Advice on purchasing Macbook for college

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by twilliams9476, May 10, 2010.

  1. twilliams9476 macrumors member

    May 10, 2010
    I am purchasing a Macbook for college. No question about it. But I need advice on what different things to add to it, such as extra memory, applications, etc...

    What are your opinions on the 2gb memory vs. the 4gb memory?
    250gb hard drive vs. 300gb hard drive?
    Microsoft office for mac?
    Applecare Protection plan?

    I am going to be a Political Science major, so I am going to be doing many research papers, essays, etc. I will also be doing the typical college stuff on it: internet, pictures, occasional powerpoints, rare spreadsheet, music, etc. These are the questions that haunt me. Feel free to add in any extra advice you have, because I am completely new to buying a mac because I have owned only PC's my entire life. I have played with Macs before, but never owned one, or bought one. Thank you!
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    So cheap you might as well.

    Virtually no difference. Internal storage FTL, in my opinion.

    Probably a good idea.

    Always a good idea.

    The Back-to-School promotion shoudl be starting soon; I'd wait for that so you get a rebate on an iPod if they do it this year.
  3. misterwebmaster macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2010

    The most important thing you should do is get an external hard drive to back up your files via Time Machine.

    I have one hooked up to my router via usb, so as long as my macbook is in range of the router, it backs up without needing to plug in any cables.

    I would max out your RAM to 4 GB - big upside versus minimal cost.

    I got the upgraded 500 GB hard drive and I regret the decision. For the same price I could have gotten an a third-party 1 TB hard drive and installed it myself. Then again, self-installation is always easier said than done.

    You might be able to get a good deal once you are at school for software purchases, so hold off on that. In the mean time, Open Office is a good free alternative to MS Office.

    Like anything, extended warranties are a crapshoot. You don't want to have to use them, so if you're lucky, it's wasted money. Also, you may have some additional coverage through your credit card or even your parent's home-owner's insurance!
  4. bchreng macrumors 65816


    Jul 26, 2005
    I just wanted to add to this. I'd recommend holding off for academically priced software. If you plan to install Windows on it, you might want to consider purchasing the Windows version of Office as MS seems to sell the Ultimate version for around $70 to students every year. Either that or wait for MS Office Online, which is supposed to be free to use and works like Google Docs. The problem with that is that you have to be online to use it.

    Oh and if you can hold out till just before school starts to make the purchase, do so as Apple usually runs a promotion for free iPods with a Macbook purchase in the Fall.
  5. Apple-Man23 macrumors regular

    Sep 3, 2007
    coming from a fellow poli-sci major with 2 years under his belt!

    Fist, definitely wait until the Back to School promo should be soon-ish.

    Second, 2GB of RAM and 250GB HD are more than sufficient for what you need. If you find you need more RAM you can always put more in's super easy. Also, consider iWork instead of's cheaper and you get a much better piece of presentation software, Keynote, and a word processor, Pages, that is very comperable to Microsoft Word. The spreadsheet program, Numbers, is the weakest of the components but it does the job fine. AppleCare is a must but consider holding off on purchasing it as you can purchase it any time within the first year at the same cost and it will be the same as if you bought it with the computer. Finally, I also suggest investing in a backup drive and a good flash drive. The backup drive will keep you covered in case anything happens to the computer and the flash drive is something that you can't live without in college.

    Good luck and enjoy your new mac as well as the wonderful world of political science!!l
  6. mr.steevo macrumors 65816


    Jul 21, 2004

    I agree with waiting for the back to school specials. Also, the Macbook is due for an update in the next couple of months.

    I think it's pointless to upgrade the base ram given your needs. In a couple of years when 2 x 4GB modules are cheap you can max out the Macbook to 8GB and keep it going. Also, the base HDD is more than enough for what you are describing and besides, in a couple of years you'll probably be able to swap it for a 2.5TB drive for under $100.

    We got Office 2004 when we bought our Mac years ago. I figured it would be seamless with the PC version of Office 2003 and make transferring docs between students easier. It wasn't and it didn't. For some reason MS couldn't make 2003 and 2004 work exactly the same and fonts, layouts, and formats wonked out between PC and Mac transfers. Waste of money. If I was doing it now I would save my money and buy iWork, but I have heard of some schools selling Office for under $50 so it is worth looking into.

    We got Apple Care which is like gambling. We lost the $300 bet as the computer ran fine.

    I think it is better to have a back up solution using Time Machine. Buy a USB external drive and hook it up to a new Airport Extreme router. That way you will have wireless backups that you never need to think about.


  7. macgeek18 macrumors 68000


    Sep 8, 2009
    Northern California
    Get the 4GB of ram,that's a must,
    the hard drive,not needed unless you need the space,
    MS Office,if you need Word, otherwise get iWork,I use Keynote for everything,much better than powerpoint,and Pages compares really well to Word, Applecare is a must,I wish I had bought it when I could.But I didn't.

    Hope that helps.

    btw,I have Office 2004 and iWork 08,I prefer word to pages,but then keynote to powerpoint.
  8. Zortrium macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2003
    2 gigs of RAM is annoying even for people who don't have any special computing needs. My girlfriend's MacBook with 2 gigs regularly gets annoyingly slow because Firefox and OpenOffice are hogging RAM and the machine starts swapping to disk. It really doesn't take much to exhaust 2 gigs -- right now with nothing but Firefox and Mail open my MacBook is using 2.4 gigs. Individual 4 gigabyte modules will be quite expensive for awhile yet (and 8 gigabytes would be overkill anyways), but 4 gigs total will definitely be fine for the life of the machine given that the OP doesn't run any particularly RAM-hungry apps. So I strongly advise getting the 4 gigs (no recommendation on Apple RAM vs third party though -- don't know how much Apple is upcharging these days).

    The hard drive is a non-issue unless you've got a really ridiculously large media library -- 250 gigs is more than plenty. Don't waste your money upgrading it.

    AppleCare is harder to say, because it definitely is a notable expense, especially with laptops, but I always get it for my machines. If you've got it, either your machine works 100% for 3 years (good news for you) or your machine has a problem and you get it fixed or replaced for free (also good news for you).

    As for Office, my opinion is that it's a complete waste of money and that OpenOffice is perfectly fine for 95% of people, and that you'd know if you were in the 5% that actually cared about the differences between OpenOffice and MS Office. But that's obviously more of a personal preference type thing.
  9. Blondie :) macrumors 6502a

    Blondie :)

    May 12, 2010
    Prescott, AZ
    Should be good enough

    Basically, the standard macbook should be good enough. I have the base model, and it has done everything I've needed and more. The 2gb of ram will be more than plenty, especially for your needs. The hard drive will be good enough as well. As far as apple care, I dunno if you need it or not. I bought mine from best buy, and got the two year ultimate warranty. It's working out just fine :D And microsoft office for mac will be a good idea as well. The 2008 edition is actually pretty great, especially for being microsoft :p
  10. Bozley0621 macrumors 6502

    Mar 25, 2009
    I have the base Macbook and love it! If you can hold out, Mac Office 2011 is supposed to be out at the end of 2010/beginning of 2011 and the reveiws seem to be much better than the 2008 edition. I have tried iWork and Mac Office and prefer Office.
  11. miicah macrumors regular

    Apr 14, 2010
    Why not go for a refurb'd or second hand non/unibody macbook instead of a brand new one?

    Could end up saving a lot of money.
  12. hsleiman macrumors regular

    May 30, 2008
    Morgantown, WV
    As a college student who is graduating in two days I would advise you to stay away from iWork. While it is a nice piece of software and is probably superior to Office in many ways, using it for school might be a painful experience. Now a days, colleges like to force students to do a lot of group projects and collaborating with your peers who will most likely be using Office will cause issues (different styles and themes for powerpoints and the like). It's already bad enough trying to match styles between the mac and pc versions of Office. Do yourself a favor and stick with Office.
  13. RMo macrumors 65816


    Aug 7, 2007
    Iowa, USA
    Here is my opinion:
    • 2 GB or 4 GB RAM: I think 2 GB is usable, although 4 is, of course, better. If you don't have the money, it's not a necessity, and you can always do it later. (If you're comforable opening the laptop, it's also possible to install third-party RAM yourself, which is probably cheaper than ordering from any manufacturer, including Apple, at the time of purchase.)
    • 250 GB vs 300 GB HD: Either one--the latter isn't really that much bugger. I do recommend, however, an external drive for backups (and, once you're in school, I recommend saving critical documents on the network storage they will probably give you).
    • Microsoft Office: I survived college without it, although I made occasional usage of, even when it was terrible on the Mac (it' The only issue with that might be collaboration, as sometimes Oo_O and Office don't mix well in terms of respecting each other's formatting. That being said, I never had any problems. In addition to the Student and Teacher Edition, you might also want to check with your school. Some offer additional discounts--for example, the public university I'm at now has a ridiculously cheap Office license, and it's Enterprise, not Student and Teacher. The smaller private college I graduated from, however, did not. (The same was/is true for Windows...although even a barely-double-digit price still isn't low enough to make me buy it. :D)
    • AppleCare: well, with 1 of my 3 Macs having needed it but my not having purchased it, I wish I would have bought it; instead, I paid for a new PSU that probably cost more than AppleCare itself. In other words, I recommend it, especially for a laptop--but keep in mind you have a year after purchase to get it. (You might also want to look into third-party warranties like SquareTrade, although nothing will beat the convenience of AppleCare with an Apple machine.)
  14. mjschranz macrumors newbie


    Jan 27, 2010
    I would definitely get the ram upgrade because it's very cheap.
    The storage difference is minor. If you planned on boot camping windows on it as well I'd opt for the larger hard drive but probably not otherwise.
    There is MOffice for mac, I'd personally use OpenOffice. Just as good in my opinion and it's free.
    Definitely get the protection plan, although remember you can buy it later as long as you do within the first year.
  15. njean777 macrumors 6502

    Oct 17, 2009
    i would consider getting iwork instead of office for mac. I had office but switched to iwork because its just as good and much cheaper. Not to mention its optimized more for mac then office is.

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