When will we see new MacBook Pros? When should I buy mine?
September 9, 2008 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I will have $3000 saved by the end of this month. I am hoping to spend it on a high-end 15" MBP. I am currently a high school senior, and am looking to replace my aging P4 desktop with a laptop that will last me into college. When is it likely that Apple will release new MBPs?

If they release them within the month should I go ahead and get one, or should I wait until closer to when I am starting school next year? (Fall 2009)

Is it likely that Apple releases new MBPs before Christmas? If they do will they likely release another new model before next fall?

I have read the macrumors Buyer's Guide, but am looking for more info. Such as where do quad-core mobile processors fit into the scheme of things, and where does Nehalem come in?

Will we see new graphics cards?

I realize these are questions without definitive answers, but am just looking for some advice/thoughts.
posted by nokry56 to Computers & Internet (58 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I was a high school senior, I went all out and bought a souped up 15" PowerBook G4. I quickly realized when I got to college that having a large, powerful notebook is stupid and sold it to buy an iMac G5 and an older iBook.

My advice to you is consider buying an iMac and a MacBook. You will get two killer machines for well under $3000. The best time to buy them will be next summer when Apple starts the back to school promotion again.

Or if you want something now, buy one of the machines now. It's likely that the notebook line will so an update before the holidays.
posted by prozach1576 at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2008

If I were you I'd buy a $500 Dell and keep the $2500. But if you really had to have a Mac I'd get a refurbished one for $750 when they go down in price and upgrade the memory and hard drive myself. With all the expenses of college, the money you save will be more important in the long run. Especially considering I've had several friends who have had their laptops stolen. You're definitely putting all your eggs in one basket, for a machine that will be obsolete in two years anyway.
posted by banished at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2008

Buy a refurb macbook after they release the new macbooks. Buy two or three external hard drives and run time machine backups a few times a week. Buy applecare. Buy lots of beer for your hallmates.

Unless you're a gamer, in which case, either learn guitar instead or build yourself a glowing transparent pc and a netbook (eee, etc) for notetaking.
posted by tmcw at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2008

Speaking from experience here, get a cheap-but-functional machine (even a regular macbook) and keep the other 2 grand for all of the fun things you'll want to do in college but won't be able to afford.
posted by Oktober at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2008

Unless Apple comes out with a 13in MBP, you're getting a big laptop. The other point: AppleCare. Three years from date of purchase. Probably worth it. Also worth budgeting for the insurance. If you want a MBP, is there really anything in the new line that you can't sacrifice for a refurb?

So, the standard question: what do you want it for? Buy the amount of laptop for your needs.
posted by holgate at 1:49 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: I'll be using it for audio editing and DJing - as well as gaming. The gaming aspect & a mechanical engineering degree is the main reason why I'm thinking MBP.

I already have an EEE 7G that I love, but the 7" screen is way to small for notetaking in my opinion.

Money isn't as much of an issue. I have a good chance of having a full ride to college because of being a National Merit Finalist, and am first in line for a $3800/month internship next summer...
posted by nokry56 at 1:54 PM on September 9, 2008

New ones coming very soon. This month (this WEEK, maybe) or next month, likely.

But I'm supporting the idea of buying a refurb one, they have the same warranty and such and you can save a ton of money for an indistinguishable from new machine.

Unless, of course, your school has a super-sweet deal on a "free printer and scanner and iPod and phone with any new laptop". Check.

Also, as Oktober says, the difference between an MBP and a "regular" MacBook are very minor. I actually prefer the Black MacBook to the MBP in almost every respect, and I have both here within reach to compare.

And no, don't get a Dell if your heart is set on a Mac. That's like getting a crust of dry bread instead of a tasty sandwich. :)
posted by rokusan at 1:54 PM on September 9, 2008

They always release a new one as soon as you buy a current one.

Seriously, it's tough to know until the rumor sites start running stories. I'll just say this: Yes, buy a Mac. However, do consider a refurb or recently discontinued model. You will save tons of money. Also, consider a MacBook instead of a Pro. There are some trade-offs, of course, but you can save a ton of money.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:54 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: Gah. I'm embarrassed. to should be too
posted by nokry56 at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2008

I just bought a refurb MBP (keep an eye out on the refurb section on Apple's site). My last one, a PowerBook G4, lasted 4+ years easily, banished (It's still fine, I just needed a little more speed).

Definitely get the AppleCare, but do consider the refurbs -- often, they've been more thoroughly tested and vetted than a brand new one out of the box. Mine was only about $1500!

I say all of the above as someone who used to work in tech support for the software that runs in those goofy mall kiosks, where anything could happen and usually did. Even taking into account the rough working conditions, I'm sorry, I have never -- not there, and not in my personal life -- met a single PC user whose laptops have lasted as long as all my Apples have. And I'm talking from the PowerBook 165c to the 520 to a few desktops to my G4 to now! So I'm biased, but for a reason.

My boyfriend has the regular MacBook and loves it. If it comes down to not needing the extra oomph, you'd be fine with one of those, too, I think. (And hey -- then you'll have money to spare when Amazon's new Kindle for textbooks comes out!)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2008

Make sure the get the educational discounts! (This might mean waiting until you've formally enrolled in college.)
posted by kickingtheground at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: So a MacBook Pro is too "big" for college? Is it the screen size or weight that causes that?
posted by nokry56 at 2:06 PM on September 9, 2008

The gaming aspect & a mechanical engineering degree is the main reason why I'm thinking MBP.

hmm. Tough call.

First off, for gaming, you need a proper PC. Head thee to newegg.com and build your own Core2Duo system. That'll take care of $1500+ of your budget.

For the laptop I think a Macbook -- $1009 at amazon -- + 2GB of RAM from newegg is your best bet.

Macbooks have DVI out so you can use it on your desktop quite easily too.
posted by troy at 2:11 PM on September 9, 2008

MBPro is your only (expensive) choice for a portable gaming Mac, due to the crappy integrated graphics on the MacBook.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:14 PM on September 9, 2008

Make sure the get the educational discounts! (This might mean waiting until you've formally enrolled in college.)

True dat, our school gives out 10% off. But 3000 is a crap ton of money to be spending on a computer when 800 can get you a damn good one. I have a buddy who is a graphic designer who bought a MBP for like 2100 one year ago and he said he doesn't need it, he wishes he would've gotten the regular MB. Another graphic designer buddy uses the black MB and it does everything he needs it to.
posted by BrnP84 at 2:15 PM on September 9, 2008

^ weight. Plus the daily wear and tear is murder on notebooks; the ABS of the Macbook is much more durable.

I'm actually looking at Macbook Pros right now -- for college! even though I'm a 40-something old fart who already has a Macbook, I'm taking Chinese and Real Estate this quarter at a CC and I don't want to carry around the slightly feminine-looking Macbook everywhere. It's embarrassing.

My developer discount expires next month; the next generation chipsets are coming out next year so there's nothing on the immediate horizon that compelling to wait for; the 8600 in the MBP is sufficient for my needs, so I'll probably bite the bullet and get a MBP in the next 2 weeks.

(note I already have that newegg-ordered Core2Duo system for home gaming that I mentioned above)
posted by troy at 2:16 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: @troy

I had the same thought as you until I watched some vids online of a MBP handling BioShock & Crysis. Didn't look too bad.

Plus, I'm not a "hardcore" gamer. If I game, it is with friends at a LAN party. I'm not the type to spend hours of my time leveling up, I'd rather get out.

So my thought is that if I had a desktop I'd end up either not using it much or feel obligated to use it, then deal with the nightmare of making sure all my files were synced between 2 computers. So I'm thinking I'm going to stick to one system. Feel free to convince me otherwise.
posted by nokry56 at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: the ABS of the Macbook is much more durable

What is/are ABS?
posted by nokry56 at 2:26 PM on September 9, 2008

the ABS of the Macbook is much more durable

I think he means the plastic.
When I was a senior in high school, I bought an Apple IIe. I eneded up selling it before I even left for college. I would wait.
posted by lee at 2:33 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: nvm, google figured out what ABS was. So the plastic is more durable than the metal? But if you have AppleCare it shouldn't matter, right?
posted by nokry56 at 2:33 PM on September 9, 2008

Also, as Oktober says, the difference between an MBP and a "regular" MacBook are very minor.

I have a macbook and love it. I don't need anything more, and if your needs are the same neither will you. But there's much more than a minor difference between mbps and macbooks. It's up to you if the price is worth it.

I've had three macbooks and no apple care. They're covered the first year anyway. With the money I've saved I can almost buy another macbook. I'm not saying don't get it. But it certainly isn't a 'no- brainer'.

FYI, white macbooks get dirty, black ones have a thousand smudges on them by lunch.

I'm actually looking at Macbook Pros right now -- for college! even though I'm a 40-something old fart who already has a Macbook, I'm taking Chinese and Real Estate this quarter at a CC and I don't want to carry around the slightly feminine-looking Macbook everywhere. It's embarrassing.

You're worried about looking feminine and you're 40? I've never head this complaint, but the black ones certainly don't look feminine. Of course, I don't think white means feminine, but since you're worrried about such things.

At 40.
posted by justgary at 2:34 PM on September 9, 2008

I'm not sure how useful the MBP is going to be for an ME role. Do they port Pro/E to OS X? I got my degree in Civil, and every associated program we used was Windows or Unix. I still bought a Powermac (still kicking myself for not getting the Cube), but I had to keep my Windows box on the side. This was back in the dark ages of the late '90s, though, so I have no idea what college computing is like anymore.
posted by hwyengr at 2:36 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: I've talked to a few friends in Engineering, and yes, they do use some Windows-only programs, but I figure that is what Boot Camp is for.

They do say that for things like AutoCAD the discrete card could definitely help.

Any other comments on the weight of the MBP? Is it really too heavy to comfortably carry around?
posted by nokry56 at 2:40 PM on September 9, 2008

No, the aluminum MBP is not heavier than the plastic MB. They're pretty much identical.

That's based on my very scientific experiment with one in each hand (MBP-15, MB-13)

I do agree the plastic MB is more durable and just generally feels more solid. I wish Apple had stuck with the Titanium, like the original G4 Powerbook, because the aluminum does bend and ding up quite easily.

As for "feminine", troy... you should have bought the BLACK one. Sexy and genderless.
posted by rokusan at 2:46 PM on September 9, 2008

ABS Plastic

The Macbook is a lot tougher than the MacBook Pro, and outside its game-playing powers is identical.

But for LAN parties, yes, the MBP is the way to go.

Even tho I'm a Machead I want to push you towards eg. a Dell, which you can configure with high-density 15" screen, 2.5Ghz C2D, 8600M for just under $2000, $500 less than the MBP.
posted by troy at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2008

^ yeah, I knew that, but I couldn't move myself to pay ~$150 for a color.
posted by troy at 2:53 PM on September 9, 2008

but I figure that is what Boot Camp is for.

yeah, bootcamp is great, except for the lack of a 2nd mouse button on the laptop. Parallels is also very good for this, but I haven't tried it.
posted by troy at 2:56 PM on September 9, 2008

I too would recommend the refurbished route, assuming you find a smoking deal on there that is priced sufficiently less than the new in box model. I have a white dual-core Macbook with upgraded RAM (4GB) and it's honestly the fastest Windows (via Parallels/ VMFusion/BootCamp) laptop I haveve ever owned. Very impressive!

Money may not be an issue, but it never hurts to have your cake and eat it too. Good luck!
posted by karizma at 2:59 PM on September 9, 2008

the ABS of the Macbook is much more durable.

This is not true in any shape or form.

Cracked macbooks.

There's also a flickr group just for macbook cracks and breaking if you search for it.

My macbook looks like it's been through a war zone, and I baby it. Still runs though.
posted by justgary at 3:18 PM on September 9, 2008

Engineer here:

In school, even my Apple-loving buddies used their PCs for all of their engineering related programs (MATLAB, Maple, SolidWorks, Xilinx) and gaming. They used their macs to tote around, look trendy, and take notes.

If your "degree" and your "gaming" are the things that matter to you, it will be in your best interest to build your own desktop and get whatever cheap apple laptop option above that will still be usable for IMing, note-taking, and coffee shop trend-setting (with weight and battery life being critical components of your selection).
posted by milqman at 3:29 PM on September 9, 2008

the plastic of the MacBook is indeed more durable, as it doesn't dent. (cracked top cases don't happen so much anymore and they're covered under warranty. dented bottom cases on MacBook Pros? not so much.) much easier to hide that you dropped it.

I really can't tell the difference between the MBP and the MB (I have both) - the MBP is bigger but a bit thinner so it doesn't "feel" as heavy. there's a buying guide on MacRumors that'll tell you when about to expect a refresh - for the MBP, it looks fairly imminent, so waiting a month or two wouldn't hurt. (if it happens this week, you should be able to get a refurb in a month or two, and yeah, you do want a refurb. refurbs are tested a lot more.) AppleCare is great but keep in mind it does not cover damage - so get a hard case too, so that the case doesn't get all dented up when you drop it.
posted by mrg at 3:35 PM on September 9, 2008

I think it is always better to wait until buying the new computer is a need, not just a desire. In your case, I'd suggest buying just before going off to college — a good computer should make it through all four years, but asking five years out of a computer (plus giving it a particularly intensive workout in the last year, with your thesis and so on) might be stretching things just a bit.

What if you decide to take a year off before college and travel? And surely you would want to wait to see what computer requirements your college department might have. All the engineers I know use PCs (sometimes running Linux), which doesn't mean you couldn't manage in Bootcamp, but there might be a reason most of them aren't using Macs.

I guess it just sounds like you are trying to talk yourself into this, rather than doing something that you genuinely need. It's your money and your life; you can do whatever you want, obviously. But my sense is that dragging your feet a bit on this decision will help you a lot more than it will hurt.
posted by Forktine at 4:29 PM on September 9, 2008

As a twenty something who wanted to buy a Macintosh IIXI (or something?) when I was 15 and had a load of cash (ha, ok $5000) -- save that shit.

Its nice having the new toy. Its nice having the best. It only lasts for 3 days. College bills last forever.

Remember when A IIXI cost $5k? And now its like ... free? on ebay.
posted by SirStan at 5:02 PM on September 9, 2008

^ I worked & saved ~$3000 FOR TWO YEARS for a Macintosh II. By the time I finished saving enough, the IIcx came out, which was a little cheaper. (I got an Apple student loan co-signed by my parents for the OTHER $3000).

It was hands-down the best tool for the job, and made its money back for me over the next 7 years of ownership.

The diff between a Dell and a MBP is around $650. Not a massive amount of money, but nothing to sneeze at either.

I don't think there's $650 worth of value in OS X over Vista these days, but if one wants to develop for the iPhone and what have you it's best getting a Mac.
posted by troy at 5:44 PM on September 9, 2008

Do you use a laptop for everyday things? Especially things that do not guarantee being around an outlet? The company I worked for paid for my laptops in college, looking back I was really lucky, I didn't have to worry about price or anything within reason. That said, consider me as an example of someone with an unlimited budget in a hypothetical what-if scenario:

- Big laptops with big displays and big graphic cards have batteries that are not so big. This is a huge deal as it hits you at the worst possible time. Have two classes in a row? Miss getting the spot next to the outlet? Oops.

- Powerful laptops are big and heavy. Not a big deal you say. Try it with several 300 page textbooks. Not a big deal you continue to say. Get a thin and light notebook, oh my god how did I do without this.

- Big, powerful laptops often draw unwanted attention. This is both from the looking like a douche factor and from people who are waiting for you to walk away. Also you'll always keep your laptop with you. Big laptops are a pain to slip in your backpack when all you need is a piss. Then you have to unplug it (no battery life), pack up, etc.

- Do you really want everyone behind you knowing you read Perez Hilton?

So what did I end up with? A slim laptop that was also compact. I used it for note taking, did a lot of work on my desktop. It had RAID and was gaming capable. Eventually it became a server I would terminal into.

I'm not saying don't hole the money away, but don't spend it on one computer. Spend it on multiple computers! Unless you're needing to edit video on the plane from NY->LA there's little need for such a powerful machine. I'm not saying that you won't use the machine to its full capabilities, but given that the majority of tasks will be mundane, try to find a machine that fits that. I would look at a MBA, personally. Get something souped up for home.

And you'll need to run some sort of virtualization to get those Windows programs to run. It is best to wait until you find out what those Windows programs are and what specs you'll need to run them on a Mac.
posted by geoff. at 5:48 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: So here's my summary of all the comments. Let me know if I missed anything.

-Buying refurb = saving tons of money + getting a more carefully inspected machine

-a regular macbook may be perfectly fine if i either
a)don't want to game, and don't need to run any engineering apps
b)have a desktop as well

-may not be the wisest decision to buy now (though in my opinion, if they release a new one in the next month, they aren't going to be updating it before i go to school, so why wait?)

-i will want the money in college

i guess my main question is why get a MB & a desktop when a MBP could handle all the tasks by itself. WHY get 2 computers instead of one? is it because of the life of the systems? battery life?

thanks all! any additional comments are welcome
posted by nokry56 at 6:04 PM on September 9, 2008

i guess my main question is why get a MB & a desktop when a MBP could handle all the tasks by itself. WHY get 2 computers instead of one? is it because of the life of the systems? battery life?

I don't think you need 2. I'm not a gamer (well, I do that on the Xbox, Wii, and Dreamcast) and I have a 13.3 inch MacBook (not pro) 2.16 Ghz Intel from several generations back. I do Photoshop, Dreamweaver, MS Office, web browsing, and tons of other stuff, and my only complaint that my hard drive is about full. The one thing I do wish I had from the Pro is the backlit keys.

My vote would be to save a lot of money and get a refurb MacBook, and toss in as much RAM as you can. With some of the money you save, get a portable external hard drive for backing up your files.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:19 PM on September 9, 2008

Go to college for a couple weeks and then make up your mind. When I'm at college, I spend a lot less time in front of the monitor.

And also consider the concert tickets, booze, food, comic books, textbooks, drugs, food, posters, and club membership fees you could purchase for $1000.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:25 PM on September 9, 2008

nokry56: "i guess my main question is why get a MB & a desktop when a MBP could handle all the tasks by itself. "

Weight and size. As much as I love my MBP, it's annoying to carry around.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:33 PM on September 9, 2008

Generally, Apple announces computer updates in January, and sometimes later than that- I know the MacBook was introduced in May of '06- but not around now. Now's the time for iPods. So I'd hold out until after Christmas-ish.

As for what comp you should get, if you want an MBP, go for it. However, do think about why exactly you want one: Are you going to go into graphic design or film or something where you need an MBP? I have a MB and it works fine, but I'm an English major and don't do much. Also, take into account weight, etc. And whatever you get- get AppleCare. You won't regret it.
posted by awesomepenguin at 7:08 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: I think after some consideration I'm back around full circle, and still planning on getting a MBP. After reading some blog & forum posts I don't think carrying it around will be that bad. And I'm turning away from the MB & a desktop idea because I don't want to deal with two different computers. I will probably get a drobo & an external monitor for the MBP.

I'm definitely going to be looking into the refurb models and I *think* I'll wait until they release new MBPs before purchasing. Although dealing with my overheating desktop in that time period will not be enjoyable.

But thank you to everyone for all your responses. I have to admit I didn't expect to get all of these answer, but I appreciate every one.

Any additional comments are always appreciated.
posted by nokry56 at 8:05 PM on September 9, 2008

For MechE, a bitchin' computer isn't going to matter much for the first year or two while you learn the fundamentals (statics, dynamics, strength of materials, diffeq, etc). When/if you start to do heavy CAD, rendering and simulation (AutoCAD, ProE, Solidworks, hand coded, etc.) in your 3rd/4th years, you're going to regret the Macbook anything purchase. Why?

(1) By that time Nehalem will be well established and Sandy Bridge will be close. These are major overhauls to Intel's processor architecture that will yield significant performance improvements. Nehalem will substantially increase memory bandwidth / add hyperthreading, Sandy Bridge will add AVX (256-bit vector support). These enhancements are specifically targeted towards the type of floating-point-dense, parallel computations that dominate many engineering applications. The MBP dual-core will get absolutely slaughtered by a quad core hyperthreaded (8 effective cores) chip with high memory bandwidth. Especially for rendering and simulation. It. Will. Not. Even. Be. Close.

(2) The current MBP isn't even fit to run AutoCAD or many other engineering/3D apps right now. see this page for a list of AutoCAD supported hardware, for example. A lot of high-end engineering/design apps are very particular about video and will require a Quadro/FireGL card. The MBP may run the stuff, but don't be surprised when you start seeing artifacts in your viewports, crappy texturing, etc.

(3) The 8600M in the MBP is based on previous generation technology (G8x/9x vs. G200). It isn't even NVidia's top of the line mobile chip right now. It may run Crysis etc., but at what resolutions, quality settings, and framerates? Sure, you're only gaming on it for LAN parties etc. and don't need the ZOMG rad graphics. But, the 8600M is a neutered graphics card (32 shaders vs. 240 on current high end nvidia desktop cards). Since nvidia released CUDA science, engineering and design apps are starting to incorporate GPU acceleration to speed up other calculations besides graphics (by very large margins). 32 shaders won't cut it.

(4) By the time you actually need the computational firepower for school, your crapper graphics/CPU combo will be 2-3 generations behind, not upgradeable, and annoyingly slow.

(5) Lugging a ~7 pound laptop around campus is no fun, especially when you don't have an office to lock it in and you're already carrying 20 pounds of engineering textbooks. My shoulder and I know this from experience. You will start leaving it at home and taking notes with the ~0 pound pencil/engineering paper combo, especially when you start drawing cross sections, force diagrams, etc. in your notes. If you insist on using a computer to take notes, you'd be much better off with a tablet PC.

(6) You can edit audio with any computer. Apple does not have the market cornered on good audio editing apps. You can also DJ with any PC or an iPod. Also, I don't know about rocking the $3K MBP at undergrad parties. These things have a way of disappearing/getting smashed/getting spilled on.

(7) MBP's are definitely not the end-all be-all mobile computing solution, especially for engineers. Take a look at a fully tricked out laptop from XI computer. Quad core. 2x nvidia 9800 in SLI or a Quadro 1600. 8GB RAM. RAID 1 hard drives.

All of that will blow your budget, but some of it won't. For example, I just config'd a system with a 2.66 GHz quad core, 4GB RAM, Quadro 1600M graphics, and dual 100GB drives in RAID 1. $3008 total, and smokes the current gen MBP in everything that you (won't) need (for another 2 years).

(8) When you start looking at really high end MechE computing, you will realize that Macs are more or less neato toys. The real compute work (computational fluid/thermo dynamics, all kinds of rendering/simulation/analysis) gets done on multi-CPU workstations and computing clusters. Even a fully loaded Mac Pro (a very nice, very expensive desktop) looks pretty lame when you put it next to an Apexx8 from Boxx (another very nice, very expensive desktop). It would be nice, if you start doing this kind of work, to have a machine that you can run stuff on at home instead of relying on lab gear.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Mac, but I'm a big believer in using the right tool for the job. An MBP is not the right tool for what you're about to get into. If I had to go through undergrad engineering again I would buy the cheapest, lightest laptop/tablet I could find, toss the rest of the cash into a high yield savings account, and build the best desktop I could afford right before the start of my third year. Don't mean to be dickish as you've seemingly made up your mind, but I really couldn't disagree more with the MBP. YMMV.
posted by doowod at 8:17 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would argue that macbooks and macbookpro laptops are heavy. I have a MB, and I don't really like carrying it around, and wouldn't any more than I have to. College generally involves a lot of walking around, and it's not worth it to have a hurting back or shoulder.

5 or 7 pounds is a lot. Never mind the extra weight of the bag, power adapter, and any other materials you have to take with you. Do you really want to be carrying around that much weight around all of the time?
posted by that girl at 8:26 PM on September 9, 2008

Don't listen to the people saying a Macbook is good enough. I'm typing on one and I've loved it for the years I've been out of school. Never felt any jealousy of the MBP because I loved the white look so much better. It's a great machine.

But it can't even run Spore. Not even at the low end. Nope. No graphics card, no dice. I think the newer MBs can but the fact you even mentioned games means MBP.

Also, the screen space on the MBP will pay off. I'm trapped on this 800 high screen. If it weren't for Exposé I'd go nuts, even with Spaces I'm still feeling claustrophobic.

As for when they're going to release, the rumors sites say there's a redesign in the works. That's what I'm waiting for. There was a possibility early on they were gonna be announced today. No dice.

Good luck sitting on your hands until the new one. I got a gf waiting for my MB so it's getting harder and harder to deny her during her classes...
posted by Brainy at 8:54 PM on September 9, 2008

Your money will go a LOT farther (performance wise) the longer you wait. If I were you, I'd wait till NEXT august when Apple offers some phat deals that include a free printer, a free ipod, and a MBP that costs drastically less (or if not, its way more powerful) than anything on the market today.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:04 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: okay new info to consider. thanks especially to doowod for the lengthly, informative post. it made me realize the only thing i get by going MBP is the ability to game. which with a dual degree i won't be doing much of anyway.

i might just get a MB and forgo the gaming because i REALLY want OS X. or possibly go with the lenovo/hp tablet offering. i've had my eyes on those for a while. or maybe even the EEE 1000H. so much to think about.

any other thoughts on the portability of a MB? i know Brainy's opinion... anyone else?
posted by nokry56 at 9:22 PM on September 9, 2008

Dude, this is my experience:

Right when I graduated, I got the most bitchin' PC from Dell that I could all the time. Totally sweet 2.4 Pentium 4. Many, many crashes later, it became a necessity to have a laptop (I got a Dell 600m my junior year).

I really appreciated having the two computers. For everything engineering related, it's just going to run better on a PC that you can upgrade in the future. Matlab and AutoCAD are also super expensive, and most of the "special" copies online will be for PC's.

I understand the need for keeping files the same on both systems. By junior year, my awesome gaming PC was reformatted with Ubuntu. I ran a simple subversion server on it to keep the important files sychronized, which if you think about, aren't really that many. Music, video collection - desktop. Notes, current papers -> laptop. Sync with utility of your choice = backup.

Having multiple computers was handy when I had friends over. Plus it was awesome to have a permanent base station to stream movies and party music to our entertainment system.

I've gone through three laptops since then (I graduated only 2 years ago!). Now I have a MBPro and a PC laptop that I hardly use - the Apple experience is definitely superior. My college desktop lives on as a development server in my closet.

If I had to do it over again, I would - get the upgradeable desktop PC. You're not an artsy fartsy english major. This is going to be your command center. You'll need it.

Then, get a laptop if you really want it. Yea, you can take notes on it, but I ended up surfing the internet constantly. It was handy for the library, but I still prefer taking notes on paper. With engineering diagrams, it's just faster to write. Most of the time I brought the laptop, I just streamed MLB.com or read slashdot.
posted by unexpected at 9:40 PM on September 9, 2008

also the MBPro not being portable is silly. It's a laptop, it fits into your backpack. I carry both my laptops in my bag, and it's not a problem.

yea, you'll have 300 page textbooks, but how often are you going to take them to class? I never took my textbooks to class - this isn't high school, professors teach from notes and slides. Usually, I ended up taking one book at a time to the library or to a hw session.
posted by unexpected at 9:42 PM on September 9, 2008

^ Apples are "PCs" now. I run SOFTIMAGE booted into Windows XP on my Mac Pro.

Nehalem is coming out at the END of next year for portables.

Here's what I would do if I were you:

Get the $1009 MacBook from Amazon, 4GB upgrade from newegg, and enjoy. If you find that's not enough but you want to stay Mac then around January there will be the next rev of MacBook Pros. Ebay the MacBook and go Pro then.

At any rate, wait until the new Pros come out before committing to anything.
posted by troy at 9:57 PM on September 9, 2008

May I suggest a Lenovo X61. By far the best laptop I've ever owned. Solid, fast, great battery life, durable, light, and great for lugging around campus (I do it all the time).

I put it in a sleeve, pull it out of my backpack whenever I need it, and sometimes forget that I even have it with me. If I had to do it again, I would.
posted by 913 at 11:50 PM on September 9, 2008

Buy something used for > $500 and use the money to go on a trip.
posted by amedia at 3:23 AM on September 10, 2008

any other thoughts on the portability of a MB?

If you are going to be carrying it, smaller and lighter is always better. I have a MBP, and while I will carry it with me on a long trip, as a day-to-day thing it stays on my desk. It's not so heavy on it's own, but you add in the weight of a powercord, the bag itself, a couple of notebooks, and so on, and it's a pretty heavy load.

Lastly, my sense is that taking notes on a computer is (in non-engineering classes at least) still pretty rare. When I've looked out at large lecture halls, I see maybe one face in twenty illuminated by a screen; in small conference classes of 15 people there is usually one who uses a computer in class. The truth is that pen and paper is more flexible, more portable, has no battery issues, and simply works better for most note-taking situations. If you need to draw pictures or write out equations, that holds even more true (aside from the tablet computers, I guess, though I have never seen a student using one).

So don't buy a computer before you get to college specifically for a use that you may not find it appropriate. Get there, see what you need, see what students two years ahead of you are doing, and work from there.
posted by Forktine at 6:46 AM on September 10, 2008

Response by poster: I'm still trying to decide if I would miss being able to game. I'm looking at a refurb blackbook for $1300, and it might be the direction I head. I might just get that soon here, then build a desktop later on when/if I feel the need in college.

Would you all recommend waiting to buy the blackbook until after they announce new ones? Or would you go ahead and buy while the price is reasonable?

My other option is to buy a macbook using my educational discount and get the free iPod and printer now... thoughts?
posted by nokry56 at 7:05 AM on September 10, 2008

1) listen to doowod, he makes excellent points.

2) Don't discount how much of a pain it is to constantly be carrying your only computer:
i-weight. It's always, always better to be lighter. A pound makes a huge difference. A couple of inches in screen size makes a big difference. I've gone from a 17" through a 15" to a 12" laptop over the past decade. I wouldn't go back to the bigger ones if you paid me.
ii-theft. Universities are high-risk environments for computers. I'd rather lose a $400 eee with my core files on the tower back in my room than a $2-3k MBP with my whole life on it.

3) Compatibility: Most of engineering software's primary platform is Windows. You'll need to be able to run it somehow. Autocad, in particular, is a real bear for particular hardware. If you're like any engineer I know, at some point you'll need/want to run linux/bsd/beos. Plan for some generic hardware platform.

On the other had, you will probably buy at least one more computer, likely after second year, so don't stress about this too much.
posted by bonehead at 9:00 AM on September 10, 2008

^ actually a Mac is a superior platform to run windows & other unixes thanks to parallels.
posted by troy at 11:41 AM on September 10, 2008

The newest rumor: Apple Notebook Updates on October 14th?
posted by sharkfu at 5:55 PM on September 10, 2008


Parallels won't work for most of the apps he'll be using. They require direct access to the hardware and choke on the virtualization layer Parallels uses.
posted by doowod at 1:50 AM on September 11, 2008

Response by poster: Well thanks all. I've pretty well made up my mind after talking to a few of my engineering friends and carefully considering everything on here...

I'm going to be getting some type of cheap ultraportable after I graduate (hopefully Apple will have a good option by then), then will be building a desktop before I go to college. If I feel the need I'll rebuild the desktop before my 3rd year.

I sincerely appreciate the detailed responses from everyone. I think this decision is the best one. I will still be able to game and run any engineering apps needed in the first couple of years, but if I feel like writing a paper in the library I won't be constricted to my room.

If anyone has any opinions about this feel free to speak up. Thanks again!
posted by nokry56 at 6:39 AM on September 11, 2008

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