How to buy a Mac laptop on the cheap?
March 27, 2012 5:01 PM   Subscribe

How to buy a Mac laptop on the cheap? And when?

I'm on a very tight budget and am planning on getting a refurbished MacBook with an extended AppleCare plan. I travel too much to make a desktop feasible. I read that Mac will soon be releasing new versions, which will probably affect my options in the refurb market. Does that make it foolish to buy a refurbished model now? I'd prefer getting this asap out of necessity, but I'll make-do if waiting two months is likely to get me a much better deal.

What would you recommend? I have the following needs:

- This will be my primary computer (will need to hook up to printer, scanner, etc)
- More RAM than the bare minimum: Processing large/RAW image files
- Will be running Photoshop and similar editing software
- Will not be doing any sort of gaming

Thanks for your input!
posted by juliewhite to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
you'll probably want to get one of the early-model unibody versions because of the better design and the ability to upgrade to up to 8gb ram (because it can run the 64-bit version of mac os x). the macbook pro versus regular macbook won't make much of a difference unless you want the bigger screen (better for graphics editing on the go, but also heavier). i wouldn't worry too much about how much ram the machine actually has because you could upgrade the ram, and it would probably be cheaper.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:14 PM on March 27, 2012

Personally, I'd want a MacBook Pro for PS work. If I were you (and I am you! I'm planning on doing this), I'd wait for the rollout of the new MacBook Pros, and then wait until refurbs of the new model come online. Usually it take a few months for there to be a flow of refurbs on of the current model.

I don't think you can upgrade the RAM through Apple BTO with a refurb; you'll have to do that on your own.

But, if your question is, does the discount on refurbs increase when a successor model comes out, then, yes, it does. From my experience, the current model refurb on any Mac is discounted about 12-15%, and the prior model is discounted 20-22% or so.

The catch is that Apple charges sales tax; if you're buying a refurb of last year's model at 15% off, but paying, say, 8% in sales taxes, you're really just getting a 7% savings versus getting the current model from Amazon (assuming your state does not require you to declare use taxes on your tax returns, as mine does).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:16 PM on March 27, 2012

You don't say where you are in the world or where you work.

In the US there are ways to get a new Mac cheap, like via to avoid sales tax, or with a student discount, or using the employee discount Apple offers to employees of many corporations and to government workers too. Any of these methods can get you a new Mac for the price of a refurbished one.

New MBP range is heavily rumored to debut soon, with the web sites claiming Apple will remove the built-in optical drive to make things thinner.
posted by w0mbat at 5:17 PM on March 27, 2012

I don’t know where you are, but you can check out local stores and chains. I usually buy the last model, not the current one.

The last time I bought a Macbook I found it on Micro Center’s web site. They list inventory in the stores. The guy at the store had to go find it in the back and it turned out to be an open box that had got lost on a shelf somehow. It was much cheaper than the current model and had features I wanted that the newer didn’t.

Get the cheaper option if you have to, just make sure you get the AppleCare. Upgrade the RAM yourself (it couldn’t be easier) and the hard drive on mine isn’t any harder to change.
posted by bongo_x at 5:55 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

The MacRumors buying guide can help you know when it's good to buy. Also look at Low End Mac's guide to MacBooks.
posted by blob at 6:27 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look around on eBay, vendors often sell used laptops that are still under warranty.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:20 PM on March 27, 2012

As others have mentioned, upgrade the RAM yourself. I'll also point out that Macs use the exact same memory chips that other PC laptops use, so you just need to look up the type of memory module you need and buy it from a place like Newegg. Much less expensive than going through Apple.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:36 PM on March 27, 2012

Just make sure that, whichever model you choose, it's a 64-bit machine, as Adobe has announced that the upcoming release of CS6 will only run on 64-bit Macs.

If you are looking to buy a refurb, make sure it's on Apple's list of machines that will run 10.8. Otherwise, you'll have purchased a laptop with a limited future.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:00 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

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