Which laptop for Computer Science Student?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by dingdongbubble, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. dingdongbubble macrumors 6502a

    Jun 1, 2007

    I plan on studying computer science soon so I was wondering what kind of computer would be good for me? I am not sure what special requirements a computer science would have like a graphics design student would require a computer with a good GPU. So what kind of laptop should I look for?

    Personally I want something light and small (13" maximum). I am guessing that a computer science student would very little if any graphical power and Linux would be a great OS.

    So what do you think?

    PS: I hate graphics and will avoid them at all costs.
  2. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    A MacBook or a MacBook pro should do nicely. They are quite popular at MIT. OSx has *nix under the hood, and you can dual boot with linux.
  3. darkcurse macrumors 6502a


    Nov 5, 2005
    Why dual boot for when you could just Virtual Machine it. I'd say 90% of the time you won't even need to touch any other operating system as long as your school sticks with OSS.
  4. ashjamben macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2007
    Shanghai, China
    maximum 13" then you've answered your own question really, unless you were planning on not buying a mac?
  5. spjonesi macrumors member

    Oct 10, 2006
    I was all set on what I wanted two years ago before going back to school for a CS and MIS degree. I went and 'checked' every box I could. I added what I didn't want to pay for from apple (4gb of ram).

    I ended up with a macbook pro 2.4 (santa rosa) with 160gb hdd (7200rpm), 4gb ram, parallels, windows xp, case, neoprine sleeve etc. I spent just under 3,000 and it was a total overkill.

    I'd have done just fine with a macbook. You don't need a TON of resources to be able to compile c++ or java apps. If you won't be playing games on it (I never do on mine), then the macbook would do the trick. The best part about the new macbooks and macbook pros is that both (finally the new MBP allows for this): USER replaceable ram AND hard drive.

  6. chapmac macrumors member

    Dec 30, 2007
    I do quite a bit of development on my Macbook (I'm a computer science lecturer). A Macbook should be fine but i would recommend:

    - Upgrade to 4Gb Ram if you are intending to use vmware or parallels to run windows. Performance will be fine for anything you are likely to need, but it's useful to be able to give a good slug of RAM to Windows - especially if you are planning to run Vista or Windows 7. Even running XP I'm regularly running 3.5Gig plus ram use.

    - Think about screen real estate. Often with development apps you will have multiple windows open or menus around the screen. I find the 1200x800 screen very restrictive for this, and is my biggest frustration with trying to develop on the MB. I'm fortunate that most of the time I can plug into an external monitor. You won't need to power of a MBP but you might wish you had the real estate. Best solution IMO would be a macbook and a cheapish external monitor for when you need to do development.

    Hope this helps.
  7. agwilson macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2008
    I just got done with a computer engineering degree. I spent the first couple years with a Windows laptop and then the last year got a Macbook Pro. For most tasks the difference between a MB and MBP in terms of cpu power won't matter. There may be a few times where you have to wait a couple extra minutes.

    What I found to be especially nice on the MBP though was the screen real estate. I could have two coding windows open at the same time. I can't count the number of times I needed to look at how a function interfaced with another part of the code. You really want to think about a MB with external monitor if you want the 13 inch screen when walking around. Even if the monitor is a cheap one its well worth the investment.

    I would agree that getting lots of RAM is a very good idea. Especially if your school has any classes that will require a Windows operating environment. My school had a GUI class that was required and was only taught for the Windows OS. The RAM will help with and virtual OSs you need to run or just choose to play with.
  8. VPrime macrumors 68000


    Dec 19, 2008
    London Ontario
    I am not in computer science, but a programmer analyst.. Will be going to a computer science next year.
    My 13" 2.4 aluminum with 4gb of ram is perfect. The size is awesome compared to my last laptop (15.4"), light weight and pretty powerful.

    I run Linux (ubuntu) in a VM for server testing stuff.
    I run Windows (XP originall, but now 7) in bootcamp + VM for my windows development stuff. Visual studio etc. Every thing runs great;.
    Then of course OSX for every thing else.

    Also the 13" macbooks now have enough graphic power for most things. Obvously it wont be a hardcore gaming machine. but you can run counter strike source with decent settings at a steady frame rate... Perfect for some fun during breaks ;)
    Also, if you do/ will do any 3D programming for shcool (OpenGL, or DirectX) it is perfect as well... It has more than enough power to handle most 3D programming courses.

    My younger brother who is going into computer science in the fall also is getting a 13" 2.4 macbook :)
  9. rlav macrumors member

    Mar 25, 2009
    I am a computer science major, I think the macbook is great, I have a TV with a PC hookup that I have occasionally used, but I find 13" is fine. I have yet to run into any case where I need a more powerful computer. (I have the early 08 2.4 ghz White MB, with 2 GB ram)

    I may be updating the RAM over summer, because it is cheap, but I have yet to see any reason to.

    Just out of curiosity where do you plan on going to school?
  10. SecondDealer macrumors regular

    Feb 1, 2009
    If you are not looking to do any serious gaming or things of that sort and are simply looking for a light and portable laptop then the clear decision is the MB. Many of my friends have them and love them, I personally have the MBP. Whatever you do, do not pay for a large hard drive, simply buy an external and congrats in advance on your new piece of tech.

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