Laptop for School - Hypothetical Question

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    Aug 22, 2012 1:41 AM GMT
    I don't know yet if I'll need a laptop for school. I've been looking around to see what I might want. I have a laptop at home, but it's 19+ inches, a little too big to carry around. I bought it for watching movies in bed.

    I'll be taking computer courses, so a decent amount of power, memory, and disk space will be needed. I'm assuming a 15 inch screen would give me the right balance of display and portability. I think that most of the programs my school uses are Windows only. If I went with a Mac, I would have to run everything in a virtual machine.

    I looked at the Macbook Pro with the Retina display. I was very impressed, but I don't see the point. Without a blu-ray drive, I'd never take advantage of the awesome screen.

    Since I don't really know if I'm getting one, this is a open-ended discussion about which laptops are best suited for school.
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    Aug 22, 2012 2:12 AM GMT
    15" laptop? Damn, that's going to feel like a ton by the end of the day. What sort of computer courses? I have a 12" Dell from work. I'd say it's the perfect size/weight for daily carry. The screen/resolution is sufficient to view/test web pages and work with code. But I can't say that it would be good for all day viewing. My laptop spends most its time docked to my desk, and hooked up to dual monitors. So I think you should go with a 13" screen instead.

    Also, do you really need Blu-ray? I can honestly say that I have zero need for any type of optical drive on my laptop, both personal and work. Only times I use an optical drive is to install some software. If you like to watch movies in between classes, then I suppose it matters. But if I ever feel the need to watch a movie on the go, I usually load my laptop with downloaded movies.
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    Aug 22, 2012 2:46 AM GMT
    Do you mean it will feel heavy carrying around? I'd only be taking from my car to class and back. It'll be on a desk too. The Macbook Pro is extremely thin and light for a 15", but I don't really want to spend that much.

    The blu-ray was only in reference to the Retina display. It's the only way I think I would take advantage of a screen with that kind of resolution. I don't do graphics work. Streaming content isn't usually that high in resolution. I don't need a disc drive at all for a school laptop, unless I'm installing something that requires it. That does bring up an interesting point though. I may have to install programs using a CD or DVD. I'm not sure if everything I need will be available to download. I could get a USB drive, I guess.
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    Aug 22, 2012 4:02 AM GMT
    I suppose it depends on how far your classes are. But yeah, I've traveled quite a bit for work and even my 12" laptop starts to weigh me down. I'd suggest getting a really good backpack.

    Almost all 13" - 17" come with some type of optical drive. So you may not have much of a choice.
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    Aug 22, 2012 4:46 AM GMT
    I haven't traveled with a laptop, so I'm guessing on that part. I know my 19" one would be a pain to carry around, but I don't really know what a good size is. I'd get a backpack or book bag that could carry my laptop and my books.

    The optical drive was in reference to the Macbook. It doesn't have any drive at all. They sell a USB optical drive, but I'm not sure if I would need it.

    At this point, I don't really know what I need.l
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    Aug 22, 2012 12:16 PM GMT
    If the programs are Windows only, you should get a Windows laptop, but it's good to double check that.

    Here's my experience on it which may or may not apply to you.

    I've had both a Windows Laptop and a Macbook throughout my graduate studies. Since most of the computing that I do is bioinformatics based I often use the Linux environment, and the Mac comes with that capability out of the box compared to Windows.

    I also found that Mac also has more useful, and cheap price wise, 3rd party programs that you can find on the App Store or MacUpdate website. There's only 2 programs that I use that runs strictly under Windows so I just install something called Wine which can open those programs (no need to install Windows or run it under virtual machine at all).

    As far as size is concerned, if you walk around alot, 15 inches will probably be too heavy. I'd go for something at 13 inches if you plan on carrying it around alot. In your case since you're just going from your car, 15 inches would be just fine.

    If you spend a lot of time in front of your screen, like I do on some days at the lab, having a quality screen makes a huge difference in your enjoyment of the task. I have a high res anti glare screen on my 15 inch Macbook Pro (Early 2011) and I love it. I would wait for one or two more generations before buying Macbook Pro Retina.
  • Medjai

    Posts: 2671

    Aug 22, 2012 1:17 PM GMT
    I have a 15" MacBook Pro, and love it. No problems with weight at all. And to be honest, since the change to intel, no compatibility issues either. There's always an analog, or the programs are cross platform.

    If you can afford it, they are worth the money. Go for it.
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    Aug 22, 2012 4:26 PM GMT
    I <3 my Asus G74 SX.

    It'll definitely turn heads in the classroom. icon_wink.gif
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    Aug 24, 2012 2:26 AM GMT
    Thanks for all the responses guys!
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    Aug 24, 2012 2:33 AM GMT
    paulflexes saidI <3 my Asus G74 SX.

    It'll definitely turn heads in the classroom. icon_wink.gif


    Yes siiir it would!
  • Smakkyoface

    Posts: 198

    Aug 24, 2012 2:40 AM GMT
    I just got an msi force 16f3 with a gtx 670m. I do a lot of coding and this laptop is a good desktop replacement. Its 15.6 inches with hdmi out so i just plug it into my monitor or tv if i wanna game. I havent used my desktop since i got this.
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    Aug 24, 2012 2:51 AM GMT
    I'm a toshiba satellite fan. I just realized the other day I've had mine for a little over two years now... it runs just as well as it did when I got it except for some extra time to boot up when restarting. I just recommended them to a friend.

    I would caution that the cheaper models have really shitty looking exteriors. very chintzy. dunno if that's a factor but I would try to find a model in person before purchasing...
  • Smakkyoface

    Posts: 198

    Aug 24, 2012 2:55 AM GMT
    homastj saidI'm a toshiba satellite fan. I just realized the other day I've had mine for a little over two years now... it runs just as well as it did when I got it except for some extra time to boot up when restarting. I just recommended them to a friend.

    I would caution that the cheaper models have really shitty looking exteriors. very chintzy. dunno if that's a factor but I would try to find a model in person before purchasing...


    Toshiba satellite laptops are weak hardware wise though. Their top of the line wont even come close to a decent desktop. However, I realized i misread the original poster. I thought he said he's taking Computer Science which requires a lot of processing power. His classes might not.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 28, 2012 5:37 PM GMT
    It looks like I'll need a laptop for class afterall. I'm not sure how much processing power I'll need, but I'm going to try to get something that will be sufficient for the next few years. Battery life and weight are also big considerations. I'm going to go to Best Buy to check out the screens and weights, but I probably won't buy it there.

    Thanks everyone!
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    Aug 28, 2012 5:46 PM GMT
    You all brought up some excellent points here that I didn't think about. The display will be important because I will be spending hours working on these programs. I'll transfer all of my school work to the new laptop, which means that I will be doing programming, completing writing assignments, etc. on it. I will also be more likely to travel with it because my other laptop is so big. The only other way to do it would be to get a very small school laptop and constantly transfer my files back and forth to my big laptop.

    If anyone else thinks of something I haven't considered yet, please let me know. Thanks all!
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    Aug 28, 2012 5:53 PM GMT
    I don't know Jack about what you're talking about... sure you missed that. icon_lol.gif
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    Aug 28, 2012 6:06 PM GMT
    buy a samsung
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    Aug 28, 2012 9:13 PM GMT
    @WhyWhySee - I'll be taking Computer Science courses, so I'll need something reasonably powerful. I'll need to be able to take my coding projects around with me -- to my classes and my labs, as well as possibly to my teacher's office if I have a problem. At this point, I don't know what software I'll need for all of my future courses. I guess there's no way to know. The course I took last semester required Windows software. I have no problem setting up a virtual machine on a Mac, but if I'm running everything in the virtual machine, what's the point of spending extra on a Mac? This semester, I'll be using Java, but I don't know if everything I'll be doing will be in Java. I may have to write a short paper on something, which would probably require using MS Word. I have that on my other laptop. I don't want to have to purchase duplicate software for the Mac.

    Just FYI, I have a 18.4" 10lb High-Def Toshiba laptop as my desktop replacement for home. I bought it as an entertainment PC (watching movies, etc.), but obviously it's not very portable. For work, I have a 17" laptop. I don't know how much it ways, but it's older and not very portable either.

    I've looked at the newest Macbooks, and if price wasn't an issue, including the memory upgrade I'd need, I'd probably get that.
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    Aug 28, 2012 10:41 PM GMT
    Why did Conquest delete his input? I appreaciated his notes. I just haven't had time to get back to everyone yet. Oh well.

    I've been scoping out specs as I've had a little free time here and there today. Looking more closley at the Macbook Pro, it's the hard drive that's driving up the price. They're using flash storage. The cheapest is 256GB, but I don't know if that will be enough. The upgrade to 500GB is $500. The pricing on everything else is competitive with Windows PCs. On the other hand, it's the flash storage that makes it so fast and light.

    I'm not as concerned with CPU speed. Everything I've looked at will work fine. I'm much more picky about hard drive speed. For most laptops, it's 5400 RPM. It takes forever to boot-up and load programs on those things. But maybe I'm being too picky. What can I say? I'm a geek. I always want the biggest and fastest. icon_biggrin.gif

    RAM is somewhat of an issue, but I don't think I'll need anything huge. I've been looking at Dell's website, but for some reason, I can't customize the memory or hard drive for the laptops that I've been looking at.
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    Aug 28, 2012 10:43 PM GMT
    I was editing and got a phone call and got deleted. Sorry. icon_cry.gif

    My best advice - and the advice that I give my students is to get a Windows PC - possibly a refurbished that will give you your basic needs now and then save up for a Macbook Pro that suits your professional and personal needs.

    I actually purchase refurbished laptops myself every couple of years and it works out well for me because as an instructor the technology changes every couple of years and sometimes it's cheaper for me just to buy another refurbished laptop than upgrade.

    Consult your IT department on campus and find out if there are any conflicts or things you need to know. What are the specs needed to access your campus portal and learning management system (like blackboard).

    I know that Blackboard works well in Windows and Linux environments, but not so well in Mac OS environments (or at least it's not licensed to).

    Those things will help inform your decision.


    Also, find out what specific software is required. One thing to consider is will you have to purchase the software for the course. Java you can dowload for free, but if you are using Dreamweaver or Photoshop - odd operating systems may not be fully compatible and the expense of adding that software may be too high.

    We have students using Macs and it's difficult to get them to save files in the proper format or get the files uploaded to Blackboard properly, it's possible and it seems you are tech savvy enough to make it happen. So go with what you feel is best, but from the teacher end, those are my suggestions.
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    Aug 28, 2012 10:47 PM GMT
    ConQuest saidI was editing and got a phone call and got deleted. Sorry. I will re-edit in a bit. icon_cry.gif


    No worries. icon_biggrin.gif
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    Aug 28, 2012 10:50 PM GMT
    Another note, just FYI: I have 20+ years experience in the IT field. My schooling is to get a degree to be more marketable for finding a job. In other words, I'm paying thousands and spending countless hours to get a piece of paper that proves I can do the job I've been doing my whole adult life. Funny, huh? At any rate, that means that I shouldn't have any problem setting up hardware/software on my own. Unless something is flat-out not compatible, I shouldn't have any problem getting everything to run. It could be a time-consuming headache though.
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    Aug 28, 2012 10:52 PM GMT
    Medjai saidI have a 15" MacBook Pro, and love it. No problems with weight at all. And to be honest, since the change to intel, no compatibility issues either. There's always an analog, or the programs are cross platform.

    If you can afford it, they are worth the money. Go for it.
    Just got one for my daughter, she just started college. They're dual boot so if you end up needing Windows apps, you can load them too.