College 15" Laptop Advice

Fire488

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My son starts college this fall and he will be pursuing engineering (Chemical or Material science). Obviously calculus and science applications will be a must and I guess a very good CPU and vid card will be needed? I'm not sure on that.
The other problem is that on his off time he would like to play video games like League of Legends and some steam games. That is the problem I have found is that i can't find a good college PC in 15" that will also play vid games. Not sure what size HDD's to get either.
I'm a mess right now...Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Up to $2000.00 budget on this as well.
 

ohgeetee

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I bought a 15" gaming notebook for similar purpose. I wanted to be able to game mainly at home and travel with it when necessary.

I regret making the purchase. Gaming laptops are ridiculously heavy and cumbersome. Power brick is huge, etc. If I could go back in time, I would buy a cheap laptop and put together a decent desktop for the same price.

I understand space might be a concern, and maybe I'm expecting too much, but I figured I'd throw in my experience. Steam games also range from "not super graphics" to "crazy graphics requirements," so you might want to clarify there. If LoL is the most taxing game he plays, He wont need a gaming powerhouse and the weight might not end up being an issue.
 

Fire488

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I bought a 15" gaming notebook for similar purpose. I wanted to be able to game mainly at home and travel with it when necessary.

I regret making the purchase. Gaming laptops are ridiculously heavy and cumbersome. Power brick is huge, etc. If I could go back in time, I would buy a cheap laptop and put together a decent desktop for the same price.

I understand space might be a concern, and maybe I'm expecting too much, but I figured I'd throw in my experience. Steam games also range from "not super graphics" to "crazy graphics requirements," so you might want to clarify there. If LoL is the most taxing game he plays, He wont need a gaming powerhouse and the weight might not end up being an issue.

Thanks for the reply. He occasionally plays Civ 5, L4D2 that I know of. He does have a good gaming desktop at home for the weekends though so the only game he really likes id LoL I guess.
 

MeowMeow

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I'd get a Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook (should be around 900 USD by now), if you insist on 15".

Otherwise, I'd go with an Asus Zenbook or any of the upcoming Haswell Ultrabooks.

Especially for lectures and work during uni, I'd hate to have a to carry a cumbersome gaming notebook with horrid battery life, so I'd recommend a slick and light ultrabook.
It makes him independent of power sources for long stretches at a time, isn't larger than an average textbook, is a treat to work with (Core i5 processors are more than enough for anything but gaming) and you still have to 1.000 bucks to spare build another PC he can keep at his dorm room, or wherever he lives during the week.
 

Fire488

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I'd get a Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook (should be around 900 USD by now), if you insist on 15".

Otherwise, I'd go with an Asus Zenbook or any of the upcoming Haswell Ultrabooks.

Especially for lectures and work during uni, I'd hate to have a to carry a cumbersome gaming notebook with horrid battery life, so I'd recommend a slick and light ultrabook.
It makes him independent of power sources for long stretches at a time, isn't larger than an average textbook, is a treat to work with (Core i5 processors are more than enough for anything but gaming) and you still have to 1.000 bucks to spare build another PC he can keep at his dorm room, or wherever he lives during the week.

His dorm room is tiny and desktops are not allowed. Laptop is it I guess.
 

MeowMeow

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Desktops are not allowed? That's a thing?

I've never heard about anything this weird, is that considered standard in the US?
How could a desktop pc possibly be an issue, it's not a drum set after all.

Anyway, all I can say is that anything larger or older than an ultrabook / macbook becomes a nuisance very quickly, not just for the owner,
but for every student surrounding them. A loud fan, an HDD and a cumbersome power brick simply are simply annoying for everyone.
I've seen students being asked to remove their notebooks because they had too many emissions, but then again, there's usually more than a hundred people in my lectures.

At an Ivy League college in the land of the free where there are five students per professor and lecture halls have perfect AC and acoustics, maybe that's not an issue.
 
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W.Feather

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Take a look at business machines from HP (Elitebook/ProBook), Lenovo (X series), and Dell (latitude)

I've had my Elitebook for 3 years, going strong, unlike most of my classmates (Mechanical engineering major here)

Anything over 15" is not good IMO, I personally wouldn't go above a 13" machine (love the portability of it, however I do have a good desktop to make up for screen size)

If you go the business route, call and order, most of the time you can get good discounts (I personally got 26% off my purchase from calling and ordering through the guy on the phone)
 

Fire488

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Desktops are not allowed? That's a thing?

I've never heard about anything this weird, is that considered standard in the US?
How could a desktop pc possibly be an issue, it's not a drum set after all.

Anyway, all I can say is that anything larger or older than an ultrabook / macbook becomes a nuisance very quickly, not just for the owner,
but for every student surrounding them. A loud fan, an HDD and a cumbersome power brick simply are simply annoying for everyone.
I've seen students being asked to remove their notebooks because they had too many emissions, but then again, there's usually more than a hundred people in my lectures.

At an Ivy League college in the land of the free where there are five students per professor and lecture halls have perfect AC and acoustics, maybe that's not an issue.

He is not in the college you describe. Well the rule is in place because there is absolutely no room for a desktop PC in his dorm room. It is tiny. This is the dorm the freshman's get. Once he is a sophomore he can get an apartment dorm that is much larger.
 

Fire488

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Take a look at business machines from HP (Elitebook/ProBook), Lenovo (X series), and Dell (latitude)

I've had my Elitebook for 3 years, going strong, unlike most of my classmates (Mechanical engineering major here)

Anything over 15" is not good IMO, I personally wouldn't go above a 13" machine (love the portability of it, however I do have a good desktop to make up for screen size)

If you go the business route, call and order, most of the time you can get good discounts (I personally got 26% off my purchase from calling and ordering through the guy on the phone)

Thank you.
 

OrangeWolf

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Well, if the Thinkpad T/W series has a video card that would work for your specific needs, I'd go for that. I gamed on a "professional" graphics card as opposed to a gaming variety for years and it worked out great.

Dell Latitude is another good option.
 

Kueller

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Having been an engineering student and a techie, let me make this observation of computing in the math/physics/engineering classroom or lecture hall: He will want digitized pen input.

Matlab is great for working on projects and modeling, but you can't take effective Calc notes in it. You can't draw free body diagrams with Word or Excel on the fly. You can with OneNote and a pen digitizer.

With a $2000 budget, there's plenty of room for a nice laptop and a pen-enabled tablet if you can't find a suitable all-in-one device. In my personal experience, a 15" laptop is a little big to take to class every day. If I had to go back and someone offered to buy me any machine I wanted for school, I'd go for the Thinkpad Helix (and an external monitor for the dorm room).
 

OrangeWolf

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I think the Thinkpad x230t has pen input as well, and should be in your price range.

I'd prefer it personally to the Helix, but that's another good option of course.
 
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As a suggestion, look into laptop that support a docking station. If I were to go back and use a laptop FOR school, my X230t would be an ideal laptop. Good battery life, great keyboard. I can get a docking station to output to a keyboard, mouse, USB optical and/or external HDD, monitor, printer, etc.

Gaming wouldn't be so great though...but it will handle Source games just fine.
 

OrangeWolf

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Yeah I game on mine sometimes. A few things from Steam, WoW, SC2, etc. Not on high settings but it has good FPS at lower settings.
 

W.Feather

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Exactly as recommended, i forgot to mention a Convertible PC is a great addition, especially in the engineering field.

However with the majority of them, you will lose out on a good graphics, CPU is still good (my Elitebook 2740p has an i7), and does everything well enough, but the pen is honestly invaluable for notes in my math/engineering classes.
 

gs274

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Would I be lynched for suggesting maybe a MacBook Pro... I'm no engineer but, i'm currently in college working on an econ degree with math minor. The screen is the biggest thing when your staring at walls of text and my mbp retina has done everything I need. I had the same requirements and the student reality is...who has time for gaming. Battery life, screen, keyboard in that order. If it has to be a non Apple product (i hate the company like everyone else), i'd look where I did before I bought it...the Asus ultrabooks.
 

munkle

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Personally I would get a macbook pro, I went with an asus ultrabook last fall, its ok, but battery life is pretty terrible on it like 3 hours tops. Granted it was less than half the price of a macbook pro but I'm probably going to get a macbook pro when they go to haswell because i want a bigger screen and better battery life.
 

Jinto

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At ~$2k you might as well consider the rMBP. It is extremely solid as a college notebook. There were plenty of engineers using Macs when I was in college and the MBPs then were not as good. It is very light for its size, got good amount of power, can do so gaming, excellent screen and good battery life. The main downside is lack of self upgrades and Windows support as an afterthought. Those two IMO aren't really that big a deal. Windows support mainly effect battery life and if you need Windows for CAD etc you would most likely be plugged in (though most engineers I knew only run the likes of Matlab etc, CAD softwares are typically in the labs).
 

W.Feather

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The problem with the rMbP is that most engineering programs are windows only, and a native windows experience in may be beneficial, most of the software sucks on vms so that is not a valid option (in my entire program I can count the mbps on my fingers)
 

voklskier4452

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I am in school for electromechanical engineering technology and my school is very heavy on cad use. I picked up a rmb and have boot camp with my schools discounted copy of win 8. Works like a charm and I use osx for all written papers and research and windows for everything else.
 

Fire488

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Whoa! I really appreciate the advice here and I am looking frantically for something with a digi pen and possible docking station too.
 

W.Feather

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http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/pscmisc/vac/us/en/sm/notebooks/2760p.html

That is the next revision of what i have, cannot say anything bad about my machine, dockingstation + slice battery are a must (new I got ~12 hours actual use on my 2740p), Lenovo's offering is:

http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/x-series/x230t/index.html

No hands on with it, but i was torn between their previous gen (x220t) and the previous gen HP that I got (2740p). Both have slice battery, and a docking station.

To get the digi pen + real docking station, you need to go business level, which is best to call and order, since you can typically get discounts that way.
 

Erasmus354

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Whoa! I really appreciate the advice here and I am looking frantically for something with a digi pen and possible docking station too.

As a somewhat recently graduated Computer Engineer I think digi pen input is absolutely rubbish. I much prefer to take notes that need pen input on a normal old notebook. It is simply much better. I also had a docking station, hardly used it, was not worth the money paid for it and definitely is not worth compromising on a laptop to get one. There is a reason why most laptops don't support docking stations anymore and it isn't because docking stations are awesome....

That being said you need to look at a few things first.

1) Look at his prospective schools websites (the specific departments). They *will* have computer requirements listed and most likely will have special discounts with vendors available.

2) Portability and Battery life should not be overlooked. Carrying this around to classes every pound counts. I would not get anything over 5-6 lbs, the closer to 4lbs you can get the better. As for battery life, get a Haswell notebook. They are available now and offer 50% better battery life, there is no excuse for getting anything else at this point.

3) Get lots of RAM. Most engineering programs love RAM and this machine has to last for 4-5 years. 8GB minimum at this point I would say, even if computer requirements say less.


I recommend the HP ENVY TouchSmart 15t-j000, it is very reasonably priced (under 1k) and has pretty much everything you need. Up to 16GB RAM, optional 740m discreet graphics, Haswell (9.5hr battery life). Biggest weakness is lack of an SSD.
 

bvbz

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I recommend the HP ENVY TouchSmart 15t-j000, it is very reasonably priced (under 1k) and has pretty much everything you need. Up to 16GB RAM, optional 740m discreet graphics, Haswell (9.5hr battery life). Biggest weakness is lack of an SSD.

Agreed on the 15t-j000. It seems to offer a wide range of specs for good pricing in that appears to be a well executed package.

It's about as heavy of a laptop I would consider bringing to class ... call me lazy but I grumble with anything more than 3 pounds.
 

W.Feather

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@ Erasmus , did you actually have an use a Convertible PC? Or is it just speculation? Im through three years of a Mech E degree and love it, very few times have I wanted a physical pen/paper, and nothing is stopping me. The machine easily matches the specs set out for incoming students now (3 years after I purchased it), and it is great having all my notes in OneNote, easy to get on, on multiple systems, and studying is quite a bit easier.



@OP, I do 2nd the weight consideration, stick with a ~13" laptop and get a monitor for when your kid is not on campus, on campus ive rarely needed more than the 12.1" screen of my laptop, and its low weight and portability have been quite nice.
 

Peteman100

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I'm currently an engineering student at a major university. I'd highly recommend getting the retina macbook pro. Almost all engineering software runs on OSX these days, and for the ones that don't, bootcamp is easy to use. Your kid will appreciate the power and portability.
 

W.Feather

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Which ones?

Solidworks - No, only edrawings is compatible with mac
Siemens NX 8.5 - No
PTC Creo - No
Autocad- Yes

Of the four major "all around" products, only one is supported, and Autodesk is far from the current industry standard, or the primarily used company. Bootcamp is the only way to have all software work, and the majority, please, if im wrong correct me, but to my knoweldge the majority of engineering centric software is still windows only for the frontend, which is all the OP's kid will be using in college.

I'm currently an engineering student at a major university. I'd highly recommend getting the retina macbook pro. Almost all engineering software runs on OSX these days, and for the ones that don't, bootcamp is easy to use. Your kid will appreciate the power and portability.

edit: would also help to know what engineering your studying
 
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Fire488

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Old post I know, but I started it and never followed up with it due to personal probs i had, but I'm back now! I did wind up getting the Lenovo Y510P for him and it has served him well and mostly trouble free despite gobs f bloatware installed by Lenovo. I did do a clean install with my own Win 8.1 and Office 365 and the dang thing flies now.

Thanks for all the fine advice as always guys...I love my [H]!
 
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