A rather difficult choice

Bytes

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 8, 2012
8
0
Hello internet.

I have used a windows computer since before I could walk. I can remember spending hours looking through files and perfecting my imperfect art in the good old fashioned paint program that comes on windows. But now, the time has come for me to part with my beloved Windows. It has started, albeit subtly at first, to drive me slowly insane. The time has come for me to purchase a Mac. I think that they have, in recent years, overcome their windows counterparts; and because of this, I believe that a mac is the right computer for me.

I have a question for you, but in order to answer it you need to know a bit about me first. I am 16, I've just started my A-levels, and with any luck I'll be in a reasonably good university in a couple of years. I'm studying Maths, Physics, Biology and Dramatic Arts, and because of the latter two, there is a lot of essay writing. I'd be using the Mac to write essays, play games, sort email and browse the internet. As far as the gaming side of things goes, I'm in no way a hardcore gamer. I play Minecraft, World of Warcraft and Diablo III every now and again. Not the most demanding titles in the world, but nonetheless I'd still like a machine that can handle these games without too much of a problem. They all run natively on OSX, so bootcamp/parallels isn't an issue at all. I would preferably like a portable Mac, but I will settle for a static one.

The question: Which Mac should I buy?
There are a few options.
-13" Macbook Air (base model)
-15" Macbook Pro (non-retina 512mb gpu)(this option would require me to wait a little while longer while I gather the rest of the money.)
-21" iMac (base model upgraded to 8gb of ram)
-Next generation iMac (no idea quite when this is going to be coming out as it is overdue a refresh, whether it will be worth waiting, the specs or how much it will cost so this option is a HUGE risk.)

My budget is roughly £1100 (1760 US dollars / 1360 euros), however this can be stretched a little bit, depending on how long I can hold out. I'd preferably like some money left over at the end to purchase a couple of vital apps (pages, keynote ect) from the app store.

Thanks very much for taking the time of day to read this post. If there are any questions, feel free to leave one in the thread and I'll hopefully get back to you.

Joe
 

12dylan34

macrumors 6502a
Sep 3, 2009
877
3
I would base my choice on what screen size I wanted. For writing papers, it's nice to be able to see more of the page on the screen, but also have the ability to take you computer and write wherever you want. For this, I would recommend the 15 inch MBP.

Also, I would advise against getting tied up in iMac anything. It's a big bag of hurt with the update nowhere in sight (or maybe it is, who knows) and if you decide you want one, you'll realize that the current offering is a bad value and drive yourself mad waiting for an update with your current machine.
 

mrsir2009

macrumors 604
Sep 17, 2009
7,505
156
Melbourne, Australia
Have you considered waiting for the 13" Retina MacBook Pro and seeing what the pricing and specs are like on that? Because it would give you the 13" screen (if you wanted it) but with a graphics processor a bit better than the integrated thing that's currently in the 13" MacBook Pro and 13" MacBook Air :)

That is, if you want a 13" laptop - It really depends on which screen size you want.
 

MagicThief83

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2012
478
0
NYC
I would definitely get the rMBP, or regular 15" MBP. Avoid the current iMacs, as they are outdated and you will be overpaying for antiquated technology. The iMacs are rumored to be refreshed "soon" which in Mac Rumors time, began in spring. I will definitely be getting a rMBP myself, if the iMacs are not refreshed within the next two weeks. Seriously, avoid anything iMac for now if you want to keep your sanity. The lack of a refresh has twisted the minds of many, including myself.

----------

If you wanna game, get the 15" MBP hands down, but I'd suggest you look into getting a model with a 1GB VRAM GPU, just to future proof your purchase.
 

switon

macrumors 6502a
Sep 10, 2012
636
1
Re: just some extraneous thoughts...

Hi Bytes, (I like the moniker, by the way)

Just some stream-of-consciousness thoughts...

If university life in GB (? -> based upon your price quote) is anything like university life in the US, then you might consider that a portable device is nearly indispensable. For instance, you'll find that you need to read emails from Professors in the middle of your class day while you are nowhere near your room and its non-portable iMac. Of course, if you also have an iPhone 5 this would cover your reading of last-minute email instructions from your profs.

Depending on what you are studying in university, say physics for instance, you may have labs that are done jointly with another student. In this case, having a portable laptop is more convenient than a fixed desktop, as you can more readily collaborate on data analysis and lab reports. An iPad might be fine for writing biology or arts essays, but a MBP/MBA would be a better choice for data analysis. Although with an iPad you could potentially VPN in and screen share to your iMac in your room and perform any data analysis that might be required that way.

I guess what I'm saying is that if I were in your shoes, I would not even consider a static iMac, not even an updated one (whenever that might happen) -- unless, of course, you also have a portable laptop to complement it.

You say you have two years before arriving at university...why not wait at least one of those years to see what becomes available? In two years Haswell and perhaps even Broadwell Intel CPUs will be available. If you don't have an immediate need, then waiting, while difficult, is certainly a wise option.

Good luck with the math and physics, subjects dear to my own heart,
Switon
 

joepunk

macrumors 68030
Aug 5, 2004
2,554
13
a profane existence
Have a look at refurbished macs. There's some decent 13" Air/MBP's for under £1000. I would like to second the suggestion to wait about a year to see if Apple brings out any other updates. Waiting will also help in gathering a bit more money for better spec machine as you say.

I would definitely get the rMBP, or regular 15" MBP... If you wanna game, get the 15" MBP hands down, but I'd suggest you look into getting a model with a 1GB VRAM GPU, just to future proof your purchase.
I don't think a rMBP is within the budget.
 

LeeM

macrumors 6502a
Jan 1, 2012
603
0
im at john moores uni, if all uk uni's are like this i'd get a 13" if you want to take it to lectures. even my 13" is a bit too big in some of my lecture theatres so i take the iPad. im doing engineering, my 13" base model handles cad and maths programmes fine. ive just stuck an ssd in for extra speed.
13" has become my favourite screen size, even after regular side by side use of a friends 15" while dj'ing

----------

and with everyone saying to wait, if you do that you'll be waiting forever theres always something new round the corner. the advantage of apple products is their residual value. when something new comes out sell your current one and buy a new one, when you get to uni you'll have a nice shiny student card which will get you 14% off at apple stores
 

thejadedmonkey

macrumors G3
May 28, 2005
8,121
996
Pennsylvania
Don't get a 13" Macbook Pro or an air. the air doesn't have enough hard drive space for WoW + Diablo 3 + OS X + life. You'll run out of space after OS X and not have space to breath. The 13" Macbook Pro, although having significantly more hard drive space, doesn't have a video card. Go with a 15" MBP, iMac, or wait and see what the 13" rMBP has.
 

dusk007

macrumors 68040
Dec 5, 2009
3,386
62
What are you running on today?

I personally feel like OSX was better than Windows for a couple years but since Lion I would hand the crown back to Windows only in the UI OSX still rules despite the mission control downgrade.

Regardless though the budget doesn't look like a 15" is really possible except for a refurb maybe. If you go for a 13" considering your age and current activity, I think waiting a year for the Haswell ULV might be worth it.
Those supposedly will change a lot in battery life bring another increase in GPU speed and possibly there will be new systems out.
The speed might be nice given that the notebook should be good for a while and a bit of gaming is nice. The battery life of the full SoC design is probably what really delivers.

I as a student now, I would try to wait and buy one of the hybrid tablet notebooks. Have everything on one device plug in a external display in the dorm and have a great device in classes for typing and studying all kinds of digital material like pdfs...
Haswell SoC will be great for those.

If you get a 15" you might as well buy now. The 650M won't shrink soon and there is nothing earth shattering around. The Quad Core Haswell won't be a SoC design and thus probably not change anything significant in that form factor.

It all depends on what you have now. How far your student life really is out and what you really want to do. Before university my notebook wasn't really a essential tool.
 

MagicThief83

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2012
478
0
NYC
Have a look at refurbished macs. There's some decent 13" Air/MBP's for under £1000. I would like to second the suggestion to wait about a year to see if Apple brings out any other updates. Waiting will also help in gathering a bit more money for better spec machine as you say.



I don't think a rMBP is within the budget.
Sorry! Missed the budget part, however, I still believe the OP should get a regular 15" MBP. Trust me! I game and I thought I could get by with a MBA (which struggles with games...IGPU just doesn't cut it!) until the new iMacs are released, boy was I mistaken. I miss the raw power of a powerful PC (came from an Alienware M17x), and now I regret not getting the rMBP from the start :mad: Hell, had I gotten it from the beginning, I would have gladly turned my back on the new iMacs, which will be "released soon" (bunch of bullsh**, people been saying that since last February, which was when I decided to switch from PC to Mac), and kept going without looking back. Get the best possible thing that you can afford now...don't worry about the future. I am never playing this waiting game again. Sorry to have strayed from the topic!
 

Bytes

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 8, 2012
8
0
Thanks!

Thanks to everyone that has posted! Any more opinions, anyone?
 

Bebel

macrumors member
Jan 8, 2008
43
0
If you're going to play games, get the 15 for the GPU. If budget is an issue, take a look at the Apple Refurb store or take advantage of Apple's educational discount.
 

Mojo1

macrumors 65816
Jul 26, 2011
1,236
13
Would you consider keeping your current Windows box just for gaming?

If so, I'd suggest a 13"MBP and an external display. Even a 15" display isn't big enough for lots of serious research and writing. Use your current display if it is compatible.

If you don't want the portable option then take a look at the Mac Mini.

Be sure to budget for an external drive if you don't have one. I also recommend off-site data storage in case your computer gear is stolen or damaged. I've read too many stories about students losing all their data because they spent all their money on the computer without an adequate backup plan.

For relatively small amounts of data a free Dropbox subscription may be fine. If your data needs require more space then CrashPlan is the way to go; it's the least expensive, most reliable service I have found.
 

Bytes

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 8, 2012
8
0
Not forgetting your student discount are you?
I didn't know I qualified; I thought that was for people buying for university only. I'm at a Sixth Form, not a College by the way.

----------

Would you consider keeping your current Windows box just for gaming?
Definitely not, it has the computing power of a turnip!
 

Doggman

macrumors member
Jul 19, 2012
88
0
If you're getting a computer for school, I would not recommend an iMac... Portability is important for school IMO.

I bought a base 13" back in 2011 for school and got the 128GB SSD and it's been more than good enough for me (writing essays, programming for college level courses, and playing Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, and WoW on medium-high graphics settings.) It's been everything I wanted, and more.

If I were looking to buy right now and had $1,800 to spend, I would DEFINITELY wait for the 13" Retina MBP that should be out soon. If it has a discrete graphics card (instead of the suspected Intel HD4000) it will be one badass 13" computer (which is the ideal size for portability... 15" is large and ridiculously expensive to get one with an SSD...).

If you don't want to wait, then I would probably get one of the 13" MBP's. They were updated when the 15" rMBP came out so they have current gen technology in them which means it should last awhile. The most important recommendation I would make is this: **get a Solid State drive** if you can afford it! It is hands down the most bang(speed) for your buck IMO.
I say 13 > 15 because 13" MBP + SSD + left over money = Base 15". Unless you NEED the extra screen real-estate and have to have the discrete graphics card then you get more for your money with the 13 IMO.

If you want to wait and spend more money when you get it, I would shoot for the 15" Retina... It's a badass computer if you can swing it.
 

Bytes

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 8, 2012
8
0
So does anybody think that a base 13 MBA would be a viable option? It hasn't really been mentioned much in the replies.
 

Kasalic

macrumors regular
Jan 20, 2011
159
0
Nice post by the way and thanks for giving so much info.

Although I am much older than yourself, I needed a laptop for very similar reasons. I ended up with a Hi-res, Anti-glare 15" refurbished unit. The 13" Air is fine for nearly all your tasks, however the limited hard drive and lack of dedicated graphics card was a compromise I was unwilling to make.

For you the portability may be more important, although the 15" MBP is not in any way too heavy or large for me to carry around, I would imagine you would need more portability than I do.
 

lordjonny

macrumors regular
Sep 18, 2006
211
1

MasterHowl

macrumors 65816
Oct 3, 2010
1,020
33
North of England
I bought a 15 inch MacBook Pro just before I started my A-levels (Physics, Geology, Maths, Chemistry, Extended Project), and I found it to be perfect for my needs.

It's portable (obviously), so I could take it with me to do work in free periods. The only problem was that it was a bit heavy, so lugging it round all day hurt my shoulders a little. Not a massive problem, but worth taking into consideration.

The fact it was a Pro also means it was pretty fast ^.^ I could use it as a portable computer by day, and when I got home, I could plug it into an external monitor and use it in clamshell mode.

If I were you, I'd hold out and get the MacBook Pro. They're brilliant machines.

Good luck with your A-levels! I'm currently in my second year of university (Geology with Planetary Science) and still use the same Mac I bought for my A-levels.
 

Mojo1

macrumors 65816
Jul 26, 2011
1,236
13
I seriously considered getting an MBA but the display caused severe eyestrain and headaches. There is a lengthy thread on the Apple forum about people experiencing serious eyestrain when using LED backlit displays from Apple. My 13" MBP gave me some minor problems but I was able to mitigate them after reading some suggestions in the Apple forum thread.

I think that the MBPs are better constructed than the MBA and Retina MBP. A university computer tech posted on the DP Review forum that his shop sees a lot more MBAs come in for repairs caused by routine use by college students. He thinks that the MBAs are simply not as durable than the MBPs. Since he spends his days dealing with repairing portable Macs I value his opinion.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.