Which Mac should I get for college?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by bluebeanie, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. bluebeanie macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2014
    so im new here and I have a couple questions for you all if that's cool. I'm going to college as a computer science major and game development and wasn't sure if I should buy a Mac. I want to get a mac but Ive read around and most people seem pretty biased. If I do purchase a mac would it be wise to buy the time machine, or a ext hdd, and which mac do you reccomend? And do you use any virtual machines, say windows for visual studio, or linux? Should I buy a tablet, tech, or any software you recommend for me to buy as a computer science major/game dev? I have a budget of around 3500$ but I only want to buy what I need because you know, college is already expensive. Thanks everyone!:D
  2. MrGIS macrumors regular

    Jul 30, 2010
    Ontario Canada
    Understanding that I don't have all you requirement details, I can offer the following generalized suggestions.

    One machine = 15 inch MacBook Pro

    Two machines = 27 inch iMac for the dorm, basic 11 or 13 inch MacBook Air for class.

    Go with solid state storage if you can, with lots of external drive space.

    Virtual machines are great. VM ware fusion works great with no noticeable performance lag in my experience.

    Assume you mean time capsule as there is no cost for time machine. If you have a router that you are happy with then there is no pressing need for time capsule, you could use any external drive for time machine . IPad's are great but are not always a must have. Your budget should allow for a nice solution particularly if you use the student or refurbished store.

    Good luck
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Buy the Mac Book Air. Because it is light and small and you will have to cary it around with you all day. If your eyes are very good and you can read tiny size type get the smaller screen. If not get the larger one. You have to cary this around all day.

    Virtual Machines are just like real machine, you load an OSon then and boot them. I suggested you down load "virtualBox" right now and learn about it. It will run on "anything" so there is not reason to delay another minute.

    Get as much RAM as you can, the most that fits in the machine. VMs like RAM.

    Of course you need at least one external disk. Yo need multiple REDUNDANT backups that are kept in multiple locations. Time Machine comes with Mac OS X. you don't have to get it. Just enable it. Use at least one TM disk and one on-line backup system like Backblaze or CrashPlan. (two backups with one being to a remote location is the minim, more is better.)

    Hard to imagine a CS major not already having a bunch of computers and strong preferences. but maybe you want to see what others are thinking. I was a CS and EE major back in the early 80's and now I'm an old-guy back in grad school. I found that lugging the computer around is a big deal. Many people go for an iPad to save weight and bulk. That would not work for you except as a secondary device. But if you must have a bigger machine and you want it to be faster and better graphics the new MacBook Pro with Retina display is FLASH based and light enough to cary around, good battery life too.

    Also in addition to the MBA, get a large monitor, at least 24". It does not need to be an Apple monitor.

    Th air is powerful enough for any kind of undergrad CS class, don't worry. Mostly you use the computer for writing papers, nots and presentations or at least that Is what I mostly use mine for at school. The software and games you wrote will be proof on concept sized student projects. Any current Mac will do.

    Ge the MBP Retine with al the RAM you can then spend on the SSD or a more reasonable machine is the MBA, screen size depending on your eyesight, but max out the RAM for the VM, it needs at least 8GB to run well.


    That is easy to suggest but no one wants to carry such a beat with them all day, every day. Then the big 15" don't fit well on those little desks in some of the classrooms.

    Get the smallest computer you can and then plug it into a big monitor when you can.
  4. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    Some departments have very specific computer requirements. Best you check that first. Many universities also offer package deals for needed computer, software, and service for 4 years.

    If the department wants you running Windows and you use a Mac with a virtual machine and run into problems running the necessary software then you will have a big problem.
  5. Altemose macrumors G3


    Mar 26, 2013
    Elkton, Maryland
    A 13" MacBook Air with the highest amount of RAM (8 GB) and the i5 should be fine. If you can afford it, get the i7. Coding doesn't exactly require vast amounts of pure CPU power, but compiling large projects can and also depending on the coursework, you may need to design UI elements for it as well. Also, buy an external monitor for at the apartment or dorm. You will need a Thunderbolt to DVI or VGA adapter depending on the monitor you buy.

    You can try a Henge dock but I am not sure how keen I am on the design. I think they are good in theory but if the cables are misaligned I could see them damaging the logic board's ports. I recommend getting something like a BookArc to hold the MBA and keep the cables neat while "docked". I have one for my cMBP and it does the job!
  6. WiliamJacoby macrumors newbie

    Mar 3, 2014
    Check comparison of the Apple MacBook here:
    I get on amazon latest version of MacBook Pro with Retina 15.4-inch display.
    I hope you find one :)
  7. MacProFCP macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2007
    FIRST Check with your school about requirements. VMs work but can also be a pain. I know a girl who had to do a bunch of stuff with VMs and hated it so much, she ALMOST bought a PC. If you are doing lots of stuff that requires a PC, you may need to go to the dark side for a while.

    Otherwise I would say get a Macbook Pro with retina so you can do some serious work with the power of a desktop. I would also recommend a thunderbolt display for your dorm room. It's much cheaper than an iMac and with a MBP, can give you similar performance.

    Get as much ram as you can afford. Seagate has great thunderbolt external hard drives that you can hot swap.
  8. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    15" MacBook Pro.

    Just about every one of my CS friends had that in college.

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