A Grand Does Come for Free
February 19, 2007 2:04 PM   Subscribe

If you had $1000 to spend on peripherals/software/extra things for a new MacBook Pro, what would you buy? Assume that you have no need for a printer or really expensive software like LogicPro or FinalCut. Through a generous gift, I find myself in this position.
posted by Falconetti to Computers & Internet (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd probably buy a copy of Lightwave, but I'm not you. Without knowing what your interests are, how can anyone offer you advice?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:08 PM on February 19, 2007

i would probably just buy one very nice large display, but hey thats just me.
posted by Bengston at 2:09 PM on February 19, 2007

I second the display. Or save it for your next ipod / itv / iphone etc.

Or even better, save it for your next computer a year or two from now!
posted by kdern at 2:11 PM on February 19, 2007

First, it depends on what you do.

Second, does it have be something for your MPB? I have one and all I can really think of is buying some external storage. Unless you go crazy, an external drive would cost under $200, leaving you with another $800.
posted by Cog at 2:12 PM on February 19, 2007

Display and a copy of Photoshop, even though you say you don't need anything expensive
posted by edgeways at 2:13 PM on February 19, 2007

Response by poster: My interests are general and for this question better expressed in the negative. I neither make music, nor edit film, nor build websites, so that type of software or peripheral would be a waste. I guess my question was more trawling for anything that would boost my machine in a general way, because as great as it is to be in such a position to have free money to spend, I honestly have nothing that immediately comes to mind to spend it on (and the money is received with the constraint to spend it on the new MacBook Pro).

I do watch a lot of television and film on my laptop and do legal research and related tasks. I tend to travel a lot as well.
posted by Falconetti at 2:15 PM on February 19, 2007

Although I haven't used it myself, how about Jobs's latest gift to bariatric surgeons, apple tv?
posted by rob511 at 2:15 PM on February 19, 2007

Response by poster: I also take a lot of photographs, which I forgot to mention. So Photoshop and such is a good suggestion.
posted by Falconetti at 2:16 PM on February 19, 2007

@ Falconetti,

Well, I'll stick by my suggestion of getting an external drive, but a portable one.

And you could try to explaining to your benefactor that a digital camera is a MBP accessory. Digital Camera are in the Apple Store, under Mac Accessories.

posted by Cog at 2:23 PM on February 19, 2007

Define "a lot of photographs". You might be interested in Aperture
posted by nathan_teske at 2:24 PM on February 19, 2007

backup backup backup.

I'd get at least a 250GB external drive (USB2 or USB2/Firewire) that's used solely for keeping a backup of your system. I've been saved a couple times now when my laptop's internal drive has failed with little warning.

Bring it up to 2GB of RAM

A nice / cheap pair of speakers for listening to music. I have a set of JBL Creature speakers that look intersting and sound good enough for my small place.

External mouse (good if you have a lot of writing or editing to do)

Wireless router if you don't have one already
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:27 PM on February 19, 2007

I nth the display -- I bought a 20" widescreen display last summer and I'm really happy I did. If I had that much money and just wanted to make my computer better, I'd at least get a 24". Though actually I did have that much money and spent it on music stuff, which was a really good thing for me, but it sounds like that is not for you. But is there any other hobby which you have thought of picking up but haven't because of the cost?
posted by advil at 2:27 PM on February 19, 2007

Things I've found useful with my old Powerbook:
- Applecare enrollment. People will give mixed advice on this one.
- Backup external hard drive,
- monitor/keyboard/mouse combination for your home desk
- a good portable wireless mouse
- a nice messenger bag or backpack
- some sort of cable management system, whether it's cableyoyo, another spooling system, or even some cable ties
- Set aside some cash ($150 - 200) for small applications (typically $15 - 50 each) you might end up using a lot. There are lots of good Mac apps in that range
- extra power adapter to leave at home plugged in, or as a backup when your current one dies
- Money set aside for another battery for when yours loses its life in a year or two
posted by mikeh at 2:34 PM on February 19, 2007

Certainly your first priority should be to max out the RAM if you haven't already (using quality RAM such as Kingston).

If you watch a lot of film, maybe you'd like to store lots of rips from your DVD collection, for when you travel? So a nice small (physically small) external drive would be your next priority. Handbrake (freeware) is an excellent way to make DVD rips with a lot of flexibility.

I would also make sure to buy AppleCare, Apple's three-year warranty coverage, if you haven't already.

Finally, buy insurance for the things no warranty will cover -- such as theft, damage by you, etc. I think Safeware is the best choice for that insurance.
posted by allterrainbrain at 2:35 PM on February 19, 2007

Invest in a really high-quality quality bag. I strongly recommend sfbags.com (incredible quality; my Large Cargo Bag has lasted through four very hard-use years with barely a scratch and is perfectly sized to hold and protect the MBP).
posted by allterrainbrain at 2:39 PM on February 19, 2007

Storage. You can get a 500 gig (!) external drive for less than $300. Get two of those and you never have to worry about lost data again - back up your MBP to the first one every week, and dump the other one's contents onto it once a month.
posted by pdb at 2:40 PM on February 19, 2007

Top 100 suggestions in order of priority:

1. External drive and a copy of Super Duper or Carbon Copy Cloner.

2. See 1.
98. See 1.

99. Applecare.

100. More memory.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 2:45 PM on February 19, 2007

Actually, if this is going to be your only computer, I would also spend a few hundred on a much-lower-powered backup machine.

If anything ever happens to your MBP that requires you to give it up for a lengthy mail-in repair (or if it gets stolen), would it be worth $250 or so to be up & running again immediately? If so, then buy (in addition to the external backup drive that everybody is recommending) a G3 or G4 iBook that's just powerful enough to run OSX. Powerbook Guy is definitely the best place I've found for good prices on excellent-condition used Mac portables.
posted by allterrainbrain at 2:50 PM on February 19, 2007

Absolutely spend the extra dough on at least one extra MBP Power adapter. They're stupid expensive, but ever since I bit the bullet and bought an extra one for my office, my world has been happier, as I no longer have to unplug and pack that monster of a power adapter every time I leave the house.

Definitely get Applecare. Don't question it. Just do it.
posted by melorama at 2:56 PM on February 19, 2007

In order of importance

1. Max the RAM (if you haven't already)
2. Wifi hub -- that new Airport Express is nice, but it's disappointing that it doesn't have GigE.
3. Big external hard drive or NAS box. Go for a RAID if you're going all-out
4. Backup software.
5. Big external display. Big screens are so nice, I feel bad about putting it this low on the list, but I consider the other stuff more critical. This (and the next point) assume you'll use the machine at one place a lot.
6. Nice external keyboard and mouse.

That should take care of your $1000.
posted by adamrice at 2:58 PM on February 19, 2007

Get the bluetooth apple mouse, no usb dongle is a beautiful thing.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:04 PM on February 19, 2007

If you're planning on buying backup software (and if you aren't you really should), look no further than Chronosync. It's only $30, and it's absolutely the best personal backup software for the Mac. You can configure it to automatically (and incrementally) back up files/folders on your MBP whenever you plug in an external firewire drive. This program WILL save your bacon at one point in the future.

Don't mess around with Deja Vu, Silverkeeper, Synk, etc. Chronosync just works(tm) and I've never had a problem with it in the 3 years I've owned Mac laptops.
posted by melorama at 3:06 PM on February 19, 2007

Max out the RAM.

Buy an Airport Express for travel. (They are great for those hotels that have wired internet access.)

Buy whatever it takes to get good backups of everything.

I guess an iTV, and Aperture are other options for you, but I have no experience with those, so can't really comment.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 3:12 PM on February 19, 2007

I can't believe the thread got this far without anyone suggesting Parallels and Vista.
If there's nothing you really need right now, spend the money bit by bit on shareware, as and when something great takes your fancy. Get browsing at iusethis.com.
posted by roofus at 3:20 PM on February 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone so far. My thinking on this has been helpfully reoriented (memory is already maxed out, but a huge backup HD and Chronosync seem like something that would be important).
posted by Falconetti at 3:25 PM on February 19, 2007

Depending on your needs, a Wacom tablet would go very well with a nice MBP.
posted by ASoze at 3:34 PM on February 19, 2007

It's only $30, and it's absolutely the best personal backup software for the Mac.

What are you basing that conclusion on? According to this, it didn't do as good a job as other, cheaper alternatives.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:36 PM on February 19, 2007

I would buy a drawing tablet (note that even though you have money to burn, larger isn't always better--mine is a tad bit too large--but definitely the Intuos is a step ahead of the Graphire). And then I would buy a copy of Corel Painter, for painting with your tablet. If you've still got money left, then I'd spring for Adobe PhotoShop and use the tablet to make masking easy, all day long.

On preview, some evil person beat me to it. -very sad-
posted by anaelith at 3:39 PM on February 19, 2007

I can't believe the thread got this far without anyone suggesting Parallels and Vista.

I would *definitely* suggest parallels and XP. I forgot about it, because I simply can't imagine working without it.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 3:57 PM on February 19, 2007

12" Powerbook G4 user here, but I think this should apply to your MBP as well.

Max the RAM, first off. Stock apple machines tend to be light on the RAM, and the more you have, the happier you'll be with everything you want to do.

External storage. I <3 lacie d2 drives, but really any good usb2 and/or firewire 400 drive ought to do what you need. i have a 300gb external that meets my needs as a short-form sd video editor, but you may want more or less.br>
I swear by my "laptop glove" -- I'm not sure what the technical term for this is, but its a 1/8"-ish neoprene rubber case that snugly fits my laptop. It provides protection fron accidental dings/scratches.

A good case is also a good investment. I personally have an Earthpak backpack with a built-in laptop compartment, but if you can't afford to look like a hippie student, I know Swiss Army-brand laptop bags look good and are pretty solid. Booq also seems to come up a lot.

Backup software, for sure.

Photoshop, Aperture, or Lightroom, if you're serious when you say you take a lot of pictures. I think Aperture may actually be the best bang for your buck, since it sounds like you'll want photo retouching and organization more than all the other crazy things Photoshop does for you. That said, try iPhoto for a while and see if it does what you need -- you may not need to drop $300 on Aperture.

Nth the "extra power adapter." I don't have one, but I really wish I did sometimes.
posted by Alterscape at 4:00 PM on February 19, 2007

You can hook up your new backup drive to the new Airport Extreme and not have to worry about cables anymore.
posted by rhizome at 4:20 PM on February 19, 2007

With a Mac Book Pro I've found it convenient to have a lightweight scanner that is powered via a USB port, no AC adapter required. No need to spend a lot of money - the Canon CanoScan LiDE 70 or LiDE 600F are more than adequate for occasional scanning duties.
posted by RichardP at 4:21 PM on February 19, 2007

SnowBall Professional USB Mic. (for Garage Band)
posted by Dag Maggot at 5:13 PM on February 19, 2007

RAM and a big screen. Then an extra power supply. Oh, and bluetooth keyboard and mouse make for a nice desk, and I made sure to buy a case of batteries, but the keyboard's lasted over 3 months and the mouse almost as long.
posted by furtive at 5:57 PM on February 19, 2007


I'm basing that on the years of headaches I've gone through with numerous backup solutions for the Mac. I have simple, but very critical backup needs, and every damn product I tried is either way too simple, klunky and inflexible (i.e. Silverkeeper, Deja Vu, .Mac Backup), unnecessarily complicated (Retrospect) or completely unreliable (Synk)

Besides, that blog post (of which I'm already very familiar with) is way out of date. Chronosync is at version 3.3.4 now, and if you read the comments on that page (as well as the reviews on Macupdate and Versiontracker), you'll find that most of the author's objections to it have been addressed in the newer versions.

That said, while his original criticisms may be valid for an "enterprise" or multiuser environment, they are still rather esoteric for a singleuser, laptop scenario. I've never had problems with Chronosync in the nearly 2 years I've been using it on my laptops and workstations. As I mentioned, I believe that Chronosync is overall, the best *personal* backup software on the Mac. It may or may not be a good enterprise backup solution, but that wasn't the point of this post, now was it?
posted by melorama at 10:57 PM on February 19, 2007

Oh, I would strongly recommend staying away from the Lacie d2 drives. They are notorious for thier unreliability. I've had 2 units fail within 6 months of purchase, and at least 3 other clients I consult for have had similar failures of their d2s. Lacie has a very bad name, at least in my circles (video production & motion graphic design).

The Maxtor OneTouch drives, however, have been completely rock solid for me. I've purchased 4 of them (both OneTouch II and III) in the past year and a half, abused the hell out of them, but they're still working great.
posted by melorama at 11:01 PM on February 19, 2007

I would buy an eyetv and a Griffin Radio Shark and the best cordless laser mouse, the Logitech G7 (I have the G5 and it's awesome).
posted by darkripper at 3:13 AM on February 20, 2007

My life would suck without extra power adapters everywhere I use my MBP indoors. I also always buy a second battery; it comes i handy on trips, and when your first battery starts sucking in about 6 months, you can switch to the new one and use the old one as backup.

A carton of cigarettes for late nights trying to repair a failing hard drive.

Some xanax for the day you drop your MBP and the display cracks.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:46 AM on February 20, 2007

Not sure if you can buy it through the Apple Store, but I've been meaning to pick up a docking station for a while now. Very useful if you're using it as a desktop replacement.
posted by blag at 5:37 AM on February 20, 2007

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