Which Notebook For Engineering Degree?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ag227, Jun 5, 2008.

  1. ag227 macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2007

    I have been using apple pcs for the last 2 years and have owned a 2Ghz Macbook, Then 2.4Ghz 20" iMac, Then a 2.4Ghz Blackbook... Now unfortuently its a Dell XPSM1530 :(

    I am looking into which Notebook would be best for me starting my first year of an engineering degree in september, i have just finished my foundation year today. For the first year of the degree mechanical and electrical follow the same course and at the momment im not sure which of these im going to do but thats not a problem.

    I will be living at home as its only 10miles from the uni and about a 20minute drive and dont see the point in wasting £4000 a year for accomodation. So because of this it needs to be portable as i will be carrying it around all day with me at uni, so this rules out the 17" macbook pro.

    I just dont know how graphicaly itensive engineering programs are? Whether the macbook will last me 3 years with all the programs fine or if it makes more sense to get the baselevel macbook pro?

    I also prefer the 15" screen as i use my notebooks alot for watching films, tv shows, general internet and music, but i know that all of them can handle that so that doenst matter.

    The majority of the programs that i will be running are windows only but i cant stand it for using in my spare time and really regret buying this XPSM1530 even though its half the price of the macbook pro. So will the macbook pro be better at running these applications in windows using parallels than the macbook because of the graphics?

    Either way im not going to get one until atleast well into july/august but i am trying to budget myself so i can afford whatever i need.

    So basically what i am asking is...

    Does the macbook pro make more sense for use as a notebook for engineering at uni and then at work than a macbook?

    Would the macbook cope fine with the engineering programs in OS X and XP?

    Would the dedicated graphics make any difference in parallels?

    If anyone here has any info on how intensive general engineering applications are than id appreciate that too.

    Thanks for your help......
  2. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    When I did first year engineering, nothing was at all computationally intensive. The most demanding app was Autocad which runs quite competently on a 486. By third year, we were doing 3D cad, but the school only had licenses for their computers. If you wanted to run anything at home it had to be purchased or pirated. Still not too hard on a computer until you start adding textures and rendering motion. I'd keep the dell as a school computer (in case it gets stolen or dropped) and use a macbook whenever I had a lot of time to kill. To be honest, you really don't need a portable computer. Notes are easier to take on paper. It's a personal decision though.
  3. DaveF macrumors 6502a

    Aug 29, 2007
    As a Ph.D., working as an engineer in the aerospace industry, I'll make some broad comments on engineering degrees. My B.S. was years ago, just before Wintel was the norm and a few years before laptops were standard issue on campus.

    1) You can't take notes for math, science, and engineering courses on a computer. Too many equations, too many sketches needed. Or, if you can take notes on a computer either you've got software I *must* know about or you've got poor professors.

    2) I suggest taking introductory math courses (calc, DE) that require and allow you to do all your work by hand (pencil and paper); that do not use computer algebra systems (Maple, Mathematica) as standard tools. You will learn the material much better, and ultimately have stronger engineering skills. I've seen both sides of this.

    3) Find out what computers the school recommends and buy accordingly. My experience with Matlab, Mathematica, Mathcad, and some specialized physics tools is that any modern computer -- MacBook and up -- will be fine. Symbolic algebra runs faster than you need on a computer from nine years ago. Unless you're doing huge matrix math or very large optimizations, I'd be surprised to learn you need an especially fast computer.
  4. ag227 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2007
    Thanks for both of your responses....

    It seems that i have overestimated the needs and requirements for the software that i will be using so will have to rethink and see what is best.

    I no the notes wont be taken using laptop for the reasons you said but i was under the impression that there is some fairly intensive programs to use aswel.

    Thanks again
  5. galactic732 macrumors member

    Jun 5, 2008
    im in my 4th year of mechanical and nuclear engineering.

    i have never needed my laptop to do more than just excel graphing, the lab computers are more than enough for doing all the CAD and MatLab work.

    you will never take notes on your laptop. its faster to just write by hand.

    just my 0.02 cents.

    don't waste the money on a computer you will never need
  6. nanvinnie macrumors regular

    Feb 23, 2007
    I currently work as an engineer in the aerospace field. i mainly use office, solidworks, and matlab on my computer. running solidworks, even from fusion, works fine and so does matlab. i don't do any FEA so i'm not sure how nastran would work, but my 2.2 mbp is great. not sure what you'll be required to do, but any mb or mbp should work fine.
  7. ddrueckhammer macrumors 65816


    Aug 8, 2004
    America's Wang
    Honestly, as a senior engineering student myself I will tell you that 90% of the time you don't need a computer at all for your coursework. It is very much a paper and pencil course of study.

    That said, I use my mac when studying to look up how to do problems that don't have good enough examples in the textbook, and while studying and I cheat and use the conversion widget while doing homework quite a lot.

    There are a couple of engineering apps that aren't on OS X that you may run into but they are almost always available on lab computers if they are required for the class.

    Here are a few useful apps that I have used but aren't really required for engineering:

    For solving calculus problems, number crunching etc. there is no Mathcad but you can use:


    Grapher is kind of handy to have. I used it to print out some graphs for a Calc project one time...

    Vectorworks or Archicad make good Autocad substitutes if you can afford them. (I think there are student versions available for free or at a discounted price for one or both of them_.

    Omnigraffle Pro is a pretty good Visio replacement. I like to use these schematics programs to to quick drawings.

    Google Sketchup is pretty nice for coming up with design concepts in 3D.

    There is no Solidworks for Mac but you can open Solidworks docs with an app called pro-e.

    MathType for adding math symbols to papers.

    MS Office is nice but for what you will be using it for, iWork is more than adequate. You probably won't have to write too many papers as an engineering student... Excel is nice to have though...

    Other than that, you might want to run windows in bootcamp or parrallels/vmware for the rare occasion that you absolutely have to run a windows app or you want to play a game that is windows only etc. The only thing I have needed windows to run so far is a program called CME Truss by the US Military Acadamy (West Point). They also make one called Bridge Designer that is handy.
  8. dacreativeguy macrumors 68020

    Jan 27, 2007
    Instead of getting random advice here, why not go to the university and talk to the department head, teachers, and students who are actually involved in the program you intend to start. They'll be able to tell you exactly what you need so you don't have to make a $1000 - $2000 guess.
  9. Goldenbear macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Listen to DaveF.

    There's no reason to spend a lot of money for a powerful computer.

    Unless there's a requirement to use a 3D CAD package, you should be able to get by just fine with a MacBook. I've even read that the MB can handle simple 3D stuff in ProE, which is about as bloated (cr@ppy programming) as they come.

Share This Page