Which mac should I get for college?

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by bluebeanie, Mar 2, 2014.

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  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. lee1210 macrumors 68040


    Jan 10, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    It's going to depend a lot on the courses you take. It's very unlikely you'll take any classes that require a Mac or XCode. If the courses require java, C, or C++ you'll be fine, but may have to figure out tools yourself if the instructor uses Windows or Linux. There's an unlikely chance that some of your courses will be Windows-centric, but if so you'll need a VM. You can use a Linux VM, but most of what you can do on Linux you can do natively on OS X.

    I'd say a 13" or 15" MBP (retina if you want). External monitor, doesn't need to be Apple. Lots of RAM, especially if you're running a VM. 8GB minimum. You don't have to buy the upgraded memory from Apple. Storage is not super relevant. SSD is nice, but not required. External storage for backup is good, but you can buy that off the shelf. Backup means you keep two copies. The external drive is as likely to fail as your external. Buy AppleCare. Do it.


    P.S. I think your student ID will get you an 8-10% student discount.
  3. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I'm assuming you're looking at notebooks. Visual Studio runs fine in a VM, at least for smaller projects. I haven't tried it with anything enormous, but you shouldn't run into any troubles. It's not like your CS homework will be tens of thousands of lines or more. If it's game development, there will probably be some DirectX work. As long as it supports the latest directX you're probably fine. While discrete graphics will help if they have you working with Maya, Houdini, or other 3D apps on something non-trivial (really I have no idea about the scope) you will probably want to use the machines at their labs, as they are likely to be significantly smoother for that kind of work under Windows. Mac gpu options are a bit hit and miss there.

    If you're looking at game development, start learning maya or 3ds max early on. Your college will probably use one or the other, but once you know one it's easy to switch. If you're primarily using OSX, it will be maya. It has a lot of quirks, so it will take time to get completely used to it. A couple examples that get beginners would be that tweak nodes (vertex tweaking) commonly break construction history, and if you extend something via extrusion, you have to ensure that you weld all of the vertices. You can get a free student license if you sign up on Autodesk.

    I completely understand only wanting to buy what you need. You shouldn't need anything too heavy, and I would caution against over-spending. Sometimes your needs change or something happens to your machine. Within a given line of notebooks, I find most upgrades don't extend the life of the system by much. Even in integrated vs discrete graphics, the discrete graphics available on notebooks aren't very close to what you can get in a desktop or workstation.
  4. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I would agree with you on ram, but you can't upgrade it yourself on the newest ones. That would require a refurb 2012 cmbp. I also agree on the external monitor. On my 17" say 12 point font 1920 x 1200, skimming it's easy to miss typos involving similar punctuation. Ram isn't that costly from Apple at the moment relative to market rates. 16GB is around $175 elsewhere or $200 cto from Apple. You also don't need an ID to order it with student discount through the Apple Store. I'm adding to ensure the OP doesn't feel he needs to wait until he has one.
  5. ArtOfWarfare macrumors G3


    Nov 26, 2007
    I'm graduating with a BS in Computer Engineering and a minor in Computer Science next (!!!) month. The only computers I owned while in college were two computers bought when I was a freshman in high school. They were good enough for me 90% of the time - once in a while I needed to do a project on a lab machine for one reason or another.

    As for backing up school work... all combined all of the schoolwork I've ever done adds up to just over half a GB. I have a copy on each of my computers (an iMac and a MacBook Air), a copy on Dropbox (I have a free account with 11 GB available - it's easy to get a lot of free storage bumps while in college by just referring all your classmates and lab partners), and a copy on a 4 GB key drive (I don't think you can even buy them with so little capacity anymore... the smallest ones available are probably much bigger and probably around $8.)

    So there you have it - I got through college without spending... wait, I was about to lie. I upgraded my iMac from 256 GB to 1 TB for about $100 and from 2 GB RAM to 4 GB RAM for about $60. So I got through college only spending $160 on improving the setup that I had before I started college.

    My final thought is this: why buy a computer right now? Chances are there's a good place for buying computers within walking distance of your school, if not right on campus. You can put off buying a laptop until you've actually gone to your first few class sessions, received your first few assignments, and have actually determined that you do need better equipment than you have. College is ludicrously expensive - you don't have the $3500 you think you do to spend on a computer, because college is going to vacuum that out of your hands within a few months - I don't care how cheap your school is, I've never heard of one where a year of classes costs less than that for anyone except people with full ride scholarships.
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