Which Macbook for an engineering student?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by zombrero, Jul 24, 2012.

  1. zombrero macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2012
    Hi there.

    I'm an engineering student looking for a computer to replace my old Macbook.
    I was wondering between the cheapest Macbook Pro 13“ or the 13“ Macbook air.

    In my country they are around same price and it would be my main computer.
    I would mostly use it for internet, LaTeX, C++ and Matlab. I wouldn't miss the firewire, ethernet and the DVD drive.

    I was thinking about getting the Macbook Air and upgrading the RAM to 8 gb or buy the Macbook Pro and get an extra SSD disk.

    • Do you think the 8 gb RAM would be enough for the next 4 years?
    • I already have the Ipad 3 so would it be just stupid to buy another device which primary function is to be very light?
    • Is the screen in the Air much better?
  2. biohead macrumors 6502

    Jun 18, 2010
    West Drayton, UK
    As an engineering student, I opted for the MBP as I can upgrade the RAM as and when, and cheaper than Apple's upgrade too (which you MUST buy for the Air at purchase time).

    Some of my programs I require do take advantage of the full 16GB of RAM I currently use. Matlab however, I can't see it taking the a lot of RAM, unless theres some bad code or it is a gigantic program you're writing.

    Just buy a 3rd party SSD if you feel you need one too.
  3. MrAnthonySutton, Jul 24, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2012

    MrAnthonySutton macrumors newbie

    Jul 1, 2012
    I'm also going to school for computer science, and web development and I didn't really see the need for the Retina display.

    Has for you, I would most definitely buy the Macbook Pro. You will need the power just in case you have to dual boot windows. I would upgrade to the 8GB ram, but that is just me since I do a little video editing (mostly for promoting concerts).

    I would say take a look at the refurbished store, then upgrade to an SSD third party. Also, make sure to also buy an external hard drive. The price will end up being cheaper than buy a new Macbook Pro and upgrading the RAM.

    1. Most definitely you will be using it for 4 years and doing "heavier" things then an average computer use.

    2. I was debating about this, but it is not possible to program on an IPad 3. I guess it depends how you learn too. Either way you will still need another computer to run these tasks.

    3. I think the screen shouldn't matter in this case. You need something powerful.
  4. jaguar451 macrumors member

    Aug 21, 2002
  5. dtxe macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2012
    Depending on what stream of engineering (civil, aerospace, industrial, biomed) you're in, viewing 3D models might be useful. The MBA graphics card might not be able to handle that kind of stuff in 4 years, seeing as it can only just handle the complex stuff right now.
  6. iRCL macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2011
    4GB is probably fine unless your data set in Matlab was just insanely large. at work here we use matlab on 'medium size' data sets (aero modeling) and the computers have 2-4GB RAM and it's fine

    My 11" air and previous 13" air are incredible for latex and also for compiling, because of the SSD which is a major bottleneck in those tasks.

    I think you'll be happy with any of the choices. If your screen is the big concern you may consider going with an 11" air to be very portable (and awesome) and then buy an external display for at home when you may be doing project work. If that's something you like (I don't like that workflow but many others do)

    I've used SEVERAL MBAs and MBPs for engineering (computer science, computer engineering; FPGA synthesis, C++/objC, iOS simulation, graphics design, VMs..) and the only limitation I've ever had was with the old Core 2 Duo 1.4ghz MBA 11" 2GB RAM model because the CPU was too slow and the RAM was just barely enough. Everything else has been completely fine for all tasks and left nothing to be desired

    Also I like the MBA screens better than MBP but people have various opinions on that..

    best of luck!
  7. deconstruct60, Jul 24, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2012

    deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    If get the MBP 13" can:

    1. swap a 3rd party SSD ( perhaps larger than the MBA's for same price. ) into the 2.5" bay
    2. buy a external drive enclosure and put the HDD into that.
    Now have a Time Machine target. [ it is good to do back ups. Can also use as an archive if need to prune SSD drive. Or archive to DVD. ]
    3. also do back-ups of the iPad to the MBP's larger storage.

    You could start with 4GB and then later if get squeeze upgrade to 8GB ( at lower prices than you can today).

    If this is going to be your only computer then having more storage is better. You'll need to back that up. If using any of the gigantic new iBooks textbooks you'll need a place to dump those off your iPad over time. 4 years of courses of those would probably eat up a large fraction of a entry level MBA's SSD drive over time.
  8. MrAnthonySutton macrumors newbie

    Jul 1, 2012
    Another thing I have noticed with the 13 inch air and MacBook Pros. They start at the same price. You do however get more ports with the MacBook Pro then you do with the air. So it really comes down to weight with the air of course being faster, and weather or not you want an 126GB SSD drive.

    This is the cheapest base mode for each machine so please keep that in mind.

Share This Page