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What laptops are best for grad school? I've used both Macs and PCs. Apple has the virus-resistance, but are very pricey. My last PC laptop melted itself after 4 years of use. What are you using and what do you recommend?

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As far as my field is concerned, the ideal grad school laptop doesn't really differentiate itself from the ideal general-use laptop. It needs to be relatively reliable, able to run Microsoft Office products, and wireless internet capable. Bonus if it's light to carry. Since that covers 99.9% of all laptops on the market, I'd just buy the best computer that I could afford.

While some people have brand preferences, I think those really just emerge from which they had for the longest and gave them the fewest issues but sometimes that's just luck of the draw. Personally, I love HP's, since the computer I had prior to my current one was an HP and lasted seven years with few problems. On the other hand, my brother had an HP laptop for less than a year before it crapped out on him. I'd just make a list of what you need in a computer, go to your retailer or website of choice and find the computer that best matches your needs and your budget.

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You, uh, should search this forum because the same question has been asked numerous times... Also, to get a good answer you should specify what you're looking for.

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I own a thinkpad and love it. They're a great value as long as you don't care for the flashiness of consumer laptops (thinkpads are business oriented), and they're built like rocks: I've had mine for 2 years and it runs like it did when I bought it, my friend's thinkpad's cpu fan started going wonky last semester after like 6 years of abuse. It probably wouldn't be too expensive to fix, but he opted to get a brand new thinkpad. Only thing with thinkpads is they don't have top of the line graphics cards needed for modern games, but if you are considering a Mac, it doesn't sound like a problem for you.

Macs are completely overpriced, you are mainly paying for the flashiness. Its silly. I have also had no good experiences with HP and avoid them like the plague now, they typically have the cheapest stuff, but it shows. The HP laptop I had before my current one crapped out a couple weeks after the warranty ran out (thank god for American Express extending warranties), and I've heard numerous similar stories from friends.

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I LOVE my new Mac. It's changed my life.

I see in your sig, matcha, that you're coming to Cornell. The Cornell Store has a special deal on Apple products. Usually the academic rate is 5% off or something, but Cornell gives 8% or so. Don't know why. A $1000 basic Macbook is $911, in any case. The nicer version, the one with the aluminum shell, is well under $1000 with the Cornell discount.

Office for Mac is mixed. Entourage, the Mac version of Outlook, is nimble and nice looking (unlike the Windows version?!?) AND has a really powerful, fantastic project management feature that lets you integrate contacts, messages, calendar items, notes etc, into one project. It is really, really great for my own productivity. Excel and Word, on the other hand, are sort of a mishmash of comfortable Mac design elements/features and Windows-style features, which makes them tougher to navigate. Academic licenses, also at the Cornell Store, are $75 or so for the entire Office suite.

When Macs die, though, they die spectacularly and suddenly, and the only way to get them repaired is to send them to Apple. BUT Apple has fantastic warranties for up to 3 years, I think. You can buy the warranty - which is usually less than $200 - at any time. So, you can wait until your computer breaks, and as long as it's within that warranty period, you can then buy the warranty, and report the breaking the next day and get it fixed under warranty.

Also: Spaces. You can have different desktops for different tasks. It's great for limiting internet time-wasting when you're trying to do a paper. Put them in different spaces, and it's easier to ignore the distraction!

Wireless networking is effortless on Macs, too. They're so smart. Mmm... wub.gif

I had a horrible, horrible experience with an HP laptop. The fans started dying within a year, which put extra stress on the electronics and it slowly and painfully died for the next 3 years - barely limping along to the end of my undergrad, and then swallowing up 4 years of my life.

Ok, that's enough. You see where I stand. ;)

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I say it doesn't really matter what you get as long as it fills your needs. All computers are vulnerable to viruses and hackers. Basically viruses affect more Windows based machines because most people use Windows. Virus makers would rather target the larger of the two. If Apple gets to the point where they out number Windows users, then you'll start to see more viruses.

Anyways, you can go with a Mac and dual boot Windows and OSX. You can also go the other way around, but that requires more effort on your part.

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I have used Acer and Dell's laptops before. None of them lasted for more than 2 years due to battery problems. My next laptop will be a thinkpad. The traditional one is fine but if you have some extra cash thinkpad edge is ideal!

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I say it doesn't really matter what you get as long as it fills your needs. All computers are vulnerable to viruses and hackers. Basically viruses affect more Windows based machines because most people use Windows. Virus makers would rather target the larger of the two. If Apple gets to the point where they out number Windows users, then you'll start to see more viruses.

Anyways, you can go with a Mac and dual boot Windows and OSX. You can also go the other way around, but that requires more effort on your part.

If you're going to suggest dual-booting, the VM route is far easier and might be all people look for anyway. The only catch is, I think most people will look at you and ask "what is VM?", but it'll catch on.

Anyway, someone mentioned workspaces, on that basis I will advocate Linux for the same reason ;)

My point is... it's great you like that feature, but don't assume it's not available in other operating systems. It's not a good basis for advice.

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Anyway, someone mentioned workspaces, on that basis I will advocate Linux for the same reason ;)

My point is... it's great you like that feature, but don't assume it's not available in other operating systems. It's not a good basis for advice.

Well, I know that. I also know that Mac OS is based on Unix. ;)

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If were talking about Linux too, then I'd also like to give my recommendation to it. Its got the same virus resistance as macs (as joro pointed out, this is largely due to their lesser userbase), but its free! Being difficult to use is a complete myth nowadays with distributions like Ubuntu. Its easier to install and use than Windows at this point. If you are fine with macs software wise, the only issue you'll run into is no Microsoft Office (and other commercial stuff like Photoshop if you are into that). OpenOffice has done the job for me my entire undergrad, and in mathematics we write papers in latex, which actually works much better in linux, but this could be an issue for you.

Name an OS feature like spaces or whatever, and not only does linux have it, but linux probably had it first!

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Whew! I always forget how little I know about technology until I ask about technology. :-)

Basically, I need a tank of a laptop that is idiot friendly. I'll be researching a bit, writing papers, etc. I'm not a gamer or programmer. I just need something that can basically withstand a nuclear blast and hold my hand at the same time.

I had no idea Cornell worked so well with Apple! Thanks for the heads up!

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I had no idea Cornell worked so well with Apple! Thanks for the heads up!

Yeah. They also have deals with Dell and IBM, although I don't know if it's above-and-beyond normal educational deals like with Apple. I would call the store to check about when you'd be eligible for those deals. I think you need a NetID (=active Cornell email account), but that might not be a hard and fast rule.

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An old thread, like may be of use to you.

Thanks. I searched a little before posting the thread, but I only found laptop vs. desktop. I guess I didn't look hard enough!

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ive got a macbook pro... i hate the way windows has "updated" since XP, and likely will never go back from the mac.

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I think the smart opinion is, if you have the money get a Mac, they are just better machines and will last you a lot longer. They are more expensive but better quality - you get what you pay for.

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I think the smart opinion is, if you have the money get a Mac, they are just better machines and will last you a lot longer. They are more expensive but better quality - you get what you pay for.

The operating system is the only thing that's good about the Mac.

I think the smart option is just to get whatever is necessary. If you absolutely need a Mac because the Mac has the software which you need to use, then go for a Mac. If a Windows based computer has the software you need, then go with Windows. If it doesn't matter, then go with whatever makes you happy. Laptops can last a quite a long time assuming you take good care of them whether it is an Apple or PC.

As a little side information, the main companies that make the Apple laptops are Quanta and Compal. Compal laptops are great by the way and available to purchase for Windows users.

Here's a copy and paste of information from a user on a notebook forum who has disassembled various Macbook Pro laptops:

Motherboard.... foxconn?

CPU ..... Intel

Video .... Nvidia

Ram ..... Various primarily Samsung

Unibody machining .... Quanta as well as one I cant find a mark for

Keyboard .... various

Touchpad ..... primarily Synaptics from ones I've torn down

LCD's ... LG, AUO, Chi Mei

Hard Disks.... Hitachi, Samsung

The above can basically be found in a bunch of other laptops so I wouldn't start talking about hardware.

Edited by joro

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I think the smart opinion is, if you have the money get a Mac, they are just better machines and will last you a lot longer. They are more expensive but better quality - you get what you pay for.

Yea, consider the above post, and the quality argument goes out the window. It's pretty similar hardware in all the machines. If you want "tougher" cases, check out the toughbook. If you want shiny, go for mac. The "smart" opinion is not very well defined here, and neither is the "quality". I'm really not sure which quality you're referring to.

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Yea, consider the above post, and the quality argument goes out the window. It's pretty similar hardware in all the machines. If you want "tougher" cases, check out the toughbook. If you want shiny, go for mac. The "smart" opinion is not very well defined here, and neither is the "quality". I'm really not sure which quality you're referring to.

Well I was mostly referring to my own experiences and the experiences of pretty much everyone I know. I used PCs exclusively until I went to college where they told me it was a Mac campus so I got a Mac. I would never go back, they are just so much better. They don't get viruses/spyware and become completely unusable after a year. You don't have to pay monthly fees for anti-virus software that doesn't keep the viruses out anyway. Everyone I know that has used a Mac after using a PC would never go back. Dealing with a PC is just too much of a headache, they become pieces of junk pretty quickly and have to be replaced. The main argument against Macs is that they are more expensive but like I said, you get what you pay for. It may just be personal preference and I know that some people like working with PCs, I would just never recommend one to anyone unless they want to keep buying a new computer every year or two.

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Well I was mostly referring to my own experiences and the experiences of pretty much everyone I know. I used PCs exclusively until I went to college where they told me it was a Mac campus so I got a Mac. I would never go back, they are just so much better. They don't get viruses/spyware and become completely unusable after a year. You don't have to pay monthly fees for anti-virus software that doesn't keep the viruses out anyway. Everyone I know that has used a Mac after using a PC would never go back. Dealing with a PC is just too much of a headache, they become pieces of junk pretty quickly and have to be replaced. The main argument against Macs is that they are more expensive but like I said, you get what you pay for. It may just be personal preference and I know that some people like working with PCs, I would just never recommend one to anyone unless they want to keep buying a new computer every year or two.

Talking about your experience is fair. I was harping on the higher quality argument. The anti-virus thing, there are a number of free ones available. The fact that Windows is a more attractive OS in terms of writing malicious code does not mean it is lower quality. Actually, in terms of security features, it has more of them than OS X does.

To throw in my own experience, I'm yet to get any virus/malware junk on my windows install, even though I use it more rarely now. Oh, and I had my Dell laptop for the past 4 years, with no issues. In the end, everyone should get what they're more comfortable with. My problem here is with misinformation about products, that's all.

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Well I was mostly referring to my own experiences and the experiences of pretty much everyone I know. I used PCs exclusively until I went to college where they told me it was a Mac campus so I got a Mac. I would never go back, they are just so much better. They don't get viruses/spyware and become completely unusable after a year. You don't have to pay monthly fees for anti-virus software that doesn't keep the viruses out anyway. Everyone I know that has used a Mac after using a PC would never go back. Dealing with a PC is just too much of a headache, they become pieces of junk pretty quickly and have to be replaced. The main argument against Macs is that they are more expensive but like I said, you get what you pay for. It may just be personal preference and I know that some people like working with PCs, I would just never recommend one to anyone unless they want to keep buying a new computer every year or two.

I'm sorry that you and your friends bought machines with tons of bloatware and thought you guys had to buy anti-virus software, but that's pretty much what PC manufacturer's include on their computers when sold. Apple packages their computers with only their applications hence why you see no bloatware which is great.

Again, there are free anti-virus software. There are ALWAYS free alternatives, you don't HAVE to pay monthly fees.

I don't know about you, but my PCs last a long time. My 7 year old PC is alive and kicking. I did add more memory, swapped out the CPU, and added a bigger hard drive to give it a bit more life so that it could run more modern games.

I'd rather have the OP (original poster) make an informed decision rather than a blind one based on someone's bad personal experience.

As timuralp has mentioned, Windows is more attractive to virus programmers because of the huge community of Windows users. They have an opportunity to affect more users than on an Apple computer. Now if Apple ever gets to the point where they have more users than Windows, then that would change and virus programmers would attack Apple users. Apple has their share of vulnerabilities that haven't been patched and a quick search on Google will bring those up.

Edited by joro

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The only time you should get spyware or viruses and your computer becomes "completely unusable" after a year is if you click every darn thing on the Internet. I bought an IBM in 2004 and gave it to my aunt; it is stil running (it's just slow because it's got like 512MB RAM). I have a friend who had a Toshiba for 5 years before it died. I've had a Dell for 4 years with no antivirus on it and it still runs fine, I just decided to buy another computer last year - a Sony, which is also overpriced. The Dell works absolutely fine. I installed McAfee on this Sony to protect it - had it for a little over a year and it also runs. My mom's had a good running Dell for about 5 or 6 years and it still runs fine.

Like someone already pointed out, the hardware on Macs aren't any different from the hardware on PCs. The moving parts are mostly made by the same companies. I like the Mac OS; it's great to use, but it's not that it's not susceptible to viruses. It's just that fewer people MAKE viruses for the Mac. And, like I said, if you're careful with what you click and you know at least a little about the Internet you can avoid getting some heinous virus that will destroy your hard drive. It's certainly not true that you'd have to replace a PC every 1-2 years. I've known people who have had PCs last just about as long as Macs last, and I HAVE met people who have had Macs crap out on them after a year or two.

It's really about comfort level. Apple is very expensive for the components they offer you. Even my overpriced Sony was about $300 less than an Apple Macbook Pro and I've got twice as much RAM and HDD space as the Pro I was eyeing, and a faster processor with a similar graphics card. I've also got HDMI output which has come in handy when I want to watch Hulu on my television.

Thinkpads are great computers; they are built like tanks. Like I said, I bought a Thinkpad when they were still made by IBM and not Lenovo and that thing is stiiillll going 6 years later. It's got a floppy disk drive, lol. Toshibas can be hit or miss from what I've heard but I've had generally good experiences with them. I bought a Sony because I've heard they are also durable but honestly I don't think they're any more durable than Toshibas; my bezel cracked and I don't even know how.

Edited by juilletmercredi

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ThinkPad is my choice, but with a twist: WHY would you buy a brand new computer? Sure, I could buy a MAC laptop for $1200 to $1900, or a new Windows laptop from numerous manufacturers for $500 to $1500.

Think about it. You can get a factory refurbished Thinkpad T41 or 61 running XP Pro SP3 that will do everything I need to do for less than $300, with a dual processor and lots of RAM. For the price of a new MAC laptop, I can get FOUR or FIVE of them. When it gets lost/stolen, I just replace it. You can even get the next model down for $215.

Of course, as MODERN and tech-savvy folks we all back up our data to an external HDD (left at home) or the "cloud" on a regular, habitual manner, correct? I am not going to be putting all my eggs in one basket, and then carring that fragile thing around in my backpack. One slip, fall or collision (or theft) with a bicycle courier... oops there goes your thesis.

What is this with the disposable world we live in that everyone needs the cool new laptop to do email, listen to music, surf the web, and writing papers? You don't need processor speed to do this. You don't need the coolest neatest hi-speed stuff to do this. You need something that is built physically tough, but is reliable and replacable (like an old shoe when you wear it out).

I have a ThinkPad T41 (had it 2 years, still works great). I may pick up a refurb T61 in the next few months for a slight upgrade. Maybe I need to get a big white apple or some skateboard or surfing sticker to put on the cover to make it cool.

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I'll be doing a lot of coding and graphics-heavy work, so I'll probably look for deals on techbargains.com and end up buying whatever's the most bang for the buck from HP, Lenovo, or Dell. I want something with a quad-core i7 and a good graphics chip, which I can find for less than $1000 these days. I currently maintain a lab full of Macs (Macbook Pros, towers, iMacs, and a couple of iPads,) and while I love OSX, recent practices and decisions (and some not so recent) by the Apple corporation are driving me up the wall, which is why I decided to replace my aging white Macbook with a PC next time.

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