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Need advice on best laptop for computer science student

dmdvfl 1,892 358 April 22, 2016 at 09:25 PM
My daughter is getting into college with computer science major after this summer. I was thinking of getting her a laptop for school. I am getting all kind of advice in term of the best size 13" - 16" and brand for her needs. Some one I worked with in the engineering department suggested that I should get her an Apple Macbook.

I am planning to spend about $1,000 for this laptop and I am all confused with different suggestions. I hope someone with personal experience in this major can give me advice for the laptop selection.

Thank you!

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#2
Quote from dmdvfl View Post :
My daughter is getting into college with computer science major after this summer. I was thinking of getting her a laptop for school. I am getting all kind of advice in term of the best size 13" - 16" and brand for her needs. Some one I worked with in the engineering department suggested that I should get her an Apple Macbook.

I am planning to spend about $1,000 for this laptop and I am all confused with different suggestions. I hope someone with personal experience in this major can give me advice for the laptop selection.

Thank you!
It's going to depend on personal preference and you're going to get a million different answers. MacBook Pro (retina, either 13 or 15) are FANTASTIC choices but you're going to get "Apple is overpriced" comments. Personally I believe the price is worth it for the quality and the platform.

The Dell XPS 13 is a pretty good Windows laptop from what I hear, so it's a solid contender.

The other thing you should do is talk to the computer science department and see if there are specific recommendations based on their curriculum.
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#3
Quote from Ero View Post :
It's going to depend on personal preference and you're going to get a million different answers. MacBook Pro (retina, either 13 or 15) are FANTASTIC choices but you're going to get "Apple is overpriced" comments. Personally I believe the price is worth it for the quality and the platform.

The Dell XPS 13 is a pretty good Windows laptop from what I hear, so it's a solid contender.

The other thing you should do is talk to the computer science department and see if there are specific recommendations based on their curriculum.
Thanks for the advice. It makes sense to talk to the dept that cover the course for recommendation.
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#4
Ero's recommendations are pretty good (though I fall in the apple = overpriced category). Undergraduate comp sci generally isn't hardware load intensive so anything sturdy in that $1000 range of yours should do fine, but it definitely doesn't hurt to ask the department.
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#5
Don't be surprised if the laptop doesn't survive 4 years of school. A CS student is more likely than some majors to carry their laptop around a lot. If she already has a laptop that she used in high school, I'd seriously consider having her use that freshman year and buying a new one sophomore year. In the course of ~4 years 2 less expensive laptops (within reason) will often be more useful than one overpriced laptop you can't afford to replace. Buying it too early can also exacerbate this.

Daughter = don't buy some super heavy laptop
CS = carry laptop a lot, don't buy heavy & pay attention to battery life / replace-ability
CS/Engineering higher screen resolution and numeric keypads are nice but not required.

Dell XPS or Latitude are good options.
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Last edited by jkee April 23, 2016 at 12:38 AM
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#6
I would look for something that has a nice screen resolution (1080p minimum), has a SSD, and is preferably a business type laptop
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#7
Quote from dmdvfl View Post :
Thanks for the advice. It makes sense to talk to the dept that cover the course for recommendation.
Don't take their recommendations as absolute. They might recommend some things that really aren't appropriate or necessary (i've seen this a lot).
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#8
I can't imagine any first year stuff requiring anything more than a decent Windows i5 based laptop you can pick up for 600-800 dollars...and yes, get full HD. Don't go by what the school says as they will often peddle their preferences and might even try to get you to buy through one of their vendors at marked up prices. They have no incentive to do anything but make you waste your money. And real non-CAD\graphic artist work is not done on a MAC...MACs are overpriced toys for people who just want to spend twice as much and get less. No DBA works on their SQL Server or Oracle DB with a MAC. No serious Windows developer obviously does anything on a MAC.

As to the chosen field of study, all I can say is having been in IT for years, I would NEVER allow my kids to go into that or any other technical field (outside of medicine). IT now consists of long hours at mediocre to lousy pay competing with offshore and H1B visa types. And when you get older and make good money, you will be replaced by those same offshore and and H1B visa types. Law, Medicine, Business are all far more preferable than anything technical imo. As I say, it is a free country and they can go into whatever they want. But if they expect their parents to pay for it, then they have to not waste the money getting degrees in worthless stuff like gov, english, etc.or fields where they are competing with third world people working at low wages. My 2 cents.
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Last edited by YanksIn2009 April 23, 2016 at 12:35 PM

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#9
CS is a broad field, and Macs are very common, particularly among web and mobile developers. For a student, having a Mac wouldn't put them at any disadvantage, unless the CS department itself is organized around Windows, so do talk to the department. Generally the things you learn in an undergrad CS program are platform agnostic.

I don't use a Mac at the moment, but they're generally good development machines. Under the covers they've got a real Unix system and there is a large ecosystem of development tools.
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#10
Someone who is a computer science major is most likely going to want to have a say in the machine they have. You can guide her by doing some research on the front end by asking here, and seeing what the school recommends, and give her a budge of what you're willing to spend but I really don't think you should actually buy it. She is going to be the one to use it a countless number of hours so let her have input into the decision. Personally I would also wait a bit too actually buy if school starts in August or September.

That all being said I am personally going to say go smaller, for ease of carrying around. I just picked up a Dell XPS 13 with the QHD display and am super impressed with the machine, very well built. Know that on many laptops these days you can't upgrade the ram, it's soldered to the motherboard. So if its a long term purchase you might want to get all you can now, especially with a CS degree. I personally have had very good results from the Dell Accidental warranty programs too. If she is going to carry the machine from class to class I would strongly consider it. Even if she is careful the wear and tear of daily carry does take it's toles.
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#11
Quote from LiquidRetro View Post :
Someone who is a computer science major is most likely going to want to have a say in the machine they have. You can guide her by doing some research on the front end by asking here, and seeing what the school recommends, and give her a budge of what you're willing to spend but I really don't think you should actually buy it. She is going to be the one to use it a countless number of hours so let her have input into the decision. Personally I would also wait a bit too actually buy if school starts in August or September.
This is probably the best advice in this thread.
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#12
Quote from quotidian View Post :
This is probably the best advice in this thread.
Thanks, I mean I was a business major but very much a techie and do IT now and I can guarantee I would have returned pretty much anything family would have given me but they knew it was better to give the idea of a computer and work with me to pick the actual model.
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#13
Quote from LiquidRetro View Post :
Someone who is a computer science major is most likely going to want to have a say in the machine they have. You can guide her by doing some research on the front end by asking here, and seeing what the school recommends, and give her a budge of what you're willing to spend but I really don't think you should actually buy it. She is going to be the one to use it a countless number of hours so let her have input into the decision. Personally I would also wait a bit too actually buy if school starts in August or September.
I agree. However I knew plenty of people in CS and Engineering who thought they know what they wanted and came to regret their laptop choice in as little as a few months.

I honestly think getting through freshman year with an older beat up laptop isn't a bad thing (assuming they already have said laptop and it reasonably has 12 months left to live). I think the incidence of laptop theft and damage were the highest freshman year. The other advantage to this approach is you can see what other people bought and form opinions about a wide range of products you wouldn't otherwise be able to see in store or try.

The biggest mistakes I saw involved choosing the wrong size / weight laptop, 'gaming' (and probably workstation) laptops (super heavy, horrible battery, cooling problems, high failure rate), or simply spending WAY too much (I knew people who had $2500-3000 laptops and one of them spilled a drink on their laptop)
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Last edited by jkee April 25, 2016 at 09:00 AM
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#14
Hi Everyone, I am trying to send thanks to each individual for your valuable input in my purchase choice. Unfortunately I have been super busy at work and hard to find time to finish the task here.

I realize how much time I have wasted talking to the wrong people for advice (a friend suggested I should spend over $2,000 to get an Apple laptop for my daughter or I will regret laterRoll Eyes (Sarcastic)). I am so glad that I asked for help here and now I have enough information to make an educated decision.

All your input is greatly appreciated!
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