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Aloeus
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Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 12:14 am

So I'm going to need a laptop that runs some engineering programs (CAD stuff, not sure on the specifics). I know almost nothing about laptops, so what exactly should I be looking for? I figure I probably want a quad core, some decent amount of ram, and a discreet gpu that can be fairly low-end. I'd prefer a larger size (I don't plan on taking this everywhere, just to class and back) and a 1080p screen. 
Edit: I should state that my budget is in the 700-800 range, but cheaper is better. 
Last edited by Aloeus on Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
 
Aloeus
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 12:37 am

So not long after I post this a friend of mine finds this:
http://acerrecertified.com/NX.G6UAA.003.HU#
It looks so good, but...refurbished?
 
CScottG
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:31 am

https://slickdeals.net/f/9402539-cyberp ... BarV2Algo1

..and I believe all those extras are predicated on Black Friday order/purchase ONLY.   That's of course assuming you aren't interested in the refurbished laptop..
 
Airmantharp
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 3:05 am

If you're just taking it to 'class and back', the DTR above that CScottG posted is likely to be a pain. Not only is the laptop heavy, so is the power brick, and the footprint is equally large, and they tend to be fairly loud in use (fans); and that's saying nothing about the actual quality of the keyboard and touchpad, which are two of the most important things on a laptop, as well as the overall build quality and how well it'll handle being shuffled around.

I'm not a fan of DTRs unless they're doing exactly that: replacing a desktop, and moved sparingly. That they do fairly well.

You really need to see just what you're looking for. Go into any electronics store and play with what they have. Annoying, sure, but this is something that you'll regularly have to use for work, and it's worth getting something good.

And do note that you do not need fancy specs for what you're looking to do. Basic CAD is not demanding, and for the demanding stuff you'll likely be learning in a lab with computers suited to the task. Focus on purchasing a tool that can handle being shuffled about while providing a pleasurable user experience.
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anotherengineer
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 6:10 am

Airmantharp wrote:
And do note that you do not need fancy specs for what you're looking to do. Basic CAD is not demanding, and for the demanding stuff you'll likely be learning in a lab with computers suited to the task. Focus on purchasing a tool that can handle being shuffled about while providing a pleasurable user experience.

Basic Autodesk AutoCAD is starting to get bloated these days, especially since 2015 and newer, but ya, definitely not like full blown 3D modeling software.  I have a Dell with an AMD A12-9700P and autoCAD runs fine on it.  However at work the desktop has a skylake i5-6500 and the top tool bar/buttons where the save, open etc is gets visual corruption on the integrated skylake gpu (on all the intel drivers available from dell), not a huge deal, just annoying when looking for undo button......  And yes that's right, another fine example of CAD on a desktop with no dedicated card............sigh...........
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JustAnEngineer
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 7:28 am

For portability, I like the thin and light design of the 13" 1080p Asus Zenbooks.
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Airmantharp
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 10:31 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:
For portability, I like the thin and light design of the 13" 1080p Asus Zenbooks.


Thanks for pointing these out again, JAE. I'm not buying now, but in the near future, and ASUS' 15.6" ZenBook looks exactly like what I'm looking for, and probably for the OP too.
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CScottG
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 2:43 pm

Aloeus wrote:
 I'd prefer a larger size (I don't plan on taking this everywhere, just to class and back) and a 1080p screen. 

AKA - desktop replacement. :wink:
 
Aloeus
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 3:12 pm

I've been successfully talked out of getting a 17.3'' by this thread and family members. Definitely don't need to replace my desktop. Leaning towards an acer aspire (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E16834315712) as of now. I guess integrated would work fine for me, but I'd like at least something of a gpu for peace of mind and so i can game on a trip or something (or play local mp). I have a nice back pack with a laptop slot that I'll end up carrying everything in, so extreme light weight isn't a concern. 
 
CScottG
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 4:14 pm

..usually a 14-15" is good from a "laptop" distance.

For CAD work you'll want 16 gig of system memory.  Also look to the performance of the gpu.. most are pretty poor and unfortunately those that are truly good (w/ real 1060) start at about 1100 (even when deeply discounted at this time).

IF your CAD offloads to a GPU then you should also look at how much memory the GPU has.. basically avoid the 2 gig variety in favor of 4 or more gig.

IF you aren't doing heavy gaming while mobile then consider a lighter system (less capable GPU) with a new Thunderbolt connector, and then later add a thunderbolt "dock" with standard GPU when you can afford it.  I did a quick search on this - it's not viable, the prices are just to high because laptops with this connector are rare

Also, research the battery life of any laptop you are looking at in regard to mobile performance (..when you can't plug-in).


Another strategy is a good inexpensive desktop build (which can even be portable) and a cheap tablet for the class room.
 
Chrispy_
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:10 pm

As an engineering graduate working in a CAD environment, I can say that the stuff you're likely to be using will run fine on any laptop.

You'll likely start off using Matlab and AutoCAD which do not push hardware much at all. They run pretty much fine on consumer IGPs like the HD530. Your discipline will dictate what software you run in addition to the basics, but Rhino is a common starting point for NURBS modelling and that's just fine with a Radeon or Geforce.

Once you get into seriously expensive CAD packages like Solidworks, or PTC Creo (Pro/Engineer) and the CATIA or Delmia suites, you probably should be looking at certified Quadro or FirePro. The recommended cards add $2000 onto the cost of any already expensive laptop, so just use the computers in the labs at college to run those if you end up getting into more serious modelling and analysis package.

For the mainstream stuff, very little of it is GPU bottlenecked, Only Rhino really benefits from a GPU at all, and even then it's still quite CPU intensive. I would say get a large, standard DPI screen (1920x1080 or 2560x1440 at most since many CAD tools DO NOT PLAY WELL with windows DPI scaling at all!) and as much clockspeed and RAM as you can afford. The ideal laptop would be a 15.6-17.3" full-HD i5 or i7 dual-core with high boost clocks and as much RAM as you can stuff in it. Intel HD graphics are fine but a Geforce wouldn't hurt either.
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curtisb
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:49 pm

Aloeus wrote:
So I'm going to need a laptop that runs some engineering programs (CAD stuff, not sure on the specifics). I know almost nothing about laptops, so what exactly should I be looking for? I figure I probably want a quad core, some decent amount of ram, and a discreet gpu that can be fairly low-end. I'd prefer a larger size (I don't plan on taking this everywhere, just to class and back) and a 1080p screen. 
Edit: I should state that my budget is in the 700-800 range, but cheaper is better. 

I work in Higher Education. Talk to your institutions IT Department...they probably have a discount program through the major vendors (Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc.). They probably also have a discount program through the mobile providers.
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aldin
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Re: Need a laptop for college

Mon Dec 05, 2016 2:11 am

I have had an MacBook air for a few years with no issues..

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