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What computer should a Mechenaical Engineering Student Buy

  1. May 16, 2015 #1
    Hello all.

    My daughter is going to start as a freshman in a BS Mechanical Engineering program. I want to buy her a PC that will last her through her 4 years of school. My initial thoughts were some of the light, but relatively powerful new offerings (Surface and other thin designs), but I started thinking that in her later years she may need to run student versions of Solidworks, MatLab, etc., and these lighter units (though relatively powerful) are not going to cut it. I checked out the Solidworks Systems requirements section, and the lowest end computer that is compatible is something like a Lenovo w550s. I am using Solidworks as a kind of reference. If you can run Solidworks, you can run basic FEM, etc. On the other hand there are computer labs, and she will live at home and I could plan to replace our older home computer with a more powerful desktop that she could put higher horsepower software on (but of course she loses the utility of having the software in labs, for on-site projects, etc.). Just for reference, I am an engineer, so I have some understanding of engineering software and hardware requirements.

    My general thoughts are that she may need to run some high end software, but likely will not be pushing it to extremes (i.e., large non-linear FEM models with contact, etc.) as an undergraduate student, so a more minimal, but capable laptop should work. If she really does not need to have that software, then a lighter general purpose laptop is fine, but even if it is not really needed, it may be beneficial to have it handy (i.e., crowded computer labs, late hours, on the spot project work, etc.).

    Any thoughts or experiences with this? I appreciate any comments. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 16, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I would look at a laptop that can drive a large screen. CAD on a 13" screen is a nightmare.
  4. May 21, 2015 #3


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    You're thinking too much. She should ask when she gets there. Among many other reasons, the department may have proprietary software they want the students to use.
  5. May 21, 2015 #4

    I tend to agree, but she starts in September, and I wanted to buy the PC now as a graduation gift. I would like to get her a more lightweight one for general purpose use and lugging around, but if she is going to need/want to run say, Solidworks, later, I do not want to have to buy another laptop in 2 years. At the school the only general guidance I got is that the higher power software is available in labs, but I wanted to get an idea of what the actual practice amongst students, teachers, etc. is.
  6. May 21, 2015 #5


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    It sounds like you are trying to be efficient about your purchase, which makes sense to me. But you also want to act now. You might get lucky, but it's not not likely. If you can't wait, then I suggest calling the department at the school. Talk to the chairman's secretary/administrator and explain your problem. That person will be able to help you or point you to the best person who can. I don't think you can get sufficiently accurate guidance here.
  7. May 21, 2015 #6
    Thanks, IGU, I did talk to her advisor, and he said it would be worthwhile to have a higher end computer if possible.
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