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Laptop for College (Engineering Major)

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April 19, 2011 3:45:21 AM

I'm starting my freshman year in August, and I'm looking for a good computer for a major in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science. I need something that will run MATLAB and other engineering/mathematical resource-heavy programs (most likely not extremely graphically intensive) so that I can do work outside of the lab if I want. I also don't care for gaming performance. However, I want it to be extremely portable and light so that I may carry it around often. Thus, I have come up with the following options:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
This one seems to be the best option, as it is very light (less than 4 lbs), and has pretty good performance too boot.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
This one seems to be better in most areas than the other one listed above (as it has a bigger screen, better performance stats, better reception on the keyboard, and most of all, is $115 less), but it's two pounds heavier, and I'm afraid it might not be the most convenient to carry around everywhere one campus.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Another option..a bit lighter than the previous but not as light as the first laptop. Also is more expensive and its screen is smaller than the second.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Best specs (i7) but also pretty expensive. Is a bit lighter than the second option too....(but isn't nearly as light as the first).

http://store.apple.com/us/configure/MC724LL/A?mco=MjEyO...
Finally, the 2.7 GHz MacBook Pro...it's only $999 from the campus store (a pretty big discount). I think it'd be pretty convenient, and many of the computer science courses use languages that would run on a Mac, but as I go deeper into upper-level courses, I think I'd need to do a lot of booting in to other operating systems to use more engineering-focused programs.

So there we have it... Again, I'm most partial to the first option because of its weight, but if anyone believes the other options are better (or can suggest another laptop), please tell me so.

Thanks.
a c 572 D Laptop
April 19, 2011 4:23:50 AM

Hello tooz;

Have you checked your school for systems requirements?

If you happen to be going to Virgina Tech College of Engineering they have a specific requirement: http://www.eng.vt.edu/it/requirement
What are the upperclassmen in Engineering using at your school?
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a c 572 D Laptop
April 19, 2011 4:33:51 AM

If you don't have any special requirements deal with - this is a great deal:

A 14" Sandy Bridge notebook: Dell Latitude E6420
-> Save 38% off Latitude E-Family Laptops with List Price of $1199 or More at Dell Small Business with Dell Coupon Code F3MX8LBF15MNM3 [Exp. 04/22]
Configure the E6420 to $1200 and with the 38% discount it will run about $745.

Upgrades: Core i5-2410M CPU / Centrino Advanced-N 6205 802.11a/b/g/n Wireless Card / Dell 375 Bluetooth Module / LCD Panel 14.0" 1600x900 Anti-Glare
Those upgrades take the price to $1202 (before discount to $862) and the coupon code should let you get it for about $745 = about $117 in savings.
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a c 572 D Laptop
April 19, 2011 4:36:23 AM

Dell wants an extra $40 to upgrade from 2GB to 3GB and an extra $85 for an upgrade to 4GB.
So it comes with 2GB installed - 1 stick of RAM.

You can upgrade the RAM yourself:
2GB DDR3 1333 laptop RAM $25 - 4GB total
4GB DDR3 1333 laptop RAM $45 - 6GB total
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April 20, 2011 1:14:07 AM

There have been no listed requirements for a laptop, so I'm going off what people have told me. Now that you mention it, Sandy Bridge would probably be a good idea for the next laptop I buy. However, I'm just not a big fan of Dells, and though I seemed to like the laptop listed, it didn't seem to get the greatest reviews.

This seems like a very nice (and light) machine for the price, considering it also has Sandy Bridge i5:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

However, it doesn't have backlit keys....which would be very nice and also the camera isn't that great. This one remedies those problems (and is a good bit faster), and also has a little bit more power in the processor (also and i5 Sandy Bridge). Albeit, it comes at half a pound of weight over the other one, but I still think this might actually be the best option:
http://www.buy.com/prod/sony-vaio-vpcs135fx-b-13-3-note...

Also, I'm entering school in August, so I might just order my computer during the Summer. Are there any good releases or new chipsets coming out soon that I should be aware of?
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a c 572 D Laptop
April 20, 2011 2:09:42 AM

Dell XPS and Dell business class laptops are better options than the mainstream budget laptops. And Dell gets most of it's less than sterling reputation for it's desktop line.
The business class laptops (like the Toshiba Portégé or Dell Vostro/Latitude) generally do better than the consumer versions in reliability, durability and longevity.

4.56lbs Dell Latitude E6420 Notebook review & Latitude E6420 review
3.2lbs Toshiba Portégé R835 reviews & Portege R835 review
4.4lbs Sony Vaio VPC-S Series You can see Sony is all over the map in rankings. I think they change model numbers a lot more frequently than needed and it hinders helping people pick out the best notebooks.

You're OK with not having a dedicated number pad on the keyboard? I thought all math & engineering students would need that feature.
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April 20, 2011 2:47:35 AM

The info you provided has been very helpful WR2. If I can settle on the laptop in the next two days, I'm looking at the E6420 as my #1 option, and probably the one I want to buy. However, I might look at the E5520 for a bigger screen and numpad too (though I'm not a big fan of it being over 5 lbs). If I can't settle on one of those two within the current week, I'll probably look into the R835 (and I'll probably be able to deal with the lack of a numpad and backlit keyboard). However, I'd be a much bigger fan of the R835 if I could upgrade the network card, as the charts ( http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptops/toshiba-portege... ) show its wifi performance (especially from 50+ feet) is quite undesirable. Again, thanks for all the info WR2.
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April 20, 2011 2:47:49 AM

Best answer selected by tooz.
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