Advice on mobile working and how to get the best out of idle mac mini sans screen

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Rems Take, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. Rems Take, Mar 1, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011

    Rems Take macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2011
    Hi guys I have a bit of a dilemma. I live in a cramp 2 bed house with no office space (I live in London) with my partner and her son. My first mac was a 2006 1.86ghz Core Duo MacBook that still functions today (I maxed it with 2gb ram and an SSD, boots up in under 20 seconds). I also leased a mac mini as an overly expensive media hub connected to my HDTV (2.0 ghz core 2 Duo). Finally I procured an iPad on UK release date (early May 2010)

    I'm loving my devices but as my wife uses the MacBook mostly I feel I have nothing that I'm really productive on unless I wait in line for my turn on the old MacBook / share. This can create problems as i'm self employed and occasionally need to file accounts so easy access is a must and sharing between 3 is cumbersome. In addition to this I may also consider studying so I need something to take notes on the go. This leaves several options:

    1. Use the Mac Mini as a desktop (not possible as I have no space for a desk)
    2. Use the iPad. I haven't really tested it in this kind of environment (study notes) although I've drafted this post on the iPad keyboard and can type fairly fast... I'm thinking I'll need the keyboard dock though really in order to keep up with the lecturer however in my eyes the minute you use that attachment you've created a form factor larger and less space efficient than a laptop.
    3. Use the MacBook, but it's ageing and I'm concerned it wont be OSX Lion compliant so I'm considering this device as more of a hardware a write-off and letting my wife keep it, she may well eek another 2 years out of it. Besides if I make it my own she'll have nothing to use most of the time as she cant stand the iPad. Lastly the battery doesn't last longer than an hour without the charger.
    4. Upgrade, but unfortunately I run a tight ship financially so this will be at the iPad's expense (sell).

    Now if I upgrade having got used to the iPad I would like something real portable but better at note taking. That points towards the MacBook Air. But I'm concerned there will not be enough power in the Air for photo editing (a hobby I want to pick up) and also it seems an expensive choice considering it has the old core 2 duo chipset.

    The other issue is that the 11inch with 4GB ram is around the same price as the entry level Macbook Pro with dual core i5 and 4GB ram upgradeable to 8GB more than enough power to last me another 5 years but its just not portable... Gaming does not interest me as I do all of that on my PS3 I don't need a gaming powerhouse all I expect is that it runs Football Manager 2011/2012 and runs it well.

    Considering all the info I've given what do you guys think is the best option if I want to be able to take notes in class (efficiently) maintain portability but have some power left for photo editing and good 1080p video playback? At the moment it looks like this points towards the entry level MacBook Pro but that would mean selling the iPad and losing portability. In an ideal world I would love an 11inch MacBook Air with at least 1.6ghz i3 but it's hard second guessing Apple so I'm not sure that will be available in 2011. Also the longer I leave it the more my iPad is depreciating in value. The Mac Mini I consider a write-off and if anyone has ideas as to how I can get more value from this (cheap server perhaps) let me know. That was a mistake and in hindsight I could get the same functionality from the PS3 and Macbook (photos and movies on HDTV). The only room I have for an office is in my partners son's room but he's a teenager and I'll never forgive him if he busted that mac mini so for now it stays connected to the HDTV reserved for watching the odd movie on Plex / iTunes or showing off photos until the lease runs out in 2012.

    Honest opinions please on this dilemma. Looking back I've made a couple of panic buys (iPad and Mac Mini perhaps) and I'm hoping not to do so again (D@mn you Steve for making such desirable objects)...
  2. Spanky Deluxe macrumors 601

    Spanky Deluxe

    Mar 17, 2005
    London, UK
    If you're looking at a new laptop and you're on a tight budget then the MacBook Air is not for you. Yes, it is a superb laptop and it would handle photo editing fine (it's video editing where processors have to actually work these days) but as you say, you could get a MacBook Pro with a lot more power for the same money. A 13" MacBook Pro really isn't that much heavier than a 13" MacBook Air.

    I'd say that the cheapest buy in and best first thing to try would be to use your iPad for note taking. Get a physical keyboard (I prefer the idea of a bluetooth keyboard rather than the dock one because it's more flexible) and give that a try. This route would cost you relatively little to try out and if you go the bluetooth keyboard route you could always reuse it with your mac mini / future other mac.

    Now the mac mini. I can appreciate that working on a TV screen is not ergonomic or fun, however, do you have space near your HDTV for a small desk? If not a desk then what about a space of wall where you could sit a stool and have space for a small shelf big enough for a keyboard and mouse? My point being that you could have a work area there that uses the Mac Mini. If you've got a Early 2009 (Macmini3,1) or later model then your Mac Mini has two connections for displays so you could leave your HDTV connected and connect a second screen for use as the workstation. If you've got an older Mac Mini (although this solution would be just as viable on the newer ones) then you could get a DVI switcher (for not very much) and make sure that the workstation screen you get has the same resolution as your TV (not strictly necessary but it would make life easier). This solution would cost as much as a display, keyboard and mouse if you haven't already got them and a table/shelf and chair/stool. In terms of the shelf idea you could wall mount the monitor. If it's a light screen then you can even wall mount it with two strips of wood that lock into eachother and the shelf could just be a cheapo IKEA jobby. If you're not afraid of a bit of DIY you could easily come up with a fold out desk setup that hides the screen away when not in use similar to the LUDVIG laptop workstation but without the sides. Have a look through some of the stuff on ikeahackers, there have been some computer solutions in there that might fuel your imagination.

    In regards to Lion on the MacBook, officially it is unsupported due to it having a Core Duo rather than a Core 2 Duo. There's no real reason for Apple to limit the specs in this way other than to drive sales though so I'm sure people will come up with a 'workaround' within days of Lion release (probably even before). I imagine it'll be something along the lines of installing Lion to the laptop connected via firewire target disc mode from a compatible computer and editing PlatformSupport.plist.
  3. cwisnoski macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2011
    Ipad w/ Bluetooth KB and DropBox

    Have you thought about getting a bluetooth keyboard case for your iPad. I use a ZaggMate bluethooth keyboard case, and along with dropbox, and a few iPad office apps it is just like having a iOS netbook.

    My $.02
    Chris :)

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