If I were to sneak a third question in the title, it'd be about where to hide a fourth one...
January 17, 2008 9:05 AM   Subscribe

[computerpurchasefilter] Okay, I'm going to buy not one, but two computers in early February and I need some advice. I know this question has been asked before, but the market has changed a bit recently and I need to know for now. I want a cheap laptop that can run text edit and surf the internet and a macpro for under a 3k.

The Laptop) I'm tempted to get an Asus; I want to be able to do whatever I want on go the internet, surf wirelessly, ftp to a website, and use text edit. I'd love to spend 300, but I want to know if I should just get the cheapest dell, hunt for a used ibook, or go asus.

The Macpro) I render video and 3d stuff for my work and projects (c4d, final cut, After Effects), and I want to get a mac pro. Ideally, I'd like to spend less than 3k. What's the correct juggle between processor speed, the total number of processors (4 versus 8), and RAM? For the kind of work I do, does it make sense to get more slower processors and buy a bunch of install-myself ram or should I get minimal Ram, and the fastest processors, or what?

If you can relate to your own experience (as opposed to manufacturer's specs and ad copy), I would certainly appreciate it. Thanks yall.
posted by history is a weapon to Shopping (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unless you like switching OSes all the time, which I don't, go for a used iBook. Much more smooth experience.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:37 AM on January 17, 2008

I use a DELL L400 as a cheap web-surfer portable laptop. You can get them from eBay for ~$200, and pickup a wireless PCMCIA card for $15. I love it, but I wouldn't throw anything at it other than Firefox, and Wordpad.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2008

You may want to reconsider how badly you want that Mac Pro; I have one, and we have learned that the new graphic card options are not compatible with the old models. Those of us who already spent $2500 for a Mac with slots have just discovered that the slots have, effectively, been disabled, since Apple won't support them anymore.

I would strongly suggest considering a Windows machine unless you're happy with never being able to add things to it ever again. Apple screws its customers; it has done this repeatedly in the 90s, and it's getting back to its old ways. Spending all that money for an expandable Mac is no guarantee that it will, in fact, be expandable.

That said, if you're really sure you need a Mac and can't get along with a cheaper model, don't buy RAM or drives from Apple. Here's a good source for Mac Pro memory. It's not Apple-certified, but it uses the same specifications and heatsinks, so it should be just fine. You can get 8 gigs for $400 from them, as opposed to the $1600+ that Apple will charge you. And you can use any SATA drive you want, pretty much. OSX really benefits from fast drives, so I'd suggest adding a fast Raptor or terabyte drive, and then using whatever Apple provides as a Time Machine backup device.

Make sure you get everything you want with the computer NOW. You may not have the option of expanding it later, as we early Pro adopters are finding. Trying to stay under $3k may be risky.. you may need to get up to $3500 to be sure you have everything. (8 cores, fast graphic card, lots of RAM.)

I believe After Effects will scale with processor cores, and going wide multicore is the general path of the computer industry. You can't add more cores later, so I'd suggest going with 8 now.
posted by Malor at 9:45 AM on January 17, 2008

(oh, and on that page, you want to choose the 800Mhz memory; the 667Mhz is for us last-generation schmucks.)
posted by Malor at 9:48 AM on January 17, 2008

If you're interested in Dell laptops, check out the Dell outlet where you can usually snag a refurbished or scratched laptop cheaply with a warranty intact. (although the cheapest will be about 150-180 over your target 300.)

Is the Asus that you mentioned the Asus EEE? I've seen good reviews for it...and I think it'll fit for what you intend to use it for (portability is a definite plus). It's a linux device however, but the interface is pretty well done.
posted by samsara at 9:56 AM on January 17, 2008

Hackintosh and Macbook?
posted by ijoyner at 10:59 AM on January 17, 2008

It's questionable how much difference there is between a Macbook and Macbook Pro if you're not doing actual 3D rendering via OpenGL.

The lowly MacBook has a wonderful featureset (DVI out means it can be a first-class desktop replacement when run with its clamshell closed). Macbooks Pros these days aren't worth the money unless you want to play WoW or something.
posted by panamax at 11:46 AM on January 17, 2008

He's talking about a Mac Pro, I think..this lovely beast, far beyond my pocketbook.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:22 PM on January 17, 2008

For a portable machine, if you don't want a Macbook or eeePC, check out the cloudbook to go on sale the 24th of this month.

30gb drive, wifi, small screen, but if you *just* want text editing and ftp uploading, it will do the job. Also has DVI out. and MSRP of $399.

That leaves you $2600 for the mac pro. which isn't enough. So up your money or wait to get the Cloudbook.

my friend who works full time doing video work decided to get a quad core mac pro (last gen) instead of an 8 core, and has been extremely happy with the machine. He instead spent the money on more ram and the better graphics card. So you can drop the base price of your Mac Pro by $500 by dropping the second chip, and go with a single quad core. That puts you at $2299.

Add an nvidia 8800, you are up to 2499.

another $139 for 2x 1gb ram from ramjet, and your just at the sweet spot for a decent video editing workstation.

Now if you want to spend only $3k on the mac pro by itself, I would throw the extra money into 8gb for the machine (4x 2gb chips). To get optimal memory performance, you want to install ram in matched quads. So just pull the 2x 1gb that came with the machine and leave them aside. If you ever take it into apple for service, they will complain about third party ram, so having your apple installed ram handy makes it easy to swap the ram before service.

Also, set aside $250 for buying applecare for the machine within the first year of the machine. I have gotten it for every box I own and so does every apple hardware technician i know, so I consider it a worthwhile investment.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:05 PM on January 17, 2008

« Older Da da da da da da-da-da da da! Freeze Frame!   |   Would you trust your data to me?? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.