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what is the best laptop for an architecture student?

Jul 6 '11 91 Last Comment
nanaly
Jul 6, 11 11:52 pm

yes, yet another laptop question...

i will start college in the fall. i come from Haiti, a very small country, and i am coming to the U.S. for the first time. all of this is very overwhelming. I have many decisions to make, buying a laptop is one of them. i have no idea what i might need in a laptop.... all i know is i might use autoCAD. what should i do? what should i be looking for? is Macbook Pro a good choice? 

Please help, and if you could give some good examples of good laptops i should consider, it would be great.

oh and by the way money is not a problem, i get a good amount of scholarship money, about 5000$ extra.

 

Ryan002
Jul 7, 11 12:45 am

If you know how to use a PC, it's a more economical choice than a Mac. As a general rule, Macs have a more intuitive interface, and slightly better memory allocation. (don't be conned by the guy in the Mac store. It's not *faster*, it's more efficient. As you probably know, the two are not the same.) PCs, however, can run a wider range of software, and with a bit of tweaking, you'll soon figure out how to do your own repairs and mods.

Also, consider getting a desktop PC and a tablet. A desktop is cheaper, easier to upgrade, and most people end up doing autoCAD work at home, not at Starbucks. You can do all the "show and tell" work on a tablet, which is smaller and more convenient than a laptop. It doesn't have to be an iPad either; the ASUS Iconia is a good deal, and it comes with a detachable keyboard in case you need to type long docs. 

Dell, HP, and Acer are pretty reliable brands. But HP is very flexible, and has solid customer service. Look at their website; you can sort of pick and choose what you need. Sony's Viao series looks good, and is decent, but that's about it. If you are willing to spend an insane amount of money, you could get a top of the line Alienware, which is actually a gaming machine. It's hot, it's heavy, it's overpriced, but it will run anything on earth. Sometimes two or three of them, all at once. 

 

Ryan002
Jul 7, 11 12:49 am

I almost forgot. Get an i5 minimum. AMD is cheaper, but tends to overheat. The manufacturer will list this in the specs. You'll want a video card with at least 1 gb, and 2gb onboard RAM. Most laptops have those specs, but if you see something that's $100 - $150 more, but has higher specs, I'd consider that a good deal. If the specs are lower, the laptop should be priced at more than $900 (USD)

Ryan002
Jul 7, 11 12:50 am

*Slaps forehead* Prices at LESS than $900. Sorry guys. 

jbushkey
Jul 7, 11 9:01 am

I understand how important a personal computer is.  just be careful with that loan money Nanaly or you might find yourself enslaved to repaying it after graduation. This has been discussed in depth in other threads. 

 

metal
Jul 7, 11 11:49 am

I agree about HP's. Ive had three of their notebook in the last 10 years, they've never died on me, I just got bored of them and upgraded. Their website lets you customize your order pretty easily too.

If you get a notebook Ideally you need something with an i7 processor, at least 6gb of RAM, and a higher end graphics card(ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 is an average type)  Something like that, could last you for a few years. Also get one of those laptop stands with fans, because notebooks can overheat.

You can get more out of a desktop, in terms of power and upgrading. I dont know how your studio will be like, but in mine a lot of students left their desktops in studio, and worked on notebooks if they had to. We also took out insurance, which was like $100/yr.

congrats on the scholarship, its a nice feeling

jmanganelli
Jul 7, 11 12:26 pm

lenovo thinkpad W520

jbushkey
Jul 7, 11 12:30 pm

Congrats on the scholarship and disregard my comment about loans.  I misread your original post.

 

i r giv up
Jul 7, 11 8:46 pm

I've said this 100 times before: Spend 300 on a cheap netbook and spend 600 on a desktop, and build it yourself.

Architecture is heavily dependent on computer configurations at this point. You should become familiar with computer hardware or you'll risk being either a CAD monkey for the rest of your life, or an archaic principal, unable to understand how the IT guy is screwing him and the whole firm by suggesting he upgrade to Dell workstations with ATI CrossFire cards for a firm running indigoRender (CUDA! CUDA!) while running single core Xeons or that he consider Macs (seriously? WTF? It takes a slightly case of slowness to insist on using Macs in a business/computationally heavy setting).

Anyways. Enough ranting. Seriously: consider building your own rig. It will most likely outperform anything you can buy preassembled.

BenC
Jul 7, 11 10:02 pm

I'd like to point out that my experiences were a bit different than the ones above. I bought a mid-range HP when I went to school and the thing lost all of its performance in the first two months. Seriously, just starting it up became an arduous process, and I had very few programs on it, with very little hard drive space taken up. I hated that thing; it happened to many people in my dorm as well.

Fortunately, the place I bought it from had 3-month returns, so I brought it back and got one of the first-gen MacBook aluminums. It was the best decision I've ever made; after nearly 3 years it runs like the day I got it, and I've put it through the paces. Currently I have the Adobe CS5 Suite, which runs PS, AI and ID at the same time no problem. The games I've played all worked just fine as well (COD, etc.) I've also recently started to use the Rhino Mac version with no problems whatsoever. I actually had Windows 7 partitioned on the hard drive for a long time (which also ran very well) and ended up taking it right off after not using it for a year.

Rusty!
Jul 8, 11 2:06 am

I'll second BenC's comment.

Just get a mac book pro.

I'm no big fan of apple, but they still make the best laptops around. They are durable, and will last you for more than 'few years'.

If getting a desktop, I would go with Windows 7 based setup, but when it comes to laptops, most of the offerings out there are crap. mac book pro really stands out. 

J. James R.J. James R.
Jul 8, 11 2:29 am

Durability is a pretty big selling point.

Apple will also occasionally repair "oopsies" for a very low price or sometimes free is you make a big scene and cry a lot about it. Aside from heated arguments I've instigated, Apple probably has some of the best customer service out there.

My current love affair with HP on the other hand is very messy— if this relationship were a Facebook status, it'd be a toss up between 'It's complicated,' and '... is single.' I had one of their first-generationish convertible touchscreen tablets (huge mistake) and it overheated like crazy.

I learned two things from HP technical support after sending my computer in: HP computers are not 'laptops' and no part of the computer should ever come in contact with any part of your skin or clothing; HP laptops, or notebooks as they call them, should in no circumstances ever be moved while in operation, including sleep mode, because they are actually not designed to be mobile computers and moving damages them.

jmanganelli
Jul 8, 11 9:17 am

with all the hp bashing going on, i feel obligated to say my hp mobile workstation is 4 years old and has worked pretty flawlessly.  i got it through hp's refurbished business notebook clearance center.  when new, it retailed for about $3000.  one year later, after its business lease was up, I picked it up on clearance for $850 and got a 3 year warranty for an additional $50.  i had to use the warranty to replace the power cord/adapter and service was quick, with no extra charges, and professional.

it came with a dual core processor and a quadro fx GPU

it has been stable, efficient, fast, and i've beat the hell out of it by taking it everywhere and using it indoors and out

for me, the hp experience was very solid

my baby sister has a consumer hp that lasted four years and worked fine until she recently spilled something on it.  she uses photoshop and premiere, too, and she was very happy with it

LITS4FormZ
Jul 8, 11 9:37 am

HP's are terrible, Dells are terrible, Macs are overpriced for their performance...Alienware, don't get me started. Acer gaming laptops...at least they have good warranties now.

In short laptops are good for the first two years of school but at some point you should make the switch to a desktop unless you are one of the fortunate ones who goes to a school with 24hr labs and new computers every year. Don't expect a laptop to be the final solution to all of your technology needs. I'd get something serviceable and start thinking about building a desktop. People think just because they have an i7 or an i5 in a laptop (notebook) that they're going to be able to crank out renderings or take full advantage of that 8gb of ram they wasted +$250 on...not going to happen

I probably have too much tech for my own good...but when it comes to finals week and you have 3 of your own machines working 24/7 and you're able to finish early enough that you can even outsource your computers to others in studio, it'll pay off in the end.

Oh and if you ever get really good at this whole PC building thing, get yourself a hackintosh and you'll get some serious street cred with young faculty. 

jmanganelli
Jul 8, 11 10:01 am

i don't agree with LITS4FromZ's first paragraph.  But I agree with his point that laptops are no substitute for desktops.

so as i mentioned, i got a refurbished mobile workstation for $850.  One reason i went cheap was b/c then you can replace it more often and always have new technology.  the other reason is that i built my own workstation for about $1200.

this has been said ad infinitum in other threads, but it is worth repeating --- if you read hardware reviews, there is always a CPU that gives 80-90% of the performance of the high end CPU's for 25-30% of the cost.  There is always a GPU that give 80-100% of the performance of the high-end GPU's for 25-50% of the price.  Often buying the newest, most expensive RAM is not a sound investment if it is not completely supported by all of the other components.  Once you are done matching hardware, you'll find you can build a very fast, solid machine for about $1000-$1500.

then you pick up a cheap laptop for on the go work, but do not expect it to carry the full load.

LITS4FormZ
Jul 8, 11 10:35 am

I probably should rephrase my first paragraph as I do try to give good advice when it comes to the question of purchasing a computer for school. For some reason 75% of my studio own Macs, people buy them because Steve Jobs is a marketing genius. 

HP definitely has serviceable models and probably some of the best resolution screens out there. The issue that I've seen with them is overheating during intense tasks, so get a good cooling tray or pace yourself when working. 

The benefit with Dell is they offer their no questions asked warranty but it costs quite a bit but you can literally throw it out a window and they will give you a new one. I think I posted about the guy in my house who thought his laptop was a trashcan and projectile vomited all over it and got a brand new model a week later. 

Apple, they work, they're shiny and can run windows (fairly well). Of course you pay a lot for that easily dentable case. Applecare is great when you catch the "genius" at the apple store in a good mood, otherwise that little dent on the corner of case with be their excuse for not replacing the screen when its pixels start to go before your warranty is up. Another issue with the case is poor ventilation...my macbook pro cpu routinely hits 88C...that's not good. 

Alienware...won't even go there, Dell owns them anyways

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=7124324&Sku=A50-173114

^^^^^^^^This is one of those high end machines I referenced before with too much performance for its own good...beware

jmanganelli is right about CPUs outperforming their more expensive counterparts. A current gen i5 with a little tweaking can run stable at 4.5ghz and costs $100 less than an i7 2600(k). 

 

neverspeaketh
Jul 8, 11 12:08 pm

I have the same questions as nanaly. I am in the process of buying a new computer and I have no clue where to start. I definitely agree with the "buy a desktop" suggestions but, unfortunately, I have to buy a laptop with certain specifications for the M.Arch program I will be attending. I had talked to some people at the Apple store about the MacBook Pro but it seems overpriced. For the same price I could buy an Alienware with all the bells and whistles. Two years ago I bought an HP - mid-range model with an integrated graphics card (didn't know nearly as much about computers as I do now) - and it did crash during design studios, it does over heat, but, in its defense, I was running Maxwell Render on a computer that was not capable. 

 

So, can anyone tell me what is wrong with Alienware? Are they just overpriced? They seem reasonable for what you are getting in comparison with comparable HP or Dell Precision models. Also, can you customize Asus on their website? By the way, I really appreciate all of this feedback on this topic. It is helping me immensely.

jmanganelli
Jul 8, 11 12:10 pm

i strongly suggest you consider the thinkpad

jll3
Jul 8, 11 12:20 pm

Alienware is definitely overpriced for what you can get elsewhere, I'm personally looking at getting a laptop from one of the third party resellers like xoticpc or gentech who let you customize what you want in the laptop and have free shipping, I'm specifically looking at either a Sager or Asus brand since they have great cooling systems.

 

neverspeaketh
Jul 8, 11 12:21 pm

@ jmanganelli - In particular, are you referring to Thinkpad's W-series - their mobile workstation?

jmanganelli
Jul 8, 11 1:10 pm

yes, the thinkpad w520 --- in has outstanding specs for the price and has been very, very well reviewed

jbushkey
Jul 8, 11 1:30 pm

oops almost missed a chance fulfill my promise and dump on Sony.  Worst customer service I have ever experienced bar none.

I had a Sony laptop last summer that was having major problems after only 3 months.  I was going to do a reinstall of windows but as it turns out Sony has a special version and my 64bit brand new windows was unusable.  OK so I need a restore disk.  Apples come with the disk in the box.  After arguing with Sony for 45 minutes they agreed to send me a disk...for $30.  WTF?????????  A disk you burn for 25 cents and mail for $3 THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE BOX TO BEGIN WITH is going to cost me $30.  The laptop ended up being shipped  across country and was gone for almost 3 weeks.  I bought a macbook pro, like I should have to begin with.

If you buy a Sony laptop you are basically on your own if anything happens to it.

lmnop15
Jul 8, 11 3:36 pm

I just graduated from a 2 year M.Arch Program and I purchased a macbook pro the spring before I began school. I didn't buy the top of the line model but I did upgrade somethings when I was customizing it at the time of purchase.  If you've got the $$ i'd say the mac is a great way to go.  Its been very durable, runs like the day I bought it and with the addition of a big refurbished dell monitor I purchased to keep on my desktop at school has been a dream.    Dual monitors are the way to go with laptops in my opinion.  I have the harddrive partitioned to run revit & autocad in windows and that's worked quite well for me.  Also BUY THE APPLE CARE - seriously your life will be made 100x easier if you just buy it.  Inevitably some minor problem will occur when you're in crunch time and having that little extra peace of mind that you can call up customer service or take it in and have it cost you nothing to repair is pretty great.  

J. James R.J. James R.
Jul 8, 11 4:08 pm

Alienware? Are they just overpriced?

Yes and no. They're unintentionally overpriced. Alienware seems to fawn over the latest and greatest motherboards and processors. That, of course, means that you pay a premium for it. Other than that, the largest complaints are that they look like ass and they're heavy. Although I'm sure a lot of that weight has to do with the cooling systems they have to deal with.

Asus is a great Alienware clone and their laptops do not look like ass. The Asus G74SX (top of the line) has the identical specs as the Alienware M18X.

The G74SX is selling for around $1800 with 16 gigs of memory. The Alienware M18X is selling for around $3100 for the same specs.

And the Asus has a better standard video card and comes with a solid-state secondary hard drive.
 

threadkilla
Jul 8, 11 8:00 pm

I got a top-of-the-line Dell precision 3 years ago, when I was off to grad school, and am still using it now that I'm done. By the standards of what you can get today it's not a great machine - 2 GB Ram, 2.5GHz dual-core processor, running Windows XP, but this thing has barely ever failed me. I constantly run Photoshop, Illustrator, and Rhinoceros or AutoCAD all at the same time, and unless I'm doing something ridiculous in all of them, the machine can handle it fine. Sometimes it crashes when I try to do insane things in Grasshopper, and  I'm acclimated to Illustator randomly crashing on large files - but these things are all to do with the small amount of RAM. It's got an awesome 17.3" screen - too bulky for working on an airplane, but the extra real estate has been amazing for daily multitasking. 

If you get a Dell, definitely buy their extended warranty. My screen started dying around midterms last year, I called it in, and within 2 days their guy came by the school and replaced my screen - NO questions asked, no extra charges (other than what you pay for the warranty).

I do have to agree with the majority - get yourself a good desktop if your situation will allow it. All of the issues I ran into with my machine  in production time are non-existent on a well set-up desktop. The biggest limitation of PC laptops (I can't speak for Macs in regards to this) is that when you're working on a large file, you're using up processor resources on hard drive access. When you start doing something demanding with that file (ie. Make 2D in a detail-heavy Rhino model of a large project), while working on some other big file (ie. Photoshopping your renders), you're likely to start tapping out your RAM and are relying on your paging file (Virtual memory) to handle the operations. BUT as your paging file is on your hard drive, you're effectively bottle-necking the CPU because of the overall increase of hard drive use by the machine. You can't work around this by creating partitions or using external drives to run your system separately from your programs and separately from storing your data, because on a laptop all of these things will basically result in increased CPU usage. With a desktop PC you can buy a real cheap drive (30-60 bucks) and dedicate some of it for your paging file (use the rest of the space for system backups) significantly increasing system performance.

Not to mention that any upgrades to all of your hardware will be relatively cheap if you shop around, and extremely easy to do if you take a little time to learn the basics of building a PC.

comehome
Jul 9, 11 11:56 am

Hi everybody.

I will start my MArch in the fall and thinking about getting a new laptop. I barely know anything about computers. Thus, I just tried to customize a Dell Latitude e6520 with all the upgrades available. Will you let me know if the following configuration is sound?

Thanks a lot!

 Tri-Metal Black
  - nVidia NVS 4200M 512MB DDR3 Discrete Graphics
  - Light Sensitive Webcam & Noise Cancelling Mic
  - 8X DVD+/-RW with Roxio & Cyberlink PowerDVD
  - Intel Centrino Adv-N 6205 802.11a/b/g/n
  - Dell Wireless 375 Bluetooth Module
  - 3 YR Next Business Day Onsite Service
  - Upgrade to 9 Cell Lithium Ion Battery with 3 Year Warranty
  - Upgrade to 8GB DDR3 SDRAM, 2 DIMMS
  - Upgrade to 15.6" UltraSharp Full HD (1920x1080) LED with Anti-Glare
  - Upgrade to Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  - Upgrade to Intel Core i7-2720QM (2.2GHz 6M cache)
  - Upgrade to 256GB Solid State Drive

jmanganelli
Jul 9, 11 1:17 pm

overall looks good.  if the SSD is the only disc drive, it is on the small side.  might want to get a bigger one or get an external drive for stalling all work, leaving the internal just for applications and running the machine.  the graphics card is, at this point, on the weak side, and could become a source of frustration, including slow performance, high heat loads and crashing.  try to get minimum 1GB worth of GPU memory nowadays.  this is the most critical issue b/c you can't fix it later very easily, unlike the SSD issue.

missjeniferquin
Jul 9, 11 2:38 pm
missjeniferquin
Jul 9, 11 2:40 pm
rascuache
Jul 9, 11 3:36 pm

As someone who owns mac laptops, being pigeonholed as buying one "only because Steve Jobs is a marketing genius" isn't cool.  I buy them because they are simply the best laptops made, and yes, they are very expensive.  I'd rather pay the premium price, and have my 5 year old MacBook pro running as well as it does right now, over replacing cheap plastic packed PC laptops every two years.  I have very heavily used computers since i was 6 and no portable computer is as reliable and well serviced as a MacBook pro.  You're not paying for "speed" in the usual computer argument, you're paying for superior design, reliability, and excellent service.

Find videos of people opening up an HP/Acer/Gateway/Sony/Toshiba on youtube, then find one of someone opening up a MacBook Pro.  The differences in design intelligence are beyond night and day.

 

If you want a quality laptop, get a Lenovo or a MacBook Pro.

comehome
Jul 9, 11 6:00 pm

Thank you rascuache for your detailed answer. I was reading about it and the PC vs. mac is so confusing as each person has a different opinion. For me, I have used both but just for simple stuff so really could not tell even though the Mac does look nicer. I guess I will have to think more about it.

 

LITS4FormZ
Jul 9, 11 11:13 pm

"Find videos of people opening up an HP/Acer/Gateway/Sony/Toshiba on youtube, then find one of someone opening up a MacBook Pro.  The differences in design intelligence are beyond night and day."

Someone has clearly consumed his or her fair share of the proverbial "cool-aid"

Back to the laptop customizations...The SSD is quite small and even though they do offer better performance the value isn't there yet. We've survived with spindle drives for many years and we can make it a couple more before SSDs become economical. If you swap out the SSD for a better graphics card you should be fine. 

 
rascuache
Jul 10, 11 1:27 am

"Someone has clearly consumed his or her fair share of the proverbial "cool-aid" "

Kool-aid? Nope, I've personally worked on the guts of all kinds of laptops, and this isn't some garbage you'll find in an apple ad, and never have I said that Macs are better than PC's in some general statement. Apple laptops, are just simply the best designed laptops you can buy, and I'm not talking "pretty".

comehome
Jul 10, 11 9:34 am

@LITS4FormZ: thank you for the suggestion. I can upgrade to a 500GB hard drive but there is no place on the customize page where I can upgrade the graphics card. Then I searched online and saw people saying that the graphics card cannot be taken out of a laptop and install another one in or somehow it will be very costly.

 

 

jmanganelli
Jul 10, 11 10:45 am

exactly, that is why it is important to get the graphics card right the first time in a laptop.  that, the CPU, the motherboard and the screen.

 

you can always replace/upgrade the hard drive, ram and battery if you have to do so

Ryan002
Jul 11, 11 3:05 am

Some latptops don't actually have graphics cards, they use a chipset. This sort of faux "video card" is literally built into the circuit board, so it can't ever be switched. It's usually done because a graphics card takes up a lot of room, and would make the latptop bulkier.

 

technophobia
Jul 11, 11 3:33 am

I'd be wary of the Optimus switching feature. I've yet to come across a laptop that does automatic graphics switching well.

comehome
Jul 11, 11 8:51 am

So does it mean if I want a better graphics card (I don't really know how to tell which one is good), then I need to choose another laptop? I was thinking about dell e6520...

LITS4FormZ
Jul 11, 11 9:15 am

Here's a good jumping off point on specifications...512 is passable but 1gb would make your life easier. 

http://usa.autodesk.com/3ds-max/system-requirements/

http://usa.autodesk.com/autocad/system-requirements/

http://usa.autodesk.com/revit-architecture/system-requirements/

This doesn't really apply to you but I was quite shocked when I saw the recommended settings for "large complex models" in Revit 2012...

Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit Enterprise, Ultimate, Professional, or Home Premium edition
Intel® Core™ i7-2600 quad-core processor (3.8 GHz, 8 MB cache ) or equivalent AMD processor
16 GB RAM (or more)
1,980 x 1,200 monitor with true color
2 GB (or more) DirectX 10-capable graphics card with Shader Model 3 (find out more about recommended graphics hardware)

95% of architecture firms don't have this kind of hardware...

technophobia
Jul 11, 11 5:25 pm

The Dell E6520 might very well suit your needs. Just make sure you can manually set which graphics card is active while you're using it. In most laptops I've seen, the discreet card is only active when you're plugged in and the auto switching back and forth between integrated and discreet graphics produces an annoying lag.

I would strongly consider the Lenovo W series. Those Quadro graphics cards are some of the best I've seen.

smda
Jul 12, 11 12:40 am

labtop:

1. you can work simultaneously with studio work.  

2. you can work at the studio.  

3. working at the studio is good.  

4. in 95% occasion, working at the studio is better than working at your home.  

5. you don't need that much super computer for your graphical work.

6. If you need real heavy rendering, you can use school computer.(if your school has a good 24hr computer lab)

desktop(DIY super computer which i did):

1.you can work at your home.

2. you can work only at your home.  

3. you don't like to go to the studio.  Not good.  

4. you can run any kind of games. Not really good for you.

5. you will realize heavy rendering is not all works you need. it is only a part.

smda
Jul 12, 11 1:03 am

pc:

1. relatively cheaper

2. much easier to use pirate programs.

3. need to know about "the computer" well.

4. because it will crush more than you can imagine.

5. I had no big problem because i knew the computer well(I built it up by myself)

6. but i can imagine people with not enough knowledge of the computer will have some frustrating experiences.

mac: 

1. so freaking god damn expensive but look good.

2. limited game experience.  pretty good for you.

3. but it runs graphic software smoother and faster than pc.

4. because its operation system is from the hardware manufacturer(duh).

5. (metaphor)

   windows:  a key holder with thousands of keys to open undecided one door

   os X: a key holder with one key for one door

   Which one will open the door faster?

6. but still too fucking expensive.

7. if you know computer more than a certain level, you will experience frustration because of more restrictions than pc.

8. if you know only turn on and off in computing, you will love it.  you can use it like a tv or radio.

9. hard to fix the problem by yourself.

10. way too much expensive.

technophobia
Jul 12, 11 1:06 am

You could leave the desktop in studio. It's not like you were ever gonna leave, right?

smda
Jul 12, 11 1:12 am

lol. right.

but i could've done that only for thesis year because i could not have an enclosed studio ever before.  It was too risky to leave over 1000 bucks computer and monitor in the studio where anybody could get in.  

 

jmanganelli
Jul 12, 11 1:39 am

"95% of architecture firms don't have this kind of hardware..."

this is true...and troubling...it is a waste of manpower

at this point, the system you just described can be had for around $1200-$1500, and yet as you say, it is more than most firms are willing to spend, even though with such a system you can plow through work like nobody's business

technophobia
Jul 12, 11 1:56 am

I guess I should consider myself lucky then, having had a studio with card key access. Even then, most people still had locks on their laptops, monitors, etc.

But I've gotta agree with you about the tech support issue with PCs, especially for the tech illiterate (mostly people who can't even be bothered to use Google to find some answers). It's ironic that the Mac users in my class (myself included) tend to be more tech literate. Though to be fair, we're also pretty nerdy with Windows and we're not afraid to open our laptops for surgery.

smda
Jul 12, 11 4:45 am

Yes, and my next comp will be macbook pro and i am saving money because that is freaking expansive!

technophobia
Jul 12, 11 6:19 am

Don't forget to check Mac Rumor's Buyer's Guide on product cycling! It's a really helpful tool for guessing when Apple next updates their products. This ensures that the value of what you paid for won't suddenly go down because a new product came out. Here's the link:

http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/

neverspeaketh
Jul 12, 11 11:06 am

Well, just for the sake of comparison. Here are the specs of an Alienware MX17 that is customized and using Dell's student discount program:

My Components
Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit
Intel® Core™ i7 2720QM 2.2GHz (3.3GHz Turbo Mode, 6MB Cache)
16GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1333MHz (4DIMMS)
1.5GB GDDR5 Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M
1.5TB Raid 0 (2x 750GB 7,200RPM)
17.3-inch WideHD+ 1600 x 900 60Hz WLED
Wireless 802.11 g/n
My Software & Accessories
Alienware M17x, Soft Touch Stealth Black
Quasar Blue
Steam and Portal™ Factory Installed
My Accessories
3 Year Basic Plan
Also Includes
Award Winning Service and Support
Standard Nameplate
Slot-Loading Dual Layer Blu-ray Reader (BR-ROM, DVD+-RW, CD-RW)
Internal High-Definition 5.1 Surround Sound Audio
Alienware M17x 240W A/C Adapter
Adobe Acrobat Reader

With a grand total of: $2,497.00

 

Now, a MacBook Pro 15 with these specs:

 

2.2GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
8GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x4GB
750GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
MacBook Pro 15-inch Glossy Widescreen Display
Backlit Keyboard (English) & User's Guide
AppleCare Protection Plan for MacBook Pro - Auto-enroll
 

Using Apple's Education Discount, this computer has a grand total of $2,418. 

 

This is why I am unable to decide between laptops at the moment. I agree that Alienware computers look a bit ridiculous and I understand their added weight and size. And on the other hand, I think Apples are designed very well aesthetically. My question would be this - Is it worth it to buy the MacBook at this price and will it be the better buy in the long run? Considering that most schools of architecture have sufficient computer labs and most have desktops able to handle the larger renderings you will need to produce - for the next 3 years (+), will this specified MacBook get me through?

 

I never imagined myself a MacBook type and while I admire Apple's ability to create trends with solid products, I always thought myself outside this wave. Now, it just seems a sensible route and, not too mention, the fact that they synch very well with their own IPads. I don't know, I feel I am out of my element on computer talk as it is and ultimately what I want is a computer that will do the job and cause the least possible headache in the end.  

jll3
Jul 12, 11 12:08 pm

Again, Alienware is overpriced, Dell totally marks up their machines and adds on these "discounts" to make you think you're saving money. The amount of money they charge to upgrade RAM is crazy too, installing RAM is very easy, well it depends on the type of case, but buying a machine with the lower amount of RAM, say 8gb, then buying 8gb from, say Corsair, will cost about $75, compared to the $240 they charge to go from 8-16. Also, the screen on that AW is not the best, with a lower res and being HD+, for that price I'd expect 1920x1080 with an FHD screen.

One final thing, it seems that the GTX 4xx series of cards has issues with OpenGL and its been said that even the 2xx series cards outperform the 4xx by 3-4 times, thus I've been steering clear from those and looking mainly at the 5xx series, though it's not clear whether or not that series suffers from the same problems and if it's Nvidia throttling them on purpose to force people to buy the Quadro series cards.

Again, AW is overpriced for what you can get with Asus or Sager model laptops, I've been looking at the Sager 8150's and you can get a system with better specs than the AW for 4-500 less, plus their cases have easy access to expansion slots to upgrade RAM.

LITS4FormZ
Jul 12, 11 12:49 pm

Sadly, the larger firms with the capital and resources for these kind of systems prefer to buy  it assembled or lease a new PC which of course carries a premium. I was chatting with our IT guy after I posted that and he quoted me $3500 for a system to meet the recommend Revit specs (with a toned down GPU) while I chip away at this 400,000sq ft facility on my 2.5Ghz dual core w/ 8gb of ram.  

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