Should I Buy A MacBook? If so, which one?
July 20, 2012 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Which (if any) MacBook should I be buying! Focus is on audio podcasting, sporadic HD video editing, blogging, and extended periods of writing / blogging / freelancing. Oh and I've been 100% Windows till now. Snowflake, as usual, inside.

So my current PC (HP Pavillion dv6000, Vista, Intel Core 2 Duo 2Ghz with 3GB Ram) has been repaired far too many times, but is still more than functional... but I'm ready to move on to my next laptop.

Should I be considering a MacBook? And if so, Pro, Air, and which screensize? Budget is a consideration, not looking to absolutely break the bank. This would be my first Mac.

Why the switch? Because I'm pretty sure I'll be doing some video editing in the next twelve months, at HD resolution Currently using Corel 12 on the PC at VGA rez, but it can't really cope with HD, sound mixing and effects. I'm also a regular podcaster, so any new machine needs to cope wth 2-3 hours of audio editing a week.

Other than that, I mostly live in the browser with web services, and Windows Live Writer for blogging (to Wordpress), and Open Office for longer work. I do basic image editing (screenshots, etc) with Paint Shop Pro 3 (don't laugh, it's perfect for my needs).

So, do I go for another Windows PC, do I switch to MacBook, do I go Air or Pro, and what screen size? MeFi's advice ?
posted by ewan to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I have a 13" MacBook Pro that I love. Mac OS X has a lot of features that makes working with a small(-ish) screen a breeze, so I'm not sure I'd bother paying more (a lot more) for the 15" version. I don't do video editing, but I know people who use a 13" Pro for it, and they seem to get along just fine.

MacBook Air's are also supposed to be pretty awesome. My only concern is that you can't upgrade the RAM once you've bought one, and doubling the RAM on my Pro was one of the best €50 I've ever spent. If you're big on portability, though, then the Air is probably the way to go.
posted by anaximander at 2:19 PM on July 20, 2012

I just bought a 13" MacBook Air that I love. It is lightweight, easy to set up, and wakes up from sleep mode in an instant. Battery life is very good too. If you are a road warrior, I would recommend this computer.

One of my colleagues got the MBP with the Retina display which is gorgeous. But the 27" Thunderbolt display is pretty awesome too and an Air + Thunderbolt is probably within a few hundred bucks of the MBP Retina.

If you are near an Apple store, I highly recommend going in and playing around with the machines there to see what might best suit you. They also have a 14 day return policy and I was able to return stuff (a mouse and a cable) with no hassle, so if you decide the Mac is not for you, you are not stuck with it.
posted by elmay at 2:46 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The problem with Macs is that once you go Mac you never go back. It's the only way to live. But since you're a hostage, Apple fucks with you once in a while. Breaks compatibility, hides or glues the batteries, etc. Never buy a first batch of anything Apple, btw.

Context: I've had two 13" Macbooks (one white, one aluminum) and ordered last week a new one. I also own an iPod, an iPod Touch and an iPhone.

Buying laptops in the PC world is hit or miss-ish, by the way. My boss had bad experiences with Acer and insists we get Dells. (He buys us the computers, of course). Right now I only bring the work laptop home because this MBP is rather underfeatured (2GB RAM, hard drive running out...), while the Dell is up-to-date and good for small scientific applications. It used to be also about Matlab's IDE being good on Windows and sucky on the Unix Matlab, but I've followed the siren call of Sublime Text.

Bottom-line, they will run you a bit more expensive, but it's worth it. Macs in general last longer, though this has been less the case since they switched to Intel processors; there are PPC Macs of 1997 vintage in operation at a film lab I know. The unishell aluminum MBPs are nearly indestructible and they're still Intel machines, so all Linuces and Windows are available to you -- OS X even provides the partitioning/bootloader stuff. And it's really hard to know what a good PC laptop is -- the Dell I use is wrong in all the details, the keyboard is too small and with redundant keys, there's a VGA output but no holes for the screws so the cable gets loose all the time, and it's ALL IN THE BACK, so you have to hunch over the screen. Macs are overhyped, but they're better computers in all those little ways.
posted by syntaxfree at 2:49 PM on July 20, 2012

Don't get an Air. It's underpowered for video editing and unserviceable if it breaks. You're paying a premium for mobility, which you don't mention in your post at all.

So that leaves you with the Pro -- I'd say get a 15" if this is your main machine and you don't mind traveling with it. The 13" is awesome and compact but the extra screen real-estate is very noticeable.

Video cards on macs are underpowered, so try to buy something that has more than just the onboard Intel Graphics 3/4000. SSDs are awesome for performance, but bad for price, capacity, and reliability. Trade off as needed.

If you buy used or refurbished, your dollar will go a lot farther, especially since the new Retina Display models were just released. Find an overpaid Mac geek who's unloading their 2011 model on Craigslist for less than it's worth, buy an AppleCare 3-year protection plan, and cackle with delight. (at least, that's what I did a couple weeks ago. validate my decision by following in my footsteps.)
posted by spanishbombs at 2:50 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

(also, and this is maybe relevant for your podcasting -- the 13" MBPs I've used don't have a mic input port. The 15" model does. Maybe you have an external soundcard, but, just in case...)
posted by spanishbombs at 2:53 PM on July 20, 2012

Ah, yes. Re: 13" vs 15", you can get a much much better (in the way of specs) 13" MBP for the price of a normal 15". The aforementioned Dell is a 15", and the only moment I notice a difference is when watching a DVD. But 13" is a blessing, fits on a messenger bag, and you might just find a spare monitor and get a dual-screen setup when home.
posted by syntaxfree at 2:54 PM on July 20, 2012

spanishbombs: you just need an adapter, it's a port for those three-ring plugs that are headphones and mics.

I do recommend a USB soundcard, but for other reasons -- previewing sound bits in headphones without disturbing the main recording. (I like to play DJ)
posted by syntaxfree at 2:56 PM on July 20, 2012

When you have extended periods of writing/reading and you get the retina mac, you will never ever go back to a normal resolution screen. The screen is like real paper and not the usual fuzzy dots. I can read for much longer on that screen without getting eye strain.

It's a pretty fast Mac, its SSD is very fast, it's light to have in the lap, full size screen, doesn't get hot in normal use, etc. It's by far the best Mac I've owned.
posted by flif at 3:18 PM on July 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all, for your information I've picked up a refurbished MBP13 direct from Apple.
posted by ewan at 7:23 AM on July 28, 2012

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