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Thread: Laptop for Uni and CAD

  1. #1
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    Laptop for Uni and CAD

    I'm going off to Uni in september to study mechanical engineering. Birthday's coming up soon so dad wants to sort me out with a laptop.

    Don't know what software i'll be using but the recommended specs for AutoCAD are:

    Intel® processor 3.0 GHz or greater
    Windows XP Professional (SP2)
    2 GB RAM or greater
    2 GB of disk space available, not including installation
    1280x1024 32-bit color video display adapter (true color)
    128 MB or greater, OpenGL®-capable workstation class graphics card.


    Here are my personal requirements ontop of being able to comfortably deal with CAD

    1) Reasonable amount of storage space ~160GB
    2) 15.4" widescreen
    3) Fairly compact as i'll be carrying it around most days
    4) Reasonable battery life, 2 hours plus of light use
    5) Well built and reliable

    Budget ~£1k

    Anyone have any recommendations?
    Thanks

  2. #2
    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Inspiron 6400 with 1680x1050 Widescreen upgrade, 2gb of RAM, 9 Cell Battery (gives me 5+ hours). 80Gb 7200rpm hard disk, and then buy something like a 320gb external. X1300 graphics.

    Or look at the Latitude D900 with 1920x1200 screen - but its a fair bit bulkier, (17" Screen)

    Ignore the Intel 3.0ghz bit - that applies to P4s, Core2Duo you'd be looking at 2ghz, if that...

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    Senior Member chrestomanci's Avatar
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    If it where not for your portability criteria, the solution would be simple, buy a gaming laptop, and upgrade the RAM. I took a laptop to university in the early nineties, and I know what a drag it is to carry everywhere if it is heavy.

    I think you will also find that your requirement for 160Gb storage will be limiting. You might be better off scrapping it and buying an external USB drive.

    You will also need a good bag, preferably a rucksack that does not attract theft by looking like a laptop bag. Unless your laptop has an 8 hour battery life, I would budget for at least one spare battery, and expect to replace it at least one a year as they wear out. Buy yourself a Kensington lock and use it EVERY TIME you use the laptop somewhere public like the library, lecture theatre, classroom etc. It only takes a moment for someone to grab and run off with your laptop, and there will be times when you get distracted for a few minutes by your friends or a bathroom break.

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    • SuicidaL's system
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    lots of ram for Cad Apps (esp AutoCAD) nearly as memory hungry as norton

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    • BenW's system
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    Thanks, will look at the inspirons. Was looking at the precision M65 but its a bit bulky at 36mm thick and a bit over budget.

    Are gaming graphics chips/cards ok for CAD? I heard that they're not that good?

    I know 160GB is a bit much but its available on some (Sony vaios and some others) so i would prefer it all in the one machine but i'll get an external for backups anyway.

    Deffinatly looking for a maching with 2GB memory but that doesn't seem too hard to find on a £1k machine

  6. #6
    Treasure Hunter extraordinaire herulach's Avatar
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    I think id reasses how much time youll actually spend carrying it. A lot of my friends had laptops bought for going to uni, and they just sat on thier desk. At the most youll take it in when you have CAD lectures, although i imagine anything where you need to be doing anything will be in a cluster anyway. THeyll be machines available at uni with the software, and with email fast broadband and decent capacity memory sticks transferring work backwards and forwards wont be an issue. My advice would be to buy yourself an external (bus powered) hdd and carry that around with whatever project is current on.

  7. #7
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    • BenW's system
      • Motherboard:
      • ASRock Dual SATA2
      • CPU:
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      • Memory:
      • 1GB Crucial DDR
      • Storage:
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      • PSU:
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    I really don't know how much i'll use it, i don't know anyone who's done a mechanical engineering degree at uni. Another thing to mention is that i'll be doing a year in industry in my third year which i may possibly need a laptop for.

    I was looking at the Sony Vaio FE41S (1.66Ghz, 160GB) and FE41Z (2GHz, 200GB). Only real problem with CAD on them is the screen which is 1280x800 but they're very portable, only 26mm thick IIRC. Seems like a nice allround machine that i can do CAD on if need be.

  8. #8
    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Vaios are overpriced and underspeccd. Dell (and not just cause I've got one) is much more configurable, and just as good on build quality.

    I looked around a lot when I got my laptop - Vaios with comparable specs to my Dell Inspiron 6400 were 1600+, where as I paid £941.something for this - and its been worth every penny

    Dave

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    • BenW's system
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    Thanks Dave, i know thats normally the case but i've just build a dell system based on the spec of a sony (FE41Z)

    Dell Inspiron 6400 - £1,143.25 inc
    Sony Vaio FE41Z - £1,145. 63 inc

    Specs are identical except the dell has upgraded 9 cell battery(I'm not sure what the standard sony one's like) and the Sony has a 200GB hard drive whereas dell has a 160GB.

    Also added a webcam onto the inspiron as the sony has a built in one, wouldn't actually buy one with the inspiron but this is for comparison and i didn't try to match the prices, just how it worked out!

  10. #10
    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    • dave87's system
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    Heh, that is why you wait for free double memory & free delivery - should knock at least 100 off, or give you 2Gb of RAM as you wanted..

  11. #11
    Formerly known as Andehh Andeh13's Avatar
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    im doing an engineering foundation year, followed by auto/mech engineering currently. Out of a lecture group of 120ish, not 1 person has a laptop.

    Keep in mind when CAD/CAM work is expected, you'll generally be taken to a uni PC room to do it, as so few ppl have laptops capable of running such power hungry apps. Also the license needed 2 run the programs legally is usually much more then the typical student can afford.

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    • BenW's system
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    Thanks,

    Dave, both laptops at that price included 2GB RAM although i think it was an upgrade on the dell. Don't suppose you know when the next double memory offer is due?

    Andehh, nice to have some input from a current engineering student! Thats what i was almost expecting to hear.

    Dad works in the design department of an office furniture company and i think he's quite keen that i get the best out of my uni years. He wants me to have the ability to work on CAD when and where i want. Also, he'll have plenty of older autocad licenses lying around unused (They've just upgraded to 2007 so will have a few 2006 licenses unused)

  13. #13
    Senior Trouble Maker muddyfox470's Avatar
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    try dell outlet they have some bargains with 3 year next business day warranty

    they often have £95 off all systems etc and you can awesome pcs, my mate bought a stonking great deal for £700 ish earlier this year

    ian

    EDIT: i accidentally deleted the whole thing i just wrote so ill recxap:

    you might as well buy a mid spec laptop now and/or only get one when your department asks you to get one for your requirements, or you may even be able to loan one off the uni.

    i am a 2nd year engineer and what has been said is true, you dont need one (only a select few do), all the software and pcs are provided with very easy access throughout most days for plenty of time with pc specs changing so frequently i would only buy one as you see fit. also if you are getting a laptop solely for cad etc, the uni is unlikely to give you a free copy of the cad software, so you will have to fork out £200+ for the same software suite as what the uni uses, a bit of a bummer i know :s

    good luck with it all im sure youll enjoy it. im at durham doing general and im gonna do mech next year, hopefully

    just read the stuff about ur dad and the licenses, you better make sure ur uni uses autocad, and also definitely check out dell outlet as they do have some very cheap very good laptops. they arent necessarily refurbished, more than likely to be cancelled orders.
    Last edited by muddyfox470; 30-01-2007 at 10:06 PM.
    Mac fancier > white macbook base spec .................. CS: muddyfirebang

  14. #14
    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    When I looked at my laptop - adding an extra GB of RAM was a £150 option, so it made sense to wait for the free double memory.

    I'm guessing that as you are going to start an engineering course, it won't start till September? If so, best off waiting and ordering about a month before you go

  15. #15
    Treasure Hunter extraordinaire herulach's Avatar
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    By the time it gets to your third year any laptop you buy now will be so horrendously outdated as to not be worth bothering with.

    I lived with people in first year who never used their laptop once the entire time. Basically, if you want a laptop great, but spend your budget on a decent 12.1" with lots of battery life you can do essays on. Or buy a proper pc

  16. #16
    I am Domo-Kun, hear me Roooaaaarrrrrrr!!! uchiha_itachi's Avatar
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    As a CAD student, I mostly use CAD software and packages. I'm in my second year and have used a wide range of CAD software over a wide range of systems. So this is my advice to you.

    If you're only going to use AutoCAD, then don't waste your money getting a high-spec laptop. It's not very powerhungry. I've used AutoCAD on a HP laptop with 512mb ram, athlon 2600+ and and ATI rage graphics card, and it ran without any problems. And when I say without problems, I dont mean just about useable, I mean it ran without problems and the performance did not hinder me in any task I was trying to perform.

    If you're going to use further 3D modelling software(can't see this happening as you're only going to be on a mechanical engineering course), again I would be slightly apprehensive in spending loads on a laptop just for this use. I have been using SolidEdge V18 on the same HP laptop mentioned above, again with no problems. The only problems I have found when using SolidEdge is when I try to use the render tools, but even this is something that would cause a dekstop pc to stumble on.
    I can understand your Dad wanting you to have a laptop being able to run everything thrown at it, but it seems his opinion maybe slightly biased working in a furniture design company. I am sure he is used to running some pretty hardware extensive software packages, (3DSMax, StudioTools, etc.) but again, just reitterating the same point as before, I really can't see a mechanical engineering student using software like that.

    Just speaking from my own experience. I was very much in the same boat as you prior to starting my CAD degree. I so wanted to splash out loads of money on a good laptop, but I decided to wait a few weeks into the course, find out what software we would be using and get some advise from students in the upper years and from lecturers. I think that was probably the best thing I done, saved myself lots of money. I found that any work that needed to be done I had enough time to do on a desktop PC, there really was no need for urgency work, e.g. laptop. The HP laptop I mentioned above is not mine and used at my parents house when I go to visit them and need to get some work done.

    Most of my CAD work is done on my desktop pc which is a socket 754 athlon64 3200+ with 1gb ddr ram. The only upgrade I have made since I started my course was to my graphics card, I was able to find a cheap nvidia quadro 900xgl graphics card on ebay for £40. Only now, (half way through my course) am I finding that my hardware is slightly struggling. But then again alot of my CAD work is now more rendering of designed 3D models.

    Sorry for the long post, just thought I would share my experiences as someone who was in a slightly similar situation.

    Hope that helped.

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