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Opinions on best laptop for college
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Madison
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May 23, 2015, 02:43 PM
 
Hi all,

My daughter just graduated from High School, and we'll be purchasing her a laptop for college. Initially I just looked right at the MacBook and figured that was it, then I realized that the MacBook Pro wasn't a whole lot more money, but heavier, battery life, etc.

So, I'm interested in what everyone's experiences have been. She'll likely be doing a ton of video watching, face time, web surfing, I expect a bunch of note taking through Pages/Numbers/Keynote also, so I'm curious about what kind of horsepower the MacBook has, is it sufficient for Word Processing, video chatting, etc.

She's not a gamer, so she won't be subjecting the laptop to that kind of punishment, but everything else is fair game.

Thank you,

Tom
     
ghporter
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May 23, 2015, 08:39 PM
 
I did my grad school (2006-2009) with a 2006 15" MBP. It's still working, though it won't support Mavericks or Yosemite. It weighs about a pound more than the current (new) 15" MBP.

I'm personally looking at the 13" MBP; it's less expensive, it's lighter, and it still has plenty of power.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
P
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May 24, 2015, 04:58 AM
 
Power-wise, I think the MacBook is fine, but it is a first generation product, and the single USB port might be problematic. The Retina MBP 13" is not that much more money, but it is a lot more powerful and probably a better purchase. That's what I would get.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
OreoCookie
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May 24, 2015, 08:20 PM
 
Just like the others, I'd either suggest a 13" Retina MacBook Pro or a 12" MacBook. The Retina is the safe choice, but perhaps you may want to get your daughter's opinion first. Probably she won't need many ports or care about the new keyboard (which some people hate).

At this point, I would not recommend the Air, because it doesn't have a high-res Retina screen — and I find Retina screens cause much less eye strain when you read a lot on the computer.
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unicast reversepath
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May 25, 2015, 09:23 AM
 
I think the Macbook Air would be perfect!

I typically spend about 5 - 7 hours a day reading and watching video when I work my
3 day weekends, and eye strain has never been a problem.
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OreoCookie
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May 25, 2015, 10:48 AM
 
Originally Posted by unicast reversepath View Post
... and eye strain has never been a problem.
Once you go Retina, you don't want to go back. And at least in my case, it has significantly reduced eye strain when intently reading things (writing is a significant part of my work). Plus, Retina is where the future is in computing, just for that reason alone, I wouldn't want to buy a computer with an outdated display (not just resolution-wise, the Airs still use TN panels rather than IPS panels). Ever since 10.9 at least, the visual UI of OS X has been optimized for retina displays.

Even from a financial perspective, a well-specced 13" Air isn't that much cheaper than a similarly equipped 13" Retina.
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mindwaves
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May 26, 2015, 12:51 AM
 
I would not buy any laptop under 15'' if it is meant to be the person's sole display. Buy an external monitor will help reduce eye strain.
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Spheric Harlot
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May 26, 2015, 03:19 AM
 
I would not buy a laptop larger than 13" if portability is a primary concern.
     
P
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May 26, 2015, 03:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by mindwaves View Post
I would not buy any laptop under 15'' if it is meant to be the person's sole display. Buy an external monitor will help reduce eye strain.
Really? To me, 15" is a massive laptop. 13" is standard, and I don't see a problem using that for a main display. External displays were more important earlier, when laptop displays were worse.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Kensington
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May 26, 2015, 08:12 AM
 
The MacBook Pro is really the best long term solution. The Retina screens are fantastic. If you can afford the 15-inch screen, it's really not that much more burdensome than the 13-inch model (contrary to what some of these crazy people may think) and the added screen real-estate will come in very handy for any kind of multi-tasking such as watching youtube in one window while pretending to do an essay in the notepad. One thing you will want to do though is make sure you are getting one with enough storage space and RAM, because those aren't upgradeable later.
     
Kensington
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May 26, 2015, 08:16 AM
 
To "P" i would like to say 17-inch screens are massive. (I miss my massive 17-inch MBP and hope they make a retina model soon) 15-inch screens are really what is necessary to do any kind of actual work if an external monitor isn't available. 13-inch MBPs are in no way easier to carry than 15-inch models. I have them all...I've carried them all....they all fit in the same slot in the same bag i've used since 2008 and the weight difference is negligible.
     
OreoCookie
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May 26, 2015, 10:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by Kensington View Post
13-inch MBPs are in no way easier to carry than 15-inch models. I have them all...I've carried them all....they all fit in the same slot in the same bag i've used since 2008 and the weight difference is negligible.
I have to disagree here, the weight difference is definitely not negligible. I've been carrying my notebooks in backpacks for 15 years now, and I can easily tell the difference of half a kilo (e. g. when upgrading from a 12" iBook to a 15" PowerBook or from a 15" MacBook Pro to a 13" Retina. Moreover, when carrying the machine smaller machines feel lighter, because they exert less torque on the wrist (something that seems to be forgotten).

A 13" display is plenty big — especially if you are willing to get an external display at home or at work. This immediately mitigates the screen estate discussion for me. A 15" laptop to me is like a 17" of yore, a machine that rarely leaves one place. Of course, there are people who need this much screen estate even when they are on the go (or who need the power of 4 cores), and for them the 15" is a fine machine.
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And.reg
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May 26, 2015, 11:20 AM
 
13" Pro Macbook. The low-end processor is fine and gives you the best battery life. Also max out the RAM.

Get whatever hard drive you need.

Also get a RadTech cloth to protect the screen for when the lid is closed, and an Incase neoprene sleeve.

And don't put the computer in with a backpack if there are a lot of books in there as well, as the act of lifting and wearing the backpack with all of the books/notebooks in there will the laptop will cause the cables inside to flex (which could get damaged), same with the screen. Use a separate bag if you need to carry that many books.
     
honestone
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May 26, 2015, 01:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by unicast reversepath View Post
I think the Macbook Air would be perfect!

I typically spend about 5 - 7 hours a day reading and watching video when I work my
3 day weekends, and eye strain has never been a problem.
Agreed! My 13" MacBook Air is perfect for my needs. I like its speed, portability, and how light it is. Also, I do not have any issues with any kind of eye strain.

I have not really sat in front of a Retina display model for any length of time to see if Retina displays are all that "great". I ma not saying they are not fantastic, and numerous reviews attest to how fantastic they are. It's just not the case for me (so far).

I think, though, that if I was to upgrade, I would get a 13" MacBook Pro. As other folks have so correctly pointed, they do give an excellent "bang for the buck". But, for now, my 13" Air suits me just fine.

Here's a review of the 13" MacBook Pro posted today on www.maccentral.com:

http://www.macworld.com/article/2925...se-laptop.html
( Last edited by honestone; May 26, 2015 at 06:46 PM. )
     
ghporter
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May 26, 2015, 07:19 PM
 
While I was toting my 2006-model 15" MBP around at school, a classmate had a 17" MBP. It was unwieldy to say the least. Yes, it had a big screen, but to get that, she had much more weight and a much bigger object to haul around.

As I noted earlier, I'm looking at the 13" rMBP because it's lighter, it's got more than what I absolutely need in the hardware department, and it is a LOT less expensive. Fully tricked out, you can get the same amount of RAM and SSD storage with a faster processor than the 15" models for about $1k less...

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
ibook_steve
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May 26, 2015, 07:30 PM
 
To the OP, it would also be useful to know what major or area of study your daughter is thinking of pursuing. If she's going into engineering or some technical arts (like film) or architecture, a beefier MBP (15") would be the way to go. Barring that, I think, like others here, a 13" MBP would be a fine choice for something that should last almost all 4 years of school.

Steve
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P
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May 28, 2015, 04:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by Kensington View Post
To "P" i would like to say 17-inch screens are massive. (I miss my massive 17-inch MBP and hope they make a retina model soon) 15-inch screens are really what is necessary to do any kind of actual work if an external monitor isn't available. 13-inch MBPs are in no way easier to carry than 15-inch models. I have them all...I've carried them all....they all fit in the same slot in the same bag i've used since 2008 and the weight difference is negligible.
Well, YMMV then. I have a 14" work laptop and an 11" MBA, and while the 11" is a bit small to do real work on, I can certainly work on a 13-14" class screen.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
SierraDragon
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May 30, 2015, 03:03 PM
 
1) Macbook Pro with discrete graphics for sure, not a Macbook or MBAir. Look at barefeats.com to see tests showing the very substantial performance differences. Max capability is important not for what she does now or thinks she will do, but rather for unknowns that may become future computing demands.

2) 16 GB RAM and the largest SSD you can afford. The extra RAM overhead allows for the who-knows-what situations of college usages, and large SSD because if she at any point involves in any kind of images work a TB of storage can fill quickly.

Do not waste money adding the premium 10% faster cpu BTO, because the i7 cpus are all very competent and will remain so. My 4+ year-old i7 17" MBP still rocks a heavy graphics workflow.

3) Regarding 15" versus 13" have the student decide. Either size works, each has pros and cons, and she is the one who will live with the choice.

For anything to do with images or spreadsheets or A-B document comparisons larger displays are _far_ superior, but for fitting on to lecture hall small seat tabletops or crowded library tables the smaller size is nicer.

Personally I preferred the largest possible size for graduate coursework, but upper division classes tend to be hella less cramped than undergraduate classes. Plus I am a 6' 200# male, so carrying the extra weight did not matter at all. And I do lots of images, spreadsheets and A-B document comparisons...

4) Consider having an external display and backup drives at her living location. Some usages (images or spreadsheets or A-B document comparisons) are hugely more productive with extra screen real estate; plus the routine of plugging in can help facilitate good backup habits and may even help create a "study space." Of course some students turn out to be library-studiers, in which case the extra display is wasted.

5) Impress the need for frequent thoughtful (e.g. a backup HDD in a backpack with the MBP is useless if the backpack is stolen) backup. Whether in the residence or on campus, college student laptops are primary targets for thieves, and 18-year-olds by definition have not yet developed a strong sense of situational awareness. Even at the PhD level it is amazing how many not-backed-up theses representing hundreds of hours of work are lost.

HTH, and we wish her well in what can be among the most enjoyable times of someone's life.

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; May 30, 2015 at 03:25 PM. )
     
Spheric Harlot
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May 31, 2015, 02:26 AM
 
1) looks completely irrelevant for the usage described in the original post.

2) is probably good advice for longevity and resale value; however, at current prices for the SSD upgrades, it's worth considering that 95% of consumers are probably never, ever going to fill up a 500GB drive.

The rest of your points are well made, IMO.
     
SierraDragon
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May 31, 2015, 01:41 PM
 
The OP asked about a laptop for a new college freshman. My experience observing students' first college years is that they often go in directions that neither they nor their parents foresaw at high school graduation. Hence "Max capability is important not for what she does now or thinks she will do, but rather for unknowns that may become future computing demands."

My experiences have involved students facing challenging course work. The amortized laptop cost is just a tiny portion of a year's expenses, so IMO it is worthwhile to start with a top box that for sure will not be any kind of limiting factor.
     
Madison  (op)
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Jun 1, 2015, 08:37 PM
 
I appreciate everyone's input. For some reason I stopped getting emails about replies to this post after the first day, so I apologize for not reading these sooner. She is going to major in Psychology (Criminal/Forensic likely), I'm sorry I didn't put that in the initial post, my bad. I've checked the refurbished store, and I can get a LOT of laptop in a MBP with Retina display for pretty affordable money, I think that's how I'm going.

Thank you all again!

Tom
     
Madison  (op)
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Jun 5, 2015, 03:15 PM
 
Hi All,

I bought a refurbished MBP 13", with 2.8ghz i5, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD. Thank you for all your input!

Tom
     
OreoCookie
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Jun 5, 2015, 04:48 PM
 
That's a great machine, congratulations!
I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
     
   
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