MacBook for university student

Not for me - I have a 2018 MBP 15" on my wishlist but I’ve got too many other priorities for the £2,700 purchase price at the moment…

My son is off to university later this month and he’s looking for a smaller, lighter weight laptop than his 15" luggable Windows laptop, which is getting pretty long in the tooth. I’m waiting for any announcements this week on the off-chance that Apple announce a replacement/upgrade for the MB Air as the rumour mill suggests a Retina screen inside a similar form factor while retaining a similar price.

Battery life will be key, although I don’t think there’s much to choose from these days between Apple’s laptop range, but would an Air in its current, or future form be a suitable device or would a 12" MB be a better bet? I don’t really know much about them as my eyes have always been fixated on the MBP :slight_smile:

As you’re in the UK I presume university starts in October? I had heard a MacBook announcement would be happening then, but that rumour seems to have gone quiet (though that might be due to the amount of information about tomorrow’s event running around!).

I would not recommend the Air, it doesn’t have a Retina screen and hasn’t been updated in ages. I would recommend the 13" MBP Escape over the 12 MacBook just because he probably won’t be using it with an external monitor and the extra inch really would make a difference there (and the price is the same).

After a somewhat recent episode with Marco Arment I actually bought the 15" model for myself (6 weeks before they announced new ones :slightly_frowning_face:). As he mentioned, cutting down on the other stuff in your bag is worth it. Personally at university I found a 12.9" iPad Pro to be an ideal daily carry device though - I could type notes with the Smart Keyboard, or write them with the pencil, and I had digital copies of all my textbooks and reference material with me. That might be another worthy consideration point - if iPads are announced tomorrow then he could get one of those, keep the Windows machine, at least for a while, and see what else comes.

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Thanks for the info Rose.

I’d not thought about the non-touch bar MBP so will take a look at that too. The other option I’ve considered is a higher-specced but used 2015 MBP.

I think he starts his course in October but will be moving into halls of residence on the 22nd.

If you can’t wait, the 12" Macbook is not a bad machine at all. With some time on it I came to really like the firmness of the keybed to the extent that my regular keyboard felt mushy in comparison. Screen’s fine, especially for a younger person’s eyesight, lol. The Air is a solid machine, but underpowered, and about to be replaced.

Apple may be announcing that 13" replacement at tomorrow’s event. (And if it isn’t tomorrow, it’ll be in a separate release next month.) Rumors are it’s designed to be halfway in size between the two current Macbooks, but the starting price will mke it the lowest priced Apple notebook. (Some rumors have it replacing the current 12" Macbook entirely.)

So my advice is to wait if possible for the upcoming announcement, whereupon you’ll be able to judge based on specs/price if you want it or an older-generation machine.

Well the 22nd isn’t that far away, if he can stick it out with the Windows machine another month I would recommend he do that - it will also give him a good chance to evaluate what is really happening in lectures (e.g. are laptops banned in some?) and any software he needs. The number of students I have had to help to boot camp their machines because they were studying architecture and the required programs are Windows only (no VMs) always astounded me :laughing: (Though I’m sure with you as a parent that won’t be a problem!)

I am due to be starting University next week in the UK - I have a 2017 13" MacbookPro without TouchBar. I did consider it, but at the time it had just been released and I wasn’t sure how many 3rd Party Apps would add support.

My girlfriend has the 12" MacBook at University which is a great machine for taking quick notes but notably only has one USB-C Port. I have two one for my USB Hub and one to charge. I have found using her machine has a notable drop in processing speed than my machine. We both have the entry-level machines hers at 1.2GHz and mine at 2.4GHz. Despite the MBP being slightly heavier, it’s certainly worth it for the extra oomph which might be needed depending on course software requirements etc.

I also have a 12.9" iPad Pro with the keyboard and pencil which I used through A-Levels, so I’ll see if I could make that work but I do find typing at speed much easier on the Mac’s larger keys

Apple has their yearly promo on new devices with reduced Beats Headphones if you’re buying for University until 02/10 - You can get access to the education store if you verify your status with Unidays which your son will be able to do if he has his "" email address.

Hope this helps! :grinning:

I had a chat with my son the other night and I think that the MB/MB Air is not going to be up to the task. He is going to want to be able to run CAD-type applications - he’s studying Aeronatical Engineering - so it looks like an MBP is the likely choice.

The quandry now is which one? I looked at the 13" MBP Escape and it appears to be a 2017 spec machine and therefore probably the 2017 spec keyboard. A retailer near me has the 2017 13" MBP Touch Bar with a £350 discount making it only £50 more than the non-touch bar model and the added advantage of two additional Thunderbolt 3 ports and better Gfx.

Now, you may be thinking, “2017 model, that’s the one with the dodgy keyboard”. Maybe so, but I did a straw poll in the office over the last couple of days and asked all of the highly-paid consultants with 2016/2017 MBPs and not one of them has had a keyboard issue. Read into that what you will.

I still have a few more days to decide what to do.

It would definitely be worth checking if specific software is required for him - and if so the specs it currently requires, that said, the MBP should handle CAD no problem, though you’ll have to use it though BootCamp.

The good was with a 2017 machine is that there’s a keyboard repair program though!

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Dumb question but why not just ask your son to tell you what he needs? When I went off to uni, I bought my own laptop and my parents helped subside it and it worked for everyone. But I was doing an an IT degree.

You also might actually get away with just an iPad becau of web assembly, i need to fact check this because I might be miss remembering but I think they now have full blown AutoCAD in the browser

It definitely depends on your son’s needs. For me, the best laptop for uni is my 2014 MacBook Air. It’s definitely not the tricked out laptop in the world, but for writing papers and doing other school work, it is more than enough. However, I would probably go for something higher spec so he can use it for years and not worry too much about it becoming obsolete.

Since he has something to use for the time being, I’d say wait and see what Apple is doing with computers later this year. Very unlikely that we’ll see any changed to the MBP lineup since they were just updated with new internals, but the successor to the MacBook Air may very well come before the end of the year.

So if he’s more inclined to like a more powerful machine, then getting a 2015 or 2018 15" MacBook Pro (or 13", I’m partial to that size myself) might be an excellent option. If the extra power isn’t important for his studies or he won’t notice it, then just sit tight and see what comes out.