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Old Jul 2, 2013, 10:37 AM   #1
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Time to Buy a new Mac: Help me decide my best option

Six years ago, I bought my first mac. My late-2008 macbook pro truly opened my eyes to how much better macs are to PCs. It really has been a perfect experience. I have milked all the life out of my late-2008 that I can get. It now has a broken screen, a battery that has ballooned to the point that it has bent the battery cover, and a dead wireless card. I have been avoiding it, but I believe it is time to upgrade.

Currently, I am a college student at a technical college. This fall semester will be my last at the college I currently attend before I transfer to a university. Out of the five semesters that I have attended, I have only taken my macbook pro to one lecture, but I have a feeling that I will need a laptop for lectures in the future. The reason I only took it to one lecture is due to the fact that the macbook pro is on the heavy side. While it is not extremely heavy, (combined with three or four really large textbooks or binders) I tended to leave it behind. I need portability, for I really hate typing long essays in a desk chair. Even if I never use my new computer(s) for lectures, I never want to be confined to a desk. I also need hard drive space for music, movies, photos, and larger programs like photoshop. I am not a professional by any means, but I like to have the ability to do photo editing and video editing when I need to. I do not play games, so I do not need it for gaming.

Where My Decision Lies
What I can't decide, is what to buy? I don't have Momma and Daddy buying my computer for me (like I see some college kids doing), but I am not worried about spending a little extra money for something that will last me for another six years. Saying that, I want to stay below $2700. What I am strongly considering is (option 1) a 13" Macbook air and an entry Imac. I like the ultra-lightweight-portability and battery life of the air, but I do not think it will be enough computer for me. I think it would perfect for me 80% of the time, but I think I might need a little more every now and then. I could use the iMac as a base/media station, and venture out with the air. The only thing I see that could be bad about this option, is finding space for the iMac. I could make it work for my current living conditions, but if I go to a university and get put in a smaller dorm, I might not have space for an iMac (advice appreciated from college students with iMacs). My other option (option 2) would be a retina Macbook pro (13-inch: 2.6GHz model or possibly the 15-inch: 2.4GHz model) and maybe a iPad mini. It would be the same thing I am used to now, but I would have a iPad mini for the times that I do not feel like lugging around a Macbook or when I need battery life. How do iPad Minis function as college lecture computers? Could I take notes or maybe even video record the lectures? (More advice from college students would be appreciated.)

I am completely open for suggestions. I am not fixed on option 1 or 2. Maybe a macbook and a mac mini would fill my needs. Give me your honest opinion. Any comments will greatly be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
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Old Jul 2, 2013, 11:50 AM   #2
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Any of your sets would be a good choice I think. I personally would go for a iMac and a iPad Mini with some sort of keyboard case, then use something like Evernote to take videos, notes or voice memos of the classes and have them synced with the iMac. I would also recommend QuikIO that let's you access your mac's files in iOS devices. If you are not sure about the space then consider buying the rMBP with better specs (it is already lighter than the normal MBP quite a lot) with some external hard drive for more storage space if you need it.
(And you might want to check out the upcoming back to school promo and the refurbished store)

Good luck!
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Old Jul 2, 2013, 11:57 AM   #3
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Get a 13 inch air, upgrade RAM and anything else you want to. It will last 4 years easily.
2012 13" MacBook Air | 2012 27" iMac | iPad 3 | iPhone 5
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Old Jul 2, 2013, 12:32 PM   #4
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My girlfriend is working on her Masters at USC right now and takes a LOT of notes with a keyboard and an ipad. She has a unibody macbook that works fine, but is a lot to lug around - thus the ipad and keyboard combo. (this works perfect for note taking.

That being said, why do you think that a macbook air wont last you a long time?
I have worked in IT while going to school for the last 7 or so years, and have done graphic/web design during that time as well. Processor speed wise, you wont run into any issues. What you may run into is a shortage of RAM, in which case the macbook air and 8gb MAY be enough, but you need to keep in mind that you will never be able to upgrade it past that.

I would personally recommend (because it seems like 8gb will be enough), the base MBA with 8gb of ram. Keep your media on a USB or external drive, as its a waste of an SSD to use it for media.
You are looking at 1199.00 before education discount for that. (including the 8gb) The step up in processor will not be noticeable for anything you are going to do.

I don't know how much music/movies you have, but with your budget, that leaves you a lot of money to invest in extra storage and a potential future imac or mac mini (depending on your needs/room). I would also highly recommend using google drive (if you dont already), i have taught my girlfriend to ONLY save to her google drive (i do this as well) and it has saved her butt many times. Its free storage and fail-safe (internet dependent).

Personally, for a little bit of photoshop every now and then, and school/business work, it doesn't get better than a macbook air.

Btw - the retina 13" really isn't much bigger/heavier than a MBA
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Old Jul 10, 2013, 06:14 AM   #5
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Thanks, everyone! I think I am going to take everyone's advice and get a macbook air right now. I am going to see if I need another computer, and when the new imacs come out, I will consider getting one. I am really excited to get a macbook air now! 12 hours of battery life sounds like a real winner!
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Old Jul 10, 2013, 11:44 AM   #6
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Use the extra money for Time Capsule

I would use some of the extra money towards a 2 or 3 TB Airport Time Capsule. It will give you the fastest WiFi and allow you the seamless backup and extra storage space you need. $279 for 2TB and $379 for 3TB using student discount.
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Old Jul 11, 2013, 07:20 AM   #7
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I'm entering my senior year of college, using the iPad has its perks. The real problem with using an iPad is when the teachers upload their lectures online in a power point, when transferring the PowerPoint to Keynote the fonts all change and ruins the PowerPoint. It is also a pain trying to add notes to the teachers power points on a iPad. This year I will be buying myself a 13" MacBook Air for portability and longer battery in class for my night lectures. I would suggest an air over an iPad. But that's just me.
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Old Jul 11, 2013, 07:44 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by mbcollins93 View Post
... a battery that has ballooned to the point that it has bent the battery cover...

... What I am strongly considering is (option 1) a 13" Macbook air and an entry Imac...
On your existing machine: A laptop that is potentially dangerous to your lap! Good job in making it last.

On the replacement: I think your first instinct was spot on, get the 13" Air. The sweet spot IMO is the 256/8GB config. With USB3 you don't really need tons of internal storage -- no need to shell out for the 512. For the best prices compare the outgoing 2012 models at Apple with the tax free offerings on sites like B&H and Amazon.

As for the iMac, I would skip that and just get an external display. Dell makes some decent, affordable 24" displays that will make all those papers and late nights go down much easier.
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