Purchasing an Macbook Air?
February 9, 2014 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I need a new laptop. Replacing my old MacBook Pro. Considering a MacBook Air. Details inside.

Ok, I was "gifted" a MacBook Pro from a family member a couple of years back. It was old, but served me very well for a number of years. It had a couple of issues (battery was dead, even though I replaced it), so it constantly had to be plugged in, or else I would lose all power in about 45mins.

I started to take on some consulting work as a side project, and the MacBook Pro wasn't cutting it when I was meeting with clients in their office or coffee shops as I didn't always have a reliable power source.

So here I am. I need a new laptop (I sold the other one for $50). I would like to buy another Apple product, but I am on a budget. I know I don't need the resources of a MacBook Pro (I am only using my laptop for documents - spreadsheets and reports, etc, no video or photo editing, etc), so the MacBook Air would be ideal. However, the cost is what I am considering. I live in Canada, so the cost of the 13 inch MacBook Air is $1099 for the 128GB one.

I really think I could justify the $1099 for the MacBook Air. Granted, I can purchase two PC clones for the same price (I was at Best Buy yesterday and I could easily get a PC laptop for around $500 that I am sure would suit my needs); again, I don't need anything with super high processing power, as I am mainly typing up reports, proposals, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. So when I factored in the cost of the MacBook Air ($1099), and my provincial sales tax (13%), we are starting to get pretty expensive.

And here is my issue - now I am considering the Apple Care Protection. Normally, I am not an extended warranty guy (I have read the Consumer Reports, and know for a lot of things, its a way to make money), but with a MacBook Air, should I purchase this??? I mean, my MacBook Pro had some issues after a couple of years (with the battery), but the AppleCare in Canada is $279!!! That's almost the price of a super cheap laptap. So thats $1557.14 taxes included. Now, I think I am starting to get out of my price range.

(Sidebar - I have done several Google searches about AppleCare and there are thousands of opinions out there. The thing that concerns me most, is the amount of people that admit that something has gone wrong with their Apple computers over the years and that the cost of AppleCare is well worth it, esp when you are purchasing an expensive machine).

And, I really would like to have Microsoft Office for my laptop. All of my clients use Office and when I was using Pages, Numbers and Keynote, I was having some compatibility issues (minor, but still). I would also like to use Office on both my laptop and desktop, so I would need to purchase something other than the single use. I am not a student, educator or have any license agreement with my work for software sharing, so I have to purchase this on my own. And a quick search for this only in Canada is almost $200 in order to be able to use it on two machines (I see single use Office products and three licenses, nothing for two users).

Argh!! Did I just price myself out of the MacBook Air line? I mean, I could justify the $1099 price, but when I add on AppleCare and Microsoft Office, I am at over $1700 Canadian... Should I just buy a $500 PC laptop (all in) and just run with it? My last PC Toshiba laptop lasted 9 years.

Suggestions? Thoughts? Comments?
posted by dbirchum to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Does the Canadian Apple online store have a "special deals" section? You can often find a new or new-ish machine for hundreds of dollars less, while still having the protection of actually buying new from Apple.

I personally don't get Applecare, but that should at least save you much of the cost of the warranty or an Office license. Also, I'm pretty sure you have until the end of one year to upgrade your Applecare. (There's basic one-year coverage when you buy something new. I would check to see if that applies in Canada.)

Airs are great computers. Fast, hard to drop, easy to walk around with.
posted by clango at 6:32 AM on February 9, 2014

Mac Office licenses, last I checked, cover a single user but allow installation on up to two computers, which is your situation exactly.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:33 AM on February 9, 2014

Why do you want the Mac? Is there anything you do on a Mac that you can't easily do on a PC? Do you like the aesthetics of the hardware, or the OS?

I would suggest to find someone who is selling a 2011-2012 Air and buy theirs at a discount, or buy from the refurb store.

I would also try to find someone who has Office 2011 Mac and doesn't use it anymore and buy their license from them at a discount.
posted by michaelh at 6:35 AM on February 9, 2014

If you do get the Air max out your RAM when you purchase it. it is impossible to upgrade the memory on an Air so if a future version if OSX requires 8gb to run, you'll be screwed.
posted by deathpanels at 6:39 AM on February 9, 2014

As clango mentions, you can look around for special deals. The Apple store online has a refurb section that frequently has good deals, meaning hundreds off.

Second, if you're doing consulting work with it, then it's a business expense and can be written off in some way--talk to an accountant--so that needs to be factored in to the overall cost.

Third, shop around for deals on Office--you need only the most basic package, see if a student friend can get you an educational copy, etc. Although again, deductible business expense, as is Apple Care.

Airs are awesome, and the current model really hits a sweet spot for price and features (by comparison, retina Pros are overpriced and underpowered compared to the baseline). You can expect an Air to last comfortably for 4-5 years, so even at the high end you're considering, you're still only talking 3-500 a year (before considering business writeoffs), and if you're going to do significant consulting work with it, the quality of the computer makes a difference over time.
posted by fatbird at 7:17 AM on February 9, 2014

Seconding getting a refurbed unit from Apple - it's always a good deal if they have the model you're interested in.

On AppleCare, yes it may be deductible, so check into that. But note, you do not have buy AppleCare right away - you just need to buy it before your 1 year warranty is up.
posted by nightwood at 7:23 AM on February 9, 2014

I say this in many Apple threads, but I have never found AppleCare to be worth the price. I've owned a couple of dozen personal Apple devices, and bought dozens more for my institution, going back 25 years now. I have found that AppleCare does not cover the most common reasons laptops or portable gear get damaged, that the price of AppleCare is a very high premium for limited insurance considering the risk, that Apple almost always covers any organic hardware issue (ie, one that is their fault due to a design error or a bad part) well past the one year warranty gratis, and that the resale value of late-model used Apple gear makes upgrading more frequently a wash with protecting an aging device with expensive insurance. If you must have the peace of mind, it comes at a high price in my experience.

I know many people disagree with that. I'm basing it on my experience. I've never spent a penny on AppleCare in 25 years of owning Apple machines. I've never regretted it.

The Macbook Air is a rock solid computer in either form factor, a design Apple has really perfected now (the early ones were uneven), nearly indestructible except for the glass (which won't be covered by AppleCare if you damage it). I agree with maxing out the RAM. It will lead to a lower total cost of ownership by extending the life of your machine.

Sure you can spend less on an equally capable Windows machine. Whether the Air is worth it depends how you value specific features. But the Air is certainly fairly priced even compared to Windows ultrabooks with the same form factor and similar specs.

Spend the extra bucks on a robust backup solution. It's a far greater value than AppleCare.
posted by spitbull at 7:25 AM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really enjoy my macbook air, having switched from PC desktops/laptops after 20 years of computing. I slightly regret my decision to buy applecare, though my macbook is only 18 months old so maybe I'll be happy with that decision if I need service in the next 18 months.

As a rule I never buy warranties for the reasons cited above, but even more so with Apple products I don't think it's worth the price. With Apple you're buying a product that is built to very high standards and comes with an excellent 1-year warrantee that should cover practically any manufacturing defects.

When I'm in the market for my next laptop, I'll definitely be thinking about buying refurbs, I've already bought refurbed ipad and iphone for my parents, they've been indistinguishable from new products. Another option is buying a used macbook that has an existing applecare, which from what I've read is easy to transfer to a new owner.
posted by skewed at 8:05 AM on February 9, 2014

It should be mentioned that OS is not destiny here either. A Macbook Air is a reasonably capable Windows machine, although it lacks the touchscreen interface for which W8 is increasingly going to be optimized.
posted by spitbull at 8:32 AM on February 9, 2014

One more hint: many credit cards (American Express for sure) offer extensions on basic consumer warranties up to double the length. Find out if one of your cards does that, and use it to buy the computer. It won't be as easy to activate as AppleCare, but it's redundant protection.
posted by spitbull at 8:36 AM on February 9, 2014

I strongly disagree with advice to forgo the AppleCare. AppleCare has always been worth it for me, especially for portable products like the Macbook Air. HOWEVER - you don't have to buy it immediately. The Macbook Air should automatically come with a 1 year warranty, and the AppleCare extends that. You can buy the AppleCare in 11 months and spread out your costs that way.

Check out the refurbished section of the Apple website. I'd rather sell a few objects or pick up some extra hours to buy the Macbook Air than a Windows laptop, but that's a personal preference.
posted by barnone at 9:12 AM on February 9, 2014

MacBook Air is the most sturdy laptop I've ever encountered. I'm sure you can get more objective stats as well, but anecdotally, the damage to mine from a 3-foot fall onto a bare ceramic tile floor was one almost invisible dent. I've been comfortable without AppleCare on this machine.
posted by kalapierson at 9:18 AM on February 9, 2014

I just got a used 2010 MacBook Air on ebay for about $600 USD and so far am happy with it. The price range I was seeing there was about $600-$800. Mostly 2010s, some newer ones. I saw one that claimed to come with MS Office but usually the seller deletes all applications so you'd have to buy that. Note they do have smaller amount of storage (disk). It's really lightweight.

It is possible to replace the battery in a MacBook Air but you have to source the right replacement and open up the bottom of the computer (check ifixit.com). The one I just got seems to still have close to original battery capacity though.

Caveat emptor as always on eBay of course. If you want something in good cosmetic condition, examine the photos and descriptions carefully, but even then they are usually pretty minor (scratches, dented corner).

You may be familiar with this from your previous Mac-- the one thing that has been terrible about Mac laptops since at least 2000 when I got my first iBook is that the charger plugs are fragile and easily broken (even now with MagSafe) so I always expect to replace that every few years.

It is possible to get plastic/rubber cases that would protect the outside of the laptop like an iPhone protective case.
posted by thefool at 9:25 AM on February 9, 2014

One thing about the 2013 MacBook Air is it has obscene amounts of battery life. Since you're holding onto this for a few years you might want to take the newer model's processor, chipset and faster SSD into consideration. However, I would look into what the refurb store has in stock. It comes with a warranty and you can extended it by purchasing AppleCare.

Like Spitbul says, at least in the US, you can buy AppleCare to extend the warranty any time within the first year. The standard warranty only offers telephone support for a short time but that doesn't matter if you life near an Apple store.

As far as Microsoft Office goes, you can buy the home and student edition which allow you to have it on more than one box at a time. The only caveat is that version does not allow you to connect to Exchange servers via the Outllook app (you can via IMAP if the company allows it, or use the native Mac Mail to connect Office 2011 will probably be the last version of Office you'll be able to get a real license for. When the next version comes out, it is highly likely Microsoft will make it part of its Office 365 scheme that is a subscription. You pay $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year. You stop paying, the software stops working (this will also be the case with Windows versions as well). However, if you're short for cash right now, maybe paying $10/mth might be less painful on your wallet than buying the whole thing outright.
posted by birdherder at 10:19 AM on February 9, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all -

I never thought about the refurbished side of Apple (which is odd, as I bought a refurbished iPod Touch about 5 years ago and still use it to this day).

I will certainly check that out.

Two quick points:

1. AppleCare - I don't live anywhere remotely close to an Apple Store with a Genius Bar (closest one is an airplane flight away). Would this affect the service I get with AppleCare? I mean, we have Best Buy and Staples that are authorized re-sellers of Macs, but no actual Apple Store.

2. With the Microsoft Office single use package, how can I use it on two of my machines when its only a single use?

Thanks again!
posted by dbirchum at 6:03 PM on February 9, 2014

If you're thinking of buying an Air, wait a few months if possible. They are due a refresh in June.
posted by nevan at 4:10 AM on February 10, 2014

Response by poster: I am getting conflicting reports on Microsoft Office Home use (single user) able to be used on more than one of my computers.

I was at Best Buy this morning and one of the sales guys said that it can only be used on one computer. If you instal it on another, the license key won't work.

Can anyone confirm?
posted by dbirchum at 8:05 AM on February 13, 2014

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