Need a notebook for College

Hey TH,

The time has come for me to pick up a notebook for college. I have built a few pc's already and am confident in my self choosing components for that but the laptop market is a whole new ball game. I really dont know where to start. So i figured I would try to leave it to a few more educated and experienced people in this field.

What I need and do:
-I am a mechanical engineering major, I will not be able to have my desktop next year for CAD and would like my laptop to be able to do at least some of what I would be doing in the lab normally. I use auto CAD and solid works

-I play a few video games on the side, I would like to be able to play most things like sc2, COD, etc. and at a higher resolution. Normally I do at 1920x1080 but I dont see many smaller laptops with screen resolutions like that.

-Would like to keep it on the smaller end of things, so that means 13" range to 15" max no bigger, again with a higher resolution display.

-I dont want to break the bank, but where I stand now my parents will cover half the cost of a macbook pro 13" maxed out so around 1900 or so, but cheaper would always be better. (my dad is an avid apple fanboy sadly...)

-Slimmer the better

-BlueRay player would be nice but not a deal breaker.

Hope these are decent guide lines. I would love to research and figure it out but I jsut dont have the time and resources to do so currently. I have been told to look into the Dell XPS and Alienware computers. The Alienwares worry me because they look rather thick and might not appear too professional, but really I am more worried about performance. My friends mainly have apple but they are not doing serious crunching on theirs (rendering, video editing, photo editing, and such) I have always been told the Lenovos are good but I am unsure on that too now, things change so much. Toshiba used to be known as one of the higher end manufactures, now it seems they have alot of cheap crap. IDK may be I am just naive.

Thats why I am here. So thank you for your help in advance, sincerely Preolt
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  1. Hello preolt;

    Nothing wrong with being fan of Apple hardware. They make good stuff. But as an ME you're going to be hanging around Windows based software more often than not or maybe Linux based on who your employer will be a few years from now.

    You're essentially looking for a 'desktop replacement' but you want it small and light too.

    The top end of your budget will handle a SFF PC, 23" 1920x1080 LCD screen (with digtal TV tuner) AND a small notebook/netbook you can haul around campus for note-taking and to carry your digital work files. Have you thought about going in that direction?
  2. To look over a few 15" models that can do the school/gaming double duty:
    MSI GX680 GT 555M graphics
    Sager NP8130 GTX 560M graphics
    Configurable to meet your goals/budget.
  3. Yeah I have my desktop, I am still debatin on if I want to bring itt or not. My parents are worried because our neighbors son his second year of pre mrs flunked out because he was playing everquest and wow allay. Those sent my cup of tea personally, I'm more of a casual gamer team fortress, quake, things of this nature.

    So I don't need a desktop really just a good notebook. I will have to take a look at those and read up on em. They look pretty good at first glance. See the bugged thing I struggle with is understanding laptop CPUs and gpus. Just because an i7 is clocked lower then an i5 or i3 doesn't mean that it's slower, chances are it's faster. Except then I look at SB and how they had 20% performance boost and the i5s are now as fast as some i7s. All of this I understand, but transfer it to the laptop market where I don't know all the components and I get rather confused.
  4. Check out this list of mobile CPU benchmarks:
    The list a few of the desktop CPUs you'll be familiar with for comparison.

    For example; Core i7 2630QM Sandy Bridge CPU is roughly equivelent to the desktop Core i5 750

    For laptop GPU gaming benchmarks:
    But don't let the label 'marketing' fool you. A GeForce GTX 560M is roughly equivalent to a desktop GTS 450, a HD 6770M to a desktop HD 5670.
  5. Yeah the whole naming thing confuses me, why wouldnt a gtx 560m be equivilent to a gtx 560 ti, I understand they cant fit a discrete card that size in, but then why the naming?

    I went through and put some configurations in for the sager, never heard of the brand but it all came out looking pretty nice spec wise. Any more suggestions? I will have to read through the links when I get home.
  6. Ok I have been on the prowel because the lack of a laptop is killing me. (My 5 year old toshiba that i got for free when I was a freshmen in high school finally died)

    I have been looking through alot of laptops and have made a small list of what ive been looking at. Also I apolagize I seemed to have miseed the forum post guide lines. If it makes things easier I can repost or edit my post so that it follows the criteria.

    -Sony VAIO S
    Ok first on the list is the super expensive sony vaio S class, pricing out at around 2400. Doesnt have the best graphics card for the price but looks nice. Has awful battery life for a portable laptop. This PC seems to have the best graphics of the bunch, but I was unable to find the Envy in the archives so I am unsure about it.

    -HP Envy
    I priced out the Envy to about 1300. It looks like a decent machine. One of my sweet mates has one and likes it. I dislike the plastic and would prefer aluminum but I know alot of pc makers havent gone that way yet. It is 14.5" and a little bigger then I was planning on. Has the fastest quad core i7 of the bunch.

    -Lenovo Thinkpad X220
    Currently priced out it comes to around 1300 with the deals they are having apperantly. Now all of this is without looking for student discounts on all 3 actually. Lenovo has always been know as good, but for my needs is it?

    -Appl Macbook Pro 13"
    Sigh I realy dont wanna go this way if I dont have to. They make decent products but I am an IT type of of guy and all my co-workers/class mates in my field are using pc's. My other friends use apple but they are not using engineering programs.

    I have been told to look at the Dell XPS and I know IBM used to have good stuff. What do you guys think?
  7. why it has the same graphics as the apple? Not that I am ruling it out but it would be nice to hear peoples reasoning.
  8. the question that is really important is what year are you going to be and what school. My school you would have no need for a CAD computer because they have them all on software remote which you just access over the internet and they run on the campuses servers. all the labs have all the software too.

    if your not an incoming freshman then that is irrellevant as i assume you know what you need.
  9. My campus has a CAD lab, but the software is not put up on a server yet, may be if they finish their new engineering building in the few years they will. I am a freshmen, but I have already taken Calc 3 and Physics 2 through the school thats why I say I am returning sort of. I want a laptop for myself, but also so that I can do work on it in classes. If I can get a machine that allows me to do CAD work as well wouldnt that be ideal?

    I highly doubt it will have 16 Gb of RAM or a true quadro in it like true CAD desktops do. But I will try to get by with what I can get. Thanks though for helping me clarify.
  10. being a ME student myself id recommend a ssd an i7 and a HD screen. if you can find a 14in screen that would be ideal. i wouldn't get a mac. those kids are always having problems with software and most of the techs know PC's. RAM is easily user upgradable so i recommend that you upgrade it yourself instaid of paying twice the cost on the initial purchase. 8gb would be a minimum.

    something to consider is that first year you will not do too much "engineering" work like you imagine. most programs focus on the basics first year such as teamwork and math and physics. you say you have calc 3 and physics 2 done? i assume your talking about linear algebra and a class like statics or elect and optics? anyway my point is that you will have classes in your first year that will be prerequisites to most of your second year classes and i dont anticipate you having to use CAD programs so maybe wait a year or buy something cheap this year? At purdue all we used was MATLAB and Catia and most laptops can run both easily.
  11. I was planning on buying a 256 Gb SSD and replacing whatever drive the notebook has with it. Since I know I can pick up a nicer one then they will probably put in it. Plus 360 for a DOE SSD and keep the drive the laptop comes with or pay some one 600 to put in the 256 Gb ssd and lose the other drive as well.

    I have never installed RAM on a laptop just hard drives. How do I install it, just like regular desktop RAM? seems like that wouldnt fit properly. Also how do I know if the laptop I purchase has a proper upgrade path to add more RAM?
  12. RAM is the easiest upgrade. More so than a HDD/SSD upgrade. Lenovo X220 used as an example.
    If you can, order your laptop with 1 stick of 4GB RAM. Lenovo offers this option on the X220.
    After you get the laptop run CPU-Z and it will ID the make and part number of your RAM so you can do an identical match.

    Then you'll order and add a 2nd 4GB stick for 8GB total.

    Just open the RAM access cover on the bottom of the laptop and insert the 2nd stick.
    Uploaded with

    Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Review
    another Lenovo ThinkPad X220 review
  13. oh wow that is simple, are all laptops easier like that or just the lenovos? Any more suggestions from what I have listed ? Or if I missed any big name ones let me know
  14. It's the norm but there are some variations.
    One more thing to check before you make a final decision.

    When do you plan to make your purchase? The Envy 14" is due (even overdue) for a refresh. The Envy 17" had it's fresh a few months ago. The 14" graphics card is not
    "switchable", meaning the graphics card can't be shut down when not needed.
  15. Oh ok, that is what I was told about the sony vaio Z? Do you think that would be a good option for me (the envy 14")? I was not super impressed with alot of the computers graphics cards in this size range. I mean I am upping my price range to the 2000$ marker with notebooks like the Vaio Z but I want to get my moneys worth I guess is what I am saying.
  16. heres a GREAT deal.
    2630qm nvidia
    560m 1.5gb dedicated ram
    12GB of RAM!!!
    1TB hardrive at 7200rpm
    full hd 1080p

    this laptop will play almost all games on high except for maybe Metro
  17. The specs look stellar but my problem doesn't lay with the interal specs but the size of the machine. I'm looking for 13 or 14 max I might think about a 15 but only if it's thinner. I just don't wanna throw a massive laptop in my bag every time I toke it around.

    When does the envy 14 get re-released? Also does any one know any other options?
  18. you will be fine with a that laptop. it isnt that thick compared to my 15 inch but if you wanna go to a smaller laptop your going to have to give up performance. it would be optimal to have a smaller screen but you just have to decide if the size is worth the performance decrease. a fifteen inch laptop like that one will fit in a book bag.
  19. I wont try to lie to my self the specs are stellar, its just so big compared to what I am used to and would like =/ I have my desktop if need be for super heavy stuff. So I would prefer to have a smaller notebook thats a little more mobile.
  20. Another MSI GT683R-242US, looks to be same configuration as NewEgg for $50 less. $65 less if you figure in the free shipping.
    About 7.71lbs with the included 9 cell battery.

    You want a 'desktop replacement' type notebook but you want it with size and weight of an ultra portable notebook.
  21. preolt said:
    When does the envy 14 get re-released? Also does any one know any other options?
    Give HP a call and ask. You might find out.
    In a lot of respects it's over due.

    Same for the Sony Z. Also over due a refresh. You'd think the 'flagship' models would get the early makeovers but for some reason it doesn't seem to be the case for the Envy 14 and Sony Z.
  22. Well I called HP and the rep had no idea what he was talking about. Told me he didnt even know about a refresh and that there wouldnt be, which is nonsense since their whole line minus the minis has had a refresh, even the 17".

    I will give Sony a call, things are probably slower because of the Japan business, hopefully they re trying to double time it to make up for lost profit.

    So are these the two I should focus on ?
  23. Without HP or Sony getting an update my vote would be for the Thinkpad X220.

    You might try e-mailing HP and Sony. There's a chance someone will ask around a bit and find a real answer if they're not put on the spot for an immediate answer.
  24. I like the looks of the x220 but my older brother who works for boston scientific hates them, realy just IBM in general. Told me to stear clear of them. I dont know how much of that is just biased or true, I just want to keep it in the right place of my mind so I dont not pick because of it. Wow that barely makes sense after reading...

    Any way I will try the email route and see what happens. I dont need the laptop right now, just in the next month or so would be nice
  25. Most everyone else would tell you the opposite.


    Sony VAIO Z was also an Editor's choice.
  26. ^ haha yes, like I said they are well rated. I like that they are not extremely flashy like some of the msi models or dell models. The only drawback the is tangeable for me is the lack of a higher end graphics card and maybe slightly higher res screen, though higher res means you need a better graphics card.

    I think I will wait a month or so now see what happens and then make my decision. Thank you for all of your help and speedy responses.

    Should I leave this thread open for more discussion or if I come back with more questions? Or just best answer it and let them close it?
  27. Best answer
    I think it's useful to the other forum readers not to have to wade though a bunch of older posts.
    I'd vote for a new topic when you're ready to take the plunge and you've had a bit more time to look over reviews, etc.
  28. Alright thanks for all of your help, its really cool to see people so dedicated to helping others.
  29. Best answer selected by preolt.
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