What is the best Laptop for my needs at the moment ?
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As you're studying software Engineering I'm assuming you can just type all your lecture notes and won't need an ability to draw diagrams often? (I know from experience that in most disciplines of Engineering you need to draw LOTS of diagrams during lectures meaning you either use a tablet PC with a digitizer or you write on paper)
What are you going to use it for?
I'd suggest this gdgt.com/sony/vaio/z/ because it's got amazing amounts of hardware packed in such a small space (along with a 1080p display, great for when you need as many lines of code to fit on one page as possible)!
Is that the screen size you're looking for? Bigger? Smaller?
If you're looking for an ultra-portable that's also ultra-powerful, get the Vaio Z.
As also a previous ThinkPad owner, for something that has plenty of power, portability, and reliability as a student with no budget limit, I would suggest the T420s. As a 14" laptop capable of 1600x900 for a high resolution, equipped with the latest Sandy Bridge CPUs, and with the option of discrete graphics, it is more than capable to handle any task. If you want even smaller, there is the X series (X1/X220). I had a ThinkPad T60 during my years in college, and it was a great machine that handled any task exceptionally.
As indefinite mentioned, it also depends really more on what specifically you plan on doing as well as your screen preference. The T60 I had was a 15.4" widescreen, and it was portable yes, but nowadays I am finding 14" and smaller are more suited to be easy to carry/use, especially in the educational environment. From there, if a ThinkPad does not appeal to you, I would suggest then any business class laptop from HP/Dell/Lenovo with a 14" or smaller, and go from there. That's my preference, though.
I haven't owned a ThinkPad but I've used one at work and they are solid pieces of hardware. You've gotta be careful though, because a lot of their laptops don't have discrete graphics which is unfortunate.
Also, when you're talking about portability, is size your main concern or is weight? I have a 12.1" tablet PC but it sure is a hefty thing to carry around considering its size!
Well I'm a Windows user so can't really comment on Mac's, but didn't mention it because it seems obvious. Really, it depends on what you're going to use it for. List what you think you'll do on it here and we should be able to better help you.
But if you will also be coding for Mac and need cross platform coding compatibility? A MBP or MBA is the way to go. Sure you could buy a Windows laptop and make it into a dual booting hackintosh, but as you don't have a limited budget and the fact you can just easily use boot camp to use W7, that's the obvious choice.
If you need cross platform coding compatibility, get a Mac. Whether power or portability(and I suppose that wicked battery life) is more important will decide between a MBP and MBA.
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