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What is the best laptop for a student going into college? (Does the MacBook Pro Retina have any...

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I will preface my question with this: I am very much a PC guy. I have my own little (slightly outdated) PC I built for gaming. I have always used Windows and have consistently hated Apple for lack of originality, proprietary nonsense, and lack of value. 

 

But this is the problem; it seems this is not the case anymore (at least for the situation I am in). I am looking for a slim laptop for around $1500 with more than 4 gigs of RAM (for photo editing and general smoothness), an SDD of at least 128 gigs (preferably more!), a nice screen (IPS is a must) and preferably a high resolution. I would like discrete graphics but it isn't a must because in reality I know it won't run any games short of solitaire. I will be using this laptop for editing photos (Lightroom) and I will be dual booting Windows 7 if I do get a Mac because it is what I am used to. 

 

It seems that the MacBook Pro with the Retina display lacks any real competition. It fulfills my wants and needs and it is very aesthetically pleasing. It even falls within my budget. This is more than I can say of any Windows "ultrabook". So, do you guys know of anything that can compare to the MacBook Pro spec wise? I would appreciate any help or suggestions. Thank you!

post #2 of 24
Thread Starter 

Oh, and it has optical out. Super bonus. 

post #3 of 24

Are you actually planning to use the laptop for college stuff, or is it just a personal laptop to bring to college? If the former, may I suggest a tablet PC with active digitizer instead? MS One Note is arguably the most useful program one can have for taking notes in class.

post #4 of 24

Apple is overpriced for the performance, like you said. But part of your decision should depend on what major you're planning to go into. I'm studying engineering, and I can tell you that an Apple product would be useless for an engineer. We get issued obscure programs for specific purposes to use with classes, and most of these programs will not run on Macs. It's possible that other majors, particularly technical ones, encounter the same thing. But check to make sure. I decided not to get a good graphics card when I got my laptop for college because I didn't plan to play games; I later learned that CAD modelling software used in engineering is pretty heavy on graphics.

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

I will be dual booting with Windows 7 if I do get the MacBook. So it truly makes no difference with the OS. I will be majoring in quantitative finance (essentially math and finance double major) so I probably will be using it for a lot of college stuff. I want my laptop to be my "home away from home" in regards to my desktop. 

post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by mralexosborn View Post

I will be dual booting with Windows 7 if I do get the MacBook. So it truly makes no difference with the OS. I will be majoring in quantitative finance (essentially math and finance double major) so I probably will be using it for a lot of college stuff. I want my laptop to be my "home away from home" in regards to my desktop. 

 

Since you won't be playing games on it, look into those touchscreen notebooks, better if the display can swivel or otherwise allow it to be used as a tablet, that way you can open reading material on PDF or other on the fly. Or maybe get a tablet if you have any change from the $1500 - I didn't realize how useful the iPad my family gave me was until I put a PDF reader in it, and i can open academic journal articles on it, even have it standing up in portrait so I can read while typing on my notebook, instead of flipping through one word processor window then back to the PDF article window, although this is more easily done on Windows8 if you have a touchscreen.

 

And to think back when I was in college I had to haul a collapsible bookstand to keep our print reading material upright; I even heard teachers in my old high school just swipe on their tablets and every kid instantly gets it opened on their personal notebooks (and to think I graduated not too long ago).

post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsujigiri View Post

Apple is overpriced for the performance, like you said. But part of your decision should depend on what major you're planning to go into. I'm studying engineering, and I can tell you that an Apple product would be useless for an engineer. We get issued obscure programs for specific purposes to use with classes, and most of these programs will not run on Macs. It's possible that other majors, particularly technical ones, encounter the same thing. But check to make sure. I decided not to get a good graphics card when I got my laptop for college because I didn't plan to play games; I later learned that CAD modelling software used in engineering is pretty heavy on graphics.

My expierence, outside of civil/structural engineering, Macs are actually the best way to go in terms of technical majors. Generally universities have a CAD licence for Macs. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Geoscience macs are academia/research standard. Linux is the standard in computer science, and OSX generally works with 90% of the stuff you need on linux, where you would be dual booting all the time on a windows PC.

 

My story short ? I was doing field work my Jr year and my asus laptop broke down with no warning after only 2.5 years of heavy use. I bought a mac and the transition could have been smoother. For reference, I studied Physics and Computer Science/Mathematics in undergrad. 

post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_Tarlow View Post

My expierence, outside of civil/structural engineering, Macs are actually the best way to go in terms of technical majors. Generally universities have a CAD licence for Macs. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Geoscience macs are academia/research standard. Linux is the standard in computer science, and OSX generally works with 90% of the stuff you need on linux, where you would be dual booting all the time on a windows PC.

 

My story short ? I was doing field work my Jr year and my asus laptop broke down with no warning after only 2.5 years of heavy use. I bought a mac and the transition could have been smoother. For reference, I studied Physics and Computer Science/Mathematics in undergrad. 

When I did physics very few of our programs were mac compatible. The general consensus from the staff in the department was "use vmware/bootcamp" or "lol, use windows then". 

post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_Tarlow View Post

My expierence, outside of civil/structural engineering, Macs are actually the best way to go in terms of technical majors. Generally universities have a CAD licence for Macs. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Geoscience macs are academia/research standard. Linux is the standard in computer science, and OSX generally works with 90% of the stuff you need on linux, where you would be dual booting all the time on a windows PC.

 

My story short ? I was doing field work my Jr year and my asus laptop broke down with no warning after only 2.5 years of heavy use. I bought a mac and the transition could have been smoother. For reference, I studied Physics and Computer Science/Mathematics in undergrad. 

 

Huh, I would have never guessed that Macs are used more in technical majors. Thank you for that bit of knowledge. 


Quote:

Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

Since you won't be playing games on it, look into those touchscreen notebooks, better if the display can swivel or otherwise allow it to be used as a tablet, that way you can open reading material on PDF or other on the fly. Or maybe get a tablet if you have any change from the $1500 - I didn't realize how useful the iPad my family gave me was until I put a PDF reader in it, and i can open academic journal articles on it, even have it standing up in portrait so I can read while typing on my notebook, instead of flipping through one word processor window then back to the PDF article window, although this is more easily done on Windows8 if you have a touchscreen.

 

And to think back when I was in college I had to haul a collapsible bookstand to keep our print reading material upright; I even heard teachers in my old high school just swipe on their tablets and every kid instantly gets it opened on their personal notebooks (and to think I graduated not too long ago).

 

While everything that you describe is fine and dandy, I was really looking for a specific notebook to look up. From what I've seen there's really nothing competitive. Also I don't want to get an additional device on top of the notebook, especially not a standalone tablet. I do not see the point in something that not only will be outdated within 6 months (all technology is this way) but also can't to very much task-wise to begin with. Thanks for the input though. I might look a little deeper into notebooks that convert into tablets. 

 

post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by mralexosborn View Post

While everything that you describe is fine and dandy, I was really looking for a specific notebook to look up. From what I've seen there's really nothing competitive. Also I don't want to get an additional device on top of the notebook, especially not a standalone tablet. I do not see the point in something that not only will be outdated within 6 months (all technology is this way) but also can't to very much task-wise to begin with. Thanks for the input though. I might look a little deeper into notebooks that convert into tablets. 

Lenovo, Dell and HP's high end laptops are the only equivalent in therm of screen quality, the business models are also covered comprehensively under their warranties. They also tend to have beefier specs(much beefier). Asus and Acer's ultrabooks are similar spec to the Mac retina, but the screen may not be a nice.

post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott_Tarlow View Post

My expierence, outside of civil/structural engineering, Macs are actually the best way to go in terms of technical majors. Generally universities have a CAD licence for Macs. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Geoscience macs are academia/research standard. Linux is the standard in computer science, and OSX generally works with 90% of the stuff you need on linux, where you would be dual booting all the time on a windows PC.

 

My story short ? I was doing field work my Jr year and my asus laptop broke down with no warning after only 2.5 years of heavy use. I bought a mac and the transition could have been smoother. For reference, I studied Physics and Computer Science/Mathematics in undergrad. 


You must have some unusual professors, because that's the exact opposite of almost everywhere else. I can see why Apple's Unix system would be useful for computer science, though. I saw a study that ranked Asus as the most reliable laptop manufacturer, but I suppose there are always bad samples that slip through the cracks. I had a friend in engineering who had the hard drive on his Macbook Pro crash and lose all his data 3 times within a couple of years. Apple's customer service replaced the defective parts, but I definitely would not have remained a diehard fanboy if it happened to me. Glad to hear you didn't have that same experience...

post #12 of 24

sounds like the OP already made his decision when he first posted, and is just looking for validation :P 

 

 

the fact of the matter is that Matlab works on all major operating systems, and there are hundreds of C++ compilers available for every OS - these are the only tools I imagine youll be using in your studies to be a quant. 

 

you've already decided that you like the Mac screen, and your choices of quotes you are responding to are cherry picked to make the Mac look like the best thing since black-scholes, so really, I think you know what you're going to end up purchasing :) 

post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

sounds like the OP already made his decision when he first posted, and is just looking for validation :P

 

A cool new feature is always hard to pass up wink.gif

post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

sounds like the OP already made his decision when he first posted, and is just looking for validation :P 

 

 

the fact of the matter is that Matlab works on all major operating systems, and there are hundreds of C++ compilers available for every OS - these are the only tools I imagine youll be using in your studies to be a quant. 

 

you've already decided that you like the Mac screen, and your choices of quotes you are responding to are cherry picked to make the Mac look like the best thing since black-scholes, so really, I think you know what you're going to end up purchasing :) 

I see what you did there. But you are correct. I needed validation that I am not just being lured in by a pretty aluminum body. I was hoping for somebody to come out of the woodwork and preach about a miracle alternative, to no avail. 

post #15 of 24

I always laugh when I see posts trying to assert that performance is the gold standard by which to judge a phone or laptop.

 

I have a rMBP.  They've taken a lot of stick, but it's the best laptop I've ever owned, and I bought it because, to my view, it's the best laptop on the market.

 

OS X Mountain Lion is a terrific operating system for a lot of reasons.  I also use iOS devices because, while I think the OS has many shortcomings, it also has a lot of advantages over Android and Windows that matter to me, and these devices play so nicely with my computer and my data and my music system.

 

I find the Mac a wonderful machine to drive my stereo (though I do that with a dedicated headless Mac mini) and once you get used to a retina screen, it's hard to put up with the lower resolution devices out there.

 

For a student, however, I'd say it's damned heavy (though lighter than much of the competition).  Have you thought about a MacBook Air.  As of two years ago, I was biking to school through London four days a week, and I wouldn't have wanted to do that with this 15" beast.  For the portability, the MBA is really a lovely machine, running OS X smoothly and, yes, there is also an optical out on that device.  I believe there is an optical out on all Macs to be honest.

 

It's true that it doesn't offer the screen of the retina computer, but in real world terms (forget benchmarks) the subjective speed for the user is blazing.  When Jobs stood up and said that he believed the Air represented the future of computing, while the first and even second generation machines weren't quite there yet, today's MBAs are fantastic devices.

 

And so is my rMBP

 

Hope that helps

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