Best MacBook Pro for entry-level Architecture student. (First year) HELP!!!


I am starting my first year in school for Architecture and I am desperate to hear what would be ideal for me to use. I was, at first, looking at the new Airs but soon realized they simply wouldn't suffice. Because of that, I'm already spending a little more than I had originally expected by now going with the 13" retinaMBP base model, 2.4ghz dual core i5, 4g ram,128g flash, and the new Intel Iris Graphics card, obviously. I'm looking at an easy $1,250, student discount included, and any more than that would make a significant difference negatively for me price-wise. 

I've been reading all of the forums I could get my hands on, unfortunately most regarding architecture are from earlier years so retina and SSD don't apply, so none have been too incredibly helpful. 


Like I said, I've read tons of forums and I know a lot more now about the programs I will need to run, besides the fact that I plan to try to get as much experience on actual paper than not, and I would SINCERELY appreciate some of your incredibly, valuably wise minds on technology specifications.

I'm finding that it would be ideal to have, not only a larger screen, but at least 8g of RAM and 256 flash storage, but that makes a significant impact on what I can spend. (Due to rent/bills not mommy's allowance lol) 

I just need to know if the 13" retinaMBP, 2.4 ghz i5, 128g flash storage, 4g RAM will get me through fine and not cause problems, ESPECIALLY COMPUTER PROBLEM/FAILURE, which I've never seen with a Mac but never done this heavy of a work-load on either!

Thank you so much for your time reading this and I GREATLY appreciate ANY advice!! I truly look up to all of you, Architect or Techy, and sincerely anticipate your responses!!


Jun 11, 14 12:22 am


Jun 11, 14 2:30 am
boy in a well


my hp rep say they have a stock 17.3 touch screen notebook with like 16 gb ram, i7, 2 tb hardrive, GeForce 7500 or some shit for around 1500...but if you want that mac  . . .

Jun 11, 14 3:10 am


Jun 11, 14 4:39 am

honestly, dual core and 4 gb ram was slow even 8 years ago.  I had a 3.2 dual core and 8gb ram and wanted to take a sledge hammer to it during render time.  You need a machine that can keep up with your thoughts.  Not keep you sitting idle for half a day when its rendering one image or takes a few seconds to process every mouse scroll/translate or file save when working with large files during modeling.  I learnt the hard way and my work was always far below what I was capable of or planned to get done. 

Jun 11, 14 6:22 am
Dude, you're gettin a dell.
Jun 11, 14 7:06 am
Non Sequitur

but, let's not forget the intangibles here... you can't put a price on fashion.

codykoern, wait until after 1st year to invest real money into a PC. Spend a few dollars on a good 2mm mechanical pencil first. Also... drop the mac vs PC bias. a well built PC will outrun a mac any day at half the price.

Jun 11, 14 8:04 am

It would be foolish to:

a) buy a computer for first year

b) buy a mac at all


85% of the programs you will use run on Windows. Adobe also runs on Windows, not just Mac, so there is no downside to buying a Windows machine. 

I just found an HP Envy with an Intel i7, 16gb RAM, 320GB SSD, and an AMD R9 mobile GPU for only $800 on Buying that same hardware in a Mac would be $2400+

Any school you go to is going to have a good computer lab. These machines will be desktops, they will be fast, updated regularly, and maintained well. There is very little reason to use your own machine when you can put yourself in an environment with better equipment and the chance for interaction and idea exchange with other, older, smarter, wiser students and professors. 

Jun 11, 14 9:45 am

Students with no income can afford MBPs, graduates cannot. Hmm

Jun 11, 14 10:51 am

I have to agree with pretty much everyone else in this thread; don't get a mac. However, if you ARE really so set on getting a mac, just understand that you need to be prepared to spend money. My experience is that by the end of the 4-5 years of architecture school, over 80% of students are using a different computer than the one they bought when they started due to computers simply not being powerful enough when they bought them first year. My university (which is not particularly computer oriented) has a laptop spec sheet for architecture and what you are considering is not even minimum specs for a 2-3 year laptop. Be prepared to replace your underpowered mac in about a year and a half or be prepared to spend the money now so you wont have to later.

Jun 11, 14 10:55 am

I'll throw in my experiences - I purchased a MacBook Pro when I entered school. It went kaput four years later and I bought another one (I still had another year to go) and I installed Windows on it. To be honest, it really isn't worth the cost, your money is better spent on something else. That being said, I'm a bit snobby so I would (and will) buy one again.

Jun 11, 14 11:51 am

I bought my Macbook Pro (Santa Rosa build) my 2nd yr in grad school, it worked great for the duration (3 more yrs) - I used it mainly for light CAD work and graphics, using the school computers for higher end computing needs.  It still works great for day-to-day computing needs (10 yrs later), not sure any of my peers with a PC can say the same.  You do pay a premium and you'll have to way that out.  My suggestion is to maximize the school's resources so you don't have to shell out for top of the line.

Jun 11, 14 12:15 pm
the orange menace

Honestly, if you don't want to enter into the Apple vs PC debate I don't know why you're even asking - buy the best MacBook Pro you can afford. That seems obvious. FWIW I would go for power and speed over screen size, because you could always get an additional monitor later. Solid state drive, 16gb of RAM, and a copy of windows installed on a bootcamp drive. You'll have a really expensive PC emulator.

4gb of RAM on a mac is essential useless. You won't be able to run Safari and iTunes at the same time without wanting to toss the thing out a window

Jun 11, 14 1:43 pm
the orange menace

Oh, and to echo comments made here by a few others - this computer will almost certainly not make it to graduation with you. Unless you're in grad school? Then you might be ok.

Jun 11, 14 1:46 pm

You will need a computer in first year, no question.

I graduated last year, and managed fine with macs... No crashes or failures at all, unlike my pc buddies.

Also, I only ran bootcamp very rarely for specialist software. It is entirely possible to stay in the osx ecosystem.

Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign, Autocad, Sketchup, Rhino*, Archicad, Vectorworks all run natively on mac. 

*Rhino is in beta, but perfectly usable, and free!

3dstudio max is not available on osx. Cinema 4d is a fantastic alternative.

For the first 3.5 years of my degree, I ran a base model 13inch dual core system with 4gb ram.

For the last 1.5 years I had a 15inch rmbp, with pretty high specs.

You will likely not last the whole course on your first machine.

An alternative would be the relatively good bang for buck imacs... You lose some portability, but gain a more workable screen size etc.

So, despite others feedback, if you are keen on the mac dealio- you can do it no worries.

Jun 12, 14 3:28 am
Non Sequitur

Watch this.... a dozen comments against and one for. Just what the op was looking for, one comment to confirm his bias.

... and I bought a $3,000 MacPro when I entered grad school 8 years ago. It's not worth the extra cash for the fashion statement.

Jun 12, 14 8:05 am

I got some good advice when I started school. I took the budget I had set aside for a Mac, subtracted $200 for a decent monitor and bought a PC laptop. 12 months later I bought a high performance desktop PC and another monitor to keep at home.

Total cost for the two machines was < $2500. 

I did the lightweight stuff on the laptop and outsourced the rest (rendering, intense computation etc) to my machine at home through a VNC.

I ran laps around my classmates with Macbooks and laughed while helping them install windows.


Jun 12, 14 12:24 pm

Build a good desktop pc for school, you'll be happier. I wish that i had done that instead of buying a macbook pro. If you absolutely must give apple some money, buy an ipad to carry around with you. 

Jun 12, 14 2:03 pm

Apple these days seems very uninterested in the design/productivity computer user.  They are focused mainly on smartphones and tablets.   Their desktop OS and apps need serious improvements and instead only get bizarre tweaks like getting rid of "save as" in favor of "duplicate".  The service and repair experience is dreadful unless you love standing around in dirty and crowded Apple stores.  Don't waste your money on Apple. 

Jun 17, 14 9:30 am

Cody, The advice given here is pretty spot on really. I own both a desktop PC and a 13" MBP and unless you really want the portability of a laptop I would recommend a desktop PC for architecture school.

In my experience with both machines the 13" display of the MBP is far too small and makes using some architectural software somewhat difficult. It is easy to add a second monitor but it does feel a rather cumbersome setup. 

Running windows on a mac isn't a particularly good experience either, but a somewhat unnecessary one now as most software is available on both systems( ie autocad, sketchup, vray etc) . If you do find that the programs you will want to use are windows only ( or your school predominantly uses PC), then my advice would be to get a PC. For the same money you will get a much better system and the option to upgrade (more easily /cheaper) if needed at a later date.

Since windows 64bit became rather mainstream the difference in performance between apple and windows isn't really noticeable.

If you decide that you prefer the apple OS or the allure of the shiny aluminium body becomes too much  then i would advice you to consider the 15" or 17" model and upgrade the RAM or get an iMac.

Jun 17, 14 10:33 am

I forgot to mention what a nightmare it is to do design work on the MBP's 13" "glossy" screen that we are stuck with because Apple's new core market of housewives and tweens won't buy a 17" laptop.  The only good thing about my current Macs is that they they connect very well to wireless networks when I travel and the ability to screen grab images via keyboard shortcut is super-useful. 

Jun 17, 14 10:50 am
I support the previous comments about the Desktop PC. If you want to be able to do all the thing architecture school requires, you need a powerful computer. I have had three MBPs in my 7 years of school and have always had to use our schools computer on GIS, large illustrator files, CAD, and Revit. I know how it feels to hate the bulk of Windows laptops. If you hate it so much, I suggest looking for someone who dropped out, buy their brand new Mac for cheaper and then get a Desktop, it will be worth it. A few of my friends have built desktops for SUPER cheap ... Under $800. Think about it.
Jun 17, 14 11:18 am

Desktop PC can be great for upgradability meaning you will not have to buy one twice and spec tends to come at a reasonable price. PC laptops are great for portability if needed and are a decent price to spec. An underpowered Mac will mean you having to shell out at least twice. So, whatever you do get the best spec you can now. A decent spec will buy you free time and ultimately as has been said enable you to do the full job in a project. A low spec would be like going in with a blunt pencil. In any case most Architect practices, particularly the large ones use PC often entirely so might as well get used to it now as a student.

Jun 17, 14 1:23 pm

the only reason you'd be afraid to own a PC is if you browse archiPRON... (purposely censored the word for this forum)... you'd be virus free otherwise...

Jun 17, 14 1:36 pm

Today, my MBP now refuses to boot windows in Boot Camp.  Don't ever buy a Mac laptop if you actually need to do work.

Jun 20, 14 10:14 am

I had a Macbook Pro 15" for my whole 4 year undergrad and it was solid, I don't regret it really. I started dual booting into Windows for my last two semesters, mainly because I wanted to use Grasshopper and V-Ray for Rhino. Other kids who didn't use Grasshopper and rendered Rhino models with Artlantis or exported from Rhino into Sketchup to render got around having to dual boot.

And then some other kids who had Macs mainly used Sketchup as their 3d models. And then of course, if you want to use Revit and you have a Mac you probably would have to use a school PC. You could try dual booting it if you needed it for a project/wanted to learn Revit to get jobs but I don't know how well that works out.

Basically, I am saying that as far as I can tell for a 4 year architecture undergrad you can definitely do well with a Macbook Pro. Really the only make or break factor is running Revit...which is not necessary for school work in my opinion, but definitely gives you an advantage for professional work. Maybe. 

Also, I'm gonna buy a PC for grad school in the Fall, mainly because it supports my desired workflow. 

Also, make sure you have at least 8GB of RAM, otherwise you'll probably smash your MBP out of frustration.

Jun 20, 14 11:05 am

arifj... you just answered my questions on the matter, thank you. revit = pc. ill be buying something tomorrow!

Aug 7, 14 1:10 am

Can I crack software in MBP or I have to subscribe them ( monthly or annually)

May 2, 17 6:07 am
Non Sequitur


May 2, 17 7:39 am

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