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Best laptop to choose for engineering @ university

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July 26, 2011 2:39:15 PM

hey all

i've never owned a notebook before, i've always forayed into the desktop market. i'll be living at home, where I have a custom built desktop with the following relative specs:

i5-2500k CPU
6950 2gb vid card
8gb ram
120GB agility 3 ssd
500gb seagate HDD

however, i don't expect to be able to use this gaming system a lot for schoolwork as i expect to be at the university a lot working with friends and in study groups. what i'm trying to say is that i want my notebook to do more than just word process.

i'm trying to narrow it down because there are 1000 laptops on the market. i know what my criteria are for my laptop but i'm struggling to find models that fit. it'd be great to start by me giving my desired specifications and going with some recommendations.

also, any advice on which brands are best as far as quality, customer service etc. would be appreciated.

here is what i want/thing i need, feel free to advise me otherwise!

1) no longer than 15.6", this is very important to me
2) ~900$ CAD
3) 320GB HDD is fine, bigger than 500 is kind of overkill.
4) a quality CPU--i'm used to a an i2500k. i feel that i need a true quad core, preferably an intel i-2630QM but if i'm wrong about that let me know
5) some sort of discrete graphics. i do not want intel integrated hd 3000 graphics on my laptop because i may occassionally game on it.
6) decent battery

that should be it. i know that it is specific and what not. i've been looking and i will post any models that i find.

thanks in advance for the help!
a b D Laptop
July 26, 2011 3:10:08 PM

reignsupreme11 said:
hey all

i've never owned a notebook before, i've always forayed into the desktop market. i'll be living at home, where I have a custom built desktop with the following relative specs:

i5-2500k CPU
6950 2gb vid card
8gb ram
120GB agility 3 ssd
500gb seagate HDD

however, i don't expect to be able to use this gaming system a lot for schoolwork as i expect to be at the university a lot working with friends and in study groups. what i'm trying to say is that i want my notebook to do more than just word process.

i'm trying to narrow it down because there are 1000 laptops on the market. i know what my criteria are for my laptop but i'm struggling to find models that fit. it'd be great to start by me giving my desired specifications and going with some recommendations.

also, any advice on which brands are best as far as quality, customer service etc. would be appreciated.

here is what i want/thing i need, feel free to advise me otherwise!

1) no longer than 15.6", this is very important to me
2) ~900$ CAD
3) 320GB HDD is fine, bigger than 500 is kind of overkill.
4) a quality CPU--i'm used to a an i2500k. i feel that i need a true quad core, preferably an intel i-2630QM but if i'm wrong about that let me know
5) some sort of discrete graphics. i do not want intel integrated hd 3000 graphics on my laptop because i may occassionally game on it.
6) decent battery

that should be it. i know that it is specific and what not. i've been looking and i will post any models that i find.

thanks in advance for the help!


What games do you play? What type engineering will you be doing (intent of the question: will you be using CAD software, or just photoshop?)?
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July 26, 2011 3:27:21 PM

i play rts and some shooters. as far as this laptop goes. i could see myself playing games such as mass effect 2/3, the new elder scrolls game, perhaps some rts games like SC2 or dawn of war 2. as far as the type of engineering, i am not sure yet. i am going into a general first year, but i know that we use CAD software and photoshop because i have talked to some students who just finished
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a b D Laptop
July 26, 2011 3:51:15 PM

Depending on the engineering you go into, you may or may not need to use CAD software. If you're mechanical or electrical, then yeah, you likely will, otherwise... mayhaps not. Seeing your usage description, I'm pretty sure you don't need a quad core processor, just a decently good graphics card. I have a laptop a year old with a mid grade last gen Radeon, and it can play ME2 and SC2 fine on medium. ME3 i think is based on the same engine as 2 (a modified Unreal engine, i think), so that should be ok as well... tho i'm not sure about Skyrim. I think the best bet for you is either a Dell XPS 15 (play with customization for cpu/gpu combination in your price range), or if you can find it, a Acer TimelineX 4830TG/5830TG... just make sure the graphics card on it is a 525M or higher.

Either should have decent performance for what you want (gaming-wise, at least), though they may have problems with CAD software performance down the line (though that's not something that these general consumer-grade graphics cards were made for anyways).
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July 26, 2011 6:30:07 PM

thanks. let it be made clear though that any real gaming i will be doing will be on my desktop. i travel a lot so i'm hoping to be able to game a bit to get my fix while i'm away.

also, i found this at tiger direct.ca anybody have experience with this laptop? the specs look great.

http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item...
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a b D Laptop
July 26, 2011 8:12:24 PM

O haha i was looking for that one too, but couldn't find it on amazon (US version)... yeah if you can get that, it'll work great. I have not read anything about its battery life, but it should be ok as well, based on other computers of similar specs.
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July 27, 2011 3:28:22 AM

first like sidewinder said it totally depends on what major you in. Coming from one of the best engineering schools in the country it might be a bit different for me but i never need a computer capable of running anything but word or google chrome. the have computer labs with all of the CAD programs on them but the computer in front of you doesnt actually run the program. the work goes back to a server room the size of an apartment. also were i go you can use remote access which is basically using the programs over the internet off there servers. so if you have decent internet you can look at that direction too.

with that being said i would consentrate on a workstation graphics card more then the cpu. i seriously doubt you will be doing any serious rendering but will work in more design oriented programs. workstations kick gaming gpu's asses in these programs. its like a Kobe Bryant playing in a high school basketball game.

that asus has a 5400 rpm drive. i would look for a 7200 rpm drive.
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July 27, 2011 4:19:53 AM

what are the reputable brands? i've started to notice that the best price/performance laptops are usually asus and lenovo. is this because they lack in customer service, build quality or something of the like?
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July 27, 2011 4:33:53 AM

lenovo is a GREAT brand in my opinion. they sell the most probably. maybe not here but overseas too. look at the thinkpads.
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July 27, 2011 5:30:40 AM

Quite honestly, my friends and I used desktops plenty in LAN gaming in college. You can still stick to the desktop for gaming and just get an i3-2310M laptop for $450. The HD 3000 graphics will still play the majority of games, although on low settings, (and TF2 with ease) while accomplishing all tasks (movie watching, programming, databases) without much fuss. Then you'll save yourself $550 that you can spend on something more fun, like a flight to Europe.

EDIT: I assume most Photoshop & Elder Scrolls V will probably be on the desktop anyways. If you really want to though, you can get something fancier--but there's pretty much no reason to spend more than $800 if you're looking for a 15.6" with reasonable gaming capabilities. An HP dv6 Quad would do everything you need.

ENGINEERING: I agree with cbrunnem, in engineering school in college there are computer labs everywhere. You don't need a laptop at all actually. It's more helpful for engineering classes to use a notebook because you can sketch things and draw diagrams. That said, I see no reason to aim for a powerhouse laptop with your i5-2500K in your dorm room.
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July 27, 2011 6:03:46 AM

What I am looking at for engineering is an llano laptop. The hp dv6-6135dx or a dv6 dvz laptop from hp from a student discount. The reason is that the llano laptops do well at GPGPU stuff.

Mathematica and Matlab can both do opencl and it looks like there are ways to do gpgpu stuff with Mathcad also. Engineering and Science fields both seem to have a lot of gpgpu software with more coming so a laptop that can do that seems like a good idea.

I will be doing chemical and biological engineering and gpgpu looked VERY useful for that. My plan is to basically follow along in my classes with the laptop.

Hope this is helpful to you.
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July 27, 2011 6:56:38 AM

I haven't seen a Llano laptop priced properly for the performance it brings. Considering an A8 top of the line Llano matches an i3-2310M in performance, I can't recommend a Llano unless you're into gaming on a battery or the prices drop.
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July 27, 2011 12:40:59 PM

matlab is essentially single threaded. it can be multithreaded but you have to program you program for it to be multithreaded. that being said matlab is not intensive at all and i have not been impressed with llano at all.
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a b D Laptop
July 27, 2011 1:02:15 PM

Lenovo makes some of the best general purpose/business laptops, though I'm not sure if they make any gaming laptops... and I find most of their laptops to be less than aesthetically pleasing >_>. Asus makes some very nice (and pretty!) laptops, and they have their dedicated line of gaming laptops (ROG G series)... though they are a bit above your price range.

While other people have said that it's probably better to game/CAD on a desktop, and save the other things for a cheap laptop, my experience is that a decent laptop can do almost all of that already, with the benefit of being mobile.

I just graduated this past May, and for my last year, I did everything on my Acer 4820TG. When i'm at my apartment, i hooked it up to a big monitor, along with mouse and keyboard, turning it basically into a desktop... It was good enough for gaming (SC2, ME2, BF:BC2) at 1080p. When im out, it can last quite a while on battery, and i can still game on it if my friends and i randomly decide to start a game of sc2 in the library :p 
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July 27, 2011 10:51:20 PM

@sidewinderx2--True that a good laptop for $800 or so is an excellent desktop replacement. But he's got an excellent desktop that he'll have in his room so there's no point in a desktop replacement.
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July 31, 2011 7:31:04 PM

hey thanks for all the replies!

all the advice has been excellent and i am definitely work my way to a decision. i will likely do a LOT of multitasking on my laptop, thats just the kind of user i am. for example, i will video encode and listen to music while playing SC2 on my desktop (at 75-80fps). now, i know i won't get that kind of performance from a laptop in my price range but i'm sure you understand my requirement. i like to have a lot on the go--that's why i've really evaluated the quad core intels.

if i can grab one for 800-900$ would that be a waste or a good buy?
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July 31, 2011 8:43:16 PM

Just replied to a similar thread with this. You can ignore the upgrades if its above your price range. And the Asus A53 was selling for the mid 700$ range just a week ago.

Quote:
I've almost pulled the trigger on this. I'm a recently graduated Embedded Systems Engineer (majored in EE took a bunch of CS classes)

http://www.xoticpc.com/asus-k53sva1-p-3076.html

Starts at 800$. Unless you really need an optical drive, replace it with a HDD caddy and set it up to boot from an SSD and use a 5400rpm hdd for storage. Only other upgrades I would make are to the thermal paste used and the NIC (go with Killer 1102/3) if Wireless is important to you.

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August 4, 2011 1:03:36 AM

what about something from cyber power pc.com? i've been looking at them and they are highly customizable which is very appealling. i can get EXACTLY what i want, but it isnt brand name computers. who has experience and stuff with this site? is it reputable, reliable? i can get the cpu, hdd, gpu and ram that i want for 850$ before tax and stuff. are the batteries junk or something?

do they have good customer service and support as well? i gues it seems too good to be true, does anybody have experience with them?

also, what is the brand "FORCE" like? (see link below):

http://www.xoticpc.com/force-pbl21-compal-pbl21-p-3086....
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August 9, 2011 2:45:40 PM

i've come to the conclusion (after receiving my schedule) that i won't be using this computer much for gaming. however, my budget is still the same, so it's opened up an upgrade for an ssd. any recommendations?
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a b D Laptop
August 9, 2011 3:07:56 PM

If you do get an SSD (which i strongly recommend, especially since you'll be saving some money on the graphics card side), you'll have to install it by yourself (and windows along with it), so just keep that in mind. If you wont do much more than office applications, you can just spend about $1-200 on a good ~60-120 gb SSD. It'll be enough for windows + office suite + visual studio and/or Eclipse + a couple of games. You'll probably want to carry a small (size, not capacity) hard drive with you for your media files if you have lots of music/movies though.

For the laptop itself, try Lenovo's Thinkpad series. The T420 is an awesome laptop, with great build quality and reliability. You can customize a few options on it too if you go to their website. Just don't bother upgrading the HDD to a SSD on there... do it yourself, it's much cheaper.
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August 9, 2011 3:36:07 PM

hey, i may have reason to change my mind again!

i've been looking on cyberpowerpc.com and they are giving a 5% instant rebate and 50$ MIR on any item over 999$ and are also offering a free upgrade to 8gb fo ram on certain models. This essentially brings the cost back within my 900$ limit. i have customized a system for 1001$ with the following specifications:

intel 2630QM CPU
windows 7 home premium
15.6" 1366 x 768 (don't sell anything smaller)
nvidia GT 540m 2GB
range booster wireless card
OCZ Agility 3 120GB SSD
8GB DDR3 RAM

they are also adding in a free copy of shogun 2, a basic mouse and a headset with mic. this totals 1001$ and then 50$ is taken off and i qualify for an additional 50$ MIR.

now all these goodies so pretty damn good to me, what do you guys have to say/think?
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a b D Laptop
August 9, 2011 3:49:42 PM

that actually sounds pretty awesome. The only thing with a small-ish SSD is that you'll only be able to keep a handful of games on there at once... which isnt really that big a problem, tbh, but it's something to keep in mind about anyways.
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August 9, 2011 5:17:14 PM

sidewinderx2 said:
that actually sounds pretty awesome. The only thing with a small-ish SSD is that you'll only be able to keep a handful of games on there at once... which isnt really that big a problem, tbh, but it's something to keep in mind about anyways.


their will only be 2-3 games that i will play on this laptop, so i'm not really worried, i figured that'd leave me with about 50GB of storage space, plus i have an external hard drive. thanks for the advice though, anybody have any other thoughts?
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