 graphics card. I'd probly buy the 9 cell battery and a 500gb ssd hybrid hard drive as well.
  20. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    You might want to check with folks who are already in the program at the school you will be attending. Every school and program is different.

    We can't really guess for you.

    The sheer portability of the MBA is worth something over any 15", including the MBP. If note taking becomes the main usage for your box and your school/program does a lot in unix vs. Windows you may see some real advantages to the Mac...

  21. ojaysimsanson macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2010
    I can guarantee you that through engineering, whatever laptop you get (and you better hope for a good one) will be your best friend. You will use it for programming, excel, word, matlab, maple, solidworks, autocad, labview and maybe others, i mean you might not use all of those, but you want to be ready to be able to use it if you need to.
    Labs are usually done in class but a lot of the write up calculations are done outside of the lab.
    My 13" Macbook Pro Intel Core 2 Duo did okay with 4gb of RAM, however it had a dedicated graphics card. The new 13" dont, and neither will the future Macbook Airs because they are likely to go Snady Bridge with the Intel HD 3000, or a newer version of it, which is still not too powerful.
    Also the macbook airs have 256gb SSD and you will need to install bootcamp and windows 7 so youll run out of space.
  22. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    not all programs will have/need you running all that software on your own computer. LabView for me is always on some computer inside the laboratory. I've never used Maple, but then again don't know what graduate programs are like. the extent of my computing use was just Matlab, Office, and some COMSOL and CAD (SolidWorks)...but none of my CAD was done on a laptop.

    the new integrated graphics chips are not much different from the old discrete ones. both will be pathetic for anything remotely complex.
  23. ojaysimsanson macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2010
    I was never the student that liked using computers at school I find it annoying and not productive ( I live off campus ). My old Macbook Pro did good with solidworks although rendering and simulating would cause the machine to crash.
    All im trying to say is, I wouldnt get a machine that MIGHT be able to run everything you'll need in the next four years. I'm pretty sure anyone in this forum with common sense would agree that if you go for the higher 15", your needs should be met for the next 4 years.

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