Avatar image for ohagan
Posted by OHagan (774 posts) 2 years, 10 months ago

Poll: Computer Science Student Macbook or Desktop PC? (50 votes)

Macbook Pro 48%
Desktop PC 52%

What's up GB community, I know your probably tired of my queries about Macbooks, laptops and PC's for a soon to be Computer Science student but I promise that this is the last time I'll bother the community about the subject. Probably.

The deal is that I'm planning on studying Computer Science at university and am in dire need of a new PC or laptop. My preference upon a bit of research is to get a Macbook Pro, it would also be the easiest to transport when I need to return home during holidays. I'm not looking to game on the system purely program, work and do a bit of hobbyist development on the side but I just want to check that a high spec Macbook Pro is more than capable of lasting me the 4-5 years of my degree and that I will not need a PC over the course of my degree. The last thing I want to do is purchase a Macbook and then in a couple of years time discover that I need to invest in a PC, so will a Macbook be capable of being a system to work and program on over the course of my degree.

Avatar image for datarez
#1 Posted by datarez (853 posts) -

13" Retina Macbook Pro is the bee's knees right now. I wish I had the $ to upgrade from my 2010 15" MBP. I'd say the laptop over the desktop in college all the way. The MBP also probably has all the horsepower you'd need.

Avatar image for afabs515
#3 Posted by afabs515 (1737 posts) -

I am a CS Junior and have a PC. Get a Mac.

Avatar image for manekineko
#4 Edited by Manekineko (24 posts) -

I study computational linguistics and computer science and can wholeheartedly recommend a Macbook Pro.

What do I use it for:

  1. Professional
    1. Writing applications in Perl, Python, Prolog, C, C++, Java.
    2. Team projects (collaborative work) on all kinds of different levels
    3. For computational linguistic tasks I deal with huge amounts of data. I would really recommend 8GB of ram or even upgrade to 16GB. Though 8GB is usally enough for most off the stuff I do now.
    4. Also I am dabbling in web development with micro frameworks for python and all general CSS, HTML and javascript stuff that comes with it.
  2. Fun
    1. Believe it or not, I use it for gaming when I am longer away from my desktop. (I used to take my desktop back home; now I just take my Macbook) I can play games like League of Legends and Diablo 3 without any problems on MacOS itself. And I only have an older model with Intel HD 4000 onboard graphics. You can always dualboot into Windows for even more games. I slowly drifted away from Windows though and only run a virtual machine instance when I really need it (which did not happen for months at this point). My goal was also not to game on it but it lends it really well for it, even if you don't go full bore with a version that has a dedicated graphics card in it.

Why do I recommend it:

  1. It is a UNIX system. Basically this means everything that is out there for Linux is also there for MacOS.
    1. Package managers like Hombrew make installing software a breeze. It is easy enough to actually use the software that your are being introduced to in your studies.
    2. If there is ever a specific problem with a package/program for such an unified system as the Macbooks under MacOS provide, you can bet that it will get fixed and fast.
    3. Everything at my university is geared towards Linux. Using Windows would be suicide, because you would be on your own and would always have to look for alternatives.
    4. Despite popular believe you have very good access to fiddle around with edge case packages or setting up your own configurations for certain programs.

  2. The GUI/appearance of MacOS is geared towards a very general audience. This is good because stuff is very easy to use. And you do not lose the ability to make your own adjustments either. (Sidenote: I only work with my keyboard. No trackpad or mouse. Everything I do is in a terminal session and the best editor in the world VIM :3. Though the track pad is one of the best on any Laptops I have ever used.)
  3. It is almost every second day that I have to deal with someones originally windows laptop that had Linux installed on it. Even popular companies like Lenovo have several driver problems on certain models for the most basic stuff like WiFi. And by problems I mean it does not work right out of the gate. I have better things to do then always doubt my system when stuff stops working. I would rather have the knowledge that it is something I did. This does not mean that there are no good laptops for Linux out there. They are just sometimes hard to find.
  4. It looks nice. The Retina displays look really good. And the aluminium design is also very good in my opinion. It is way more fun to work with then my old black lenovo brick of a laptop for certain.
  5. Over the 2.5 years of using my current macbook I have found nothing that I could not handle with it. It is still fast as hell.
  6. I go by bike everyday; around 50 minutes. Nothing bad has happened to the Macbook due to it being shaken around for over 2 years :D

Hardware recommendations:

  • At least 8GB RAM
  • Get a SSD; it is ridiculously fast
  • Faster is always better :3 Though all of the i5's in the current models are good.
  • I found that I really don't need dedicated graphics

If you have any more questions just ask. (I am on GMT+1 so a answer could take a day)

Avatar image for audiobusting
#5 Posted by audioBusting (2519 posts) -

You might want a desktop eventually, but a MacBook is the more versatile option. You'll at least want that portability as a student.

Avatar image for immunity
#6 Posted by Immunity (150 posts) -

Speaking as a computer science student, you want the MacBook. Or at the very least a laptop of some kind. You'll want it in class, but more importantly you'll want it for group projects. Meeting up with your group on campus and not having a computer in front of you is going to be a problem.

Personally I have a MacBook Pro and a desktop that I use mostly for gaming. The only big problem I ran into was having to install windows using bootcamp so I could use Visual Studio for one of my classes.

Avatar image for keyvin
#7 Posted by keyvin (40 posts) -

It really depends on what your department uses for programming. I was a poor so I bought a really old IBM thinkpad and ran Linux on it. I got away with it because all the department work was done on a Linux based cluster. If your math classes use a CAS you want to make sure it will run on your computer. You should contact your faculty freshman advisor and ask what kind of computer would serve you best. It might be a $500 ultrabook would serve you better that a macbook or a desktop.

Avatar image for guppy507
#8 Posted by guppy507 (47 posts) -

@manekineko said:

  1. best editor in the world VIM :3.

I was with you until you said this. Now I want to say desktop (even though it's wrong) just to spite you lol.

(get a Macbook TC, for all the reasons this guy posted)

(also Coda is only on Mac, if you end up doing web development)

Avatar image for keyvin
#9 Posted by keyvin (40 posts) -
Avatar image for guppy507
#10 Posted by guppy507 (47 posts) -

@keyvin said:


One word: Emacs.

Oh god no.

You people and your esoteric text editors. Be sane and use Sublime or Coda!

Avatar image for irrelevantjohn
#12 Posted by IrrelevantJohn (1192 posts) -

Go grab a Macbook Pro. I bought one 5-6 years ago and it carried me all the way to graduation. I would also recommend installing Windows 7 using bootcamp, there were some classes that specifically had to deal with Microsoft stuff. I was a computer science major too.