Jump to content
Premed 101 Forums

Recommended Posts

Hello!

I just recently got accepted into med school and was wondering what laptop would be best for class. I'm thinking of getting a Surface tablet to take down handwritten notes (I currently use paper notebooks) but I'm not sure if the processing power would be good enough for tests and such. Please give me your recommendations!

Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, Kaboom said:

Hello!

I just recently got accepted into med school and was wondering what laptop would be best for class. I'm thinking of getting a Surface tablet to take down handwritten notes (I currently use paper notebooks) but I'm not sure if the processing power would be good enough for tests and such. Please give me your recommendations!

Thanks!

Surface is fine - very popular choice

I would not use an iPad as a primary device since test taking software needs a computer 

Mac runs into software glitches but everybody has one so they make accomodations and sort out the glitches

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, William Osler said:

Surface is fine - very popular choice

I would not use an iPad as a primary device since test taking software needs a computer 

Mac runs into software glitches but everybody has one so they make accomodations and sort out the glitches

We use Examplify at Schulich and it runs fine on the iPad through their app.

If you want a better keyboard and potentially bigger screen and potentially save some money I have been enjoying my HP Envy 15 and I heard the smaller HP Spectre 13 is even better. They come with the HP pen for note taking unlike the surface which you have to pay extra for the pen and you need to get the clip on keyboard.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had no problems exclusively using an ipad at mac - all our exams were written or we used school computers for the nbme. This might have changed, but most invigilating software has an ipad app as many institutions provide them to students, etc. I also had a desktop computer though, so if you need a computer either a modern windows/mac will be fine, but keep in mind 95% of your classmates will have macs.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For what it’s worth, I’m buying the 2020 MacBook Air i5. I think the idea that handwriting increases retention is overblown (what you write seems far more important than how you write), and the MacBook better suits my workflow (anki/roam).

Down the road (clerkship) I may end up with an iPad as well, but we’ll see what happens.

Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, dh. said:

For what it’s worth, I’m buying the 2020 MacBook Air i5. I think the idea that handwriting increases retention is overblown (what you write seems far more important than how you write), and the MacBook better suits my workflow (anki/roam).

Down the road (clerkship) I may end up with an iPad as well, but we’ll see what happens.

yeah i think it really depends on the individual: whatever works with your study habits! if youve been very successful without handwriting your notes, then why change? i personally come from a physics/math background so i have always hand written my notes, really thinking of some sort of tablet. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's pretty even split in lecture between people typing notes on their laptop vs using an iPad or Tablet and writing on the powerpoint slides. Whatever works for you! Having a laptop makes life easier for writing notes at the end of the day, but I've loved having my iPad and apple pencil to write on slides, as I can highlight, circle, draw, because I know I'm going to rewrite it into an actual note form later.

I remember last year RBC for their LOC had a promotion where you got a free iPad, so I know a few people that used that and then just bought the pencil.

Also having an extra monitor to hook your laptop to at your home desk is a LIFE CHANGER. So helpful for note writing. I also just love my iPad for life beyond the classroom so it was worth it for me.

Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, Kaboom said:

Do all med schools use some type of software for testing?

Can't say for other schools, but UBC uses Examplify as well. 

UBC's examplify does not support ipad use though (at least for this year). It is mandatory for us to have a laptop or surface. in our (bring your own device) policy, we need to have a laptop or similar as primary device, not just a tablet. 

I'm a mac user, so I can only give my thoughts on macs as I haven't used a PC in 6 years. I currently run a 2014 macbook air and a 2019 ipad pro (along with other apple products, they just link together seamlessly). I bought the pro only because my laptop is old, but it is honestly overkill. If you're looking to just handwrite notes, I recommend an ipad air + laptop. The writing experience on the ipad I feel is nicer than on surface products IMO, but it doesn't differ enough you have other concerns such as pricing, or compatibility. 

I strongly agree with @bumbleb33 on the extra monitor though! Its so much easier to work with extra screens. I have 1 extra monitor + the ipad, the partner uses 2 extra monitors and honestly it saves us so much time and effort when working with multiple documents.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Definitely helpful, thank you all. The HP elitebook dragonfly is very tempting because of the built-in HDMI port and Thunderbolt 3 port (gotta hook up to an eGPU for those sweet gains), but I have an iPad and using it with sidecar in conjunction, with, say, a MacBook Air would be a dream. My workflow usually consists of making Anki cards on the spot, so the extended screen real-estate is definitely helpful.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just my own opinion, but I got the surface laptop 2 and it’s the worst purchase I’ve made. The fabric gets dirty and discoloured in a matter of months and is very hard to clean (even with sanitized hands it will still get dirty). The battery life is much worse than advertised. I literally get less than 4 hours nowadays after having the laptop for 1 year. Also the magnet charger cable is very loose and falls off with the slightest touch.

 

The touchscreen is bomb and comes handy when you’re lazy or sitting in bed lol, and it’s a pretty fast laptop, super light and portable as well. Maybe the laptop 3 is better but that’s my experience with the 2.

Link to post
Share on other sites

@RiderSx sorry to hear that! Yeah, I had the surface pro in the past and the Alcantara fabric got absolutely messy with my greasy palms (but the keyboard itself was amazing, comfy to type on). I would recommend to anyone considering the surface laptop to splurge on the metal body since it holds up well, or to get the surface pro as the keyboard is easily replaced if dirty. 

For what it's worth, until recently Apple computers used the butterfly-keyboard design, where keys would plain stop working over a 4-5 year lifespan of the device... which is much worse than a dirty palm rest.

The charger is supposed to fall off, but yours sounds like it's happening much more easily than normal: maybe take it in to the store? Battery degradation like that also sounds accelerated, it might be up to your habits, but honestly, fuck batteries. They're the worst.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, HongHongHong said:

@RiderSx sorry to hear that! Yeah, I had the surface pro in the past and the Alcantara fabric got absolutely messy with my greasy palms (but the keyboard itself was amazing, comfy to type on). I would recommend to anyone considering the surface laptop to splurge on the metal body since it holds up well, or to get the surface pro as the keyboard is easily replaced if dirty. 

For what it's worth, until recently Apple computers used the butterfly-keyboard design, where keys would plain stop working over a 4-5 year lifespan of the device... which is much worse than a dirty palm rest.

The charger is supposed to fall off, but yours sounds like it's happening much more easily than normal: maybe take it in to the store? Battery degradation like that also sounds accelerated, it might be up to your habits, but honestly, fuck batteries. They're the worst.

 

Could you tell me more about your experience with the surface pro? It's one of the top laptops I'm considering buying but I don't have much first hand experience with it. Do you find that it's easy to use and how's the battery life? Many thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

@Kaboom it's definitely a solid choice! It's very light, and as long as you're willing to buy drawboard PDF (the PDF annotation app, which used to be free for surface pro 4 but discontinued their deal with microsoft..), it's a solid machine for writing/annotating your slides! I had a low-spec Surface Pro 4 (CPU: m3, RAM: 4GB) and it still hummed along quite nicely! The one thing to consider is that the pen and keyboard are sold separately, but are absolute musts and should be included in your budgeting. It's also hella convenient if you're trying to make more space on your desk and don't need to type, simply removing the keyboard frees up a lot of real-estate to work with. It does suck that the device doesn't have an HDMI port (welcome to the dongle life!)

Unlike a Surface Book, 360 degree rotating screen, or traditional laptop, you can sometimes "do the dance" where you have the keyboard on, but the screen tilted far backwards, allowing you to draw and type at the same time! This is in large part made possible because the hinge/kickstand of the machine makes it quite stable to pen writing, even at lower angles. Other laptop screens will wobble if you try to write on them. That being said, the hinge is arguably the biggest minus of this computer. Have a small desk in your classrooms? The kickstand will take up extra space that needs to be supported alongside the keyboard, making using it difficult. I've even once accidentally sent the device over the front of a rather large lecture hall desk when I forgot where the kickstand was, and kept pushing it back to make more space for a notebook. I've also seen a Family Medicine practitioner able to balance a Macbook air in one hand as they walked from room to room, something that's difficult to do with the Surface Pro. The distribution of weight of the device is such that the keyboard contributes very little to the stability when being carried with one hand (whereas with most laptops it's the keyboard/bottom of the laptop that is far heavier than the screen).

With the CPU/processor in the screen of the device, your keyboard will always remain cool and comfortable, but sometimes when using the device without the keyboard, you'll notice the extra bit of heat from the screen. Nothing super annoying but annoying nonetheless. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just thought I'd add with where I'm at (incoming med student). I currently have a 2016 Dell XPS 15 that I loved initially, but it has developed a few issues that will become glaring once lectures go back to "normal" (not the fall term for my school, but perhaps January 2021 onward).

-The battery life has decayed over time - it lasts for around 70 minutes at 80% brightness.

-A few keys can produce some errors (typing too fast will skip certain letters)

-The webcam is atrocious

-I picked it up thinking I could use it for gaming on the side, but runs hot when gaming (otherwise the temperature is not noteworthy), and this led to thermal throttling while gaming and periods of lag, so now I never game on it unless its easy to run (non-issue for med school).

I currently have my laptop on a stand while hooked up to two 27" monitors, an external keyboard, an external mouse, an external webcam, an internet cable for faster internet...so I don't notice its problems day-to-day. That'll change once I start bringing it to campus though. All that said, it's very fast between its SSD and processor, so I've never once in my four years called it "slow" for any reason, which is great.

I think a 2020 Dell XPS 15 would address these issues and let me get through pre-clerkship - if it decays after two years, well, it wouldn't be the end of the world, as I don't think I'll run into many scenarios where I NEED to use it away from a wall-outlet for clerkship/residency (perhaps I'm wrong here).

For what its worth, I'd highly recommend the Dell XPS brand despite my experience - I put mine through heavy use in grad school and it held up well when I was using it the most (battery was excellent for its first two years). Plus I think mine had an error that ran the battery hot when put on sleep mode (sometimes I'd find my laptop burning up in my backpack when it should have been in sleep mode, sometimes left for hours on end), so I think that contributed to the battery life problems and may not be representative of the overall brand. Three of my colleagues have all purchase the Dell XPS 15 after seeing mine and they all love their laptops, much like I did (well to be honest I still do - despite its flaws). I'm going to start looking into other laptop models to see if I can find something new that catches my eye, but back in 2016 the XPS 15 was the clear winner when starting into grad school (for Windows users anyway - I think Macs can be easily justified for med students if someone prefers Apple, even I'm looking at this option...)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I will mention that batteries can be replaced and aren't actually that expensive - you don't need to suffer endlessly with no power. 

In residency you may find yourself in seminars (often half days). Finding a plug can sometimes be a challenge for things like that. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/24/2020 at 5:08 PM, RiderSx said:

Just my own opinion, but I got the surface laptop 2 and it’s the worst purchase I’ve made. The fabric gets dirty and discoloured in a matter of months and is very hard to clean (even with sanitized hands it will still get dirty). The battery life is much worse than advertised. I literally get less than 4 hours nowadays after having the laptop for 1 year. Also the magnet charger cable is very loose and falls off with the slightest touch.

 

The touchscreen is bomb and comes handy when you’re lazy or sitting in bed lol, and it’s a pretty fast laptop, super light and portable as well. Maybe the laptop 3 is better but that’s my experience with the 2.

There's actually a transparent fabric cover on amazon you can buy that prevents it getting dirty! It's basically a huge fitted sticker over the fabric areas and aesthetics wise it's barely noticeable

Link to post
Share on other sites

Not in med school, but just wanted to chime in with my experience with a Surface. I have a Surface Pro 6 that I got a year ago and it's still doing well in terms of battery life. Sometimes the keyboard isn't recognized but if I deconnect it and reconnect it, it's fine. Being able to have a computer that can turn into a tablet is super useful for me in my personal life! I got mine as a bundle with the pen and keyboard at the big warehouse chain that sells hotdogs, and I think the set was cheaper than buying just the computer from other places.

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, rmorelan said:

I will mention that batteries can be replaced and aren't actually that expensive - you don't need to suffer endlessly with no power. 

In residency you may find yourself in seminars (often half days). Finding a plug can sometimes be a challenge for things like that. 

 

Only thing I want to add is that there are caveats to this: case in point, my laptop. It seems that Dell no longer manufactures the battery I'd need (or at least makes it available for purchase when out-of-warranty like mine is) - and this was the situation last year (three years after buying). I seem to recall my only option being looking up parts on Ebay and attempt a DIY YouTube tutorial (hit and miss) or a computer shop that would attempt to assemble the pieces I source (with the disclaimer that it may not reassemble into a functional computer).

To offset this, extended warranties can be bought, and I did do this - though I timed it to my grad school timeline (two years), and during those years no problems developed. In my case my XPS 15 developed its issues all during its third year of being used. Brings up a good point: extended warranties that match the length of degree (3-4 years) should definitely be considered.

4 hours ago, HongHongHong said:

@Vertex don't you find a 15" heavy? My 15" laptop is a bit too heavy for my comfort, which is why I'm looking to change to something lighter.

Not at all - for reference the Dell XPS 15 is advertised as a "lightweight" premium laptop, and I think that claim is quite accurate - without looking up specs, it probably weighs as much as the average 13" Windows PC. In contrast, the average 15" windows laptop I'd agree is a bit too heavy - I used a decent ASUS 15" laptop for undergrad, and I'd certainly call it on the heavier side. The Dell XPS 15 is a good option for people who appreciate the extra screen space that a 15" screen offers while also considering weight to be an important factor.

Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Vertex said:

Not at all - for reference the Dell XPS 15 is advertised as a "lightweight" premium laptop, and I think that claim is quite accurate - without looking up specs, it probably weighs as much as the average 13" Windows PC.

Fascinating. The XPS 15 (2019) appears to actually be heavier than my current laptop, and speed walking around campus with the laptop + water bottle + smaller 3rd party charger really made its weight known. Man, I need to work out more....

 

On a side note, it's also worth noting that the batteries in many thin & light laptops aren't designed to be replaced. Not like the old days where the battery was anchored in and could be popped by sliding a hinge underneath the device...

Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, anhydrouswater said:

Not in med school, but just wanted to chime in with my experience with a Surface. I have a Surface Pro 6 that I got a year ago and it's still doing well in terms of battery life. Sometimes the keyboard isn't recognized but if I deconnect it and reconnect it, it's fine. Being able to have a computer that can turn into a tablet is super useful for me in my personal life! I got mine as a bundle with the pen and keyboard at the big warehouse chain that sells hotdogs, and I think the set was cheaper than buying just the computer from other places.

I wonder how costco's marketing people would feel about being branded as "the big warehouse chain that sells hot dogs" 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...