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Request help choosing laptop for son entering engineering major

Holysmoke 3,113 463 November 27, 2015 at 07:28 AM
He will be a freshman this August so I need to buy a laptop for him to take to school where he will be studying aerospace engineering.

Budget is $2 grand.

Thanks.

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#2
Quote from Holysmoke View Post :
He will be a freshman this August so I need to buy a laptop for him to take to school where he will be studying aerospace engineering.

Budget is $2 grand.

Thanks.
Does he mind carry heavy bulky laptop (heavier than business laptop)? If not this is a solid deal http://slickdeals.net/f/8316485-asus-rog-g751jy-wh71-wx-gaming-laptop-i7-4720hq-16-gb-ram-1-tb-hdd-128-gb-ssd-nvidia-geforce-gtx-980m-4-gb-gddr5-17-3-1499-extras-free-shipping?v=1&src=SiteSearch beside those of viral Black Friday deals. The spec should last him all his college years.
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Last edited by tivu100 November 27, 2015 at 08:00 AM
#3
$2K is a lot to work with, and I don't think you should have much trouble finding something that meets your needs.

Have you contacted the school to see if they have any guidance? In particular, what OS they recommend and what software he'll need to run would help narrow your choices.
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#4
Quote from Holysmoke View Post :
He will be a freshman this August so I need to buy a laptop for him to take to school where he will be studying aerospace engineering.

Budget is $2 grand.

Thanks.
I'd expect they'll need to run windows for at least a few programs, but you can always put windows on a mac or use vmware. An engineering student is probably going to have their laptop with them more often than some other majors.

If possible try to see the model you're considering locally or a similar model. Evaluate the keyboard, trackpad, and overall build quality. The physical construction of the laptop is one of the places they cut corners on some models and some keyboards or track pads can be miserable to use.

I'd suggest you don't spend $2k on a machine now. Laptops in college take a fair amount of abuse. Combine that with moore's law (transistors doubling every 18 months) and hard drive failure rates over time (ssd's probably fair better, but I haven't seen the numbers) and the expectation that the computer will last through 4 years of school may not be realistic. My laptop broke 3 days after finals my senior year. As an engineering student gets into their junior and senior year, their computing needs are likely to grow.

Consider various combinations of laptop, tablet, e-reader and desktop and plan that it may not last though 4 years of college (don't buy it all at once). If you buy now you're shortening how far into college it will get them so don't spend too much now. An engineering major is likely to strongly benefit from additional screen real estate, so a monitor to hook up to a laptop is worth considering. I think your $2k budget is capable of meeting his computing needs throughout 4 years of school, my advice is don't spend it all in one shot.

Dell Outlet has some good deals, especially when the 20-30% off coupons are floating around. Their business class machines are more physically robust.

Size and weight are also significant and carrying a 5+ lb computer around with 20+ lbs of textbooks certainly wears on you, though e-books are more common today.
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Last edited by jkee November 28, 2015 at 11:15 AM
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#5
Dell Business Outlet FTW. 6 and 7 Series gets you Next Business Day service for 3 years. $1000 will buy you a lot if you are patient and you have until next August. I'll start looking around May for the best bang for the buck.

Edit: Looks like Dell is charging extra for the NBD service, but you still get on-site support for the 3 years.
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Last edited by Foreveryours November 27, 2015 at 03:24 PM
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#6
For example, this [dell.com] one is Outlet New for under $1000 after 35% off.
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#7
I thought he needed a powerful video card for auto cad and required something like these

http://tutorial45.com/the-best-la...-students/
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#8
Quote from Holysmoke View Post :
I thought he needed a powerful video card for auto cad and required something like these

http://tutorial45.com/the-best-la...-students/
I'm not sure how powerful a video card he needs (the truth is a lot of games are more demanding than CAD software), but I would recommend something better than onboard video.

Quadros are kind of a racket. They're basically Geforces with some extra features turned in the drivers, but nVidia charges an arm and a leg for them. Unfortunately, those features tend to make CAD packages run better. You can find benchmarks for many of these packages, so again, if you can get specifics out of the school, you can get a better sense of what you need. Autocad does pretty well with a plain old Geforce, if that's all he needs. Solidworks can be more of a pain.
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#9
I would check with the school. I know mine more or less required you to get it from the school because it came preloaded with software. Plus the school had certified dell techs on campus so any issues could be fixed right there.
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#10
ok, I'll check with the school, thanks and repped you all
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#11
Quote from Holysmoke View Post :
I thought he needed a powerful video card for auto cad and required something like these

http://tutorial45.com/the-best-la...-students/
Most 2-D CAD tasks aren't that resource intensive. 3-D cad is more intensive, but still not that profound. If their computer isn't up to the job, there are guaranteed to be some computer labs in the engineering building with some pretty beefy specs.

Options:
-Buy a computer now, but don't spend too much. Expect it to need replacement by the end of their junior year possibly sooner. Buying it now shortens how long it will be viable.
-Buy a computer in the summer and send them to college with a newer computer. It might make it though 4 years of school it might not.

Advice from the school can be hit and miss. If the computer isn't up to the job, your son will know what they want in a replacement by junior or senior year. A large external monitor can be extremely useful for a lot of engineering tasks or dual smaller monitors.
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#12
they emailed me and said a laptop with Nvidia 980 video card and 6th gen i7 HQ.

they will be using it for things like AI
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#13
Quote from Holysmoke View Post :
they emailed me and said a laptop with Nvidia 980 video card and 6th gen i7 HQ.

they will be using it for things like AI
Well, that was less useful that I might have hoped. They've basically said: go buy the most expensive thing you can find. Because AI. For an Aerospace engineer. For some reason.

The 980M is a consumer grade 2nd generation Maxwell based GPU. Other 2nd gen Maxwell GPUs include the 970M and the 965M: https://developer.nvidia.com/maxw...chitecture. The 2nd gen Maxwell GPUs are slightly more programmable than the 1st gen, and this could mean something for machine learning which is finding its way into damn near every engineering discipline, but I'm a bit skeptical. At least they didn't want a Quadro.

6th generation i7 HQ chips are nice, but profoundly little interesting has happened between the 4th generation and 6th generation that I know of. 6th gen chips run cooler and a bit faster for a given clockspeed, but otherwise they have the same features. Don't go lower than 4th gen though. The most important part of that description is HQ, which is a "desktop replacement" chip. These are considerably faster than the i7 U series, which run considerably cooler and can go in smaller laptops / ultrabooks.

Essentially you're going to be buying a large space heater. The system linked upthread by tivu100 is actually pretty close to what they want, assuming that I'm not missing something about the 6th gen chips.
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#14
Which school is he going to, did you check their website? What do you mean August this is November!
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#15
Quote from komondor View Post :
Which school is he going to, did you check their website? What do you mean August this is November!
Yes this, Wait. No reason to buy a high end laptop and have 8 months tick off the clock, warranty etc before it's really going to be used. Your looking at a new processor family by then probably, etc. The deal you get on back friday for a machine like this won't be much as BF tends to be cheap door buster machines. So many things could change by then too. Buy it in the summer.

Also something to think about and consider, one that might be hard to answer now realistically. I was good friends with engineers and many architecture students. They had similar computing requirements/wants. By the end of their studies many had went to a high end desktop where they did the bulk of their design work with larger screens, more resources, and much more computing power, and then a lighter weight laptop to do more in class work, papers, research etc and use as the daily carry about computer. The high end laptops with larger screens are just a lot larger than many students want to carry around daily, they don't tend to get good battery life and frankly are really expensive when things go wrong.

On that subject, I support the accidental warranty options on a machine thats going to be carried everywhere. It's hard on any machine even when you take care of them. Drives die, liquids spill, etc I know I got my moneys worth out of it.
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