15" MBP + TB Display or 27" iMac + iPad for University

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by bumzo1, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. bumzo1 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 31, 2009
    Dallas, TX
    I'm going off to uni this fall and I'm trying to decide what to do about my computer situation. Currently I have a 24" iMac that has treated me well the past 3 years but I know that I'm going to need something more portable next year. I've also been using it a lot for film making and those render times are a killer so its time for a speed bump. I really like how my desk is right now and plan to take most of this stuff with me next year. I have 2 FW800 1TB scratch drives, a 2.1 speaker system, an external monitor, iPhone dock, and 2 printers hooked up right now. I'm also planning on installing windows 7 to allow me to play the occasional game and run some engineering software a few years down the road.

    With all that in mind I thought my best bet would be to get the 15" Macbook pro 2.4ghz i7 model with the high res display and the 128gb SSD, then I would upgrade it to 8gb of RAM and install a 1tb drive in an optibay myself. I would also purchase a thunderbolt display for a) the high resolution (I need lots of screen real estate) and b) for the thunderbolt connectivity. I really love the idea of coming back from class and being able to plug in the power and thunderbolt cable and then having access to all of my hard drives and peripherals. Plus because of the built in magsafe I can just keep my other magsafe in my backpack. All of these options total around $3700 including apple care for the screen and the MBP.

    Then I realized that for the price I would spend on all of that, I could afford an i7 27" iMac with the upgraded video card (I'd also upgrade myself to 16gb of RAM) and an iPad. I would obviously get a bit more power this way but I'm not sure how it would work out. As it is I spend most of my time at my desk and use my iPad at school and other places. I think I could manage an iMac + iPad if I stay around campus but I'm worried about when I go home for the weekend once or twice a month and around holidays. I'd rather not be away from a computer that long and lugging a behemoth iMac around doesn't sound very fun. This option would be around $2400 total since I already have an iPad.

    So what should I do? On one hand the MBP would be nice because its portable and I kind of miss being able to sit on the couch and be on the computer but is it worth the extra money to get a similar desktop setup? (I would be able to carry over the TBD to my next mac however, wish I could do that with my current imac) On the other, I'd save a lot of money with the iMac and get more power. Money is important but I plan to keep this computer all the way through uni so I'm willing to invest in the best option for me.


    (*** sparknotes**** Should I get a MBP and a TBD for university or save money and go with an iMac + iPad?)
  2. Nice macrumors regular


    Mar 17, 2010
    iPad+MBP 13+MacMini with 24inch HP/Dell monitor. What do you think?
    Im a student too, this is my setup and I am very happy with it. I use the monitor for my PS3 too. /there are some troubles connecting PS3 to iMac27, thats the reason I went with the mini(8gb ram, ssd)+monitor/
  3. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2009
    United Kingdom
    It really depends on your course. If your going to be either (1) stranded on campus for hours on end a lot or (2) constantly doing field work (e.g. Freelance work, Filming/Recording Things, Internships) then I'd get the MacBook Pro. (Or at least have a laptop as opposed to an iPad). If your going to do all your real work at your desk (and your sure of this), then I'd get the iMac.

    Remember, the iMacs support Target Display Mode, which means you could always use its screen with another Thunderbolt Capable Mac, just like the TBD. You don't however get access to the iMacs ports in that configuration I believe.
  4. caligomez macrumors regular


    Feb 8, 2011
    San Juan, PR
    Personally, I would go for the iMac, but instead of the iPad, I would get a Macbook Air. Sell your iPad to offset the cost of the new MBA. It would still be way under the $3,700 for the MBP+TB option.

    What do you currently use your iPad for? I'm sure some things (like surfing the web in bed) won't be as doable with the MBA, but at least you'll always have a "full service" system when traveling.

    Not to mention the portability.. I have a 15" MBP, and perhaps lugging that thing around all day (during long campus walks or in between classes) could end up being a little bothersome (with the books and all). The 13" MBA has "good enough" screen real estate and you'll barely notice it in your school bag.
  5. imswimmin macrumors regular

    Apr 6, 2011
    Personally, I would suggest you get the 27" iMac, plus a 11" or 13" MBA. Like the person above stated, perhaps sell your iPad to justify the cost. The iMac is a definite beast, and the MBA isn't too shabby either. I'm sure it can suffice for while you're away (even though it obviously will not have the same grunt as the iMac.)
  6. DeepIn2U macrumors 603


    May 30, 2002
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Because you SPECIFICALLY stated "I'm going to need something more portable next year"

    Then its MBP+Display (24" for Home use - you choose the model).

    Currently early 2011 MBP 15" low end goes for $13xx before taxes! High Res for $1500 and you get ThunderBolt on BOTH.

    Choose your LCD,

    SELL: Your current iMac to offset the cost.

    GET: 400-ish GB SSD - trust me you DONT want to be caught using 128GB/256GB SSD's of the MBA when you're in University and having to carry around external drives (USB keys over 32GB are not very reliable over a year of daily read/writes full of that size - regardless of warranty you'll be wasting your time trying to get a replacement in 7days when you need it at university).
  7. mgartner0622 macrumors 65816


    Jun 6, 2010
    Colorado, USA
    I have nearly the same setup that you're considering, so I hope I can provide some input.

    I have a 15" Pro I use for work, and then when I get home I dock it to a 27" Cinema Display.It works great, I've never had any regrets besides not waiting for the thunderbolt display.

    Also, you may want to take note that as a student in uni, you'd get the AppleCare discount (making AppleCare $250 for the 15") and if you buy the display at the same time as the computer it covers that too. That will help reduce cost.

    And... If you're anything like me, 128GB will NOT be enough. I custom ordered a Mid 2010 MacBook Pro 15" with a 128GB SSD, and after I had everything I needed, I had about ~30GB left. Then I realized I needed to install Windows.
    I realize you said you'd use an optibay adapter, however for me this did not work, and this time around when I ordered my current MacBook Pro, I got the 750GB 7200RPM. It's very fast, and I'm quite happy with the amount of space that it offers.
  8. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    Not sure why the poster above couldn't get the optibay solution working. I used OWC's Data Doubler, (but same same), and it's a great option IMO.

    I'd go with the MBP + TB Display. Your original plan is the best one.

    iMacs are great, but I'm frustrated by their pain in the ass lack of internal accessibility.

    Go MBP and upgrade to new SSDs in years to come as their price drops and size increases. Will save a whole machine upgrade.
  9. mgartner0622 macrumors 65816


    Jun 6, 2010
    Colorado, USA
    I couldn't get it working because I use my optical drive too much. Probably about 1 time every 2 days. Thus, not having it, or having it in an external enclosure did not make much sense.

    You should also remember that taking out the superdrive and replacing it with a optibay is not technically supported by the warranty, so if you have any work done you'll have to remove it.
  10. drewyboy macrumors 65816

    Jan 27, 2005
    As usual, this is personal opinion. I'd opt for MBP + Display. I had 13" MB, then I was contemplating upgrading to MBP + Display or iMac. I went iMac thinking, "when would I ever need to be mobile?"... well here we are a year later and can't wait for the new MBP this spring/summer to get the 15" and I'll be selling off my iMac.
  11. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    Fair enough. But I'm not sure why you took out something you use so much. Perhaps it's your only computer? There's a simple Terminal command to enable Remote Disk if you have another Mac in your setup. I've 'missed' my ODD once in 3 years, but enjoyed the extra room to breathe every day. It's a no-brainer, for me at least. I wold go MBA, but alas, 4GB RAM is just not enough...

    Swapping the ODD out is stupid easy, so putting it back to meet any warranty concerns is no problem. I'm not a 'techie' guy, but I can watch a video and use a screwdriver.

    OP: go MBP + TBD, enjoy the simplicity - and don't look back.
  12. mgartner0622 macrumors 65816


    Jun 6, 2010
    Colorado, USA
    Although I have another MacBook in the house, this is my only daily used computer. I didn't consider how much I used the optical drive until I had it removed. It seemed I never used it, but then once it was out I needed it right away.
    I do agree that the OP should go with the MacBook Pro and Display setup. Optibay configuration is up to personal preference. I really wish hard drive manufacturer's would get a move on at developing higher capacity drives. It seems that we've been sitting at 750GB 7200RPM and 1TB 5400RPM forever.

    What I'm personally going to do is stick with my 750GB 7200RPM hard drive until SSD's come down in price (they have over the past two years, so that trend will probably continue) and I can afford a 512GB or larger. Hopefully a SSD of that size will drop below $200 or so in the coming years. Although by that time, the optical drive will probably be dead anyways.
  13. bumzo1 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 31, 2009
    Dallas, TX
    I had never really thought about holding off on the SSD, but I'm starting to think it might be a better option for me. The processor bump will be huge to begin with and I figure I can get an SSD in 2 years or so when prices are more reasonable and basically have an entirely (seemingly) new machine.

    Also I'm not really interested in a an MBA because as it is I only really use my iPad when I'm not at home. I also don't want to give up my iPad because I'm really interested to see what the iBooks textbooks are going to turn into. I start Uni in a little more than 6 months so I'm hoping by then at least most of my freshman courses will have ibooks available :)

    I do realize that each model will be updated between now and then and I fully plan to wait until at least June (for the back to school deals) but I would still be interested in the particular "level" of each model that I listed.

    Also, if I do go for the MBP what are peoples opinion on glossy vs matte? I'm planning on doing high res either way, but I can't decide. How bad is the glare in a classroom/lecture hall?
  14. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    Matte. Glossy is annoying on a notebook.

    MBP 2.4GHz with HiRes Matte, Apple 128GB SSD + optibay 750GB 7200rpm

    Swap out for bigger SSDs later when they're cheaper.
  15. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    How about save the money until you find out you actually need something more than your current iPad to carry around with you. A three year old iMac is certainly powerful enough for university work and would likely last the full four years. Heck any Core 2 Duo Macbook with maxed out RAM would be more than enough portable horsepower for coursework for the next four years.

    If you can get some of your textbooks on you iPad that would be great so that you don't need to lug about 30 or 40 pounds of books all day. Other than that portable computing is pretty useless in university. Nothing beats a pen or pencil and paper for note taking.

    Then you can use that money for stuff you will need. Like bakeware, cookware, dishes, food, chairs, tables, sofa, booze, vacuum cleaner, broom, mop, silverware, kitchen utensils, kitchen appliances, beer bong and so forth. If your going to live in a rental house with friends (which I strongly recommend over an apartment of dorm). You'll also need yard care tools, beer pong table, kegerator, &c.

    Otherwise I'd get the iMac. It's faster and will last longer. You will not need a laptop on campus. With all the stuff you'll have to lug around you won't even want to carry a laptop. Your car will likely be over a mile away from your classes so you will have to carry all your books and binders all day. If it is a large university the car could be very far away.

    If you have a sudden dire need for a computer while on campus there are computer labs all over the place. Odds are if you have a sudden dire need for a computer you will also need a printer. In which case you would still have to use a lab computer.
  16. rockson macrumors newbie

    Sep 30, 2011
    I vote mbp 15

    I'm using a 13" mbp with a thunderbolt display for school. I would not have thought it, but it is rather profound how much the quick, simple connections with the thunderbolt have improved my life. The peripherals are just 'always there'. This is important also in that you will be able to easily keep your data backed up, a strong consideration for a student.

    For you if you are going to do a lot of film work the iMac is not a bad way to go as it will have a built in high speed 2TB hard drive. One thing about these desktopo hd's is that they are fast enough to stream video. The laptop Seagate Momentus XT 500GB hd in my mpb13 (2011 i7) is not fast enough to stream hd video over my ethernet at home. My full sized linux tower w/5900 rpm full sized drives is.

    That being said, I would probably steer towards getting a 15" mbp with SSD as you planned. The SSD will trump the clock speed differentials. If you need to save money I'd install an aftermarket WD Scorpio black (for film work), or the new Momentus XT 750 Hybrid (for faster load times of app sw).

    Another thing to consider is that an MBP15 will hold it's value better than anything, so it is somewhat plausible to sell it each year and re-buy with your student discount. You'll keep the thunderbolt display for many years, but the stuff that gets outdated is cheap to replace.

    A key with the MBP over an iMac is that you can do the upgrades yourself. An iMac is scary scary to work on and I know there have been some past issues with aftermarket hard drives. I've done quite a bit of DIY work on computers over the years and absolutely cry UNCLE at the thought of safely doing my own hd upgrades in a new imac. I've done it out of necessity with my older 20" models.

    If it's in the cards for you, and film is a priority, you may want to think about a 17" MBP and an eSATA expresscard. The 17 is the only model with express card capability. What is great about this is that you can buy super cheap full size hard drives which will be great for video work. It would be better if you do field work for film. Note that a 17" is not going to be quite as durable because its size will make it more vulnerable to drops and such.

    I'd get the glossy screen. I have not found glare to be an issue and prefer it's look. I also think the glass wears better. It appears to me (havent' verified) that the matte screen is plastic so will be subject to scratching. The glass is nice because I don't worry about scratching it while cleaning (with appropriate cloth of course). My old MBP has a matter and I greatly perfer the new gloss glass of my new one.

    You won't be sorry for getting the thunderbolt display - the video display quality is absolutely stunning.

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