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I am a soon-to-be architecture student in the need of a laptop for college which can support all the programs and tasks that are required.
Minimum requirements for some schools such as TTU are:
I don't have a very high budget however; it's around $500-$700 and I've been looking at some laptops including these:
I know it is a little more in your upper budget but you might want to look at these. http://m.dell.com/mt/www.dell.com/us/p/alienware-14/pd.aspx?mboxDisable=1&oc=dkcwg01h2
I have one myself and few friends as well and we are pretty happy with them. If you want a decent configuration to run cad and 3d softwares, you are looking at least around the $1000 dollar mark. Anything lower than that will not be sufficient to run several heavy memory consuming softwares at once. Unless you are looking into building a Desktop unit yourself. Some acer model could be a good alternative as well if you still want to stick with a laptop. Good luck!
Given your price range, something on the list will have to give. You may be best off with a refurbished or off-lease machine from tigerdirect.com or newegg.com.
If nothing there floats your boat, I'd suggest paying a little bit more. Rather than the alienware, I'd look at The lenovo y410p or y510p, both around $800.