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Laptop Decision Help

  1. Mar 7, 2015 #1
    So, I'm going to be a physics major next year. I'm in the process of looking for my first laptop. I've been doing a lot of research and I've pretty much settled on a 13" retina display Mac book pro. My question is what guts do I need to be getting in the computer? I'm looking at 256GB SSD (I have a 500GB external hard drive that I store most everything on right now) Do I need 16GB of RAM or would 8 be enough? What core would be best: the 2.6GHz i5, 2.8GHz i5, or the 3.0GHz i7?

    I plan on using the laptop for word processing, light to moderate programming, and running any programs I need for school (data collection/manipulation, simulations).
    The only game I ever play is Minecraft so gaming isn't a concern.

    I'm also slightly worried about having a dual-core rather than a quad-core. Do you think this will have any impact or will I be safe with dual-cores?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2015 #2
    Then get the lowest price options. It doesn't take much power to do these things. Perhaps you have some CPU intensive modeling or simulation programs though?
  4. Mar 7, 2015 #3
    I know that I'll have to run a virtual windows program every so often and there will definitely be some heavier modeling/simulation programs that I'll need to be able to run, though I'm not sure how intesnive they will be. I assume at least moderately CPU intensive, I just don't know what core that would require, nor how much RAM I actually need to ensure I have a smooth experience while running more intense apps.

    The iMac I currently share with my family has very little RAM and it's very slow to transition between applications. I'm waffling between 8 and 16GB becuase I absolutely loathe how long it takes simply to open/close Microsoft Word and want to ensure that I don't have anything close to this experience with my laptop.
  5. Mar 8, 2015 #4
    64-bits CPU right? Keep in mind that the operating system will only use more than 4GB of RAM if you have a 64-bits CPU and 64-bits operating system. I would in any way prioritize getting a better CPU than more RAM for now, because 8GB will be more than enough for what you want to do.
  6. Mar 9, 2015 #5


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    IMO 8 Gb RAM is enough. dual-core should be fine.
  7. Mar 9, 2015 #6


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    In my experience, you usually get the best bang for the buck with the 2nd-best specs for CPU. (Check it for the case of the Mac.)
    I'd check benchmarks of the actual CPU models... not merely compare the number of cores. Generation, cache-size, etc... are also important features.

    If you go too low in specs, you might find yourself feeling like you need to update to a newer model after a short time.
    If you can afford the extra RAM, get it... more RAM is good.
  8. Mar 18, 2015 #7
    An 8GB RAM dual core processor should be fine.
    Choosing an i5 processor instead of an i7 processor saves you money.
    It doesn't neccesarely mean this is a decrease of functionalities.
    How much money do you want to spend on the computer?
  9. Mar 18, 2015 #8


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    Are you sure you want a Mac? Admittedly they are better, but when you need software, it might not be available for your Mac. And you will pay about half for the same specs if you go with a Windows system (admittedly, you will get windows).

    Warning about Windows laptops, buy what you want upfront. Many laptops may have a 64 Bit CPU, but still max out RAM at 8 Gig. That should still be enough, but just letting you know.

    I bought a refurbished Lenovo (from Lenovo) for a 40% savings over new. I am very happy with it. I got the same warranty, a new model (well, it was cutting edge six months earlier) and was a good price. I suspect nearly all major manufacturers have a way to resell warranty returns that simply had some small flaw that was easily fixed, but can't be resold as new.
  10. Mar 18, 2015 #9
    Perhaps it was a very outdated model (you could save up to 40%) or it was really not simply just some flaws that could be easily fixed as you might be thinking. It still works but isn't guaranteed in any longer term. I am amazed at how guys in electronics could make good predictions on their product lifetime. And your suspect I suppose isn't irrational at all.
  11. Mar 18, 2015 #10
    I'm not sure you really need to go with a Mac... that might be what everyone at your school uses; but, I've had both macs and pcs since '94 and I've hit a point in life where I'd rather spend half the money twice as often to get a better computer.

    Edit: I use a MacBook Pro at work and a Lenovo at home. The MacBook pro was in the $2,000 range; the Lenovo was in the $1,000 range. I MUCH MUCH MUCH prefer working on the Lenovo.

    Most of the time I end up using Bootcamp on the Mac at work anyway.
  12. Mar 18, 2015 #11


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    No, it was really a cutting edge machine only a few months earlier.

    Specifically it was a Lenovo Yoga with an i7, 256 Gig SSD and 8 Gig RAM for just over $700. Even today, that would be a pretty good deal (at the time, a great deal). The newer machines would still have those specs, but have a newer CPU and possibly more RAM and a 2x larger SSD drive and the ability to add more RAM. Mine is Maxed out (I was surprised as I thought an i7 wouldn't have THAT constraint, and most don't), which is common for laptops due to using low power CPUs compared to desktop CPUs.

    That is my one complaint with my particular model, it is a sealed unit for all practical purposes.
  13. Mar 18, 2015 #12
    Some programs cannot run on IOS, therefor you have to run windows or linux.
    Although if you prefer a mac, you may consider buying one.
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