Which notebook for College (CS Major)

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by A Hebrew, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. A Hebrew macrumors 6502a

    A Hebrew

    Jan 7, 2012
    Hi there,
    A few months ago I posted asking if a Mac would be a viable option for a computer science major. Since then, I have increased my knowledge on computer science in general and have come to the conclusion that it would be more helpful to be using an Apple computer than any other computer brand when it comes to my major in general. As such, I have not reached the issue as to what mac I will be getting.

    My current intentions are these: I will be hooking the laptop up to a 20.5” 9:16 1080p monitor when in my dorm room and at home. I will be doing some light gaming (Runescape and Minecraft) and I would like to get into more graphic-intensive (for a Mac laptop at least) games such as GTA San Andreas and The Sims 3 (Possibly Skyrim on lower settings). I also intend to use Photoshop and other picture editing software along with some video capturing/editing software. I will be required to use Windows 7/8 at times, and I would like to do this through VMware or Parallels. I also intend to develop applications for iOS and will be testing them on my iPad 2.

    My budget for the laptop itself is right around 1,400 USD without tax. I can go a bit over if necessary.
    Considering all of this I have ruled out any past 17” MacBook Pro, the 11 inch Air, and any new 15” MacBook pro.

    So my options are:
    A REFURBISHED 15” (Low end October 2011)
    A NEW 13” MacBook Pro (high end or low end)
    A NEW 13” MacBook Air (high end or low end)

    I currently own a USB 3.0 1 tera hard drive and a 500gb USB 2.0 so storage is not a very big issue unless Macs cannot handle storing/running applications very well through an external harddrive (I have no idea if this is the case). I have no idea if advanced CS classes get processing hungry which is the main issue in deciding along with the issue of gaming on a MacBook air.

    What do you think the best option is, and why considering all of the factors in my decision? I am in no rush and may have more questions coming up. (Also the reason I posted this in the MacBook air forum is to hopefully get some insight on this mysterious machine I have very little knowledge of...I am positive the MBPs are capable...just not sure how they matched up to MBA for what I need)

    Thanks for reading.
  2. dkersten, Jun 13, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012

    dkersten macrumors 6502a

    Nov 5, 2010
    Honestly, I would reconsider the 11 in Air. I read some benchmarks recently and they were quite close in comparison to the 13in Air.

    In fact, with your budget, I think the the 11in is a better option because if you choose this model (higher end) and upgrade the RAM to 8GB and the Processor to the Dual Core i7, it will come to $1274.00 before taxes (with the student discount.

    However, again with your budget in mind, the base 13 model cannot be updated to the i7. So with the same 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM, it comes to $1239.00 before taxes (and with the Student Discount).

    I would choose the 11in Air personally because the performance will be better for only $40 more. You plan on using an external display with it as well so the smaller screen size should not be a problem. Plus the 11in is a pleasure to carry around with you being so light, which is important when in college.

    (For the record I'll be starting my Computer Engineering major in the fall (which encompasses much of CS) so I'm in a similar situation as you. I figured the 11in would be the best option for me personally)

    Anyways best of luck to you in your decision and in college

    EDIT: Definitely don't skimp out on RAM if you plan on using a virtual machine (i.e. Parallels or VMware). I cannot stress enough how important 8GB of RAM will be in this situation. The difference in the speed and quality of your virtual machine will be night an day between the 4GB and 8GB of RAM
  3. 007bond macrumors 6502a


    Dec 12, 2008
    DFW, Texas
    I'm in the same boat as both of you guys. I am starting a Computer Engineering/Computer Science dual major program next year.

    The 11" Air suggestion is interesting. The only issue I would be weary of is the battery life. The 13" lasts about 7 hours, whereas the 11" lasts only 5. But, you do get a faster machine for the price.
  4. dkersten macrumors 6502a

    Nov 5, 2010
    I also was weary about the shorter battery life but with my schedule and the physical layout (outlets in classrooms) of where I will be, I will be able to comfortably use the 11in. Obviously this is just my PERSONAL situation but if you can live with a shorter battery life then the 11in is a great option. If you can't deal with it, well the 13in is a great option in itself. All about personal preference I guess
  5. soldierblue macrumors 6502

    Mar 23, 2009
    Well I'd definitely get the 13 if we're talking about the Air. The extra real estate will be helpful in any development environment where you're dealing with a ton of text. But, if you want to do some light gaming, I'd feel like the refurb 15" is a no-brainer. You can probably get away with it on an HD4000, but you'll have a better time with the 6750, especially in Skyrim and other newer games. Plus you'll have more breathing room for a Win7/8 VM or partition, which you'll definitely want in a CS program.
  6. dontwalkhand macrumors 601


    Jul 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Definitely go for the MacBook Air, if you plan on traveling a lot with this thing. I just got the Air yesterday and love it, even to the point of leaving my iPad at home (hits Craigslist tonight actually)

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