Future Engineering Student Thinking of Switching
I have been accepted into Mechanical Engineering for the fall of 2011 and I am starting to look into laptops. I have used Windows all my life, except for some iBook G4s at my public school. A few people I know have Macbooks and Macbook Pros and I really do like the design. I expect that I will be running some CAD software, which would have to be done in Windows via BootCamp. I like the portability of the 13" (I would use an external monitor with it at my desk), but I don't like that they are underpowered in comparison to the 15" (dual vs quad core).
I have a few questions:
1) Is a Mac a good choice for an engineering student given that there are some programs that are only available for Windows?
2) Would you recommend a 13" (high end model) or 15"?
3) Anything else that I should be aware of?
Thank you for your help.
1) Well, you kind of answered your own question there. If you can't use the software you need to on a Mac, then it's probably not the best choice for you... unless you use Boot Camp, which it sounds like you're willing to do. I would say it's great to have the option to have Windows for the one or two things you need it for, and great to be able to do your other computing on OS X. Best of both worlds.
2) I would say the 13" MBP is really just a slightly upgraded Macbook. Go for the 15" if you want "pro" performance.
3) Broad question, but come back with some more specific ones and you're sure to get a lot of advice and feedback.
My father was a civil engineer (actually he wasn't all that civil now I come to think of it!), but he found that Parallels (in his case, VMWare Fusion or VirtualBox might have also done the job) let him run whatever Windows programs he needed for work -- even Citrix (this was before there was a Mac client for that) so he could log into the work PC -- did the job for him.
Mechanical engineering is a different discipline, but the growing number of CAD programs and the favour they are finding on Macs bodes well for the future. I would say you can safely go with a Mac if its what you prefer, because it can run Windows when you need it.
But professionally and realistically speaking, you're going to be using Windows most of the time where you work, so you may want to consider than when purchasing.
The answers to these questions may make a big difference in your final choice.
Randy B. Singer
Co-author of The Macintosh Bible (4th, 5th, and 6th editions)
Macintosh OS X Routine Maintenance
OS X Maintenance And Troubleshooting
There is also a Mac version of AutoCad that will be available to you at a very substantial discount. For that matter there is an AutocCad APP for the iPad which has some (limited) editing and file management capabilities.
I've been an engineer (and engineering div mgr) for many years. I wouldn't worry about the Mac's capability to handle your current needs. Four to six years from now when you enter the workforce you would probably be looking to upgrade and can make that decision based on the package your employer is running, and your own needs for portable computing power.
In our case, if one of my engineers needs that capability the software and laptop are provided. But, may be different in your case.
cwillie - Remember that if you use Boot Camp (or any of the alternatives) you'll still need to purchase a copy of Windows so you need to factor that in to your costs.
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