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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Which laptop to get for college?

Which laptop to get for college?
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Libid21
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Jun 24, 2010, 11:26 PM
 
Hey, guys... I'm looking for a laptop to get for college and obviously I'm leaning towards a Mac if I'm posting in this forum. My other options were HP and Dell, but whatever thought that went through my mind during the period of thinking, I always ended up wanting a Mac. Since I'll be having this laptop for most likely more than 4 years and since it will be replacing my laptop, I want one with good quality. I'm worried because I'm already comfortable with Windows, but I'm willing to take the risk and getting a Macbook.

Like I said, I'm looking for it to replace my desktop so I'm looking for a laptop that's powerful and can do most of the stuff that I do. Since I'm majoring in nursing, I won't be doing too many media-heavy activities except an occasional movie or so. Which Macbook would you recommend for me? My sister has the 15" MacBook Pro from last year and she loves it. I want the same one because it's a good size and powerful. The 13" just seems too small for me and not enough to 'replace my desktop'.

So if you guys can help me out with my decision-making, I'd really appreciate it because I think I'll be ordering my laptop really soon so I can have time to get used to it and what not.
     
imitchellg5
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Jun 24, 2010, 11:30 PM
 
If longevity is a key consideration, I'd have to say go with the Core i7 15" MBP. If that's too much money, then an i5 15" MBP would be just fine as well, but over the course of a few years, having the i7 may come in handy.
     
Libid21  (op)
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Jun 24, 2010, 11:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by imitchellg5 View Post
If longevity is a key consideration, I'd have to say go with the Core i7 15" MBP. If that's too much money, then an i5 15" MBP would be just fine as well, but over the course of a few years, having the i7 may come in handy.
That sounds like a good idea, but youch... that's a lot of money even with a student discount... I'll have to see what I have to work with in terms of cash. I am paying for most of this myself so I want it to be one that I fall in love with.
     
macaddict0001
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Jun 24, 2010, 11:47 PM
 
Sounds like a 15" MBP is the right choice
     
SierraDragon
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Jun 25, 2010, 08:24 AM
 
Yeah 15" MBP. IMO you do NOT need the more expensive i7 version. Barefeats.com has tests.

HTH

-Allen
     
angelmb
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Jun 25, 2010, 09:10 AM
 
I would choice the MBP 15" with the less expensive CPU but the high-resolution display (1680 by 1050 instead of 1440 by 900 pixel.) Still less money than the i7 model. Needless to say that's up to you and how comfortable you are with the display resolution of your brother's MacBook Pro.
     
Wiskedjak
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Jun 25, 2010, 09:17 AM
 
if you're budget limited and 13" is too small, then you really only have one choice: the cheapest 15" MacBook Pro.
     
amazing
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Jun 25, 2010, 09:34 AM
 
In college, weight is a big consideration, 'cause you're all the time carrying it around. And if it's too heavy, and you switch to carrying it only occasionally, then it's the wrong laptop. So: the 13".

Also you have to figure that you'll be getting another educational purchase just before you graduate, with whatever's latest and greatest. That's the point where you get a 15".
     
Cold Warrior
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Jun 25, 2010, 11:37 AM
 
When I was in college, I used several models from 12" up to 15" and post-college as well doing a lot of business trips. I've found that 13" is the sweet spot for me, supplemented by a large LCD on my desk for when I'm desk-bound.

I'm not sure how much horsepower nursing needs that the 13" can't deliver on. Pair it with a large LCD and you've got a great desktop setup but a more lightweight and smaller-footprint setup for traveling or just hauling it across campus to the coffee shop or a friend's for studying.
     
Snow-i
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Jun 25, 2010, 11:43 AM
 
13 inch. It has the same footprint as many of your textbooks. For college, its the sweet spot.
     
SierraDragon
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Jun 25, 2010, 12:17 PM
 
I carried a heavy 17" all over, no problem. It went in a packpack with eveything else, no issue with the extra pound heavier than 15". A 15" MBP weighs only 0.9 pound more than a MB or 1.1 pound more than a 13" MBP.

13" is ok for light usage like email and web. However in a four-year degree one does real work for many hours every day. Even if you don't involve with graphics (unlikely) the screen real estate and pixel dimensions of 13" is unacceptably limiting unless you do most of your work attached to second display - which locks you to one place, which is also unacceptable.

I agree that the power of the 13" is adequate, but I cannot overstate the value of having the larger display area and larger pixel count of 15" over 13" size. The hi-rez 15" display has about 75% more pixels than the 13" does!

Spreadsheets, comparing two documents, anything graphic all are much better worked on a larger display. Personally I will always have 17" but IMO for college the 15" size is ideal. The only benefit of 13" is lower cost.

I agree that the hi-rez display is worth the $150 upgrade, and I strongly suggest the matte preferred by most graphics pros rather than stock glossy. However glossy vs. matte is a matter of personal preference.

Essential: Buy multiple inexpensive SD cards and back up your work to two different locations every day.

You get one year free warranty; AppleCare warranty for years 2-3 is a huge waste of money. AppleCare does not cover theft or damage, and by years 2-3 (a) the laptop's value is greatly depreciated anyway and (b) common replacement parts like hard drives have become cheaper/better. For college usage one of the third-party insurance programs that covers theft and damage is probably a good idea.

HTH

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Jun 25, 2010 at 12:30 PM. )
     
slugslugslug
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Jun 25, 2010, 06:30 PM
 
My vote is a 13" MBP and a cheap big monitor. I think there are several 23- to 24-inch monitors at or around $200 these days. Allen has a good point about doing lots of real work that benefits from more room, but I don’t think it’s so bad to do most of that work in one place. Hopefully you’ll manage to set up your desk so it’s the place where you want to do most of your work. And while many tasks benefit from more space, they do so to different degrees. Big ol’ spreadsheets might feel unwieldy on a 15" screen, but note-taking, e-mailing, task management, and web searches suffer way less, even on the 13.
     
SierraDragon
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Jun 26, 2010, 04:15 PM
 
That is a reasonable argument.
     
Tuoder
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Jun 27, 2010, 01:00 AM
 
You said 15" is a good size your you. So, take your budget, and find the best 15" MBP for that much money. Remember that RAM and hard drives can be upgraded later. The CPU and GPU cannot. You might also consider the 17" if you have the cash. Go and try it out in an Apple store, or even a best Buy if all of the Apple stores are too far away. Go see what feels right to you.

In defense of the 13", it would have been too small for me if it were not for Mac OS X's feature called Exposé. I use it, along with Cmd-Tab and the Dashboard constantly. It helps make the best possible use of the space available. Also, if you decide to go with the 13", that leaves more cash for a fast CPU and GPU. As has been stated before, keep in mind that you can get an external monitor when you're stationary at home on your desk. Also, the 13" is smaller and lighter. The 17" is kind of a beast to carry around all day. The 13" MBA is a breeze to carry, but quite frankly it is a ripoff for what you get.

Make sure you get your student discount. It will save you $50-$200 depending on what model you eventually choose. Online they don't verify that you have a school ID, so if you don't have yours yet, you don't have to worry about it.

You mentioned that you are more familiar with Windows. You can run Windows on your new Mac through one of two methods if you so choose: virtualization or Dual booting. In virtualization, you run Windows as though it were a program on your Mac, and you can switch quickly between Windows and Mac OS. It is, however resource intensive to do this. The other method is involves dividing your hard drive into two parts, the Windows part, and the Mac part, and then you can choose to boot to one or the other when you power up your Mac.

That being said, I'd recommend not running Windows. The Mac OS is easy to learn, and if it isn't your only option you may rely on Windows as a crutch. Not to mention, of course, that I find the Mac OS superior to Windows. If you have trouble, there are many great books out there to help you learn every detail of how to get the most out of your new Mac. A few years ago, when I was just getting started on the Mac OS, I bought a copy of Macs For Dummies, and I found it to be very informative and useful. I still recommend it to customers at my workplace. While it isn't that hard to get started on Macs without a manual, you will learn a lot of tips and tricks if you do choose to use it.
     
Wiskedjak
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Jun 27, 2010, 01:06 AM
 
Personally, I'd get a 13" and a non-Apple external monitor for when I need the larger screen. But, I don't know your performance requirements.

As a photographer and software interaction designer, I typically find my MacBook at home to meet my needs and my MacBook Pro at work to blow my needs away. A 13" MBP would more than suffice for my needs.
     
Libid21  (op)
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Jun 29, 2010, 02:31 PM
 
I went to Best Buy to look at the sizes of laptops, and I think 14" is perfect me for me. Unfortunately, there is no 14" for Macbooks. I might go 13" but the only thing stopping me is that the 13" doesn't have any of the i5/i7 processors... is there any way to customize it on Apple's store so that it does have it?
     
SierraDragon
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Jun 29, 2010, 03:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by Libid21 View Post
...the 13" doesn't have any of the i5/i7 processors... is there any way to customize it on Apple's store so that it does have it?
No. The 13" is cheaper because it is the low end MBP. The 2.4 GHz model is a good value if you can tolerate the glossy display. Personally I would go with an i5 and hi-rez matte display, which is not available on the 13" size.
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Jun 29, 2010 at 03:22 PM. )
     
Libid21  (op)
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Jun 29, 2010, 04:20 PM
 
What's the difference between the high-res one and the standard screen? I'm going to be ordering my laptop tonight so I'll just be asking random questions from now on.
     
angelmb
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Jun 29, 2010, 04:43 PM
 
I would choice the MBP 15" with the less expensive CPU but the high-resolution display (1680 by 1050 instead of 1440 by 900 pixel.) Still less money than the i7 model. Needless to say that's up to you and how comfortable you are with the display resolution of your brother's MacBook Pro.
I agree that the power of the 13" is adequate, but I cannot overstate the value of having the larger display area and larger pixel count of 15" over 13" size. The hi-rez 15" display has about 75% more pixels than the 13" does!
I agree that the hi-rez display is worth the $150 upgrade, and I strongly suggest the matte preferred by most graphics pros rather than stock glossy. However glossy vs. matte is a matter of personal preference.
This. Its native resolution is 1680*1050, 36% more pixels than the standard 1440*900 display. Worth it.
     
parsley
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Jun 30, 2010, 01:27 AM
 
Refurbished MacBookPro 15" 2.66GHz Intel Core i7
15.4-inch LED-backlit antiglare Hi-Res widescreen display (1680 x 1050 pixel)
4GB (2 x 2GB) of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
500GB Serial ATA @ 5400 rpm
8x double-layer SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics processor with 512MB of GDDR3 memory

$1999
Refurbished MacBook Pro 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 - Apple Store (U.S.)
With Great Routers Comes Great Responsibility
     
tonyb
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Jun 30, 2010, 06:43 PM
 
that's a great deal
     
FireWire
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Jul 5, 2010, 01:10 PM
 
Hi! sorry to reuse your thread but I have basically the same question. During the week-end, my friend's PC died and I convinced him to switch to Macintosh. He's a student so his budget is limited. As he had just puchased a big 24" display, he's not too inclined to buy an iMac. He was thinking about getting a laptop. Currently the choice is between a refurbished MBP 2.4 Core2duo for about 1100$, or an i5 at 1600$. The latter is a bit overbudget but I was wondering if it's still worth it because of longer useful life cycle. Is there a big difference between the processors? He doesn't plan to do a lot of gaming. C2D would be sufficient, but for how long?
     
   
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