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College laptop recommendations

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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July 21, 2010 9:33:00 PM

I am headed to Drexel in the fall for Mechanical Engineering and I need to purchase a laptop to use on campus. I will be bringing my desktop to keep in my dorm room but this will be used around the entire campus and at home. I'm usually good when it comes to finding a computer but laptops are an entirely new area for me. Any/all help is greatly appreciated!


1. What is your budget?
My parents have $600 set aside for me so the closer to that the better. Max price is $1500 (a little over is possible if required)

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
Drexel recommends a screen at least 15" big.

3. What screen resolution do you want?
I currently run 1650x1080 on a 21" screen so whatever is relatively close to that is great.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
I will have my desktop there so it is mainly for class and around campus.

5. How much battery life do you need?
Most classrooms have outlets so I'd say about 2-3 hours.

6. Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)?
I will use my desktop for gaming.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo / Video editing,watching movies, Etc.)
Maybe some photo editing but I will primarily be using CAD software and Office 2010 throughout my college career.

8. How much storage (H.D.D Capacity) do you need?
Drexel recommends 250-500GB. I can easily survive with 320GB.

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
I prefer Newegg.com but I'll buy from anywhere.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
I will be in college for 5 years and I would like the laptop to last that long.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?
My college states I need a DVD/CD combo drive.

12. Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.
I prefer Asus and MSI as I have heard great things about their products from friends. I don't like Dell too much due to past experiences.

13. What country do you live in?
USA

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
As stated before I will be using this for CAD software since I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering. I would prefer it to have Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 (2.6 - 3.0GHz) with a dedicated GPU (preferably nVidia but I'm not too picky). They say I should have 4 GB RAM and run Windows 7 Pro (I have it already). I need to have built in wireless, preferably n. I would also like a decent webcam built in.

The college posted the requirements online but I want to be able to support future CAD software while I am in school. You can check the recommended specs here. Thanks again!

Best solution

a b D Laptop
July 21, 2010 9:56:55 PM

Good luck on your ME program!

For Autocad, Photoshop, and Video editing uing Windows Moviemaker or ULead Systems DVD Move Factory, you need quite a bit of CPU power (as you already are aware of). Therefore, go with an i7-920 of higher CPU

4GBs of RAM is the minimum - go with 6GBs or better.

Hard disk - no less than 500GB - these things fill up very fast in video editing and in Autocad designs. When I design a system using Autocad, I save versions of the design as I go along. Therefore, if the final version is 2MBs, when I add up all the previous versions that lead to the final version, I easily use up 10 MBs of disk space - just for one design. The details (drawings) take up more space.

With these things in mind, start your search. Take a good hard look at Toshiba models.
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July 22, 2010 2:10:21 AM

Thanks for the awesome information. Are Toshibas good laptops? I've only heard bad things about them. Will they last all five years? Thanks again.
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a b D Laptop
July 22, 2010 2:27:09 AM

Have you heard about the "Luck of the Irish?" - it's applies when we are talking computers. In every brand, major or otherwise, there are lemons. The majority of them are great. I would go with either a Toshiba or an HP, but you need to do the research and pick one. In the end, it must be YOUR decision.
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July 22, 2010 2:58:55 AM

I recommend macbook pro, but maybe thinkpad would last longer (and buy the optional 9-cell battery)
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July 22, 2010 5:27:41 AM

Ubrales said:
Good luck on your ME program!

For Autocad, Photoshop, and Video editing uing Windows Moviemaker or ULead Systems DVD Move Factory, you need quite a bit of CPU power (as you already are aware of). Therefore, go with an i7-920 of higher CPU

4GBs of RAM is the minimum - go with 6GBs or better.

Hard disk - no less than 500GB - these things fill up very fast in video editing and in Autocad designs. When I design a system using Autocad, I save versions of the design as I go along. Therefore, if the final version is 2MBs, when I add up all the previous versions that lead to the final version, I easily use up 10 MBs of disk space - just for one design. The details (drawings) take up more space.

With these things in mind, start your search. Take a good hard look at Toshiba models.



An i7-920 is a desktop cpu, lol, thats what i have in my desktop.
- minimum cpu for laptop, i would say i5 running at at least 2.26 or 2.4 GHz
- 4 gb of RAM min is good, the more the better for CAD work
- will definitely want a dedicated gpu

i wish i could offer some good brands, and Asus and Acer are both good IMO, but I've really had the most experience with Dell and i know you could get a good comp from them, especially if you explore their small business laptops (vostro and latitude series)

You will definitely have to spend more than $600 if you want to do CAD smoothly and well. But don't spend extra money on a mac, they really aren't as powerful as computers compared to their windows counterparts (at least from a hardware perspective) (not meant to spark fans)
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a b D Laptop
July 22, 2010 12:27:02 PM

toolinthemist said:
An i7-920 is a desktop cpu, lol, thats what i have in my desktop.
- minimum cpu for laptop, i would say i5 running at at least 2.26 or 2.4 GHz
- 4 gb of RAM min is good, the more the better for CAD work
- will definitely want a dedicated gpu

You will definitely have to spend more than $600 if you want to do CAD smoothly and well. But don't spend extra money on a mac, they really aren't as powerful as computers compared to their windows counterparts (at least from a hardware perspective) (not meant to spark fans)


$600? - lol - you didn't read his post! He clearly stated $1,500 (or slightly higher)

Back to the drawing board!
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a b D Laptop
July 22, 2010 4:24:06 PM

DJ Atomix said:
I am headed to Drexel in the fall for Mechanical Engineering and I need to purchase a laptop to use on campus. I will be bringing my desktop to keep in my dorm room but this will be used around the entire campus and at home. I'm usually good when it comes to finding a computer but laptops are an entirely new area for me. Any/all help is greatly appreciated!


1. What is your budget?
My parents have $600 set aside for me so the closer to that the better. Max price is $1500 (a little over is possible if required)

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
Drexel recommends a screen at least 15" big.

3. What screen resolution do you want?
I currently run 1650x1080 on a 21" screen so whatever is relatively close to that is great.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
I will have my desktop there so it is mainly for class and around campus.

5. How much battery life do you need?
Most classrooms have outlets so I'd say about 2-3 hours.

6. Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)?
I will use my desktop for gaming.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo / Video editing,watching movies, Etc.)
Maybe some photo editing but I will primarily be using CAD software and Office 2010 throughout my college career.

8. How much storage (H.D.D Capacity) do you need?
Drexel recommends 250-500GB. I can easily survive with 320GB.

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
I prefer Newegg.com but I'll buy from anywhere.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
I will be in college for 5 years and I would like the laptop to last that long.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?
My college states I need a DVD/CD combo drive.

12. Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.
I prefer Asus and MSI as I have heard great things about their products from friends. I don't like Dell too much due to past experiences.

13. What country do you live in?
USA

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
As stated before I will be using this for CAD software since I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering. I would prefer it to have Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 (2.6 - 3.0GHz) with a dedicated GPU (preferably nVidia but I'm not too picky). They say I should have 4 GB RAM and run Windows 7 Pro (I have it already). I need to have built in wireless, preferably n. I would also like a decent webcam built in.

The college posted the requirements online but I want to be able to support future CAD software while I am in school. You can check the recommended specs here. Thanks again!


From the specs you gave, i think the best laptop for you would be, interestingly enough, a decent gaming laptop, such as the Asus G73JH.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

It is just under $1500, and fulfills all of your requirements except for battery life (but you didn't really expect such a computer to have excellent battery life in the first place, did you? :p ).

1. Budget of $1500: yes: $1,449.99

2. Size of at least 15": yes: 17"

3. Resolution of 1650x1080: yes: 1920 x 1080

4. Portable: kinda, depending on what's your tolerance for carrying stuff around.

5. Battery life of 2-3 hours: no: 1 hour and 48 mins according to http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=5571&p...

6. Gaming capable: yes: It's a gaming laptop, heh :D 

7. Can run CAD, photoshop: yes: the HD 5870 is one of the best single card notebook graphics cards on the market right now.

8. HDD of at least 320gb: yes: 500gb

9. Newegg prefered: yeah, that's a newegg link.

10. Will last 5 years: Maybe: At the pace computers evolve, it's hard to say. But this laptop is pretty close to top of the line right now, so if anything will last 5 years, this will. Hell, you can probably replace the CPU in a year or two, once the higher class i7 processors come down in price.

11. DVD drive: yes: dvd burner.

12. Asus/MSI prefered: yes: Asus



My room mate from last year bought one of these, and he seems to love it. :) 

Alternatively, there's the Asus G51JX. It's pretty much the same thing as the G73, but 15", and comes with a nVidia GTS 360, which is a weaker graphics card. It is, however, also about $250 cheaper.

Here's the link if you want to check it out:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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July 22, 2010 8:03:12 PM

I noticed that the i7 CPUs sometimes have 1.6GHz. Is that enough power? I don't know too much about the differences between i3, i5, and i7. Does anyone know if other good places to buy laptops because Newegg doesn't carry too many that fit my requirements?

Thanks again everyone for the help. It is making this a little easier.

Quick question, though, could a laptop easily "remote desktop" the CAD software from my dorm desktop or is it best to keep it just on the laptop?
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a b D Laptop
July 22, 2010 8:18:17 PM

DJ Atomix said:
I noticed that the i7 CPUs sometimes have 1.6GHz. Is that enough power? I don't know too much about the differences between i3, i5, and i7. Does anyone know if other good places to buy laptops because Newegg doesn't carry too many that fit my requirements?

Thanks again everyone for the help. It is making this a little easier.

Quick question, though, could a laptop easily "remote desktop" the CAD software from my dorm desktop or is it best to keep it just on the laptop?


The 1.6 GHz will be more than powerful enough for whatever you need to do that requires all 4 cores running, and if it doesnt need all 4 cores, the remaining cores will ramp up the speed, up to 2.8GHz on single core.

More powerful mobile i7 processor exists in the 740QM, 820QM, 840QM, 920QM, and 940QM processors, but computers with them are somewhat hard to find at your price range.

Any laptop, however crappy, can remote desktop and use cad... though i'm not sure how good it'll be. CAD work requires good graphics card for a reason, and the low low framerate that you're going to get over remote desktop might not satisfy what you may need to do... though, to be honest, i've never tried to do it with CAD, only stuff like Quartus and Cadence.

For other places to buy laptops... try Amazon? or if you like RL stores, try Microcenter, if there's one near you... they're basically like the brick and mortar version of Newegg :) 
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July 29, 2010 3:04:13 AM

Best answer selected by Dj atomix.
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