Laptops for Computer Science Students
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Laptops for Computer Science Students

A photo of apex123 apex123
Anyone who is currently in a computer science program, what kind of laptop would you recommend?
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31 replies
 
A photo of Bscit Bscit
Im not a computer science student (yet) but you wont really need an expensive computer. I think there will be some courses in uni that involve 3D modelling etc. If you are planning to do that you will need a good computer but if you are just doing programming I think 4gb ram and decent processor (3GHz) should be enough. No need for a fancy Graphics card
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A photo of LindaS LindaS
I not in university but I've been told to get one that's light to carry around and with a good long battery life. You don't really need an expensive computer as long as it has a descent processor. Also, you'll have access to labs when you do need a super computer.
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A photo of broodp4 broodp4
U can buy a Mac or u can buy a equivalent pc and a car!

No, but seriously u won't need a powerful pc. Cuz for programming I couldve used my old pentium 4 to be honest.
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A photo of Bscit Bscit
Dont get a mac.
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A photo of LindaS LindaS
Don't get a mac, especially since your going into compsci. It's almost impossible to program on those things, and there are some editors and software that just doesn't work that well on a mac.
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A photo of SkylarNoeL SkylarNoeL
I'm no expert but I feel as though the moment you pull out that laptop with its shiny Apple logo in a UW CS/SE class a 10m repulsion field will be generated and no one will come within that 10m range of you.

Perhaps if you had enough people with Macs you'd be able to cover enough area so that you could flush everyone out of their seats completely and force them to switch classrooms...
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A photo of ninetyfour ninetyfour
Lol, I don't see why Macs are "almost impossible" to program on, really. I'm most likely getting a Mac, so I guess I'll have to live with the "10m repulsion field" :P
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A photo of SkylarNoeL SkylarNoeL
Lolz I'm mostly teasing, but I'm pretty sure Macs are less practical, and if you run into problems, you're going to have to get used to figuring it out yourself and not having the people around to help you.
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A photo of ninetyfour ninetyfour
Haha that's fine, I don't mind. Besides, I've personally never had trouble with Apple's Customer Service.
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A photo of ktel ktel

@ninetyfour wrote
Haha that's fine, I don't mind. Besides, I've personally never had trouble with Apple's Customer Service.



I don't think Apple's Customer Service is going to be able to help you figure out why your code isn't working.
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A photo of plato plato
In class, having a laptop is more negative than positive. You're likely to check your email, facebook etc. CS is a lot of math, don't expect to do math on your computer until second year when you start using programs like Maple.

Truth be told, you don't need a computer at all, since you have lab access. But who wants to do their homework in a lab?

I have to disagree with the poster stating you can't program on Macs. The Mac OS is built of BSD Unix. The Mac OS includes a compiler for C, C++, Python, Objective C. Windows does not. In terms of windows programming on Macs, just run VMs or things like parallels.

In hacker circles, we say the best OS is the ones that all your friends use.

As a CS or engineering student, you will invariably be required to learn some Unix/Linux.

If you're going to use Windows, download and install Cygwin. Its a Unix shell environment. You best learn how to use a shell ASAP.

The best computer users know which OS to use for what purpose.

I have to echo other poster's comments. Choose something light, with long battery life. Don't use a netbook. Get 13-14" screen, with at least 4-6 hours of solid battery life. As mentioned, you don't need your computer in class. The long battery life lets you find study/work areas that are far away from power outlets. This is handy around exam time when the library turns into a zoo. Also handy to study wherever you want. Like while watching the varsity xyz team practice ;)

You can also put your desktop in your residence, and dock your laptop with the larger monitor.

I recommend Lenovo Thinkpads. Dont buy one from Lenovo unless it's 30% off. If there is no current 30% promotion running. Build a computer online, print off the specifications. Then call Lenovo. Tell them that you missed their last 30% off promotion and that you'll buy a computer today if they give you 30% off. I've done this over a dozen times for friends and family.

What do I use? VMWare VSphere Hypervisor, on a Lenovo Thinkpad X201 Tablet. From there, I can run any OS, including Mac OS. I spent half the time in Windows and half the time in Linux (Debian). I use a separate Mac for all my creative work (iLife, garageband, CS5).
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A photo of ninetyfour ninetyfour

@ktel wrote

@ninetyfour wrote
Haha that's fine, I don't mind. Besides, I've personally never had trouble with Apple's Customer Service.



I don't think Apple's Customer Service is going to be able to help you figure out why your code isn't working.



Misinterpreted the earlier comment :3
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A photo of StellaSparx StellaSparx
I found this post on yahoo answers, thought it was pretty good:

"To eliminate any doubts, MacBook laptops are way overpriced. They do look cool, but you are just paying for the name and the shinny box.
While Mac OS is safer, there are lots of things you will not be able to do with a Mac, as most gaming and other important software is created for PC only. To conclude: Macs are ridiculously expensive for what they offer in terms of hardware specs.
The Alienware line is also overpriced, and basically just nicer looking versions of Dell laptops.

When buying a laptop, your best value comes from Internet sellers such as Newegg, TigerDirect, CompUSA, Micro Center, Geeks.com, etc. Retailers usually charge more and offer less.

To settle the which brand is better dispute, remember that all laptops and parts are Made in China, no matter what their name is.
So in fact the brand (HP, Toshiba, Dell, Sony, Acer, Lenovo, Asus, etc), does not matter all that much. As far as brands go, only the support and info you get both before and after the sale matters. Dell support sucks. HP, Toshiba and Acer have excellent support. Don't know too much about Sony, Asus or Lenovo.
Only the hardware specifications can make a laptop better or worse than other laptops.

Here is what to look for when shopping for a laptop:

Get an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU (Processor). DO NOT GET AMD OR PENTIUM processors.
DO NOT GET Integrated Graphics (on board or from processor) - if it says Intel Graphics or Intel HD Graphics than it's Integrated graphics.
Make sure it has dedicated graphics (a Graphics Card or GPU) of at least 1GB. On a laptop with an Intel processor it should say either GeForce (nVidia) or Radeon (ATI).
For AMD processors and graphics it gets a little confusing, as they have the same name. Look for specs and see that it says dedicated graphics card.
For regular use with some moderate gaming an nVidia GeForce GT 520M or better graphics card would be perfect.
For more demanding gaming or video processing, at least an nVidia GeForce GT 550M or better is recommended.
Look here for a laptop graphics card chart:
http://compreviews.about.com/od/video/a/…
Memory: Get at least 4GB of DDR3 RAM memory, you can go up to 8GB DDR3 RAM but it will cost you a little extra.
While SSD hard drives are best and fastest, they are way too expensive and small in size (64GB to 256GB), thus not recommended for a laptop, where you only have a single hard drive installed.
Get a normal, spin hard drive of at least 500GB (1TB or more is better, but will cost more). Seagate hard drives are the best, the WD Caviar are also OK.
Laptop should have an incorporated Webcam and Microphone on top of the screen (most laptops have them nowadays).
Make sure you have at least 4 USB ports (if one or more are USB 3.0 all the best, but USB 2.0 are OK).
The Firewire (IEEE 1394) and the e-Sata ports are good to have, but not mandatory. Same goes for HDMI or HDMI Mini.
At least a DVD/CD writer drive. A BD (Blue Ray drive) is more expensive and not necessary.
Of course you want WiFi (wireless) and ethernet connection.
Make sure it has at least a 6 cell battery (8 or even 10 cell is better, but will cost more). This will ensure better battery life, both between charges use and overall battery life.
Get the Windows 7 Home Premium operating system. Do not get Windows 7 Starter or Home Basic."

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120205164101AAN5z5c
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A photo of plato plato
Integrated graphics = long battery life
SSD = much faster and longer lived hard drive, but less porn :p
BD = 5x/10x more optical space

No real computer science/eng student pays for software.

Gamers know everything written on that answer.

Sorry, don't mean to be overly critical. Your post will help some people. Just adding some context :)

Despite all laptops being made in China, the engineering is very different. Both the from design perspective and build. Lenovo's titanium LCD hinges seem like a marketing feature until that accident that rips your laptop in half. Same goes with simple things like hard drive placement and fans. Then add things like HP non-standard keyboards.... and one laptop with the exact "under the hood" features as another can behave very differently during use.

Choose what you like. I'm not blindly advocating Lenovo. That's just my preference. But dont think all major brands are created equally. Macs are overpriced. But they are well engineered. Wish Lenovo would adopt their magnetic-held power cord. Knocked my laptop on the floor several times for that. Had an air bagged SSD that let me just curse my friend and keep working ;)
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A photo of StellaSparx StellaSparx

@plato wrote
Integrated graphics = long battery life
SSD = much faster and longer lived hard drive, but less porn :p
BD = 5x/10x more optical space

No real computer science/eng student pays for software.

Sorry, don't mean to be overly critical. Your post will help some people. Just adding some context :)




I didn't write that post, I found it and thought I would share it :P Lol I have no clue when it comes to computer specs/software/programming!

What is the difference between integrated and dedicated and which would you recommend? I'm definitely not a gamer and I use my current laptop for MS and Facebook :P Do you have a specific laptop you would recommend for a future eng student? I'm thinking of Sony VAIO cause they offer a freaking pink laptop!

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A photo of ChronosKey ChronosKey
Saying you 'can't program' on Macs is completely untrue and was probably said by someone who hasn't used a mac for very long. As plato said, Macs are built on Unix. They're quite fine for programming, and it might be helpful if you decide to code an iOS app one day. Also, I've noticed in some of MIT's and Harvard's CS lectures, the prof uses a mac for demonstrations.

As plato said, a lot of people seem to like Lenovo thinkpads, my cousins in CS and Comp Eng both have them, and a few other people I know at UW do too. They just seem like all around good laptops.
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A photo of plato plato
No worries, it's very useful information to a lot of people. So awesome for posting it. Just trying to make it more specific to the OP question and add my two sense, which is not worth much :)

A CPU and Memory are plugged into a "motherboard", which makes processing and memory available to other pieces of hardware. Access to those resources is determined by standards like PCI and USB. These are universal control interfaces, that compromise throughput and power for universality. Integrated graphics means the hardware chips that run graphics are part of the motherboard, and communicate directly with the CPU and memory, without going through the "universal" interfaces and comprimising performance. Ergo, they operate more efficiently and equate to longer battery life :)
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A photo of Serllen Serllen
I personally would get a mac book if I have the money. Mac's iOS user interface just seems to be better and more stylish. Also, as mentioned above, Mac's built-in compilers are quite convenient and being able to use Objective C and write apps for Apple mobile products is just awesome. However... Mac's pricing is just too high...
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A photo of greygoose greygoose
Almost every post in this thread is severely uninformed. High school students, y u no kno wat u talking about?!

Seriously though, for serious CS students, there are two laptops of choice: a macbook, or a lenovo (usually thinkpad). If you are in a real/serious CS program, you WILL be using UNIX, so you'll either want something UNIX-based like the mac, which can easily talk to other UNIX systems, or you'll want to run some flavor of Linux. Lenovos generally have good driver support and are durable, so they tend to be the go-to non-macs.

Usually I see people running OSX on their macbooks, or Ubuntu or Archlinux on their thinkpads. I personally use Ubuntu 10.04 on my laptop (dual booting with Windows XP if I rarely need to use that), and Debian squeeze on my desktop, dual booting with Windows Vista (because XP doesn't have the support for the hardware and I have no reason to upgrade to windows 7). I personally have an old Dell that I want to replace, but I like running Linux too much and I hate thinkpads. I'm considering one of lenovo's shinier models, or perhaps an Asus zenbook.

I also have a jailbroken iPod touch that I use to ssh to all my favorite Linux systems. In fact, I'm typing my response on it right now.
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A photo of SkylarNoeL SkylarNoeL

@greygoose wrote

I also have a jailbroken iPod touch that I use to ssh to all my favorite Linux systems. In fact, I'm typing my response on it right now.



+1
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A photo of apex123 apex123
I didn't get a chance to see the replies in the other thread.

I'm planning on getting the lenovo y470p as it has decent specs.

Any suggestions?
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A photo of greygoose greygoose
^ That's a powerful little pig of a laptop. Beware, as it will probably a) get hot and b) be pretty large/bulky, so it may not be the most portable. But that may not be a huge concern, considering the specs.
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A photo of maattp maattp
Personally I just picked up a 13" MacBook Pro for university. I bought it because of the great battery life and beautiful design, plus I was getting a little sick of the headaches that Windows often causes me. I don't anticipate that programming will be a problem on this thing, as I have already started programming in Java and it's the exact same as on a PC. If you do need Windows for something like Visual Studio, there is always the option to run boot camp. In that case it'll run Windows just as good as anything else. I don't see a problem with picking up a Mac, they're really nice computers.
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A photo of ronery ronery
Should Linux compatibility be a big concern?

I have my eyes set on a few new Asus models coming out this year, but I have no idea how well Linux would run on their hardware.
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A photo of huangfeihon huangfeihon

@apex123 wrote
I didn't get a chance to see the replies in the other thread.

I'm planning on getting the lenovo y470p as it has decent specs.

Any suggestions?



I just ordered Y470p yesterday, did lots of research on it. It is the most bang for the buck laptop with a quad core i7 and a GPU better then GT550m for only $750.

for people worrying about the battery life of dedicated GPUs, laptops nowadays comes with the ability to switch between decicated GPU for more power, or integrated for battery life.

I am going into mechatronics btw, going to need the processing power for CADing and stuff
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