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Cookies and Apple Juice
June 2, 2009 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I've been debating with myself for the last week or so about which Mac I should buy and when I should buy it. My brain could use a break from the back and forth, and that's why I'm asking for help.

I recently sold my Asus laptop (offer was too good to refuse), and I've been computer-less now for about two weeks. I bought the Asus in December 2008, and during the six months I owned it, I rarely took it out of the house. This is partly due to the fact that I'm a programmer, work on a computer all day at work, and often have free time while there to do my 'browsing.' I don't have a current desktop computer, so anything I buy will be my main computer.

I like the idea of portability, but with a $2500 laptop I can't imagine I'd let myself take it out of the house during the first 6-12 months out of fear of breaking it.

I mention the MacBook Pro for $2,500 because the RAM is upgradable to 8gb in that model, and not in the $2,000 2.4ghz model. However, besides that fact, there is no other reason that I can think of for me to buy the $2,500 model (the extra vram is useless, minimal upgrade in processor speed, starts with 4gb RAM but I can upgrade the 2.4ghz model cheaply).

I've done a lot of thinking and have concluded that I could buy a 24" iMac (2.93ghz, 4gb ram, 512mb vram in the ATI card) for just over $1,800. And then also buy the smaller, 13" MacBook for just over a grand in a month or two if I feel like I need the portability. Or, I could buy a MacBook Pro now, and then buy an external display for that down the road if I feel like I need the screen space and am using the computer mostly at home. Those two options are practically identical in price when buying both components, however, in the first I'd have two computers, and in the second I'd have only one. I've also thought about buying a cheap netbook instead of a MacBook with the iMac, and that seems to make more sense financially.

The thing is though, money isn't an issue. But I am extremely cheap, and have a hard time making myself spend money in excess. And I have a history of being incredibly indecisive. Can anyone help me out here?

Oh, and should I wait until after the WWDC? What's the chance of Snow Leopard being released and for its distribution to start immediately? I don't want to buy a new computer and then have to upgrade the OS if I can help it.
posted by trueluk to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I've also thought about buying a cheap netbook instead of a MacBook with the iMac, and that seems to make more sense financially.

I'm a linux person, so am therefore clueless about Macs. Most of my friends with Macs have only laptops, which seem to frequently be breaking (probably not more frequently than any other laptop, but that's neither here nor there--the fact that they take the laptops out of the house and spill coffee on them has more to do with it, I'm sure). I'm one of three people I know with netbooks (all cheap, linux-based), and we all have desktops (PC or linux) as well and we all have no qualms about throwing our netbooks in our backpacks and taking them along with us--something, like you, I'd be much more worried about with an expensive computer. But I spent less than five hundred dollars on my netbook, and have another, nicer computer at home, so I'm able to use it for exactly what it's intended for--mobile browsing and writing--without worry.

If I were in your position, I'd buy the nicest desktop that would fit my needs, and buy a linux or windoze based netbook to take out of the house. It'll probably still end up being cheaper than a MacBook/MacBook Pro.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:59 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


WWDC's a week away. I would definitely hold off until you see what Apple's up to.

Also, have you looked at the Apple refurbs? I had a refurb iBook G4 and it always treated me very well; I upgraded to an MBP a couple years ago. (I rock the MBP + cheap netbook, myself, but I'd rather work from my couch than a desk, and I don't bring my MBP to the office because it doesn't fit on my tiny-ass desk.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:00 PM on June 2, 2009


I've got a 13" MacBook, which has plenty of juice and portability, and a big (23") external monitor that I use whenever I'm at home. All the screen space and portability I need, at a very low total cost.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:01 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You also don't seem to mention what you'll be doing with the notebook..i know a whole bunch of people who run out and buy macbook pros and then just use it for surfing the web. Are you going to play games? edit video? tons of photoshop work? I really think that should be the deciding factor in what computer you get.
posted by mattsweaters at 2:25 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Definitely wait off for WWDC. Word in the rumormill (as well as from a former apple employee) is that specs of the current models will get refreshed as well, just like the base model white Macbook.

I'm holding off for WWDC to buy a regular Macbook. House is already full of PCs but I'm tired of running iDeneb hackintosh on my ASUS laptop (it works, it's just a little clunky and I haven't had luck with getting an Intel 4965 wireless driver to work without making my machine freak out).
posted by liquoredonlife at 2:26 PM on June 2, 2009


I had a 12" PowerBook that I took everywhere. Everywhere. It was in my purse all the time (not even in a laptop bag- no padding). I dropped it many times- the case was dented and falling apart; the Apple Store employees would point and laugh when they saw it. It worked quite well for 3.5 years. Had a problem with the disc drive disconnecting a couple times, and eventually the power thingie stopped working- Apple fixed and replaced these issues for free. Otherwise it was pretty much glitch-free. I wouldn't worry about taking it out of the house- they're not that fragile. Get Apple Care and buy a keyboard condom (~ $20 on ebay) if you're worried about spilling stuff into it, which is really all you should be worrying about, in my opinion.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2009


Nthing the refurb route if you want to save money. They are perfectly fine computers. The last refurb I had lasted from 1999 until 2007.

Do NOT pay Apple to upgrade your memory. I will repeat that: DO NOT pay Apple to upgrade your memory. Get the right kind of memory cheap from a third party and install it yourself. Anything else is a waste of money.

What isn't a waste of money? AppleCare. Worth every penny.
posted by hippybear at 2:38 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regarding WWDC, are there any rumors regarding changes to the iMacs?
posted by caddis at 2:40 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


caddis: actually, WWDC has been all about iPhone for the past few years... Apple just did some quiet updates on some of their laptop models, as well as the Mini... I think the iMac was updated within the past 6 months or so... I'd be surprised to see any new developments in the iMac line until Xmas 2009 timeframe, if history is any guide.
posted by hippybear at 2:43 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nthing waiting until after WWDC's Keynote next week.

Some other tidbits:

http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/ - Invaluable resource on current rumors, revision notes, etc. on any given model of Mac or iPod.

The new Apple Cinema Display (LED) has a power cord and Mini Display Port for the newest MacBooks & MacBook Pros. In other words, the power cord for the laptop is built into the same cord as the display plug - you don't need another power adapter for home, the Monitor acts as one for you. VERY handy, but it will only work with the newer models of Mac Laptops that use the Mini Display Port. That may be the solution you need for an external monitor at home (and it acts as a USB hub, too, so you can hook up your mouse and keyboard to it).
posted by GJSchaller at 2:43 PM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine I'd let myself take it out of the house during the first 6-12 months out of fear of breaking it.

Get a good padded case, don't carry it around out of that case, and you'll be fine. The most likely damage scenario is dropping liquid on the keyboard, and that will probably happen at home anyways. The unibody macbooks are one of the most solid feeling laptop builds I have run across.

the extra vram is useless

Well, it does come with a non-integrated graphics card, which isn't useless. The current integrated cards on a macbook are not bad compared to the earliest (white) macbooks, but they aren't great (somewhat recent games like mass effect and bioshock run alright with very medium settings). That said, I'd go with a macbook myself (and have done so), because I prefer the smaller size. I have an external monitor that I use at home when I need more screen space, and I don't think another computer would be necessary with this combination.
posted by advil at 3:03 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait and get both the iMac and the MacBook. Seriously, the only thing keeping you on the fence here is your irrational miserly guilt about money. Beyond that, where did you use the old laptop the most? If it was on a table/desk, get an iMac only, if you were using it on the couch, get the laptop and maybe an external monitor.
posted by rhizome at 3:06 PM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


WWDC is only a week away so waiting is a fine idea. I doubt they'll do anything to the Macs though as they recently updated them and it was ages before that refresh. Still, they might. As a programmer I'd go for the 24" iMac. It's hard to beat visual real estate for programmer happiness.
posted by chairface at 3:11 PM on June 2, 2009


Second the AppleCare.

Also I would consider one of the metal ones, vs the white plastic one. I have dropped both my old 12" and my current MBPro...the 12" end up with serious dents but still ran fine.
posted by UMDirector at 3:24 PM on June 2, 2009


I used to have a 17" MacBook Pro which was just over 2 years old. I took it into the Apple Store (I had Apple Care) to fix a problem with the sleep mechanism and after a week they told me that they were just going to give me a new one as it would cost them less than the parts they needed to fix.

So I got a brand new 17" MBP. When I went in to collect it I told them I hadn't been able to wipe the internal hard disk on the old one so could I have it back. A few minutes later I was walking out with a brand new top of the range laptop, the internal HD from my old one and a mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter. So yay AppleCare & Apple.

I've sold the new laptop on eBay and am using my gf's refurb 13" MB (with my old HD in it) until I find out what they're doing with the 13" MBs next week at WWDC.

I'm going for a smaller laptop because of the size/weight & the amount of carrying I do. I've had a few Apple laptops and they've been pretty bulletproof. The newest models seem even more so. Just keep the liquids away.
posted by i_cola at 3:38 PM on June 2, 2009


If holding off for the WWDC is on account of Snow Leopard - there is zero chance SL will be released at that time. Builds are still being sent out to test, they haven't even gone gold.

You may as well wait a few days just in case they bump the specs a bit (though they just did for the low end macbook).

If you are thinking about the iMac - the screen on the 20' sucks. Same with the macbooks compared to MBPs. If you are going to be staring at the screen for many hours, I'd get as good a screen as I can.
posted by VikingSword at 4:18 PM on June 2, 2009


Wait due to WWDC.

Wait on apple care (you can buy it from a third party, e.g. Amazon much cheaper and you can buy it up until the original one year warranty expires).

I just sold my iMac to get a MBP because I need the portability and haven't looked back. This is also the first time I've had a laptop and no desktop and been happy with the power. (I use Aperture frequently for photos and multitask like all hell, I can't wait until 8GB of RAM is actually affordable.)

The GF has a MB and she's glad she spent the extra to get the unibody, though at the time, the plastic body had the crappy Intel video, that has been fixed recently, but it's still not as sturdy.

Upgrade the RAM yourself if you want to (though if it comes with 4 GB chances are you won't be throwing in the 8 GB upgrade right now) and the same goes for the harddrive, do not pay Apple's prices on these.

Also, get a refurb. I don't think I've even bought a brand new Apple product, they all came refurb or from eBay used.
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:49 PM on June 2, 2009


FWIW, I own a 2007 MBP (the then-$2500 model), and I routinely throw it in my (padded, laptop-ready) messenger bag for a 60-minute train commute, using in my lap wherever, etc. I'm relatively careful about bumping it into things, keeping liquid away, etc, but the only issue I've ever had was the logic board failing due to the NVidia 8600 issue, which Apple fixed free under warranty. I've often considered a netbook, but right now I don't use my hardware in enough truly dangerous locales to make it worth the extra hardware.
posted by Alterscape at 5:05 PM on June 2, 2009


I have a 13" macbook that's pretty well maxed out on upgrades (4 gigs of ram, new 320 gig 7200 rpm drive) and it serves every purpose I need handily. Adding the ram and replacing the hard drive was only a couple hundred dollars and is stupid easy on the regular macbooks.

Unless you really need the graphics card, really big monitors that require dual DVI to drive, or FW800 I see no reason to spend the large premium on a MBP.

I use mine for fairly intensive things like running Traktor Scratch Pro and have had no problems.

Plus the macbooks are adorable. You may or may not value adorableness.

Otherwise, I Nth the "wait for WWDC" and "get a refurb".

The only reason I bought this was new was because I was replacing a laptop I broke (dropped an old 17" from several feet on to a power adapter and shattered the screen. I'm pretty sure anything short of a toughbook would've been toast) and couldn't bear to be without a computer long enough to get a refurb delivered. I am, in fact, thoroughly addicted to my macbooks.
posted by flaterik at 5:58 PM on June 2, 2009


I did look at the refurbs but now that there is an offer for a free iPod Touch or Classic, I think I'm convinced to go with a new model.

mattsweaters:You also don't seem to mention what you'll be doing with the notebook..i know a whole bunch of people who run out and buy macbook pros and then just use it for surfing the web. Are you going to play games? edit video? tons of photoshop work? I really think that should be the deciding factor in what computer you get.

I plan on doing web development, iPhone and Android development, and some light gaming. That's what I want to do anyways. Obviously anyone of those ventures could involve photoshop, minus gaming of course. I bought my Asus with the intent to game, but only played through COD4, World of Goo and Braid. I'd like to be able to run games since I have no other computer and that's why I was leaning towards an iMac, or laptop with an integrated video card.

Well, it does come with a non-integrated graphics card, which isn't useless.

Actually, the benefit of the extra 256MB of VRAM between the MacBook Pros is nonexistent in the benchmarks I've looked at. The only real difference I see between them is the option to upgrade the 2.66ghz to 8gb of RAM down the road, while the 2.4ghz will max out at 4gb of RAM.

As a programmer I'd go for the 24" iMac. It's hard to beat visual real estate for programmer happiness.

I wasn't even considering an iMac until I messed around with the Best Buy model. It was after that when I started to question myself.
posted by trueluk at 6:07 PM on June 2, 2009


I'm probably the kind of person a pro is made for and bought a MacBook, not the pro, so don't feel like you need the pro for some reason. I got a 24" external monitor to go with it for working at home. Actually, my MacBook has been weirdly delayed in getting sent to me and keeps getting pushed off. I totally forgot about WWDC coming up. Interesting.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:11 PM on June 2, 2009


Actually, the benefit of the extra 256MB of VRAM between the MacBook Pros is nonexistent in the benchmarks I've looked at.

The MBP has two graphics cards, one integrated, and one non-integrated. The integrated one supports more memory but isn't substantially different from the one on the regular macbook in performance. With the non-integrated chip there is a substantial boost in performance on any benchmark I've seen, with something like a factor of 2-3 for some 3d apps (here's one source pulled off of google; the bolded line in the chart there is the non-integrated card). It is true that this boost is probably independent of just how much memory the card is using.
posted by advil at 4:08 AM on June 3, 2009


The MBP has two graphics cards, one integrated, and one non-integrated. The integrated one supports more memory but isn't substantially different from the one on the regular macbook in performance. With the non-integrated chip there is a substantial boost in performance on any benchmark I've seen, with something like a factor of 2-3 for some 3d apps (here's one source pulled off of google; the bolded line in the chart there is the non-integrated card). It is true that this boost is probably independent of just how much memory the card is using.

Sorry, that was I typo on my part. I meant the non-integrated card.

Looking at the difference between the 256 MB (listed first below) and the 512 MB:

COD 4: 48.4fps, 48.8 fps
Doom 3: 90.3 fps, 96.3 fps
posted by trueluk at 6:52 AM on June 3, 2009


oh, I think I just misread you initially and thought the comparison was between a regular macbook with 256MB max (and an integrated card only) and a MBP with 512MB.
posted by advil at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2009


I got a white MacBook for Christmas 2008 (since it was significantly cheaper than the new aluminum ones and I'm cash-poor ATM) and I love it. It amazes me how fast this "base" model computer is. Seriously, a 13" MacBook is all you need (I probably would have gotten the aluminum if I had had a few hundred extra bucks, however). They're quite sturdy and AppleCare is great. I usually just surf the web on mine, but when I work from home I am simultaneously running at least one Adobe CS4 program and Windows (via VMWare Fusion), along with Firefox and iChat and the like, and it works like a charm.

My boyfriend has a 17" MacBook Pro and I really think it's overkill. It was nice watching movies in bed when he didn't have a DVD player at his house, but otherwise the thing is to farking big.


Nthing the comment about not buying Apple RAM - and it sounds like you would have no problem doing the hardware upgrade yourself.
posted by radioamy at 12:02 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and regarding laptops vs desktops, I say always go with the laptop. It's nice to just have the freedom to move your computer around the house - not to mention to the coffee shop, airport, etc. I would never buy a desktop for home.
posted by radioamy at 12:03 PM on June 3, 2009


I did wait until the WWDC keynote and was ecstatic when they announced the new MacBook Pros. Although the $1,100 13" had me tempted, I ordered the 15.4" for $450 less than I would have pre-WWDC with a longer battery life, brighter screen and a free iPod.

Thanks for the advice everyone!
posted by trueluk at 7:50 AM on June 12, 2009


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