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Thread: Laptop for school: Mac or PC?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Laptop for school: Mac or PC?

    Hi all!

    I'm a Mac user (/Mac lover), so I was wondering if there are any major limitations to using a MacBook Pro to run required programs for school. I'm enrolling at Harvard in the fall and their guidebook doesn't suggest one over the other, but rather states, "The differences are distinct, and one size does not fit all: but both types of computers have been successfully used by numerous students at the GSD."

    Also, how essential/convenient is it to have a large screen? 15"+? 17"+?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    One thing worth considering that comes to mind is if you'll be using ArcGIS, which runs on Windows. Other than that, there is a pretty even mix of Mac/PC in my program.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Macs seem to be the norm in my program. If you need run GIS on a Mac, you can always install Windows and dual boot. I would definitely recommend having Microsoft Office on whichever type of computer you choose. Programs like iWorks and Open Office aren't as compatible when sharing files.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Save yourself $500 and buy an PC...you can use what you save for beer...unless you are a hipster then you must get the Mac and some skinny jeans and a lot of ironic t-shirts so your hipster "firends" don't make fun of you...college hispters can be very cruel.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Looks like I found a group photo with the OP in it:




    Just kidding :P


    If you already have a Mac, you can always dual boot with Windows as was previously stated.

    But if you're in the market for a new laptop, save yourself a ton of money and get a Toshiba Portege series...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Minding your lines of best fit.

    One other factor to bear in mind: Microsoft decided to withhold the "Analysis ToolPak" from their 2008 Excel-for-Mac software, which means that you can't run a multiple regression analysis unless you have access to the PC version. This might seem trivial, but such operations end up being a big part of any quantitative methods/statistical analysis course. I have to say, this was a huge pain in the ass, but not huge enough that I was wishing I had purchased a different computer. In and of itself, Excel is a huge pain in the ass, anyway.

    (The GIS thing, though, is pretty frustrating: yes, you can boot your mac up in windows, but getting files (pdfs, for instance) from the "mac" interface to the "windows" interface is tedious. I ended up using a thumb drive to cross this digital blood-brain barrier.)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Oh, and I haven't found the screen size to be too important, once you get past the netbook category. If you expect to be doing a lot of CAD work, I would understand the larger screen, but my 13.3" screen does just fine with GIS, InDesign, PhotoShop, SketchUp, all the OneWord/TwoCapitals portmanteau programs out there.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    If you prefer Macs and or already have one, then use that. My Macbook Pro has been chugging along for 5 years, surviving through the numerous design programs I had to use during my undergrad.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I can give you my opinion as an MIT student, which I think has a similar computing situation to Harvard. I'm guessing that > 2/3 of your classmates will be using Macs, which isn't all that important in terms of collaboration - Macs and PCs play pretty well together nowadays - but surprisingly important for mutual learning when working on group stuff. In my design studios I've worked in several all-Mac groups, and it's just easier to see and copy whatever time-saving thing another person is doing. Also, the IT branch of our department favors Macs, gives parallels/boot camp/Windows licenses for free, gives GIS and AutoCad for free, has Mac computers everywhere that are dual-booted...you get the picture. Basically, if you have a Mac you can have 2 complete OS's, and if you have a PC you can have 1.

    I don't know if the GSD is as supportive of Mac users as DUSP is, but if you already use a Mac, I certainly see no reason to switch. The 'macs are for hipsters' sentiments expressed below are unsurprising given the professional orientation of this forum, but in my opinion, not too relevant to the situation you're going to be entering in the fall.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Thank you all for your advice! Okay, now you're going to have to forgive me lack of knowledge regarding computers. =P

    If I already have a MacBook Pro, would you suggest running all programs that Harvard requires on the Windows interface and as well as getting a windows version of Microsoft Works (I know you can get cheap versions from most schools)? Would this eliminate the annoying need to transition between the two operating systems? (hence, I would only use the Mac OS for personal use)

    (P.S. As for the hipster comment, I joked with a friend: "I got made fun of for being a hipster on an urban planning forum--by golly, I think I've made it!" =P Unfortunately, right now, I'm midst navy peeps in a quaint New England town--and, however lovely, no, there's nothing hip about that...)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    You'll probably be able to get the licenses for all the software you'll need for classes for free so you can figure out what works for you. You'll probably be able to have both Mac and Windows versions of the software at the same time if you want. The only software you may have to pay for are Adobe products.

  12. #12
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    If you can obtain a copy of windows, a Mac is the way to go. Currently, I'm dual-booting AND have Parallels installed. I picked up 8 gigs of ram off Amazon for about 30 bucks and Parallels just screams now. Even when I'm doing something pretty intensive, I can run it under Parallels. If I'm having issues, I just save and reboot into Windows.

    Best check out one thing though - Check out THIS link. It'll hook you up with a student copy of Parallels for only 39.99. Not a bad deal. Don't forget to ask one of your profs for a student copy of ArcGIS. They are good for a year, and they can give them from Esri if they don't have them already.

    Good luck!

  13. #13

    What about specs?

    I am looking at new laptops, does anyone have an opinion on the necessity of a quad processor and a solid state drive?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally posted by Humboldtplanner View post
    I am looking at new laptops, does anyone have an opinion on the necessity of a quad processor and a solid state drive?
    Depends on the software you will be running for your specific program and specialization.

    I have an ASUS K53E and I can run anything from AutoCAD to Adobe CS5 and GIS but there is major lag at times. I agree with getting a minimum 8GB of Ram no matter what. I have 4GB and I was suffering.

    Figure out your minimum software requirements then you'll know if you need dual vs quad core etc etc.

    I'm all about Lenovo's though...

  15. #15
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Humboldtplanner View post
    I am looking at new laptops, does anyone have an opinion on the necessity of a quad processor and a solid state drive?
    For 99% of what you'll probably be using the computer for. a quad core isn't going to give you much of an advantage over a dual core. It's becoming the norm, though. If you're playing a lot of Skyrim and other FPS games, it'll help, but the graphics processor is what'll really matter.

    Solid state drive advantages: lower energy consumption, and a lot faster than traditional hard drives. Disadvantages: far less capacity than a traditional hard drive, still expensive, limited read-write cycles com, and write endurance is still an issue. My advice: check out a hybrid drive.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  16. #16
    Thanks for the advice.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I would normally say MAC if you aren't going to be doing anything above writing papers, playing with excel, or phtoshopping pictures. If you will be utilizing GIS (Arc whatever) or SPSS etc. you WILL NEED a PC because those programs don't integrate well in a MAC environment. I know you can bootcamp a MAC but you really cut down on your hard drive space that way and it's not exactly the same since there is some extra wares that need to be installed to make it work that way. Any good mid sized PC built in the last 2 years should do you fine for the next 3-4.
    @GigCityPlanner

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    I would say PC especially if you are going to use programs like GIS...

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