Which MBP for an engineering student?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by jcr440, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. jcr440 macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2012
    First off I would like to apologize for posting yet another one of these "which one for me threads"

    I will be a freshman engineering student at college this fall. I need a computer to not only do the usual internet and/or word processing but also be able to handle CAD and other engineering software through bootcamp. I would really like it to last me all 4-5 years.

    I have heard that most people recommend a 15" MBP for the extra screen real estate and for the quad-core processor. I have been mainly looking at two different options.

    Option 1: Retina Macbook Pro 15" (base)
    2.3 GHz Quad-core
    8 GB RAM
    256 GB flash storage

    I might upgrade to 16 GB RAM if it is necessary

    Option 2: Legacy Macbook Pro (base)
    2.3 GHz Quad-core
    4 GB Ram
    500 GB HDD
    Hi-Res Anti-Glare screen

    With this computer I would purchase upgraded RAM (either 8 GB or 16 GB) and purchase a SSD (probably a 128 GB) and a optibay (or similar) to run both storage drives.

    I am worried about the scaling and the quality of content issues with the Retina MBP but I do not need to purchase this right away so I could wait to see if the problems go away.

    If I do not need the quad-core processor and graphics power of the 15" i could go with the high-end 13" and an external display.

    Please feel free to ask me any questions and thank you in advance.
  2. BigHerky macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2012
    Do you know what kind of engineering youre going into? I just graduated as a chemical engineer so I may be able to help a bit.
  3. jcr440 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2012
    As of now I plan to major in Mechanical Engineering but that may change in the future.
  4. Ryan1524 macrumors 68000


    Apr 9, 2003
    Canada GTA
    I went through Electrical & Biomedical Engineering with a Powerbook G4.

    You'll be fine. There's nothing we can't run natively or on VMWare these days. MATLAB and coding is easily done on the OSX side. If there are windows only apps, you can do bootcamp or Parallels/Fusion. There are CAD apps on OSX as well.
  5. -tWv- macrumors 68000


    May 11, 2009
    I'm going to be an engineering student as well and ordered a 2.6ghz, 512gb, 8gb MBP retina. Just for reference.
  6. jgc macrumors regular

    Feb 21, 2012
    Any MBP would be fine. I did my first three years on a crappy Compaq and will do the rest on an MBA. I tend to use the computers at university for modelling software because they're more suited for the work than any laptop. If you plan on lugging around your laptop all day, I'd honestly recommend an MBA or, since you're unlikely willing to do that, the 13" MBP. Your back will thank you. If you can cut a bit of weight/size on the laptop side, you'll be much happier
  7. Ryan1524 macrumors 68000


    Apr 9, 2003
    Canada GTA
    Honestly, my biggest concern while I was in school was whether my Mac can run games. You'll need a distraction sometimes. :cool:
  8. djmoody macrumors regular

    May 13, 2012

    Get what you think you'll be happy with for 4 years.... I didn't get exactly what I wanted freshman year to save a few bucks, and I ended up getting 3 Computers (including the retina--2 macs, 1 PC) by the time I'm reaching my 4th year.... quite the expense report.
  9. mnsportsgeek macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    To be honest, as an engineering student you can get through without a laptop at all. I was a freshmen in college and thought I would need a great computer to run all of these fancy programs. It's all a myth. I use maybe one or two programs and they are certainly not intensive by any means. You could get by with the entry level 13" EASILY.
  10. iphone3DG3 macrumors member

    Apr 23, 2009
    I just graduated with my BS chemical engineering. I frequently ran MATLAB and Mathematica simultaneously, and sometimes it lagged. I had the 13" 2011 base MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM. Other than that, everything else was more than excellent.
  11. taedouni macrumors 65816

    Jun 7, 2011
    Honestly do yourself a favor and pay for the premium classic 15". You do NOT want to bottleneck yourself to 512MB of VRAM.

    My advise is not to get the base retina model. There are many engineering applications that you may need to use that may never get updated for the retina display. I personally feel that the GT 650M is too weak to handle the Retina Display for future years. (Yes now it is fine with a few updates and tweaks but if this is for college then you're probably expecting your purchase to last you the full 4 years. Therefore stick with the 15" premium model). With the premium model you get the 300 MHZ boost along with 4GB of RAM (not really a big deal since you can upgrade the RAM anytime).

    Also don't rush to upgrade to an SSD just yet. I purchased a 512GB SSD (Crucial) around November for $800 (i'm in so much debt that it's not even funny. I use to have a 750 credit rating with no debt now :(. I just graduated and I desperately need a job) and currently they sell for $400. My point is that SSD are continuing to drop to crazy low prices. I bet that if you wait another year it may be possible for the 512GB SSD to drop to around 200-250 dollars.

    Anyway I strongly urge you to get the 15" premium cMBP.


    Trust me, some fields of engineering do need the power. The question is just how good the computer labs are at his school. The University of Michigan has top notch labs allover the place along with an engineering library (hell we have our own campus). I transferred to U of M from Cal Poly Pomona and their computers are older Windows Vista.
  12. mnsportsgeek macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    I used Mathematica and Matlab just fine on my 15" Core 2 Duo with integrated graphics.
  13. BigHerky macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2012
    My recommendation would be to order whichever you prefer, both will be plenty for what you are using it for. However, if you are planning on using any virtualization you should make sure to upgrade to 16gb of ram.

    For stuff like CAD you may end up using the school computers more often then you think. Being a chemical engineer we frequently use chemcad and since you will frequently be working on projects in groups you'll more often than not end up in the engineering computer labs.
  14. Diveflo macrumors regular

    Mar 12, 2008
    I'm about to finish my biomedical engineering bachelor and got by with by early 2008 Air up until now. Matlab, eclipse etc. run natively on OSX and for the rest VMware Fusion will do the trick(there will be some software thats not available for OSX, I promise you that ;) )
    I'va just ordered the base MBPR (with 8GB of RAM)...I'm gonna throw everything I've got at it for the first few days to see if the RAM is enough.

    /about the "u won't need the power"
    I think you shouldn't count on that, especially if you decide to work part time at something related to your field. The most processing intensive things I run on my MacBook are work related, not university stuff.
  15. Ccrew macrumors 68020

    Feb 28, 2011
    Well, if it's engineering @ UVA buy a Windows machine because they don't support Mac's in their engineering school. You may want to check the requirements of the school you're attending as that's what's most important. Most of the "What do I buy" threads here are simply responded to by people promoting what they own since it's what they use.
  16. dukebound85, Jun 20, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012

    dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    So true. I did mechanical engineering back in the day and only had an emac (base one at that).....and I graduated...how did that happen with such a crappy computer lol...point being, the computer isn't that important

    As far as programs, you won't be able to run them as
    1) licenses are expensive so don't count on having the ability to have them on your personal machine. Most cases (if your school is like mine) you log into a virtual lab when not on site (think vnc with a virtual desktop) where your local hw isn't really a factor
    2) labs have much more capable machines where you won't want to use a laptop even if had a choice

    When I was in college doing mech engr (03-08) you could get by without having a computer easily. All people used a personal computer for largely in college is for paper writing and messing around on itunes/internet....in essence, not powerful engineering apps that you find out you can't install due to licenses! Having a multitude of labs really make it feasible to not have a computer if you didn't mine working in labs

    FWIW, I am a grad student now in an even more computationally intensive field in comparison and just picked up a base 13in mbp after using a 5 year old pc I had built. More than adequate. Any real computational power, I log into a cluster.
  17. biohead macrumors 6502

    Jun 18, 2010
    West Drayton, UK
    I'm currently studying for my Masters in Mech Eng. If you need a laptop or not entirely depends on many of your Universities policies.

    Where I study, they're happy to give us student editions of the software we use for free. Judging from other peoples comments, not all Uni's do this.

    If you course makes frequent use of software, then chances are there are dedicated workstations to use for this. My uni has 40 or so 12-core xeon workstations specifically for engineering, and it makes no sense not to take advantage of these as they will run rings around any Macbook. In which case, I'd just recommend a base 13" MBP or even 11" Air just to take into lectures with you.

    If you don't have access to any workstations, but you do need a lot of engineering software, I'd advise you to get as much CPU power as possible, and as much RAM. I wouldn't say the GPU and VRAM is as important, unless you're doing a HUGE CAD project.

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