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New laptop for (Civil) Engineering student

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by jfhslvds, Sep 17, 2007.

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  1. jfhslvds

    jfhslvds Notebook Enthusiast

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    Hello,

    My sister is starting university soon. She's gonna be studying Civil Engineering at Durham University (a British university).

    I've been given the task of finding and buying a laptop for her. I've looked around on some websites, mainly ebay. I know quite a lot about computers (having built some for myself and family in the past) so don't really need anything explaining.

    All I need to know is, as a student studying (Civil) Engineering, what kind of specs do you need? A friend of mine studied Architecture (not the same subject, but kinda related) and he remarked how he regretted not getting a more powerful computer (i.e. his gfx was only an Intel intergrated one etc.), and that he would sometimes have to wait for literally days to render a building.

    Therefore, does my sis need powerful specs? I'm thinking of definitely getting something which is at least Core 2 Duo 1.6ghz+ and 2gb RAM, but the only thing I'm not sure about is whether I should stick with a gfx card which is intergrated (albeit Intel X3100+), or maybe something which is dedicated (i.e. Geforce 7300 Go or even the 8600).

    I've checked around, and the Dell Vostro 1500s seem nice.

    Could someone who knows something about (Civil) Engineering tell me something?

    Thanks,
    J
     
  2. Johnny T

    Johnny T Forum Moderator Super Moderator

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    Welcome to NBR!

    Can you please fill out the FAQ? It would help other people give you quicker replies!
     
  3. jfhslvds

    jfhslvds Notebook Enthusiast

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    1) What is your budget?

    £400 - £700 (max)

    2) What size notebook would you prefer?

    Any (as long as it can handle software used by Civil Engineering students)

    3) Please select your country's flag as a post icon and tell us what country are you buying this in.

    United Kingdom

    4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like?

    Any, but I've heard Dell aren't exactly known for (long-term) quality, which is not exactly a good thing

    5) What tasks will you be performing with the notebook?

    Run-of-the-mill daily stuff, such as watching movies, DVDs, listening to music etc. nothing special. She won't be playing Bioshock with all the effects turned on very high. HOWEVER, the computer must be able to run software used by Civil Engineering students quite sufficiently (whatever they may be).

    6) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places or leaving it on your desk?

    Probably desk (I don't want her to have her laptop stolen)

    7) Will you be playing games on it; if so, which games?

    Not really. Like I said before, just for Civil Engineering software used by students.

    8) How many hours of battery life do you need?

    There will most likely be a plug socket nearby, so unnecessary.

    9) Do you mind buying online without seeing the notebook in person?

    I WILL be buying online (probably through ebay, if it's the cheapest).

    10) What OS do you prefer? Windows (XP or Vista), Mac OS, Linux, etc.

    Windows definitely. Vista included in the price would be good, but I've got a spare copy of XP so doesn't really matter.

    Screen Specifics

    Doesn't matter. Whatever is recommended for/used by Civil Engineering students is fine. Run of the mill 1280 x 1024 should be okay.

    Build Quality and Design

    14) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?

    Nope. But naturally, it would be an added bonus.

    15) When are you buying this laptop and how long do you want this laptop to last?

    Soon. And naturally, should last quite a while. But like I've stressed before, the most important thing is that it should run software used by Civil Engineering students.

    Notebook Components

    16) How much hard drive space do you want; 40GB to 200GB?

    Doesn't matter. I will be getting her a portable hard drive.

    17) Do you need an optical drive? If yes, a DVD, Blu-Ray or HD-DVD drive?

    A standard, normal, average DVD player is more than enough.
     
  4. colorebel

    colorebel Notebook Enthusiast

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    I'm a civil engineer out in the "real world". I'm looking for a laptop myself but 99.9% of the need is not civil engineering related.

    The first software concern to think about is what type of CAD (computer aided design) software your sister will (or may) need to use. AutoCAD is the most used in the industry, Microstation is another. When I was in school 10 years ago, I didn't "need" to have a CAD program except for when I had a sneior design class and needed to work late hours -- I had one CAD class and just used the computers at school.

    Civil is a broad field with plenty of specific software for specific disciplines. She will probably study water, in which case water modelling for open channel and pipe flow will be studied. In the US, the Army Corps of Engineers has various HEC programs which are free to download and are used in the industry and school out here. Here's their link: http://www.hec.usace.army.mil/software/hec-ras/

    Another software company in the water field is Haestad Methods: http://www.haestad.com/

    Other areas that civil engineers branch out into are structural, traffic operations, surverying, geotechnical, etc. Each with their own industry software as a means to assist civil engineers in their own work.

    My main thought in all of this is that these specific software used in school and the industry should all be Windows XP compatible, but you/she may run into problems with trying to run these in Vista. She may want to find out through the school what programs they use in the UK, then look them up and verify they will work with Vista. I don't know of any civil engineers using Vista in practice and I assume many of them will avoid it as they often use programs several years old (DOS even).

    Having said all of that, when I was in school, being computer adept as a Civil Engineering student wasn't a requirement as much as understanding the theory and performing the math yourself to arrive at a design solution rather than relying on the software to do it for you. Having a computer with all the software installed used in the industry won't make you a good civil engineer either in school or in practice. If the school requires a student to be adept in CAD then I worry it's stressing producing students that are good at CAD but not in design.
     
  5. Macpod

    Macpod Connoisseur

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    Civil engineers are starting to use 3D structural analysis programs. These will only improve and become more prominent with time.

    I would get something with a fast CPU and decent 3D card, at least a 8400GT.

    a lot of parametric programs will be very taxing on a computer and the display port will need a good graphic card to drive it.


    BTW. Rendering is done with the CPU. more CPU the better. Infact 3d programs can utilise hundreds of CPU in a network..............i suppose thats why they are the first programs to benefit from dual core technology.
     
  6. P_Schneider

    P_Schneider Notebook Consultant

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    I would look at a Lenovo, probably the T61p for this application. I say that because it uses the Nvidia Quadro GPU. This is the same as the 8600m that you see listed on the Dells and quite a few other offerings but the difference between the Quadro and the gaming cards is that it has more options for OpenGL enabled and is geared towards CAD type applications. I would also recommend at least a Dual Core 2 running at 2+ Ghz. Minimum of 2 gigs RAM also required for this application.

    So basically you're looking for something with a Quadro 570 card.

    I configured this system over at Lenovo for $1514, which if my math is correct, should be right around 700 British pounds.
    *Note* I upgraded the CPU, battery and memory from the base config.

    ThinkPad T61 15 Widescreen - 1 Yr Depot Warranty
    Edit 6459CTO $1,514.00 1 $1,514.00
    System Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 (2.2GHz 800MHz 4MBL2) 1
    Operating System: Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium 1
    Operating System Language: Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium US English 1
    Display Panel: 15.4 WSXGA+ TFT 1
    System graphics: NVIDIA Quadro FX 570M (256MB Open GL) 1
    Total memory: 2 GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz SODIMM Memory (2 DIMM) 1
    Keyboards: Keyboard US English 1
    Pointing Device: UltraNav (TrackPoint and TouchPad) 1
    Hard Drive: 80GB Hard Disk Drive, 5400rpm 1
    Optical device: CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo 24X/24X/24X/8X Max, Ultrabay Slim 1
    Upgrade to a DVD Recordable 8x Max Dual Layer, Ultrabay Slim [add $50.00]
    System expansion slots: PC Card Slot & Express Card Slot 1
    Card Reader: 4 in 1 Media Card Reader 1
    Wireless cards: Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG 1
    Battery: 9 cell Li-Ion Battery 1
    Power cord : Country Pack North America 1
    Language Pack: Language Pack US English
     
  7. Dreamer

    Dreamer The Bad Boy

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    Sorry but it doesn't work that way, ThinkPads are far more expensive in the UK, and a similar configuration would cost about £1,900. :eek:
     
  8. Macpod

    Macpod Connoisseur

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    if you can Afford the T61P then get it. its a good laptop. Also look at HP 8510P or W and HP8710P or W.
     
  9. Macpod

    Macpod Connoisseur

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    Just saw dreamers post..............

    scratch that. see, some of us have to pay through the nose for these lenovos.

    HP's cheap in europe apparently so go for that.
     
  10. Dreamer

    Dreamer The Bad Boy

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