My First Mac Recommendations

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by tideshark, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. tideshark macrumors newbie

    Jul 19, 2005
    Hello everyone! I've been lurking these forums for the summer and I'm now very interested in ditching my family's Dell (or as some folks like to call them "Dulls") for a my personal Apple and I've narrowed it down to 2 configurations that total ~ $1350 USD.

    I am a student web developer with knowledge of XHTML, CSS, PHP4/5, MySQL, SQLite, PostgreSQL, XML, and Python. It's how I earned the money to afford a Mac.

    Applications I'll use:
    - iTunes (I have a music library of ~7.5 GB)
    - Safari or Camino
    - iChat or Adium X

    Very frequently:
    - Panic Transmit
    - Macromates Textmate

    - Gimpshop or
    - Microsoft Office
    - Mail
    - iPhoto (I own a Canon A70, but take very few photos)

    I'm tempted to try a little World of Warcraft or Enemy Territory as well ;), although I realize neither will run particularly well on either setup below.

    I'll be a senior in high school this coming year, for college (freshman year) I will have a 12" Powerbook and 20-24" LCD setup, but I cannot afford that luxury at the moment. So this year is basically a "getting started" with Apple setup. Here are my two configurations:


    1039 - iBook 12" (1024 x 768 pixels) 1.33Ghz G4 Combo with 80 GB HD (4200rpm)
    + 100 - MS Office (Student)
    - 150 - iPod mini
    = 989

    + 28 - Transmit (FTP application)
    + 59 - TextMate (IDE application)
    = 1076

    + 96 - Netgear Rangemax Wireless Router (Staples)
    + 40 - APC 350V Back-UPS (BestBuy)
    = 1212

    + 136 - 1 GB Crucial RAM [1.5 GB RAM total]
    = 1348

    Pros: Better graphics card, bigger HD, wireless (I can be downstairs or in bedroom)
    Cons: Wireless (loose connection/interfence), scrunched (small keyboard and trackpad)


    This second configuration assumes I have a wired ethernet connection!

    706 - Mac Mini 1.25 Ghz G4 Combo, 40 GB HD (5400rpm) with 1 GB RAM, Wired Keyboard, and Mighty Mouse
    + 389 - Dell 20" 2005FPW Ultrasharp Widescreen LCD (1680 x 1050 pixels)
    + 100 - MS Office (Student)
    = 1195

    + 28 - Transmit (FTP application)
    + 59 - TextMate (IDE application)
    = 1282

    + 50 - APC 500V Back-UPS (BestBuy)
    + 20 - Wired router
    = 1352

    Pros: Amazing LCD, full-size keyboard and mouse, faster HD
    Cons: Worse graphics card, limited HD space, less total RAM



    - These prices are subject to fluctuations, but assume the setups are approximately the same total cost
    - The Dell 20" LCD has 2.25x more "workspace" (pixels) than the iBook 12" LCD
    - The iBook 12" has been custom configured the have 2x more HD space (the standard 40 GB HD is $90 less)
    - Although the Mac Mini has a slightly slower CPU, its faster HD more than makes up for it
    - The Mac Mini does not have CoreImage-capable GPU [fixed], but very, very few applications use CoreImage

    Sorry this is so long, but it's a big decision for me and I've been contemplating it for months. Thanks for your feedback/input!
  2. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    Oh man, of all the "which setup?" posts I've read this one is a doozy.

    Do you need portability?

    If this is a solid "yes" then the iBook should be your choice, however if it's only an "it would be nice" then I would seriously look at the mini as that massive screen would be so much nicer to do your work on than the iBook's tiny 12" (which is fine for me but then I don't do much work on it)

    So, do you need all the storage? I don't know how web development works but are you working with big files or are they mainly just smallish text files? Cause if you get the mini then there's always the possibility of a big-arse external drive - not really possible with the iBook if you're moving around a lot.

    Seeing as you're already getting a PowerBook and ACD next year (what is it with yanks and awesome "off to uni setups" just makes me so green with envy) i would be tempted to pick up the mini package you're talking about, then you can hang onto the screen etc and upgrade to a beast of a PowerMac when the money permits. Then you'll have an awesome portable, an awesome desktop and two big f**k-off screens to show everything. So yeah, I'd go with the mini as a stop-gap and sell it when you need to upgrade.

    Imagine in a few year's time when you have a new Intel PowerMac running those two massive LCD's and one of the finest portable machines going around for when inspiration hits you somewhere in the back of beyond.

    ...Damn, wish I had more money now...
  3. wako macrumors 65816

    Jun 6, 2005
    I say go with the iBook. The pros of the iBook is definately far better then the pros of the Mini.

    Also the iBooks cons could always be fixed. For one if you buy a linksys router (at bby I think their selling it for 60 bucks after rebate this week) and get a better antenna for them ( I think they cost like 20 bucks or something but works very nice ) you can fix the interference part.

    As for the "scrunched" up feel... thats easily solved by buying a keyboard and mouse....

    I personally think you should just simply go for a iBook try to save some money and get the monitor as well. Its a really great monitor. I personally actually bought a PB, Dell 2005FPW, Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse so I dont have to face the "scrunched" up feeling yet still keeping my portability.

    Im really having a tough time trying to understand your logic on getting an iBook now and a year later getting a PowerBook. I find that wasting money. You might as well just save your money and just get a PowerBook now. Unless you are waiting for the Mactels (which is going to be first generation and we all know how first generation products always screw up somehow) I see no real reason why to buy anything right now if you know you will be buying a PB later.

    Just an idea though, if you are so short on cash or something, just get a job for a month or two and then quit. :)
  4. tideshark thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 19, 2005
    No, I don't.

    Smallish text files, some small images. No "whoppers."

    Since I'm a fulltime student with APs, college applications, etc. It's not possible to go much further above $1350, really these 2 configurations are my only options.

    My parents will help me pay for the Powerbook when I graduate. Considering I need these applications, a wireless router, etc. a Powerbook is out of my price range and generally a "bad buy" at the moment. The Macs with Intels will (hopefully) be a lot faster and be much better buys (better differentiation between iBooks and Powerbooks).
  5. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Get the Mini if screen workspace is a big priority for your use. iBooks don't have much support for external displays. (You CAN hack them via software to do spanning, and that MIGHT support the Dell display--something to look into.)

    Otherwise get the iBook--I usually don't need mobility, but I LOVE having it! I will never be without a Mac laptop again.

    Another option: get a PowerBook now for $1399... and THEN, later on when/if you feel like spending the money, add more RAM (don't pay Apple's price), and even a wireless router and/or that Dell display. You'll end up with the best of ALL worlds, and you don't need to buy all the components at once. I realize that when you add software your budget may be strained, but the PowerBook is better all around than either of your other options--and that means it will serve you better and longer. It has a better GPU, dual-monitor spanning, scratch-proof/slimmer casing, etc. (You can even opt for a faster rpm HD if you wish.)

    EDIT: Cross-post. Maybe your limit can be budged. But if you scrape together a few more bucks (and make do with only 512 RAM for a time) you'll really come out ahead with the PB. Plus then, you can wait a little longer, even half a year, for your NEXT PB, and it too will be that much better!

    Don't get me wrong--the other choices are good ones for the money--it's just that the PB gives you speed, portability AND screen space (later if you can afford to add the Dell), instead of having to choose. Total cost will end up higher, though, so it's a personal call.

    The suggestion of getting the Mini and keeping the display for a future PB isn't half bad either. Portability's great, but you'd only be without portability for a time and then you'll have that new PB. (And they do make Mac Mini carry cases! Plug into whatever screen/keyboard they have at your destination.)

    * Re wireless being a con: you still use Ethernet when you wish.

    * Re laptop keyboard being a con: all the major keys (except arrows) are actually FULL-size, AND they press down just as far as a desktop keyboards. (I didn't believe it either until I measured.) Don't let the shape of the key-edges fool you, these work much like desktop keys. (True, you must press Fn to get a numpad, but external numpads are cheap.)

    * Re Mac Mini HD: it's a laptop drive.

    * CoreImage: ALL Macs support it, and ALL Macs gain a speed boost if an app implements CoreImage. CoreImage isn't a GPU-dependent technology. It will use whatever you have that does the job fastest at the moment, be it AltiVec (G4), dual CPUs, or a programmable GPU. Many people think you NEED a programmable GPU, and you don't--see Apple's Tiger pages.

    Good luck with your choice!
  6. eXan macrumors 601


    Jan 10, 2005
    I think that you only option is Mac mini. As you said you dont need portability and you can use this Dell later with PB :)
  7. Hummercash macrumors newbie

    Jul 10, 2003
    just a suggestion, if you get the student version of iWork ($49) instead of MS Office you can save $50...
  8. Mechcozmo macrumors 603


    Jul 17, 2004
    I vote the Mini. And for an IDE... what about Xcode 2? That comes free with OS X.
  9. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    I'd go just a bit higher on your budget and get the 2.O GHz 17" iMac G5
    Way better processor, SuperDrive 128MB graphics and standard HD.

    Start off with the stock 512 MB RAM and add additonal 3rd party RAM later.

    You'll be way happier in the long run.
  10. TBi macrumors 68030


    Jul 26, 2005
    From an iBook user running with a Dell 2005FPW, the hack DOES work and the dell looks excellent connected to the VGA output of the iBook. So good in fact that it surprises everyone when i say it is. However the iBook suffers from a lack of ram running this big screen so expose gets choppy when running dual screen. For general work it is fine though. I'm a serious PC power user and even i'm satisfied with the speed of the iBook which says a lot for the little machine.

    The powerbook is a better system than the iBook or the mini, faster graphics (debatable for the 12" as the 9550 is *way* better than the 5200), faster processor and faster hard drive. It also has DVI support to make that 20" look sweeter (although i'm not sure by how much).

    Oh and for the money ... buy yourself an MX1000 or the MX900 (Bluetooth wireless) over the mighty mouse. Ergonomically apple mice aren't the best and the MX1000 is one of the best mice you can buy these days. It might not look as good with your apples but your wrists will thank you in the future. The battery life is superb (about a months use before you need to recharge) and it has a battery meter built in so you know when to recharge.
  11. dukeblue91 macrumors 65816


    Oct 7, 2004
    Raleigh, NC
    I would go with the Mini with a slight change to the specs.
    I would buy the 1.42 with the stock 512 mb of ram and the wired keyboard & Mighty Mouse for $677.00 before student discount "which I think you'd qualify"
    The only thing you loose from this setup is the 1 gig of ram but 512 mb should be enough to get you going.
    But you would gain a faster system at 1.42 you get Bluetooth and a wireless card plus you double your HD space.
    So add your other stuff to the list and you still save about $30 and possibly more if you qualify for a student discount.

    That's just my .02 cent
  12. 20rogersc macrumors 65816


    Jun 28, 2005
    Brighton, UK
    You've got to ask yourself whether you want it to be portable.

    If so the iBook, If not the mini!!

    The mini is by far the better with the 20", but if you have the slightest concerns that you may need a portable, go for the iBook, because it still is a great machine.

  13. tideshark thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 19, 2005
    Yep, but the difference (as I've read) is significant:

    Thanks. I've fixed it in my thread.

    I'll primarily be using Word and from what I've read, Pages isn't a proper Word equivalent. (Although I like Keynote)

    It's not really meant for PHP/Python and I need support for Transmit (FTP) built-in to my editor.

    I swear everytime I run the numbers I get different results. An iMac 17" Combo might work in my budget. I'll have to look over it again.

    I'm going to try the Mighty Mouse before I buy it. The problem I have though is I thought all Logitech mice needed even more special software (USB overdrive) to fully function?

    I think a 1.25Ghz with 1 GB RAM and the faster harddrive will be faster and I wouldn't get a wireless setup with the Mac Mini. I don't have a cellphone (no coverage at my house) or a PDA, so no use for BT.

    I'll never need to be portable, it's just a perk.
  14. TBi macrumors 68030


    Jul 26, 2005
    Try EMACS, although i don't know if there is an aqua port of this. Actually BBEdit is supposedly very good for this but i've never used it.

    The logitech mice don't really need any special software. The extra buttons (i think) need the logitech software to work but this is freely downloadable from logitech so it's nothing to worry about. Just look at all the users here with the MX1000. Compared to the standard apple pro mouse it is a lot easier on the hand. Then again i'm biased against the apple mouse because i couldn't use it properly, stupid big mouse button. Try clicking on something and dragging it when you have to lift the mouse off the mouse pad to get to the other end of the screen.

    If you are going for a big monitor (20") then seriously look at the iMac. Personally i think it is quite ugly (blocky) compared to my sleek 2005FPW (thin bezels are cool apple!) but it is a lot more powerful than the mini. Better CPU, better graphics, faster memory and faster hard drive to name a few.

    If you are going to get a mini get the 1.42GHz version. No reason not to as you get extra speed, extra hard disk space and wireless and bluetooth (which you may use in the future). You lose the modem but will you ever actually use it?

    I'll probably get a mini for myself because i have the 2005FPW and i don't want to get rid of it.

    Oh and the blue tooth keyboard for the mac is quite nice. Using it means i can free up a USB port on the Mini, which i can use to plug in the USB HUB in the 2005FPW and giving me enough free ports for everything i need.

    Never say never, they are always useful... just say if you want free internet access at your local starbucks. or if you want to sit in front of the tv while checking your mail. The only problem is connecting and disconnecting all the wires.

    Although i'm very impressed with the way OSX works for this.

    Say you are working on your lovely 12" laptop, your menu is at the top of the screen and all your windows are on your little screen. Then you plug in your 2005 (avec hack of course) and you move the menu bar to it making it your main screen. All your windows will jump to your new screen.

    Now here is the best part, plug out the 2005FPW and everything goes back to the 12" screen just like you set it up earlier, plug in the 2005FPW again and it automatically switches so the 2005FPW is your main screen again. No need to change any settings or tell OSX which screen to use. If you plug in a different external screen it will only detect it as an extra screen and not move everything over though, however i'm not sure how this works with identical screens. I'd love to see windows do that... Then again i'd love to see my media player not crash on windows when i drag a movie from one screen to the other.
  15. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Then that sounds like a good option to me: get the iBook now... and then later add a Dell display. (If you're not afraid of system hacks--I avoid them like the plague, but I know this one's commonly done.)

    An iMac G5 would be the top performer of all above options, though--it would stay useful for a LONG time. Only problem: you can't move the display to a future computer if you want to.
  16. DesignIt macrumors member

    Aug 2, 2005
    Beware...there is no LITTLE when engaging in these games. It's ALL or nothing. :D
  17. TBi macrumors 68030


    Jul 26, 2005
    So true. My friend and i started playing Eve-Online. I liked it a lot but knew if i got addicted i'd never get off it so i didn't keep playing. My friend did and now he is totally addicted. Hopefully he can ween himself off but at the moment it is affecting his whole lifestyle. Eve isn't something he does in his spare time any more, spare time is what he has when he isn't playing eve...

    I also know a few people who lost about 2 years of their lives playing other MMORPG's and that is why i stay well clear.

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