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College Programming Computer


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#1 Chad Smith   Members   -  Reputation: 1250

Posted 02 July 2012 - 05:49 PM

So I am looking for some advice on a computer that will be used for college. I will be studying Computer Science. The computer will be used for every day use like all the usual email, surfing web, watching videos, etc. Though it will also be my primary computer to do my programming on; programming class projects and personal projects.

I have been thinking of what exactly I want and I have come to two options. A pretty nice desktop with some good specs as my primary development computer plus also getting a cheap bottom of the line laptop to take with me to class. Though the second option would be to get a pretty high spec laptop to take to class but also get a monitor to dock the laptop too while I am in my apartment working on my projects. The docking monitor would be able to give me the screen estate needed for programming and having some quick reference material up.

To help with the advice I may get, I am interested in different aspects of programming. While I will be working on game development and will be working on a personal game projects I also am interested in regular software programming.

Any advice is welcome. Should I get a cheap laptop and a dedicated desktop? Should I just get a "high spec" laptop and an external monitor to dock it too? Which specs should I be looking into for any of these? Suggestions? I'll take any advice.

My budget is around $1500.

Thanks to all suggestions and advice!

Edited by Chad Smith, 02 July 2012 - 05:49 PM.


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#2 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 02 July 2012 - 11:22 PM

I'd get a middle of the road laptop. A good number of games are playable on middle of the road machines these days, and for college portability>almost everything else. As nice as having a desktop can be, college is one scenario where I would recommend it least. It's just so nice having all of your work for all of your classes with you all of the time. Not to mention it doesn't keep you tied to home if you have time between classes and want to work on/play something.

#3 alnite   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2515

Posted 03 July 2012 - 06:46 AM

You don't need top of the line hardware for programming.

You can get some decent laptops for $1500. The new Macbook Pro is $2200, and that has a REALLY good spec. The 13-inch Macbook Air is $1200 and has a decent spec.

Obviously, you'd also use this for gaming even though you didn't specify it. If you really want the 60fps 1080p with maxed settings of the most recent games, then certainly you'd need a desktop.

Edited by alnite, 03 July 2012 - 06:47 AM.


#4 NGB_82   Members   -  Reputation: 142

Posted 03 July 2012 - 01:03 PM

Get a laptop.

In my opinion you should avoid getting a mac. From what I've seen they are about $500+ more expensive than a comparable PC. If you plan on getting into any high-performance computing try getting something with an i5 tier processor. If you want to use it for graphics programming or gaming I would also suggest getting a laptop with a dedicated video card. If you want to do any gpu-tessellation stuff one with shader model 5 compatibility (more expensive).

I would say ~$1,000 is a good price range to shoot for.

ex.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834152349

#5 AdrianC   Members   -  Reputation: 602

Posted 03 July 2012 - 01:28 PM

I went for the second option, laptop + monitor at home and I don't regret it. I was worried it would become a pain, but it's actually worked great. Just place the laptop on my desk, plug in the HDMI and usb for my keyboard and mouse and I'm good to go. My monitor even has an aux out so I can plug in my speakers straight in there. Plus, I can easily take the laptop with me wherever I want.The whole set up cost me around $1200. $900 for an i5 with 4gb ram and an Nvidia dedicated video card, and around $300 for the monitor.I can pretty much run anything I want on it, maybe not on max settings, but mid to high.

#6 The_Neverending_Loop   Members   -  Reputation: 635

Posted 03 July 2012 - 02:13 PM

+1 for the new mac book pro with retina display. If you are going to be developing on your laptop on the go and what not, you should atleast try to get a laptop with HD display, very few windows laptops have this but you can try the new Zenbooks.

Another thing is go with an ultra book, carryinga big bulky laptop with a small battery life will defintly take its toll on you. Try to get something light weight, with a good battery life and good resolution (<= 900 verticle pixels is way to small for my taste).


[Edit] Im a windows user 100% but I have to admit that apple really did their thing with the new mac book pro retina, I would honestly buy that laptop, install parrallels on it with a full install of windows 7 so i can still develop on windows, and with the specs of that machine it would easily handle both OS's

Edited by The_Neverending_Loop, 03 July 2012 - 02:15 PM.


#7 KymikoLoco   Members   -  Reputation: 195

Posted 03 July 2012 - 03:26 PM

+1 for the new mac book pro with retina display


His budget is $1500, the new macbook is $700 more than he needs. I agree that he can dual-boot, but for the price range, it is (to me) a terrible choice. You can even dual-boot a Mac OS on a custom built PC, http://tipsotto.blogspot.com/p/dual-boot-mac-os-x-windows-7.html.
The only redeeming quality I can think of would be the ability to program for iOS.

I like the OS, and I can understand the higher price on a 'prettier' product, but if you want it to program for many disciplines, a Windows (or Linux) laptop is a good choice.

#8 The_Neverending_Loop   Members   -  Reputation: 635

Posted 03 July 2012 - 03:59 PM


+1 for the new mac book pro with retina display


His budget is $1500, the new macbook is $700 more than he needs. I agree that he can dual-boot, but for the price range, it is (to me) a terrible choice. You can even dual-boot a Mac OS on a custom built PC, http://tipsotto.blog...-windows-7.html.
The only redeeming quality I can think of would be the ability to program for iOS.

I like the OS, and I can understand the higher price on a 'prettier' product, but if you want it to program for many disciplines, a Windows (or Linux) laptop is a good choice.


Thats why I also suggested the new HD Zenbooks since they go to 1080P. But he can actually get the new MacBook Pro Retina for 2k with education pricing, and hoenstly I have searched long and wide for a comparable windows machine and nothing I've seen gives me everything I would like myself other than the retina (Im in the market for a laptop myself).
  • It has a solid state drive, which is great for laptops since you dont have to worry about the disk jumping and it boots up faster, and if your on the go these two things alone are worth their weight in gold.
  • It is small in size and weight for being a 15inch screen, I travel alot with my old laptop and it was around 5lbs and 13 inches needless to say this takes its toll on you.
  • It has 8 gigs of ram standard, 4gigs now aday is like the bare minimum so that it has 4 extra gigs is another ++
  • Quad core ivy bridge processor, even tho I havent used it yet I've heard alot of great things from it.
  • 7 hour battery life, so you dont have to constantly be plugged in.
  • Great graphics card on a laptop.
  • New design makes this laptop alot quieter so if hes pulling late night sessions he/roomates/classmates dont have to hear an annoying whirring sound.

I'm by no means an Apple user, but honestly with all those features that laptop is a deal at 2k.

But again if thats pushing the envelope too much go with one of the new HD Zenbooks, the only other laptops that I can think of that go to true HD display and are small are some of the sony viaos, but those will set you back almost 3k.

#9 Sirisian   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1915

Posted 03 July 2012 - 04:41 PM

I'd just pick up a Clevo laptop if I were you. It falls into your price range. You can check out a Clevo reseller online like Malibal, Sager, or XoticPC among others. They have 15" and 17" versions of the newest ones. Very powerful hardware and solid warranties.

#10 Chad Smith   Members   -  Reputation: 1250

Posted 03 July 2012 - 10:37 PM

Thanks everyone for the replies. I was at first looking at the new Macbook Pro Retina Display. While I do agree it is up their in price I also did quite a bit of searing and just nothing really struck me as being a much better deal. I've always been a huge fan of most of Apples computers and while I do agree they are pricey I can actually deal with that most of the time. I fully believe you get what you pay for and I can buy Apple and be fine with it. I've had nothing but absolutely great experiences with Apple products and the Apple store (replacing my iPhone 4 FOR FREE when it was out of warranty and no Apple Care, right there on the stop no questions asked!?). Though 2k is just pushing my college budget too much at this time I believe. I did look at a 13" too. I am a fan of OSX (though also a fan of Windows 7) and would not mind learning iOS development down the road but that isn't top priority for me which is why I am not stuck on getting a Mac Book.

I will be looking at the Zenbooks. Thanks for the suggestions.

EDIT: I do like the laptop Nick gave a link too.

I love ultrabooks but honestly how heavy something might be doesn't really bother me. Mostly because the University I will be attending has their own campus/building off the main campus that they use for all their Computer Science needs. Almost all my time and classes will be spent on that campus with me only being on the main campus for a semester or two for a couple classes. So walking from building to building doesn't really bother me. Though I sure do love the looks of most ultra books. lol.

Edited by Chad Smith, 03 July 2012 - 11:38 PM.


#11 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 04 July 2012 - 10:36 AM

It has a solid state drive, which is great for laptops since you dont have to worry about the disk jumping and it boots up faster, and if your on the go these two things alone are worth their weight in gold.

  • It is small in size and weight for being a 15inch screen, I travel alot with my old laptop and it was around 5lbs and 13 inches needless to say this takes its toll on you.
  • It has 8 gigs of ram standard, 4gigs now aday is like the bare minimum so that it has 4 extra gigs is another ++
  • Quad core ivy bridge processor, even tho I havent used it yet I've heard alot of great things from it.
  • 7 hour battery life, so you dont have to constantly be plugged in.
  • Great graphics card on a laptop.
  • New design makes this laptop alot quieter so if hes pulling late night sessions he/roomates/classmates dont have to hear an annoying whirring sound.

The first 5 are pretty standard affair if you're getting a new laptop. The last one is give and take, but honestly all the major manufacturers have sweet laptops right now. A lot of the Windows 8 laptops coming this year are pretty good looking too. iirc the thinkpads were pretty sweet. Alienware laptops, which are notoriously overpriced, even come in at cheaper than Apple's new macbook.

A solid comparison would probably be the Lenovo Thinkpads/ideapads. They have a pretty solid range of laptops.

edit: to compare the samsung series 9 is $1000 cheaper, and the only major difference is the screen. this is more to compete with the air after looking more.

double edit: and this guy is $300 cheaper and has it beat almost across the board.

Edited by way2lazy2care, 04 July 2012 - 10:55 AM.


#12 Promit   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9594

Posted 04 July 2012 - 10:53 AM

I think for most people in college, a desktop gains precious little mileage. I was always intent on having a desktop, and only acquired a laptop quite late into my school career. I don't regret that course of action at all, but I also dislike working in computer labs, libraries, etc. Nowadays, my favorite configuration is an ultrabook plus a desktop, but that's not a cheap route. A single good laptop might be a better choice.

That said, be careful about what specs you use to pick the computer. RAM and SSD are going to matter much more than the processor. You'll also want something relatively lightweight and with long battery life. In other words, don't buy one of the desktop replacement notebooks. It's also important to get something that is built solidly, because it's probably going to be dragged all over the place. I'm wary of polycarb shells for that reason; obviously the Macbook Pro scores extremely well on all of these fronts, but you pay dearly for it.

#13 The_Neverending_Loop   Members   -  Reputation: 635

Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:35 AM

solid comparison would probably be the Lenovo Thinkpads/ideapads. They have a pretty solid range of laptops.

edit: to compare the samsung series 9 is $1000 cheaper, and the only major difference is the screen. this is more to compete with the air after looking more.

double edit: and this guy is $300 cheaper and has it beat almost across the board.


that guy is 9 lbs and 17inches big, That's not even a laptop its a mobile desktop. It even says it in its category ( it beats it in one category memory)

Category Desktop replacement


The retina has a display of 1800 verticle pixels so theres nothing in the market that can compare with it real estate wise. The battery life upon research is also only a few minutes above 3 hours. He would have to be constantly plugged in, and there isnt always a power jack available in college especially in a lecture hall. Honestly for 200$ cheaper this would be a bad investment in my opinion. Unless of course he was just going to leave that in his Dorm room the whole time, in which case he might as well buy a desktop thats even stronger for close to half that price.

9 Lbs is far to heavy to be carrying on anyones back, and a 17 inch display means he cant just pop it in his book bag, he would have to carry an extra bullky carrying case which would get really annoying after a while (I travel ALOT with my laptop and 5 lbs is honestly taking its toll on me).

laptops do have alot of those configurations, but one laptop with all of them is HARD (havent seen it yet) to come by.


RAM and SSD are going to matter much more than the processor. You'll also want something relatively lightweight and with long battery life. In other words, don't buy one of the desktop replacement notebooks.

Ditto, one of the biggest mistakes I've made while younger was looking to get a "desktop replacement" laptop but now I know what are the things I value most about purchasing a new laptop.

Edited by The_Neverending_Loop, 04 July 2012 - 11:36 AM.


#14 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 04 July 2012 - 12:34 PM

that guy is 9 lbs and 17inches big, That's not even a laptop its a mobile desktop. It even says it in its category ( it beats it in one category memory)

The point was that that's the most expensive alienware laptop and it's $300 cheaper. You can get the smaller ones, which will still perform as well, and save $500+ too. I wouldn't buy the alienware. It was just an example of a brand that's overpriced's most expensive option being cheaper than Apple's offering.

The battery life upon research is also only a few minutes above 3 hours. He would have to be constantly plugged in, and there isnt always a power jack available in college especially in a lecture hall.


Maybe a couple years ago. Almost all of my classes had outlets for every seat in the classroom. Battery life is more important to me now than it was in university by far. My university was forward thinking in that regard though.

9 Lbs is far to heavy to be carrying on anyones back, and a 17 inch display means he cant just pop it in his book bag, he would have to carry an extra bullky carrying case which would get really annoying after a while (I travel ALOT with my laptop and 5 lbs is honestly taking its toll on me).

That's like the weight of a single text book.

laptops do have alot of those configurations, but one laptop with all of them is HARD (havent seen it yet) to come by.

the point is whether or not the differences are worth close to the price of an entire extra laptop.

http://reviews.cnet.com/laptop-reviews/?filter=1101502_126029_&tag=columnSpan.0#maxPrice=2119&filter=1101502_9614452_1101502_126029_500035_128072_500035_128317&sort=edRating7%20desc

There are literally hundreds of options for nearly half the price that will suit you just as well. In many cases even better.

#15 tstrimple   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 1752

Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:25 PM

The retina has a display of 1800 verticle pixels so theres nothing in the market that can compare with it real estate wise.


This is misleading. The maximum desktop resolution is 1920x1200 and the default is set to 1440x900. There are plenty of 1080p laptops out there at 15.4" or larger.

The battery life upon research is also only a few minutes above 3 hours.

I've got a Macbook Pro Retina on my lap as I type this. The 7 hour figure is under optimal circumstances. Right now I have been on here for about an hour, and the battery bar say I have just under two hours left. Sure, if I wanted to drop my backlight to almost nothing, and not run any applications which use the CPU or GPU I could get close to what they claim, but that's hardly real-world usage.

9 Lbs is far to heavy to be carrying on anyones back, and a 17 inch display means he cant just pop it in his book bag, he would have to carry an extra bullky carrying case which would get really annoying after a while (I travel ALOT with my laptop and 5 lbs is honestly taking its toll on me).


AGREED! There are some 15.4" laptops with reasonable weight, but I commute daily on my motorcycle and back pressure was one of the reasons I went ahead and paid extra for a MBP. Don't get me wrong, I love my MBP, but if I was on a budget, it would definitely not be my first choice. While it has an insane max resolution, it doesn't come into play that often and to be honest I'm not blown away by the screen like everyone else seems to be. I had a clevo from xoticpc which had a fantastic 1080p screen which is definitely in the same category as the retina as far as impressive screens go.

For a budget of $1,500, there is no bang for your buck like a Clevo. Take a look at the 9150 or 9130 which you can configure to have the same CPU, same hard drive and 16GB of ram for just over $1,300. If you just want the same power as the MBP, you can have them for over $1000 less and still have a top-notch screen. Plus you still get a dvd drive ;)

http://www.xoticpc.c...em1-p-4340.html

Edit: The other thing to keep in mind here is there is no upgrading your MBP after purchase. Want a bigger hard drive? More ram? Too bad. These are trivial upgrades in most PC laptops and can mean a significant savings up front and allow you to upgrade to things like 512GB SSDs when they become more reasonably priced. I actually always purchase PC laptops without an SSD and buy and install my own to save $. The other interesting thing about the Clevo 9150 is that you can also upgrade the GPU which very few laptops will lets you do. Just some more things to keep in mind.

Edited by tstrimple, 04 July 2012 - 02:45 PM.


#16 cowsarenotevil   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2247

Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:09 PM


The retina has a display of 1800 verticle pixels so theres nothing in the market that can compare with it real estate wise.


This is misleading. The maximum desktop resolution is 1920x1200 and the default is set to 1440x900. There are plenty of 1080p laptops out there at 15.4" or larger.


Wait, what?
-~-The Cow of Darkness-~-

#17 Sirisian   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1915

Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:32 PM

Maybe I wasn't clear. Whatever you build compare it to a clevo configuration using those links. Chances are you can build a cheaper and more powerful laptop.
Use these to compare cpus and gpus. The numbers of cards don't correspond to power.
http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php
http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/gpu_list.php


#18 tstrimple   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 1752

Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:49 PM



The retina has a display of 1800 verticle pixels so theres nothing in the market that can compare with it real estate wise.


This is misleading. The maximum desktop resolution is 1920x1200 and the default is set to 1440x900. There are plenty of 1080p laptops out there at 15.4" or larger.


Wait, what?


http://www.macrumors.com/2012/06/21/running-the-retina-macbook-pro-at-full-2880x1800-resolution/

While Apple's new Retina MacBook Pro includes a display measuring 2880x1800 pixels, the default display options do not allow users to run their systems at that raw resolution. Instead, the extra pixels are used to display a higher level of detail on a canvas representing the previous 1440x900 resolution. As a result, windows and user interface elements appear to be the same relative size as on a 1440x900 15" display, but with four times the detail.



#19 tstrimple   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 1752

Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:58 PM

Here is a screenshot of the entire display when using the "retina" resolution. It fits a single post on the screen at a time. So much for all that extra screen real-estate.

Posted Image

Edited by tstrimple, 04 July 2012 - 03:58 PM.


#20 tstrimple   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 1752

Posted 04 July 2012 - 04:15 PM

Sublime Text at recommended resolution:
Posted Image

Sublime Text at "maximum" resolution:
Posted Image




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