mac? pc?
September 11, 2008 4:48 PM   Subscribe

When and where should I buy a laptop (also: what kind?!)?

I'm leaving the US for France for about a year on September 16. I want/need a laptop for my job and entertainment. I can't think clearly about this anymore (stressed out about 10000 other things!) so I thought I'd consult AskMe.

I was planning on buying a MacBook when the product line was refreshed. Current rumor on that, though, is around October 14thish and I really wanted a laptop sooner than that. If I buy a Mac now, I can take advantage of their education discount which will give me a "free" iPod Touch (after rebate). If I wait until mid-October to buy a newer release Mac I will have to pay more for it because they cost more in France (also no iPod Touch). I really like Macs because Apple fixes anything that's wrong with them and I find them to be really well-made and happy (my last two computers were Macs). I was looking forward to a new Mac because aluminum casing is really desirable to me.

I am also considering getting a netbook/ultraportable laptop (MSI Wind or Inspiron Mini or Eee PC 1000 or ???) and running Linux on it because the price tag isn't as bad as Macs and I like the idea of being able to shove the laptop in a large purse and wander around. I do not, however, want Windows, because it frustrates the hell out of me.

I want whatever I get to have a built-in webcam and microphone so that I can Skype, I don't play games on my computer, I don't program, I like full-sized keyboards, I don't particularly like glossy screens, I don't like heavy laptops, I am sort of attached to my optical drive, and I am annoyed that the base MacBook only comes with a combo drive rather than super drive.

So, should I buy a laptop in the US and get a "free" iPod Touch and old MacBook, should I wait until mid-October and buy a new MacBook for $300ish more, or should I buy a cheaper PC? (money both is and isn't an issue because if I am convinced that I am making the BEST choice I will buy it within reason but I don't want to spend money on something too frivolous (ie: dropping $1,700 on a MacBook Air)).

Aaak, what should I do (sorry for the rambly-ness of this question, I have a lot on my mind right now)?
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just buy it now. Yes, there will be upgrades in October, but they won't be world-smashingly ultra-better. Also, anything at all you buy ever will be "outdated" in two months. Does a current-gen Macbook Pro make you happy? Then just go buy it and enjoy it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:55 PM on September 11, 2008

Response by poster: MacBook Pros don't make me happy - they are too big (15") and expensive (2K?!).
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 4:59 PM on September 11, 2008

Best answer: I have a MacBook Pro, my girlfriend has a regular Mac Book (sexy black one), and I've been eying all the mini-PCs you name myself for more rugged/portable use, especially on my occasional trips to rugged places where my big shiny MBP would be conspicuous, inconvenient or awkward.

On Macs, even the next refreshes are not likely to be significant. They've been incrementally improving for years now, and the current form factors are very good as-is. The non-Pro MacBooks, in particular, are very solid and durable. I find my Pro a little more delicate, since the aluminum is bend/twist/dent-able quite easily.

On the netbooks, I've been looking at all those you mention, but my favorite so far is one you don't mention: the Ace Aspire One. It has similar specs to the rest at a similar price point, but the keyboard is much, much nicer and less toylike, which is a big factor for me.

But with the small screen, limited memory and storage and optical drive, they're still not full-function computers, really, so I would not count on one to be my primary computer yet.

Personally, I would get the existing (non-Pro) MacBook and the free Touch and laugh my way to Europe. And get the black one. It looks so much better and stays clean-looking forever.

Hope this helps.
posted by rokusan at 5:01 PM on September 11, 2008

And what tomorrowful says. You can wait forever.
posted by rokusan at 5:01 PM on September 11, 2008

I don't think the upgrades are going to be that big a deal for you or your needs.

You might find the MacBook Air to be a good match. It has a MUCH nicer keyboard than the MacBook (which really sucks IMO).
posted by troy at 5:10 PM on September 11, 2008

Except, troy, she wants an optical drive.

I have a black MacBook and am totally happy with it. I got it in February and IIRC the line has been refreshed at least once, maybe twice since then. Sure, I look at the prices and how I could have gotten my computer for less, but that doesn't decrease my happiness with my current computer. If a new shiny MacBook lines debuts in a month, hey cool. But. It's not like my 7 month old laptop is crap suddenly. You're working on a slightly different timescale, so YMMV. For a month, you maybe could wait it out, but. Whatever you get now that is awesome will lose no awesomeness when it ceases to be the newest bestest thing going.
posted by MadamM at 6:10 PM on September 11, 2008

Given the price disparities, you might consider getting one now, then, in a year's time, selling it just before leaving France and buying whatever you want then. Heck, you might even break even.
posted by alexei at 6:38 PM on September 11, 2008

The reason I said Macbook Pro is that you said you want aluminum; I made an assumption. Okay, yes, one of the rumors is that the updated Macbooks will be Al. But... they might not be! And honestly, as "nice" as the metal is, plastic is much more durable; the aluminum dents and bends if you look at it the wrong way. (Hyperbole, but y'know.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:26 PM on September 11, 2008

If you're even thinking about Linux, you're awesome already.

I'd recommend picking up a middle-grade PC and putting Ubuntu Linux on it. The Skype build for Ubuntu is great, and Ubuntu is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread, especially for the money.

Just do a little research and make sure that whatever laptop you pick has Ubuntu-supported components. Unsupported components can still be made to work, just not right out of the box.
posted by expletivization at 10:52 PM on September 11, 2008

Make sure the current Linux version of Skype can do video - last time I looked, it was voice-only. That was a while ago, though.
posted by flabdablet at 1:18 AM on September 12, 2008

"I'd recommend picking up a middle-grade PC and putting Ubuntu Linux on it."

If you're thinking of linux, get it preinstalled on a machine such as the Eee. You're in a hurry: you want all the hardware to work out of the box. I do not recommend putting Ubuntu on a machine that ships with another OS unless you're intending to be a linux hobbyist.

Ultimately a MacBook and an EeePC or other netbook are worlds apart. If you need a fully functioning computer, get the former. If you're just looking for the basics then the exta portability of the netbook might swing it. Try the old psychological trick: flip a coin, and if you're disappointed by the result, then deep down you already know the answer to your conundrum.
posted by nthdegx at 1:25 AM on September 12, 2008

Dell sells laptops with Ubuntu preinstalled, too.
posted by flabdablet at 1:42 AM on September 12, 2008

I ordered a Dell Mini 9 last week. XP was the only option for the OS, but I'm in Canada, wanted XP anyway, but ordering in the US or giving them more time might provide the Ubuntu option they promised.

That said, I use laptops mostly for travel which is why I chose a sub-laptop, my old full-size laptop is heavy to lug around.

If you're going to be in one place for a year, using it for work and entertainment, a full-size may be better though instead of the Mini or Eee because of the larger keyboard and screen and built-in CD/DVD drive.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 2:41 AM on September 12, 2008

I dont understand why you asked this here. You seem dead set on a mac so why not get a mac?
posted by majortom1981 at 5:21 AM on September 12, 2008

Avoid at all costs getting a Nvidia Series 8 graphic card in your laptop, whatever the brand.

That said, my Dell XPS M1330 blew its power rail on Tuesday night. I had a chat session with a Dell support person online on Wednesday, and by Thursday, a service tech was at my office (it's a personal laptop, but they come to where ever you are), replacing the motherboard with a new one for me. I've never experienced such awesome service before from a computer manufacturer. My previous laptop was also a Dell, but I had to send it in for service, which took about a week. After having my problem solved so quickly and easily, my next laptop will definitely be another XPS.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:05 AM on September 12, 2008

longdaysjourney, did you buy a Dell through their business department? In my experience, their business customer support is excellent. Their consumer support is abyssmal. I'll never buy from Dell again.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:30 PM on September 12, 2008

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