Best time to buy a MacBook Air?
September 10, 2009 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Best time to buy a MacBook Air between now and mid November? Are there any speed bumps or price reductions on the horizon?

Dad is turning 70 in mid November. Dad wants a base model MacBook Air. We (his kids) want to get him what he wants, since we love him and since he's turning 70 and all.

I'm not in touch with the Apple product cycle these days, and I don't remember if, historically, there will be another speed bump for laptops before the holiday buying season, so if anyone has an insight into either of those things, I would appreciate hearing it. I was hoping something would be announced yesterday, but no such luck.

So...any Apple tea leaf readers out there? Any opinions on whether the MacBook Air lineup will get a bump or price cut in the next couple of months? Also, any personal experiences with the MacBook Air? I know it doesn't come with a built-in optical drive or Ethernet port, but those shouldn't be an issue for him. Dad was at the Apple store and fell in love with the MBA's form factor, which is perfect for his "needs." Now, his needs are squarely in netbook territory, so I know this is more computer than he will likely ever use, but this is a milestone birthday for him and we'll be splitting the cost multiple ways, so the difference between a $1200 MBP (his second choice) and the $1500 MBA isn't a big deal, at least in this instance.

Other data points: He's a dyed-in-the-wool Mac user with a fairly limited set of technical skills, so it's no use suggesting a Hackintosh or a Windows or Linus-based netbook. He wants a Mac laptop, and he specifically wants a new (NOT used, NOT refurbed) MacBook Air. We're happy to get him what he wants, but if the product line is getting nudged, I'd like to take that into account before we order something.
posted by mosk to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer:
posted by jangie at 11:21 AM on September 10, 2009

Best answer: MacRumors says buy now.
posted by bigmusic at 11:22 AM on September 10, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, jangle and bigmusic -- that link pretty much answers the primary question. I had no idea MacRumors ran a buyer's guide. Thanks!
posted by mosk at 11:50 AM on September 10, 2009

Great deals here with 1year warranty and apple care available apple refurb site
posted by bravowhiskey at 12:18 PM on September 10, 2009

I've had some overheating problems with the Air- don't leave it turned on (unless it's in sleep mode) with the air vents blocked- like sitting on the couch or on an upholstered chair. I did some online research, and it sounds like I'm not the only one with the problem- but perhaps that has been improved with newer versions.

On the positive side, I've dropped it from about waist height, and it was fine. It's easy to forget to hold it carefully when you're running around the house with it, because it's so light.
posted by Secretariat at 12:26 PM on September 10, 2009

To be clear, If you were to buy it for him now, would you give it to him before his birthday?
posted by mge at 1:35 PM on September 10, 2009

Response by poster: Heh, that's a good question, and we tend to be a little loose with that sort of thing. I mean, it's not like he's eight and will be bored with his new toy by the time his big day arrives, lol, and it seems silly to keep a perfectly good laptop in a box on a shelf for two months, when he could be using it. On the other hand, he doesn't need this for his job, and he has a nice desktop machine, so this is strictly something he will be using for his own entertainment during his lunch break (he's in retail) and when he travels with Mom.

If we get it soon-ish, we may give it to him early. If we don't get it until mid-October or later, we may wait for his birthday.

Sorry, not a very exact answer...
posted by mosk at 1:53 PM on September 10, 2009

To be clear, If you were to buy it for him now, would you give it to him before his birthday?

I guess you're thinking about the possibility of a Mac tablet before/around November?
posted by djgh at 2:13 PM on September 10, 2009

FWIW you can get great deals on Apple refurb Airs (as low as $999). They have the same warranty as new and come in the same condition as new products, just differen box. They're just older models/generations.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:57 PM on September 10, 2009

Sorry, didnt see the refurb line. FWIW, I've bought 5x refurb machines and they all came in brand new condition. In fact, I've never seen anyone report otherwise.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:59 PM on September 10, 2009

Rumors seem to suggest the Air is on its last revision (to be replaced by a netbook or tablet or something soon), so yup, you might as well buy now.

And I'll second the WTF about refurbs: I've bought a half dozen refurbs from the Apple store online and they've all been absolutely brand-new perfect, without a fingerprint or broken seal.
posted by rokusan at 3:27 PM on September 10, 2009

Response by poster: @refurbs: ::sigh:: Look, if this were for me, I'd definitely be scrounging for a good deal in Apple's refurb bin, a source I've used for several computers over the years, and I know from my own experiences that their refurbs carry little-to-no risk. Hell, if this were for me I'd probably take my chances on Craigslist and try to find something even cheaper. But this isn't for me, this is a 70th birthday present for Dad, and Dad doesn't trust used or refurbished computers.

My father is an amazing individual with many wonderful qualities, but like all parents he can be completely maddening at times, and stubborn to the point of exasperation. He and I have had the "you can trust Apple's refurbs" discussion before, and the last time we had it we agreed to disagree. So while I'll bring this up as an option, there is almost no chance of him agreeing to it. In the end, it's his gift and he should get the laptop he wants, in the condition he wants. Trust me, I appreciate the suggestion, and you can be sure I'd do things differently if it were for my personal use.
posted by mosk at 4:35 PM on September 10, 2009

Best answer: Here's the thing. If you buy it today, you know exactly what you get. You can't be hurt by waiting because they aren't going to suddenly make the machine worse. If you're okay with waiting, which it sounds like you are, my vote would be to wait and see what happens.

Worst case, nothing new comes out which leaves you in the exact same position you're in now except you have the buy the thing because his birthday is in a few days.

Note that if you choose to get AppleCare it's based on the date of purchase of the machine (I believe) so holding on to the machine for a while while not using it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
posted by mge at 5:53 PM on September 10, 2009

Best answer: Personal experiences with the Air:

1. I know he's asking for the low-end model, but if you can afford it get the SSD. It really makes a lot of difference to this machine -- it's massively faster than the crappy iPod hard drive option, apps launch quickly, it boots quickly, the heat is less and the power use is less. It's scary quiet too -- when the fan's not running, the whole thing is totally silent. There's a review I can't find now comparing the two, and the conclusion was that the machine's a dud with an HD, and a winner with an SSD. I second that.

2. The optical drive is nice, but not really worth it unless it's going to get serious use. I installed Snow Leopard over wifi, and it honestly didn't take much longer than upgrading my desktop.
posted by fightorflight at 7:18 PM on September 10, 2009

Response by poster: Awesome, fightorflight -- that's great info. Thanks!
posted by mosk at 7:58 PM on September 10, 2009

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