Gearing up for college or University means choosing a device that fits the curriculum’s requirements, as well as requirements of portability and durability.
Depending on your course of study there’s different factors to consider, including whether it’s worth it to go with a desktop, or a laptop, depending on features and performance requirements.
Programming and apps development
Engineering and programming students have very specific requirements in terms of performance. When developing store apps, as well as desktop applications, the specs of your Mac should match those of the devices and computers where the apps will run. While this means that most Macs will provide a suitable coding environment, in reference to performance, screen real estate is also extremely important.
Developing applications for Mac OS X, iOS or the web, often requires to have multiple application windows open at the same time. For instance, designing websites requires the ability to keep track of multiple scripting environments, as well as MySQL database editors, text editors, and compiler applications, not to mention graphic apps to create assets to be used by the applications.
By this token, a MacBook Pro with an external display would be an elegant solution that includes a high-end MacBook laptop, with specs high enough to handle the workload required by most application development workflows, and an expanded real estate to fit all application windows to be able to work comfortably.
Much like programming, video editing requires a fairly big desktop real estate, as well as decent resolution, to handle high resolution video editing, especially when working with HD and 4K footage. The difference with video editing, is the required graphic processing power. Depending on the project involved, even a MacBook Pro won’t make the cut, whereas an iMac or a Mac Pro is certainly a better option. More specifically, the Apple 27 inch iMac Retina 5K gets very close to the perfect video editing environment, as it comes with a stunning 5K display, integrated in a powerful all-in-one.
If there is one thing Macs are known for, aside from being great for video editing tasks, is making music. The most popular applications for the Mac include Logic Pro X, Cubase, and Pro Tools. One thing to keep in mind, when it comes to music making apps, is that they are notorious for being memory hogs, which means that the designated laptop or desktop, should have as much RAM as possible, to perform editing and playback. The recommended amount of RAM should be 16GB. A fast 256GB SSD is also recommended, as well as a fast processor, typically in the range of 3GHz and up.
An Apple iMac Retina 5K with a 1TB fusion drive, 3.2GHz processor, and 16GB of RAM is definitely a good start.
Graphic design and creative work
There is no dancing around it: graphic design is demanding, and requires both a lot of screen space, and processing power. With that said, not all types of creative work are equal. For instance, print design requires applications capable of handling vector illustration, and procedural graphic processing, which is often less intensive than processing video or still images. In this instance, and iMac Retina 5K with conservative specs, including 8GB or RAM, and a more entry-level processor, would be best suited to manipulate artwork meant for garment, posters or flyers.
On the other hand, UI/UX design, which is the creation of user interfaces for programs and applications, may require a mix of vector and rasterized artwork, on multiple layers, for prototyping purposes, which is more memory intensive, as well as requiring more in terms of processing power.
Finally, 3D animation and motion graphics are tasks that require a tremendous amount of processing power, and a high-end GPU, which leaves very few choices aside from going all out on a Mac Pro, with a good size external display, possibly 4K, and sufficient external storage for complex Adobe After FX, Premiere, or Autodesk Maya projects, that often require large amounts of storage.