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I want to hear some suggestions as I am considering to buy a new laptop computer sometime in Summer 2013. I am a PhD student in math, and my budget will be between $1000 and $2000. I will be using my computer to do the following tasks:

  • lots of intense calculations for numerical analysis
  • Lots of graphics for geometry and topology
  • light programming to simulate mathematical models (usually in C++)
  • programs like Mathematica and MathLab
  • LaTeX document editing/PDF viewer
  • Presenting my research materials using a projector
  • Editing photos and videos (nothing professional)
  • The usual stuff like emailing, Skyping, YouTubing, Web browsing, iTunes
  • Also I really want to play SimCity 2013 (the new version) on my new computer without sluggishness in performance.

In terms of OS preferences, I really don't care. SimCity will be available in both OSX and Windows. Most people in my department use either a mac or a Linux PC for research. Windows is a minority here.

Basically I guess all I want is, regardless of the OS, a fast processor, good graphics, preferably SSD, compatibility, decent screen size (13 inch and up), portable, lightweight, projector-friendly, and excellent battery life.

Also I heard rumors about Haswell; I am not sure if I should wait for Haswell since "rumors" say that it will come out right when I will be buying a new computer.

Any suggestions?

asked Feb 26 '13 at 16:02

avisottda's gravatar image


you should be able to get by with any i5 processor and 4gb of ram 8 to be on the safe side...

being you want to use skype i recommend you get one with a 720p webcam, most laptops have that these days.

Being that you are only doing light programming a windows PC will work fine, but use what you are comfortable with.

Almost all machines you have an option for an SSD, if you get it from the manufacture. I do not believe SimCity is heavy on graphics, But im not sure.

I recommend thinkpad laptops, but if you are comfortable with mac, then do your thing... what you want to do is not too demanding. If you want to get a thinkpad (T430/T530 is what I recommend), get the extended battery.

answered Feb 26 '13 at 16:09

trueb's gravatar image


I did a little more research and now I am looking at Dell XPS 15 (Hybrid HDD/SSD, Quad Core i7, Nvidia 640M 2GB), Sony Vaio S 15 (SSD, Dual Core i7, Nvidia 640M 2GB), Retina Macbook Pro 15 (SSD, Quad Core i7, Nvidia 650M 1GB), among others. Which one do you think I should get?

As for Lenovo that was mentioned above, I don't think I will get a Lenovo again. I have had three Lenovo Thinkpads for the past 6 years. In fact, I am using a Lenovo T420 right now which was given by my undergrad college (Hybrid HDD/SSD, i5 Dual Core, an Intel graphics card). Although it looks decent on paper, I have never really liked it. It has always been so slow to boot up, it gets super hot, and the fan is really really loud. It barely runs the older version of SimCity. It takes really long to do simple calculations which I never really understood why given its spec. The battery life dropped significantly in a short period of time. I don't really get Lenovo's design language either with its weird red nipple, a separate light for the keyboard, useless ThinkVanage Button, cheap plastic exterior, and a full package of bloatwares from day 1.

answered Feb 28 '13 at 04:22

avisottda's gravatar image


edited Feb 28 '13 at 04:23

in defense of ThinkPads:

First, boot times have to do with many factors, the more software you have installed the longer it will take, a fresh thinkpad for me takes about 30 seconds to boot up, about a minute after i get all my engineering software installed on it.

As for it getting super hot, I have not found this to be an issue. You do have to clean out the fan as you would with any laptop. If you have been cleaning out the fan, then i do not know what your issue is particularly.

Yes the fan is a little on the loud side... that is one thing

as for not running the old sim city, all i can say it must be a software compatibility issue, my guess is with windows 7 it would be interesting if other people have noticed this same issue on other brands. I know for a fact that old games tend not to run well on new hardware.

I run MatLab doing computationally expensive DSP calculations, and it gets the job done in a reasonable amount of time (I'm running an i7 quad core on a 530)

As for the battery life, yes i have had to get a couple of replacements on my t500. but with my new 530 and a 9 cell i get about 5 hours.

as for the track point, yes it is an acquired taste, but i love it...

I am confused as to what you are talking about with a seperate light for the keyboard.

I agree, i have never used the think vantage button, but many PC manufactures throw in those useless features, that is not exclusive to Lenovo.

As for the cheap plastic exterior, I have to 100% disagree with you... Thinkpads have a high quality plastic exterior... When you look at what other companies are putting out there, Lenovo is way above of the curve.

as for the bloatware, that is the PC market... Lenovo does package a lot of nice tools with their computers IMO that i use quite often... perhaps its a matter of taste.

I guess this is a lot of personal taste, you may feel more at home with a MacBook....

(Feb 28 '13 at 10:59) trueb trueb's gravatar image
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Asked: Feb 26 '13 at 16:02

Seen: 2,094 times

Last updated: Feb 28 '13 at 10:59