PhD student Economics: 13" or 15" retina pro?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Iols, Apr 22, 2013.

  1. Iols macrumors newbie

    Apr 22, 2013
    Hello to anyone!
    I've decided to buy a new laptop and my final choice was a macbook pro with retina display. I've just started my PhD in economics and my major fields will be empirical economics and econometrics. I will use programs like Stata, Matlab and other statistical softwares for econometric analysis, therefore often using large datasets. In general I strictly prefer the portability (... and price) of the 13 inch and I was considering the i7 processor configuration to have a more powerful CPU; however I'm also taking into account that it should come out to be more useful the more powerful quad-core processor and the 16gb of RAM of the 15". The question is the following: is it actually useful to spend more money and renounce to some portability, given my use of this laptop? The 15 inch is of course more powerful in general, but given what I will do in my next future do I actually use this extra performance or it can be more than sufficient the 13 inch with the i7 processor?
    I'm going creasy :)
    Hope someone with stronger experience than me could help me to do the best choice!
    Thank you very much!
  2. B... macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2013
    I would just get the i7 13", because the Hyperthreading will allow the computer to recognize four virtual core, so you essentially have a quad core processor. The 15" would have eight virtual cores. I looked at the system requirements for Stata and it does not seem VERY demanding (512 MB RAM requested etc.) so I would just get the 13" with i7.
  3. iAppl3Fan macrumors 6502a


    Sep 8, 2011
    The 13" is more than enough. The only time you should consider the 15" is if you want screen real estate to look at numbers in a spreadsheet. Computer Science and Engineering would benefit from faster compile times and rendering. Yours not necessarily.
  4. MarkCooz macrumors 6502a

    Jul 12, 2009
    To be quite honest. If i were you I'd get a baseline 15" Retina with an upgraded 512GB or just buy a thunderbolt external for more storage... Just to be future proof for the next 2-4 Years. You'll get a bigger/higher screen real estate, faster processor and overall it doesn't weigh all that much.

    I'm not saying that the 13" i7 is bad. My buddy owns one. It's just that it seems so small to be a portable powerhouse. He may not be doing the same as you are (He's doing photography) but IMO 15" Baseline with just an upgrade of 512GB or just buy an external thunderbolt/USB3.0 will get all the job done..
  5. Laco macrumors 6502

    Apr 23, 2008
    I teach several Stata courses, use it for work and for school. It really depends on how large your data-sets are and how complex your analysis is. You can save a lot of time by going with a quad-core machine. However you will also need a version of Stata that utilizes all 4 cores.

    For example, the basic version of Stata is $595 but the version that utilizes 4 cores is $1,695.

    If you are doing something very complex you can save A LOT of time by going quad core but you will also need the quad core version of Stata to utilize the potential of the machine fully.
  6. nopat macrumors newbie

    Apr 23, 2013
    IMHO, I would go w/ the 15" rMBP 16GB. I'm a graduate student in quantitative finance and started out w/ a 13" MBP, then switched to a 15" rMBP when they came out in August.

    I don't really think portability is as much of an issue here, unless you have some hardware that only fits 13" laptops or are using it in some absurdly tight spaces. In most cases a 15" tends to really mean mobile desktop, but the 15 rMBP has a pretty tight form factor. The 15 rMBP is light, fits easily in all my travel cases (North Face backpack, various computer bags, etc), and can be used easily from a coach seat without the screen being at an odd angle (I'm well over 6' tall, for reference, and have used it without problem on several flights).

    I'll have to disagree with the others in this thread that say the additional computing performance is overkill, either from a purpose standpoint or cost/software standpoint. First, if you aren't using one of the free platforms like Octave, R, or some combination of C++/python and libraries (GSL, QuantLib, Rpy, et al ad nauseum), your university/department will (or at least should) provide the software licenses for whatever you'll be using (I have Matlab, Stata, and Mathematica installed currently; SAS is virtualized and simply xterm into the servers), so software cost shouldn't really enter into the picture at all. Second, the work you'll be doing is very computationally intensive and is, for all intents and purposes, identical to what someone might see in a graduate engineering or CS program; in fact, many of the classes you'll take will probably have Math/CS/Industrial Engineering section or course analog. Will it make /that/ much of a difference over a 13? Debatable, but it certainly won't hurt so why not.

    The additional screen space, however, does go a long way to making things a lot easier. Arguably the expanded desktop can mitigate this, but life was pretty miserable multitasking between programs on the smaller screen.

    Miserable enough to justify the additional cost? Yes.
  7. FluJunkie macrumors 6502a

    Jul 17, 2007
    I just defended my dissertation in Epidemiology, which uses many of the same software packages and analytical techniques as Economics does.

    I went with a 15" rMBP for the following reasons:

    - RAM. This is the big one for me, more than number of processor cores, since many statistical techniques are pretty serial in nature, or take longer to code in parallel than they'd take to run in serial unless you're working with really massive data sets. And many of the tools you may end up using - both Python and R - tend to store data in memory, rather than on disk, as SAS does (I have no idea what Stata does, I never bothered to learn). So the amount of RAM you have becomes the limiting factor.

    - Faster processor. Both in terms of the number of available cores, and the higher Turbo Boost clock speed for serial jobs.

    - Having used both, I found the 15" to be a more pleasant primary working environment.

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