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Would a personal computer or laptop be better for degrees?

  1. Dec 21, 2007 #1
    I'm wondering what some of you think, say you're doing an Engineering degree or something related, or anything else for that matter...and you have other siblings who also go to university while there is only one computer in the house, would having a personal laptop or computer for yourself be better? What are some of your experiences. I'd assume you would be able to do more work as you wouldn't need the other computer which your other sibling could use, but would you waste more time on it...
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2007 #2
    pcs all the way. i say this only because i'm on my third laptop in 2 years. whether they're reliable or not i don't know but i do know that if something breaks it'll cost you a million dollars to repair. with pcs it's a matter of swapping a part.

    as far as convenience i don't know. i tend to do my work at home and i haven't gotten into much numerical analysis yet so i don't find the need to be able to do work other places. it might be different for you.
  4. Dec 21, 2007 #3
    I carry my notebook almost everything for last 3 years now. The only thing i can't do on my notebook is to play games (which is a good disadvantage). If you are undergrad I hardly doubt if you will need to do any extensive numerical computer. If you are required to do so, it is very likely they will provide computing requirement. Moreover, my notebook is like a mobile information centre. When I need to look up any information, I will have it in no time.
  5. Dec 21, 2007 #4
    That's the thing though, that's the convenience it provides.

    Although you're right ice109, a PC is much easier to fix, this one i have, i've had for roughly 2 years and i haven't even upgraded it hardware wise or anything, it's still going. I just thought that having a laptop would be better if you have a brother or sister, where you both need a computer, especially if you both have assignments due the following day:\ plus i've seen many people around campus with one, yet you could just as easily use a computer on campus in the library or other labs. It's just something i've been wondering about for some time, as especially this year has been a bit tense with computer availability in my house hold. Most of my friends i know either have their own computer/laptop or at least 2 PC's in the house.

    If i were to buy one, what would some of you recommend? I don't want to buy it and end up just leaving it there, not using it as much as i thought i would...yet i guess it would relieve the strain from using this one. The main thing getting me is the whole easy access any time, i'd only use it for study purposes though.
  6. Dec 21, 2007 #5


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    What is your budget like?

    Certainly, get something that you'll use... meaning:
    ...something that you'll be okay with carrying around,
    ...something capable enough for your tasks,
    ...something reliable.

    I think you can be happy with a small laptop from Dell [for which good deals come and go: e.g. http://www.gotapex.com/]
    or possibly from a TabletPC www.physicsforums.com/blog/2006/05/20/tabletpcs-for-science-and-science-teaching/
    ...probably of the "convertible"-type, which looks like a laptop... but can have its screen rotate to emulate a "slate". For example:
    - http://www.tabletpcreview.com/default.asp?newsID=896 (IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad X61 TabletPC) [not to be confused with the non-tablet ThinkPad X61]
    - http://www.tabletpcreview.com/price/default.asp?productFamilyID=994&ref=list&display=priceDetail (Fujitsu)
  7. Dec 21, 2007 #6
    Tablets are fun. If you go that route, make sure it's no more than about 4 pounds and has an actual Wacom digitizer; most of the offbrand solutions are utter crap.
  8. Dec 21, 2007 #7


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    With the possible exception of the Lenovo X61 TabletPC,
    I don't know of any 4-lb-or-less convertible-style TabletPCs.
    The Fujitsu convertible is probably 4.5-lbs.
    (I use "possibly" because I'm not sure what it's like when you have the battery installed and drive-bays [if any] filled. The power brick adds weight as well.)

    [By the way... there is some disappointment with the new but long anticipated Dell TabletPC
    http://www.gottabemobile.com/DellOfficiallyLaunchesXTTabletPC.aspx ]

    For slates, I would agree... no more than 4 lbs.
    My now-ancient Gateway/Motion M1200 is 3.1 lbs.
    The Motion LE1700 is nice... http://www.motioncomputing.com/products/tablet_pc_le17.asp
    There used to be an under-3-lb first-generation slate from NEC.

    (I don't consider the UMPCs to be TabletPCs.)

    By the way, one vendor lets you try out a TabletPC for 48 hours:
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2007
  9. Dec 21, 2007 #8
    I have a notebook (a Mac). I have no regrets about the purchase. I have had it for a year now anf with zero problems. I don't know what people are doing to their notebooks that require all these repairs.

    Macs are pricy, but if you are patient you can find one. I have never seen a sale, but around the week or two after the holidays, you may find one at the Mac store that someone has returned. Some dork goes through it to ensure nothing is wrong with it and then they sell it at a discount since it has been opened.

    They don't advertise these though. You have to ask what they have.

    My vote is for a notebook all the way. At college, they ability to work wherever and whenever allows for max efficiency in my opinion.

    Good luck whatever you choose. Tis the season to find a deal though. I just bought my girlfriend a notebook for X-mass, since she's transferring to a four-year college in January.

  10. Dec 21, 2007 #9
    From my point of view, the advantage of a notebook is mobility and not performance. Therefore it only sense to buy a small one (13 inch). I don't have any reason to buy a 17' notebook with gaming spec on it because I don't want to play games on it. The weight will give you a reason to always carry it with you (or not). Any reasonable CPU will give you enough power to do computing problems in no time. I can hardly think of any problem of exponential time during my undergrad.

    I am currently using a Dell Inspiron 700m with linux (just linux) on it. Using Vista on any mechanic is just going to decrease productivity. CPU is really not so important if you run regular application. Ram is more important because it allows you to run multiple applications simultaneously. I recommend 1G+ on any machine (This is typical nowadays).

    If you know computers well (by that I mean you know how to fix computer when it is down), using a dell is a reasonable choice. Asus is a decent choice for the price too. If you have extra money, go for IBM or Toshiba. Upgrade the rams and battery for optimal productivity and mobility. My dell is 3 years old and still last for 4 hours without recharging. I hardly bring my power adapter.

    The only draw back of small computer is that the screen is too small to perform multitasking. To fix that you need to know your working environment very well. To that end, I recommend (Ubuntu) Linux for that reason.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2007
  11. Dec 21, 2007 #10
    Hey thanks everyone for the input! I've heard Dell are good, but i've also been suggested HP too? Tablet PC's seem great though, you can take notes in class and all, i'll have to look into them. Although my budget would probably be around 1500 (australian dollars), just something reliable and that will last the years.

    I've been considering this as i use XP and it would be good for a change, something new.
  12. Dec 21, 2007 #11
    Perhaps you misunderstood me. Dell is not good at tall. That was why I stated the assumption that you need to know how to fix computer.

    Tablet PC are bloody expensive and I highly doubt the gain in efficiency for the difference in price is worth it.
  13. Dec 21, 2007 #12
    Oh right sorry, i was just commenting on what robphy said about the Dell, but i've heard mixed views on them.
    Although you're right, looking around i notice that tablet PC's are quite pricey!
  14. Dec 21, 2007 #13


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    I'm happy with my Dell laptop... although I was unhappy about the battery needing replacement after a year. Although some TabletPCs are expensive, there are some with prices that are comparable to laptops. For example, the Gateway c-140 http://www.gateway.com/systems/series/529597319.php ... starting at US$900.

    I do almost all of my handwritten calculations on my TabletPC. They are conveniently stored in files on its hard drive [backed up on occasion].... No more stacks of paper with scribbled calculations. It's also nice to be able to edit them, reposition and recolor them, add graphics... or mark up a paper in pdf format with "ink". I use the TabletPC when delivering lectures for my classes.... it's more spontaneous and more dynamic than transparencies, a whiteboard, or a powerpoint presentation.
  15. Dec 22, 2007 #14
    Using a tablet is hardly the only way to get any of the positive effects we're attributing to them. But it's a very straightforward solution, similar to having a chalkboard that retains and archives all your work and can be told to automatically file and backup everything. I still prefer using a chalkboard sometimes, but it's a little hard to put one of those in an apartment. Vacuuming the chalk dust out of the carpets is pretty bad, for one. If you need to have books out etc, it's easier to use the tablet. Very rarely I'll work on paper, but it tends to get all messy with smeared ink/pencil and eraser marks, and they inevitably are hard to find when I come back a term or two later and want to refer to something I've already done.
  16. Dec 22, 2007 #15
    I have a MacBook, 13.3" screen. I know it's a small screen, which is why I got a 22" Samsung for home. A laptop has helped me out a lot in school. Definitely recommended.

    I just recently built a PC system (2 hours ago), for approximately $500. I now have two systems.
  17. Dec 23, 2007 #16


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    Personally I found owning a laptop to be very distracting for my studies. I don't find it necessary for my studies, though and sometimes I regret buying one.
  18. Jan 2, 2008 #17
    Desktop (Build it yourself)
    Run any linux distro and put it on your resume (also keeps you from playing games)

    1.) Inexpensive vs. power
    2.) Less theft
    3.) Less damages

    Buy the PC. With the money you save buy a mini fridge to sit next to it. The gain in efficiency of never needing to leave your room/desk is insane...or buy a nice wide screen LCD, having two full pages of text viewable at the same time is mighty handy.

    PC is easier and cheaper to fix/upgrade and then notebook-anything.

    Also, at the moment I don't think too many programs like Matlab and Mathematica are supporting multi core (perhaps in the near future). So for numerical analysis using these programs and single core is actually a better bet.

    Also also, unless you plan on doing some specific work with numerics you wouldn't use it for more than one or two courses so you should really just aim for a general word processor/CAD setup.

    Could probably get away with like $700 (US) for a really nice rig, more RAM then you'll ever need, and a wide screen LCD of good quality. Add $$$ for a video card and BioShock.
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