{Disarmed} After having studied engineering, this is what I recommend buying (2021)

After having studied engineering, this is what I recommend buying (2021)

The rentrée is just around the corner and with it, many will make the decision to buy a computer to accompany them in their studies . We have already reviewed which laptop to choose depending on the career studied , but the market offers alternatives for education such as Chromebooks or very interesting tablets to study that could also serve us.

If you have opted for a technical career, you will have already outlined in your mind that in addition to autonomy and lightness, you will require a team to successfully execute the specific software that you use in class. But it is difficult to adjust the needs without having been there . For this reason, we have consulted several people who have already gone through it to tell us about their experiences.

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We chat with five recent graduates. Before getting into the subject, the presentations:

  • Sicilia González Gil de Gómez, graduated in mechanical engineering in 2019 from the Public University of Navarra.

  • Juan Morales Galera, graduated in the summer of 2017 in engineering in industrial technologies with a specialty in mechanics at the University of Seville.

  • Yassine Ouazzani has a degree in civil engineering from the University of Granada and has just finished a master's degree in Civil Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

  • Álvaro Zornoza Uña, graduated in the summer of 2017 in industrial electronic and automatic engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

  • Joaquín Jiménez Rubia finished his degree in electrical engineering at the University of Huelva in 2019.

  • Daniel Pérez Gandullo graduated in mechanical engineering in 2016 and later did a master's degree in industrial maintenance engineering, in both cases at the University of Huelva.

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Which device to choose and why?

Laptop, desktop computer, convertible, tablet ... the market offers us varied alternatives to accompany us in our studies, but in the end, a computer is essential. And it is that in addition to the usual searches, jobs, simulators and graphics, it allows us to face subjects based on manipulating software. Now, a desktop computer, a laptop or a convertible?

Towards the search for a balance between power, autonomy and lightness

The advantages of the desktop format are the possibility of manufacturing them "à la carte", tailored to our needs, updating them is easier and working hours and hours in front of them is more comfortable. In addition, for the same configuration, they are generally more affordable than portable formats.

However, there will be situations in which carrying the equipment with us is essential : if we study in the library, if we study abroad or simply if in our faculty there are not too many equipment to carry out assignments and practices.

In this sense, power at the hardware level is always welcome, but we will greatly appreciate models that stand out for their lightness and autonomy . Power outlets are a rare commodity in some study rooms, and traveling with heavy equipment on our back is not the most comfortable thing to do.

Of course, the lightness tends to play against the size of the screen. And it is that in general, the most compact formats usually include uncomfortable panels in case of spending hours and hours in front of them .

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We asked our interviewees about this question: what equipment have they used for their studies and why did they choose it?

  • Sicilia González Gil de Gómez : "For me a laptop was more useful for convenience. In the past, if you wanted a powerful computer, it had to be a desktop computer. But this is no longer the case and you can have a perfectly functional laptop for design programs. The issue of it being portable is because you are going to be able to take it to class, to the library, to group work ... And for me that is a very important factor. And if, as in my case, you are not from the city where is your University but you are from abroad and you are going to be traveling, don't even think about it, portable.

  • Juan Morales Galera : "99% of the time was spent at school studying, in classes or doing projects ... that is, the laptop was the only option. The tablet was suggested to me but only for annotations in class or to follow her to base of PDFs. But later it would fall short in terms of power for day to day. I wanted something powerful but cheap and I found the HP ENVY, which was on display in a shop window and they lowered the price quite a bit. It was a 4th generation i7 , with 8GB of RAM and a decent graphics card for that time. Of course, when I bought it I already had the intention of putting a ssd on it. "

  • Yassine Ouazzani : "At the beginning of the grade I bought a 13-inch Macbook Pro (current model: 1199 euros ). It has 8 GB of RAM, an Intel Core i7 processor and an Intel HD Graphics card. In my career, not many programs are used and less 3D modeling - more oriented to the field of architecture -. That is why I opted for a macbook instead of a pc - the latter usually have better graphics cards -. I chose this computer at the time for its quality and durability . Before I had a Sony Vaio that came out regular, so I needed a laptop that would not give me problems. Many laptops have as a problem the duty to change components very often which does not happen with Macs if one is careful . The main problem I have had has been having to buy cables and batteries every 2 years . Otherwise I think it was a good decision. "

  • Álvaro Zornoza Uña : "From the beginning I was clear that a good laptop would be essential during my engineering studies. I had a very light Asus Zenbook Ux330ua - 13.3", it was stolen from me and I bought an Acer Swift (Current model: 799 euros ) - 14 inches, dedicated graphics and heavier -. The triple key in my opinion is enough RAM, mandatory SSD and Intel's range of processors, the U, with low power consumption. Sometimes a tablet was also useful for me, especially to prepare exams and consult documents that professors posted on the virtual campus. Also, a table seems less distracting than a computer, but to taste the colors. "

  • Joaquín Jiménez Rubia : "Without a doubt, a laptop. I use a Lenovo Ideapad 520 (equivalent current model: 699 euros ) with an i5-8250U, 12 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. I chose this one because it was value for money. the one that I saw the best when buying it since I already needed a more powerful machine for certain calculation programs . For my career I need a laptop with enough RAM and yes or yes an SSD. Before I had a low-end Sony Vaio with an i3-4510 with 6 GB of RAM and mechanical hard drive. It was a laptop that was going well although you couldn't demand much of it either, to make plans and others perfect but at the time I had to make a digital model of the terrain (equivalent to the capacity of a rendering), and with that we had to go have a coffee and let it work. "

  • Daniel Pérez Gandullo : "I think the ideal would be to have a decent average laptop and if you have a space at home, mount a screen that you can hook yourself to . For design and calculation programs, sometimes it seems very uncomfortable to work from the laptop because of the screen size. At the beginning of my degree what I used was a desktop. At the end of the first year I caught a laptop, since the desktop was obsolete and I began to study more and more in the school library. The choice of Switching to a laptop was mainly the convenience of being able to do work and practice directly at school. "

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And the operating system?

Windows Linux

This is where tablets with non-desktop operating systems fall behind. For those who don't want to complicate things, Windows is the default operating system for most of the software used in technical races.

However, thanks to the power of hardware and virtual machines, it is possible to emulate any operating system. Another option is to resort to partitions, as was my case during my first student days, when I turned to Linux for my day to day and left Windows for the specific software. What operating system did they choose and why that decision?

  • Sicilia González Gil de Gómez : "Windows is the typical and most widely used system. In my experience with regular career programs, I have never had problems with this system ."

  • Juan Morales Galera : "Every time I say it they throw their hands at their heads but it was Windows 8.1. It is the only operating system that has not given me problems when I have had to resort to older software . I had Windows 10 for some time, but it was a continuous fight in facilities. "

  • Yassine Ouazzani : "I use OS X in its Yosemite version, although in general, most of the programs that I have had to use only exist in Windows. To solve this problem I use a virtual machine on the MacBook . OS X is quite an operating system good and safe, the only drawback is its lack of compatibility with many programs. "

  • Álvaro Zornoza Uña : "For the day-to-day, Windows. In the end it is the most widespread solution. Although it seems important to me to start early in Ubuntu or another UNIX operating system and learn the importance of free software, especially if you are going to focus on your career in programming. "

  • Joaquín Jiménez Rubia : "The system I use is Windows because most of the engineering programs do it for this operating system . For example, you want to calculate a power line and there are manufacturers that provide you with free calculation software for this type of installation. and they do it on Windows, they promote their product to you and they facilitate the calculations with that program. "

  • Daniel Pérez Gandullo : "I have always used Windows. I think that in technical careers it is better to use this OS because of the compatibility of calculation programs, design ... I remember colleagues who used Mac who in some specific or specific programs had some kind of problem compatibility "

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The software question


After choosing a computer and an operating system, we entered the swampy terrain. And is that each career is a world , and even within engineering there are great differences. A good way to find out what software you are going to use is to refer to the documentation provided by your university in the study plan of your degree.

During my chemical engineering career I had to do with MATLAB in math subjects, AutoCAD and SolidWorks for drawing, for fluid dynamics we simulated with HEC-RAS and used EES to solve equations.

An office suite becomes essential for writing reports and tables . Two different options to work individually or in a group are the Microsoft Office pack or do it online with the Google suite.

It is important to bear in mind that there are free or discounted licenses for students and that many universities have agreements with development companies to distribute specific versions for students of said university. In this sense, it is better to make sure by going to the website of your university, asking the professors or even from the software website. A good example of this is Microsoft Office 365, free for students and teachers.

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Once this has been clarified, it is time to ask our interviewees what software they used during the race and how they got it.

  • Sicilia González Gil de Gómez : "Although when you start university you think that Microsoft Office programs have no mystery for you, you will realize how wrong you are. Microsoft Word is a tool with many possibilities and delivering a well-constructed work - when I say well constructed I mean with its header, its footer, its referenced index of both titles and graphics and images, its cover, its indentation, its page breaks - it is not as easy at first as it seems. Excel is another program that is not given the importance it has before entering the University. Learning to control it opens up a whole world for you when it comes to solving problems with data tables or variables of many subjects. Student licenses that usually expire in a year are available to students. You have to get the most out of these. Programs like AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Solidedge, Catia ... Then always h Now is the time to buy or get a license or even renew a student license "
If you have a license, soak up everything, don't just use it for jobs, "play" with them. Controlling this type of program opens many doors later on. "Sicilia González Gil de Gómez
  • Juan Morales Galera : "I have been using the Microsoft Office pack for students throughout my degree without problems. MATLAB is the one that I have used the most, also Catia and Ansys. And then, on a day-to-day basis, Adobe Acrobat Pro is essential for me and that all the material was PDFs. I do not remember any teacher telling us that there were student versions of the program that was used in their subject, so in many cases we had to find our lives. "

  • Yassine Ouazzani : "As a student I usually use freeware and student licenses or trial versions. Throughout the degree many programs are used and it would be too expensive for a student to pay for all of them. Some, like the Office or AutoCAD pack, exist versions of Free students. In some civil engineering subjects in which it is necessary to draw linear works such as roads and topographic maps, I have used AutoCAD: Civil 3D, which is a more specific version. Later, in the first years of the degree, subjects are given basic mathematics in which softwares such as Mathematica or MATLAB are used that are used to perform all kinds of calculations, represent functions or program. Although there are C ++ or Python languages ​​for programming, in my case I have used Python in an Analysis subject of structures, since it makes the calculation of a system that can have many equations and take too long to solve a lot easier. The cartographic information and territorial planning I have used mainly GIS programs (Geographic Information Systems) such as ArcGiS. These software are for mapping and zoning. For the calculation of the luminaires I have used Dialux and for the calculation of budgets and measurements I have used a program called Presto. However, most students actually learn to use programs by taking their TFG or TFM . "

  • Álvaro Zornoza Uña : "From the UPM I have always had a MATLAB and AutoCAD student license that I still maintain. I think they also offer an Office package and others but I have not paid much attention to it. In the case of the UPM, googling I think that you can find the current list of software. In this question I would like to highlight access to journals (IEEE, Elsevier) . Some Spanish universities have access but neither UPC nor UPM have. Abroad (I have been Erasmus twice) is more common having access to these resources. It is not important in the first two years but for TFG, TFM and jobs that require reading papers without spending 50 euros on each one is essential. "

  • Joaquín Jiménez Rubia : "I use the licenses provided by the university, both Office 365, MatLab, and AutoCAD provide a free three-year student license. The other programs are provided free of charge by the manufacturers, it is an advantage for them and for us , since they know that later in the street we are going to work with their programs because they are the ones we know, they also give you support without any problem. What's more, I am working in an engineering firm and I called the manufacturer to resolve a problem that arose and they are the first to teach you the tricks. "

  • Daniel Pérez Gandullo : "The basics were AutoCAD, Inventor, CypeCad and MATLAB. Never buy a license. Almost all programs offer student versions so that you can try their programs without restrictions. In almost all of them I used this type of licenses. Of course, from the package Office yes, I had a license granted by the school. From the university they didn't give me many instructions, you had to look for life a bit. But the truth is that if you don't have the possibility of having these programs, in the computer rooms of the school have the main programs . "

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What devices are essential in your student day to day

Calculator Close Up Fountain Pen 159722

In my student days there were two accessories that were never missing in my backpack: a good assortment of USBs and a calculator .

My first USB memory was only 256MB, bought 15 years ago at El Corte Inglés. Since then I have been treasuring USBs, some given away and others bought. Although there are very attractive and comfortable designs for mobility, if we are going to buy one it is interesting that in addition to having USB 3.0 ports for faster data transfer, it also has several ports . And is that the presence of USB-C is growing in devices.

With the arrival of the cloud with services like Dropbox, Drive or One, I sometimes resorted to them, but just enough: I didn't want to risk not being able to access information because I didn't have the internet .

My high school calculator has been with me from my teens until now, and I still use it for certain calculations because of the comfort and familiarity it offers. However, to undertake more complex operations - damn elasticity and resistance of materials - I got a Texas TI-89 graphing calculator ( 239 euros ), a model similar to the classic and popular HP50G ( 399 euros ) in terms of features, but notably more affordable. Unfortunately, there were exams that I could not take her to as it was not allowed.

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We have asked our interviewees about their essential accessories in their day-to-day life in their career:

  • Sicilia González Gil de Gómez : "A scientific calculator can never be missing. I bought the Casio fx-991ES ( 29 euros ) when I started university and it has been useful for everything. There are new models that have some other function but we must remember that they do not You can go to the exams with calculators that make graphs of the functions. These are more sophisticated and few students carry them but in most exams they will requisition it if they see it. In my career of course rules, square, compass and scale ... The following would be an external hard drive, I bought a 1TB one and it has served me throughout my career. Having USBs to carry your files from one place to another is fine but there are jobs and projects for which it is necessary have a greater order and capacity to accumulate information . "

  • Juan Morales Galera : "Calculators are essential. I had a very old Casio fx-570 and then I bought a Casio fx-991SPX II ( 29 euros) , it has some more functions, it is faster and more intuitive, but both work perfectly. . I did not buy graphs because they are not allowed in the exams. I opted for this brand because it is the typical one. Let me explain: if I am in the library studying and I do not know how to do a statistical calculation, I only have to ask a colleague why they all used a Casio - which as a general rule, even though they are different models, work in the same way -. And on the internet, on YouTube and more there are thousands of Casio calculator tutorials. For my day to day I got a wireless mouse so that the Cable does not get in the way when you are with a pen and paper. The mobile phone is also essential, which has saved me from more than one predicament, a good Android mobile for compatibility reasons. "

  • Yassine Ouazzani : "In my studies in general, it is necessary to have an external hard drive due to the weight of certain files and a printer since many times documents must be printed at the last minute and copy shops are not always open. It is also convenient always bring a USB stick to class. Nowadays they are not used as much but there are still some teachers who allow the use of graphing or programmable calculators in their exams. For me the most important accessory is a smartphone with WhatsApp and access to Drive or Mega , in which all the notes are shared and with which you can take photos in class if necessary. "

  • Álvaro Zornoza Uña : "A good calculator. In some HP50G subjects that is programmable and you can even put documents in. For the rest, with the typical Casio that solves systems of linear equations or third degree equations is enough and you don't have to spend more than 30 euros. I would like to highlight, even if it is not a device, the importance of using the cloud . I don't care about Drive, Dropbox, Office 365, but it is essential. "

  • Joaquín Jiménez Rubia : "What you cannot miss is a mouse because when you are already going to use plan design or cartographic programs, the touch panel, even if it is very good, will not have the same precision. And if it is wireless, better Still, for the comfort it gives. I use a very simple and cheap gaming mouse from the TOPELEK brand. Other essentials: the calculator, I have the typical casio fx-991spx which is an all-rounder and it is worth everything, finally the mobile to take photos or scan notes or any type of document and a pen. "

  • Daniel Pérez Gandullo : "For me, the calculator is still essential. I use a regular Casio scientist. I was often tempted to buy a programmable one but in almost all subjects they were not allowed in the exam, but it seems to me to be a very good tool if you know Some other USB memory is always good to have, to deliver jobs, print documents ... I used an external 1Tb hard drive to move some heavy files and some copies of files that I was not interested in losing. I also used a lot of Drive to storage. A good mouse and headphones (to isolate myself a bit) now seem essential to me and I think they would have come in handy while I was studying. As a mouse I now use Logitech MX master 2s ( 76 euros ). "

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So what to buy to study engineering?


After reviewing our experiences as engineering students, we can only conclude with what seems most important to us. We want to emphasize that, if you have doubts about what to buy, it is best that you ask people who have been in the same situation and that you observe your colleagues , so that you can analyze their advantages and disadvantages.

As we have seen throughout the article, many of us have evolved, technology has advanced and why not say it, we have made a mistake and changed our mind.

Although the five students we have interviewed have recently finished (or are about to), their colleges and careers are different. Likewise, there is also divergence in terms of preferences. But everyone agrees that a computer is at the moment the most recommended equipment and that it is necessary to have powerful hardware at the processor and RAM level.

If you are not going to move around too much and there are computers in your faculty, a desktop computer may be a wise move. But if you are going to work in mobility, a powerful but light laptop with good autonomy seems to be the winning horse. A matter of taste and use .

These are the recommendations of our interviewees about what to buy to study engineering:

  • Sicilia González Gil de Gómez : "If you invest in something, it is in a laptop with a good graphics card and powerful enough to pull graphic design programs as heavy as those used in engineering. When you are working with SolidWorks or AutoCAD the computer has to go "light". Otherwise the work can become insufferable. "

  • Juan Morales Galera : "Now I would buy an i5, with all the possible RAM, normal graphics card and SSD. Of course 13" instead of 15 "and the thinner and lighter, the better . No MSI gaming computer or giant Asus. I know What it is to carry a 2kg laptop on your back and I would not want to repeat it again in life. And if you take good care of it, I think that with an i5 of these generations you will have plenty. In the end, programs with many resources do not use except in a few occasions. "

  • Yassine Ouazzani : " RAM, processor and graphics card . It is necessary to have enough RAM memory since 3D mesh modeling can be computationally expensive. A correct graphics card would be necessary as well, although the work we have done at the undergraduate level they do not require as much as some recent video games. Regarding the processor, an i5 is enough, although an i7 is preferable. I think that a computer with a screen that has the correct resolution is necessary. A 17-inch would be very good, however due to its weight and size is not easy to carry around, so I would rather opt for a 15 inch. Regarding the battery it should be durable. A computer with good autonomy is useful if one spends the whole day at university. to what is found today in the market I would recommend an MSI or a 15-inch MacBook Pro - with an Nvidia graphics card, much better than those of old Macs -. "

  • Álvaro Zornoza Uña : "I would bet on a laptop with Windows. The solution reached has to be portable enough - 13.3" or 14 "maximum - to be able to move it from one place to another. On the other hand, it must not weigh more than 1, 5 kg. Power cannot be compromised, that is, you need an ultrabook with the performance of a gaming laptop because there are programs that will require it (AutoCAD, Matlab, etc.). Lastly, the battery, in engineering it is normal have morning and afternoon - theory and practice - so you need the computer to last all day or at least half a day to be able to charge it during the meal. "

  • Joaquín Jiménez Rubia : "I could tell you that my perfect device would be an i9 with 64 GB of RAM and a 4 GB graphics card, we are a gaming model, but you don't really need any of that. You need a laptop that lasts enough battery life. And let it be fast , specifying, I would not buy a laptop not more powerful than an i5 with 8 GB of RAM with an SSD because you are not going to amortize it, with that it is enough for the programs that are used in the university. A fundamental SSD So as not to despair with Windows, yes, and well, if you walk to the university every day, then I would look at the weight. "

  • Daniel Pérez Gandullo : It depends a lot on each one, but today I would prioritize being light . That you can take it to class (if they allow it) and for work / study / leisure on campus. In terms of specifications, I do not think it is necessary to have anything extraordinary. Mine was a little short on some occasions and it made you desperate but it delivered. "

Updated August 2021.

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The news After having studied engineering, this is what I recommend buying (2021) was originally published in xiaomist.com by Eva Rodríguez de Luis .

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