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PC or Mac laptop for EE student?

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My EE student son called to ask which direction he should go for a new laptop. He's always been a PC guy but he's impressed with what Apple's proprietary processors are doing with compute power and battery life.

My answer was the same as it always is: Choose your applications, then choose the platform that runs them best.

However, most such analysis seems focused on CS applications... folks heavy on "pure" software, not so much hardware and embedded firmware. So it's less applicable to a guy who is favoring hardware development.

What's the general consensus regarding the better-supported platform for a hardware centric guy? I haven't seen this question asked this way so thought I'd see what others here have experienced.


At the hobbyist level and, as a Mac guy, I've not found the lack of easy access to Windows to be a hindrance. That's an incomplete answer, because I'm only doing things at the hobbyist level, but I've written firmware, designed PCBs, done Fusion 360 designs, etc, etc. and never felt limited. (I've been using a 2019 Intel MBP as my primary sitting-down-with device. I have access to a Proxmox server that I can run Windows or Linux VMs easily.)

There's little doubt that a Windows laptop carries a much higher level of "that's what most people/companies will expect to support", so it's lower risk in that sense.

If I was paying out of pocket, I'd probably be looking at the M1 Air is tough to beat on a per dollar-spent basis. M2 and MBPs are much more expensive.

Edit to add: Obviously, if the school/department says they do (or do not) support Macs, that would weigh heavily into the calculation.

ummm for a student? I would recommend a Lenovo second-hand laptop(1)
everything from 2017 with an i6 and 8GB of ram should be fine  :-//

(1) Refurb Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga? here I leave the opinions to those more experienced than me with modern x86 machines.

Too early for specific laptop recommendations. The question is "which ecosystem is better for hardware development", e.g. better tool support, etc. Windows was the obvious answer until a few years ago but with Apple's recent hardware efforts perhaps industry acceptance has shifted a bit?


--- Quote from: sokoloff on June 10, 2023, 04:00:16 pm ---(I've been using a 2019 Intel MBP as my primary sitting-down-with device. I have access to a Proxmox server that I can run Windows or Linux VMs easily.)

--- End quote ---

Emphasis on “Intel” — newer MacBook Models all use Apple Silicon which is ARM based and not x86-64.

It’s a real pain to deal with VMs since x86-64 cannot be virtualized anymore.

So unless you’re ready to deal with that, Mx chips have a good performance but a big lack in architecture support.

I would not recommend getting an older Intel based Mac (they get very hot, have a terrible keyboard)

Source: I do own both a M1 Max MBP and an older Intel based one.

What about Linux?


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