rMBP questions from a future enginering student

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by hepta, Aug 1, 2014.

  1. hepta, Aug 1, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2014

    hepta macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    I will be starting college this fall and am in the market for a new laptop. As of now I plan on studying chemical engineering. I've pretty much narrowed down my choice to the 2014 rMBP with 2.6GHz/256GB/16GB. This will be my first MacBook though, so any input you have on those specs is appreciated. (I am staying away from the refurbs because I plan on purchasing AppleCare and using the extended year warranty from Amex, which doesn't apply to refurbs.)

    I'd like this machine to last me through college and ideally beyond. I've had rotten luck with PC laptops over the years. I have two Apple Stores very close to me so the convenience of repairs is also what is making me lean towards a Mac over PC.

    My college has a lot of computer labs, so I assume I can access any of the advanced software I might need in future years there. But that brings me to my questions:

    From browsing these forums and other sites, it seems like a lot of people prefer the Windows Microsoft Office programs over the Mac versions. Now, I have ZERO experience with Bootcamp/virtualization, so I would really appreciate it if you could lay down the basics for me, or direct me to some information. People talk about using Fusion/Parallels just for using Microsoft Office on a daily basis. Is this practical? Is one recommended over the other? Would I need to purchase a Windows license, and if so, is there a particular one recommended? I figured 16GB of RAM would be a good idea if I plan on doing this.

    People also talk all about Bootcamp for running some of the less Mac-friendly engineering software. I hear it takes up a fair amount of the hard drive. Since I'd like my laptop to last for 4+ years, is a 256gb SSD enough? I am quite the minimalist in terms of using storage, so I don't use a whole lot (on my desktop I believe I've used 70GB/2TB...)

    Also, will the i5 processor be sufficient for years to come? The i7 costs so much more and doesn't it run a bit hotter?

    Since I'm so new to all of this I have SO many questions, sorry. I really appreciate any and all input, even if I didn't ask a certain question but you think it would help me out. (Especially from engineers!)

    Edit: I forgot to mention I am looking at the 13" version due to portability.
  2. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    Get the top of the line 2013 15" rMBP for $749 off with 3 years of Apple Care from Adorama. No sales tax or shipping.

    2.6GHz 15" MBP (16GB, 1TB, 750M) = $2899

    Follow the instructions at the top of the price guide. The machine should last all through college.

    If the budget does not allow for that model, look at the others.
  3. hepta thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    Thank you for the reply MCAsan. I actually meant to mention in my post that I am looking at the 13" model because of cost and portability. I edited my first post to reflect that.
  4. amoda macrumors 6502a

    Aug 9, 2006
    Who recommends a nearly $3,000 laptop to a university student? Sheesh.

    OP, the model you specified should meet your needs for years to come. Here's my reasoning.

    1. Ask your department if they have specific hardware requirements. I'd venture that the rMBP would meet whatever reqs. they might have. If it doesn't (unlikely), you can use the specialised computers in the lab which would likely be Mac Pro-like in specs.

    2. I, personally, prefer the Mac versions of Word but the Windows versions of Excel. The difference isn't sufficient enough to warrant paying for virtualisation software or dealing with dual-booting. You might need to run Windows for some Windows-only engineering software, in which case BootCamp is your best bet. Simply run BootCamp Installer and it'll guide you through the process. Yes, you will need a valid Windows license. Ask your department for software recommendations and check if your Uni has a computer store, as they might have student deals on software.

    3. You're a minimalist when it comes to your hard drive usage, so a 1TB SSD is overkill - especially at today's prices. Get the 256GB model and, if necessary, an external disk or use Cloud storage which can also serve as your backup. I currently use DropBox and get 10GB free but other services can offer more.

    4. All 15" models come with the i7 processors.

    Other things:

    1. The difference in performance between the late 2013 and 2014 models is minimal. You might be able to maximise your dollar by purchasing a 2013 model with AppleCare from Adorama. For example, they have the following deals:

    i. 2.0 Quad i7, 8GB, 256GB + 3yr AppleCare = 1,893
    ii. 2.3 Quad i7, 16GB, 256GB + 3yr AppleCare = 2,193

    Both deals require you to be a VIP member but it's currently free to join.

    2. Does the AMEX extended warranty apply on top of AppleCare? I was under the impression it doubles the original one year warranty and begins immediately after the original one year and can't be stacked.
  5. hepta thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    Thank you so much for such a thorough reply amoda!

    I've checked online and my school specifically says they have no requirements, other than recommendations of 2GB RAM etc. (2GB RAM...geez)

    I did a bit of searching about the Amex and this is from their official terms:

    "If the product also is covered by a purchased service contract, this Plan’s extended warranty time period begins at the end of the service contract and extends the original manufacturer’s warranty for a period of time equal to that warranty, up to one (1) additional year."

    On other forums people said they had no trouble when submitting a claim in the year following the end of AppleCare coverage. This is for the Costco Amex, so I'm not sure if it's the same for other versions.
  6. kelon111, Aug 4, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2014

    kelon111 macrumors 6502

    Mar 16, 2013
    The i7 in the 13" model is only a dual core CPU unlike the desktop version or the QM version in the 15" model.

    Storage space on both Retina models could be an issue unless you use an external drive or get a model with a fairly big SSD.

    The RAM , battery and SSD are not user serviceable so don't expect to upgrade or change them down the road yourself even a few years down the road.

    IMHO, as an undergrad engineering student you can get by with a modern Core i3 machine with an integrated GPU. If you end up doing heavy 3D CAD you might want to buy a mobile workstation but you probably wouldn't be doing that type of work.

    I used a Core 2 Duo based Fujitsu throughout my undergrad engineering years and that was fast enough for MATLAB and other basic simulation tools. I started using a W530 mobile workstation when I started grad school though.

    The 13" Retina model (even with the i5) will definitely run programs like MATLAB great.
  7. nostresshere macrumors 68030

    Dec 30, 2010
    I would read some of the posts here about ram. I was leaning towards 16gb but opted not to after reading things here. Just not needed.

    Save some money and get 8gb
  8. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    Use office for mac. I'd stay away from windows if you can.

    If you absolutely have to run windows get at least 256gb ssd since you are running two OSs.
  9. Mosconi macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    I'm in a similar situation, ,but if you plan on 16gb it seems that getting the base 2014 15" may be the better option. Not sure how much of a problem the extra 2" will be, but the weight shouldnt be a problem.
  10. Giev macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2013
    You need to run Office on Parallels if:
    • Need MS Visio - Omnigraffle is OK, but its not Visio.
    • MS Excel is important to you. Excel on Mac is just bad, and its single threaded.
    For academic writing, there are better alternatives to word on Mac so I recon MS word wouldn't be an issue.

    If you want to run Parallels (or any other VM), I would suggest getting 256GB SSD/16 GB of RAM, unless you don't plan on running Parallels all the time, i.e if you want to Micro manage your RAM usage, etc.

    I wouldn't suggest spending anything on CPU upgrades, you wouldn't notice any difference.

    For what is worth I run tons of simulation software, VMs, labs etc on my 2011 13" MBP with 8 GB of RAM and they run just fine (no lag, etc). The current rMBP13" laptops are more than enough for you as long as the screen size suits you.

  11. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    The OP would be better off making use of a computer lab if he needs to do any "heavy lifting". That would just be irresponsible spending for a college student, especially given that college can be kind of a higher risk environment for electronics.

    For the OP, i5 vs i7 isn't that big of a deal. Take a look at both reviews and benchmarks. It's mostly marketing nonsense between those two, and before anyone mentions it, it doesn't have anything to do with hyperthreading on dual core models.
  12. Mosconi macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    Then would 8gb suffice? Unless OP is running multiple VM's, which it appears that it will be only windows 7, 8gb may be enough for the CAD software in tandem having multiple tabs open and running other software. Further, this is only student level CAD so i doubt it will require that many resources?
    Not sure how it would fair if theres the VM running, CAD software, matlab, and everything at once though.
  13. cmaier macrumors G4

    Jul 25, 2007
    As someone who spent a lot of time in engineering school, I wouldn't worry too much about Office - you won't use it much, and Mac Office is more than good enough for anything you'd have to do.
  14. hepta thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    Thank you so much for all of the replies, it's really helpful.

    I checked on the Amex warranty info a little closer, and actually it looks like it does cover refurbished laptops. I'll have to keep an eye on the refurb listings since I might be able to get a better deal there than with the student deal.

    I'm going to a big state university so access to good computer labs won't be a problem when I need to do that "heavy lifting" later on. At this point I don't do anything like that (I definitely don't game at all) but in a year or two that could be different.

    I am debating if I should upgrade to the 512GB SSD since I'm sure I'll have to run Boot Camp. I'm not sure how much space to allocate for Windows, but I probably won't be doing that for a little while yet. But from what I saw around the forums, it seems a lot of people set it to 100GB or higher. So on a 256GB SSD, that wouldn't leave me a whole lot of wiggle room for the future, would it?
  15. c1phr macrumors 6502

    Jan 8, 2011
    I believe it's worth noting, as a heads up, that your Dropbox storage does take space equal to the files you have stored on your machine itself so long as the Dropbox app is installed. While it's great for backup, it doesn't work well to add storage on if you need more than your machine has.

    I had a 256gb in my older MBP, and went for the larger this time around with the intent of keeping Windows and virtual machines laying around. Fast forward to now, and I keep my VMs on an external disk and Windows has never touched this machine. Since you say that you're sure about needing to run Boot Camp, I would opt for the larger drive. I know that when I used it on my older 256gb drive, both Windows and OSX felt cramped. It's no secret that Windows likes to eat storage over time with its plethora of security updates.
  16. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    8 should be fine. There are certain things that can really just eat through ram, but at that point he's better off using the lab's computers. No university is going to expect their students to come with the most powerful computers available, and if they did, there would be a suggested hardware list. I just try to steer people away from mentally building up their requirements to something that goes way beyond their actual budget, especially considering the risks. Hardware can fail, and college tends to be a higher risk environment by its nature.
  17. hepta thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    I wish Apple hadn't made the retinas unable to upgrade. I'm not ordering until the 11th (new billing cycle ha) so I still have some time to figure out what exactly I want. Still feeling pretty on the fence about the RAM, after hearing a lot of mixed opinions with 8GB vs 16GB. I wish I knew more about what my usage will be like in a year or two.

    Sort of unrelated, but does anyone know if Amazon sells 16GB versions of the 13.3" retina? It appears they don't, which is too bad because I'd get Prime shipping and no sales tax with them...

    Also not that it's hugely important, but this OP is female :)
  18. TheEnthusiast macrumors regular

    Aug 22, 2013
    Honestly, I could say a lot, but it would be pointless. The model that you intend to buy is perfectly fine and will be for the future as well. You should also note that many engineering departments, including mine, HIGHLY recommend using software on their machines and with good reason; the licensing cost for some engineering software is ridiculous. If one really insists on not using the computer lab, my university offers virtual computer lab that allows students to run software on their computers without having to actually install the software. This may or may not be available at your university.

    Important points: Since you plan to keep the computer for a while, you might as well get the best specs you can. Otherwise, the mid-level 13inch rMBP would be fine for your needs. You won't spend as much time using engineering software, or a computer for that fact, as you think; MechE's, Computer Science majors, and EE's spend more time using computers than ChemE's. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you will spend most of your time on the computer using MATLAB, which is more due to Multivariable Calculus and Differential Equations. You may use CAD for a first year general engineering course and spreadsheets, process simulators, and MATLAB come in handy in a ChemE course or two. Finally, once you really get into the major, running software on a computer will be the last thing on your mind :D.

    I should probably mention that I'm going into my 3rd year of ChemE.
  19. hepta thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2014
    Thank you so much, it's good to hear that from someone with experience in ChemE! I'm taking those math classes this coming year (eek) so MATLAB will likely be put to the test right away!

    I know my university allows remote access to UNIX computers only due to licensing issues with Windows. Not sure exactly what that entails.

    I'm sure in a few months I'll be laughing at why I worried so much about the computer specs. (Or more likely, I won't even be thinking about my computer because I'll be so absorbed in studying for ochem...)
  20. cmaier macrumors G4

    Jul 25, 2007
    Presumably they allow telnet/ssh and vnc access to campus Unix machines. That's what my school did. If so, macs are much easier than windows for that as they support all that natively.

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