Buying a new computer before or after moving abroad?
March 3, 2013 4:06 PM   Subscribe

My job is transferring me from Chicago to London in the spring. I've certainly got a lot to figure out between now and then (much of which this forum has already been a big help with), but one specific question I have involves the purchase of a new computer. My current MacBook is definitely due to be replaced -- it's six years old, so move or not, I was planning on getting one sometime this year. Does it make more sense to buy one before the move or after?

Taking my laptop on trips to the UK has never been an issue, since the battery is built to handle 220V. But do any of you know of issues that I might run into in the long-term?

As far as having a localized keyboard, I'm currently agnostic but open to convincing -- I'm a programmer in finance, so I can see advantages and disadvantages in swapping those currency signs. :)

Shipping costs aren't an issue, since the laptop would be coming with me on the flight, and any accessories wouldn't appreciably add to the weight of what I'm having shipped.

As of today, the same model of MacBook Air is about $185 more expensive on than it is on Is there anything else I should be thinking about before I just grab a plug adapter and take the savings?
posted by mattstan to Travel & Transportation around London, England (8 answers total)
Warranty. Don't assume that a US warranty will be valid in the UK. Check before you buy.
posted by Jehan at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is there anything else I should be thinking about before I just grab a plug adapter and take the savings?

I don't know about the US, but lots of places will allow you to claim back sales taxes if you're taking the machine out of the country. Might be worth looking into.
posted by pompomtom at 4:45 PM on March 3, 2013

Check what the VAT would be on it in the UK, too, unless that's included in the price you're referencing on Amazon (not sure how they show it over there).

For what it's worth, I've used my Macbook since 2009 or so in the UK and across Europe with only that worldwide adapter pack Apple sells for the plug and never had any problem.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:47 PM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite] – MacBook Pro 13" – £999 w/ free shipping – MacBook Pro 13" – $1306 w/ CA state tax + free shipping = £869

It's 15% more expensive to buy in UK.

When you arrive, you can buy the international power kit for £30 or so.

As far as the keyboard, you can set it to British English and get the £, €, and still have the $.
posted by nickrussell at 4:59 PM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

The pound and euro signs are option-3 and option-4 on a Mac keyboard. Moreover, you can keep your physical keyboard but swap the layout to the UK version with the Keyboard Preference pane. There are some physical differences, but not many. I have a MacBook Pro with the US-English keyboard, but I usually use the French Canadian keyboard because it makes typing words in French and German relatively easy.

I think Apple's warranty, including AppleCare, is valid worldwide. I got an AppleCare warranty replacement of a wonky power supply once when I was living in France. But double-check.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:01 PM on March 3, 2013

I'm not familiar with the vagaries of Apples OS's but you will certainly end up with the UK version and it may be nearly impossible to completely make it behave like the US version.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:58 PM on March 3, 2013

IME apple kit is vastly overpriced in the uk. Get it in the states. I wonder if you could purchase it duty free in the states. As an australian I think the UK keyboard layout sucks, and I can do £ & € no problems using an american style kbd layout.
posted by singingfish at 9:44 PM on March 3, 2013

Best answer: We've had our American-bought Macbook serviced here in London at an London apple store and we never had any problem getting them to honor the American-bought Applecare warranty.

As NickRussell notes, you can buy the international converter kit, which will give you a little UK power plug you can swap in for the US one on your Apple power cord. Do NOT be tempted to buy a cheap substitute version of this on eBay -- I did that and got a really shoddy one that sparked every time I plugged it in. Eventually I bit the bullet and bought an Apple one.

Alternately, you can just buy something like this, which lets you keep the US plug on your Apple power cord.

Obviously a US keyboard will always have a "$" on the physical keyboard instead of "£"-- but there's even an option to switch to a UK keyboard in the software, so that when you hit the "$" key, it makes £ appear on the screen.

Basically, if you buy your MacBook in the UK, you will be paying $185 for the privilege of having "£" on your keyboard.

One tip: make sure you unbox your new MacBook BEFORE you come to the UK. If you are transporting a new-in-box, unused computer through the airport, you risk getting having to pay import duty if you happen to get pulled aside by customs. In fact, there may be rules governing how long you have to own it to bring it through customs without being obligated to pay customs-- it might be worth doing a quick Google.
posted by yankeefog at 2:06 AM on March 4, 2013

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