Need help specing a Macbook Pro for engineering work

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by ebabbitt, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. ebabbitt macrumors newbie

    Mar 8, 2011
    I'm trying to pick between the 15" and 17" macbook pro for my next computer. I am studying electrical engineering and computer science so I need it to be able to handle a lot at once, run CAD programs and basically just be fast and reliable when handling heavy computer stuff.

    I'm new to the fields, and I need some advice:
    4GB or 8GB RAM?
    Upgrade the processor? Why?
    500GB 7200rpm or 750GB 5000rpm
    Recommendations/thoughts on the screen upgrades would also be appreciated.

    P.S. I know a lot of engineers who hate macs and bash them regularly, but I prefer them and have done just fine with my old macbook, but I need to upgrade to something more powerful and tailored to my need.
  2. grahamnp macrumors 6502a

    Jun 4, 2008
    I don't think there's going to be a huge difference between the 2.0 and 2.2 unless you need the graphics card. More RAM is nice but I've never actually exceeded my 4GB doing any of the stuff you've mentioned. No harm getting 4 from Apple now and upgrading as you see fit later. A faster HDD is always better if you can do without the extra 250GB, the noise and power consumption increase is not worth fussing about IMO, you may feel differently.

    I never used CAD in the engineering I did but I like having lots of screen real estate for compilers/editors so the 17" would be nice or maybe the high res 15".
  3. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    Any of them would be fine. It's college, you won't be designing the space shuttle replacement.

    I'd be more concerned with portability than crazy power.
  4. dblissmn macrumors 6502

    Apr 30, 2002
    No need for the 17. In the educational channel the higher end 2.2GHz 15 has a substantial student discount, going down $200 to $1999. More memory, yes. 2.3GHz option, absolutely not. Hard drive, your preference; the higher rpm will be faster for general purpose use but the larger capacity one that packs data more densely on the platters will probably be better with big files both for speed and space. The screen, you need to go to the Apple Store and check it out for yourself as it really is a matter of personal comfort.
  5. Kyzelios macrumors 6502

    Mar 6, 2011
    I'd recommend the 15-inch model because it's easier to carry around on a day to day basis. If you needed more screen estate you could either opt for the high resolution display on the MacBook Pro itself, or purchase a large external monitor (which is what I'd recommend).
  6. Animalk macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2007
    Montreal Canada
    15" 2.2Ghz model is the one you want. Other upgrades are up to your discretion.
  7. Lunchb0x8 macrumors 6502a

    May 2, 2010
    Aberglasslyn, NSW, AU
    Whatever spec you get, go SSD and 8GB RAM and you should be fine.
  8. ebabbitt, Mar 9, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2011

    ebabbitt thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 8, 2011
    I also want to run Windows 7 in parallel for some engineering applications, would the upgraded processor be better for this or only be a minimal difference?

    Also video games, I really want to play games on this mac
  9. brentsg, Mar 9, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2011

    brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    If you're upgrading, do it for the GPU for games. The CPU bump is negligible regardless of VMs. VMs will tax your RAM and cores, the CPU clock won't matter much. Local storage can also be contentious with a VM but SSDs help a lot and only running 1 VM is no big thing anyways.

    For what it's worth, I'd get the low end 13 and add RAM plus an external display. You will be on the move a lot and you can always do your CAD or whatever with the display. I guess everyone's program is different, but if my experience is any indicator you won't spend as much time needing the large screen as you think.
  10. mrfoof82 macrumors 6502a

    May 26, 2010
    Lawton, OK
    General thoughts as a Windows Developer running on a new 2011 MBP15 (base SKU with Hi-Res Glossy display).

    • You want more memory. If you want to upgrade yourself, you need a spudger (disconnect battery), and a Phillips #00 bit. DIY maxing it out to 8GB is $85-92. If you don't want to DIY, the $200 will be worth it if you plan on dedicating a good chunk of memory to a VM. I slam into the 8GB limit occasionally.
    • Hard disk is usually the slowest part of your system. SSDs are nice, but pricey so just see if it's in your budget. If you can afford what you want, do it. In general 7200rpm drives will always be snappier than 5400rpm drives, particularly for random I/O (though still 100 times slower than an SSD in terms of IOps). I run a 500GB Momentus XT in mine, which is a hybrid, for quick boots and app launches. Pleased as punch. If you DIY a disk upgrade, you'll need a T6 Torx bit in addition to the spudger and Phillips #00.
    • Running Windows 7 SP1 just fine on Boot Camp and through VMWare Fusion. With VMWare I just throw 4GB of memory and two cores at it. I mostly do SQL Server (data warehouse modeling, ETL development) and .NET development with SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010 SP1. CPU overhead for VMWare isn't much. At idle, I go from 100% idle to periodically 99% idle. Hardware virtualization support from Intel keeps getting better and better.
    • I get 7 to 8 1/2 hours of real world battery life under OS X. 4 to 5 hours of real world battery life when Windows 7 is running in a VM or on the bare metal.
    • I have the Hi-Res (1680x1050) glossy display. I have as many issues with reflections as I do with my 27" LED Cinema Display -- none.
    • The 2.2GHz CPU is nice, but will only matter on CPU-bound tasks. For me it'd be occasional video rendering, or large lookups on data already buffered in memory (ETL testing). It'd be a 10% boost, no more.
    • The AMD 6750 I'm sure is fantastic, but the 6490M is great as a developer. It sits somewhere between the 320M and 330M of the previous generation in performance -- and I game on a Mid-2010 Mac Mini with a 320M (not hi-res or detail, but it runs Left 4 Dead 2, Magicka, Starcraft II and Minecraft well enough at 1280x800 and medium detail). If you really want to game when plugged in, or are running applications that will genuinely use the GPU, that should be the primary motivation for the high-end 15" SKU over the low-end 15" SKU.

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