Advice please: which computer would best suit my needs


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 15, 2006
I am in need of some serious buying advice, and would appreciate any input, especially from any of you who are in my similar situation, and/or who have the following equipment that I am considering buying.

I now have an iMac Power G4, which is OK, but really showing its age (4 years), and it is pretty slow, especially when working on graphics & photo editing, which I do a lot of. It has 17" screen, 800 MHz, 768 MB RAM, and ATA capacity of 74.53 GB.

I also have an external hard drive, which I mostly use for backing up. I plan to organize my photos and eliminate duplicates, so I can use space more efficiently on my external HD and find stuff easier everywhere, but well, you know how that goes...

While I have learned to use the computer & various programs, I really have no clue how they work, and therefore what I really need.

I have many photos (1,800 for '06 so far, and several years past) and I generally use iPhoto, Photoshop, iDVD, iTunes, create & burn DVD's, use Microsoft Office & Quicken, along with all the typical stuff most people use. I create artwork such as brochures, slideshows, ect, for my small business. I like to keep copies of everything.

I'm interested in a laptop (never owned one) with wireless capability, as it would be nice to be able to sit different places in the house and fiddle around editing photos and such, while still being with my husband, while he watches TV or reads (instead of stuck in my office at the far end of our home alone). It would also be great being able to take it on vacation, and to our cabin, where we go fairly often.

This would be a business expense and I would qualify for an educational discount. I can afford (within reason) to spend extra money to buy what I truly enjoy/need for something I use often and daily. I’d much rather err on buying too much of a machine, rather than not enough. I'd like a big screen, at least 20'. I do NO gaming.

I am thinking of several options:

Mac Pro? Overkill, or good future investment? Is it such a wonderful machine that I can expand it and it will not become outdated? (Unlike my G-3 with a tower, which I use at my business and is still kicking, but slow...)

RE: Mac Pro– Recommended configurations & upgrades? I read the video card is lacking. Does this matter if I don’t do gaming? Is it important to upgrade for any other reason? Should I upgrade? I noticed comments about the wireless capabilities. If I have DSL, and hook the Mac Pro to it traditionally (not wireless), can I use a Mac Pro Book, or MacBook, wirelessly in combination?

An upgraded iMac?

With either of these, for portability, a MacBook or MacBook Pro?

Or, instead of these two above a 23" or 30" monitor hooked up to a high-end MacBook Pro, with a wireless keyboard and mouse? This would to provide portability and a desktop in one. I assume I could unhook it when I want to take just the MacBook Pro elsewhere in the house, or on vacation? Then I would always have everything I need in one location. Would this even work? Bad or good idea? Thoughts about screen size?

I’ve never had a notebook or worked wirelessly, so I don’t really know if I’ll love it, or what.

I should mention I do not live near a Mac store, so I can't easily go play around in there.

Any huge changes coming down the pike that would warrent holding off a purchase? (But I don't want to wait for very long)

Thank you in advance for any and all input!!! It is sincerely appreciated.


macrumors 603
Jan 28, 2005
American Riviera
LittleButterfly said:

I don't have any help for you here, but wanted you to know that you can embed smilies directly into your posts, rather than linking to them. Just click on the collection in the 'reply' box. Like so: :) :cool: :eek: ;) :D

As for your question, I'd say that you are a good candidate for laptop + external display, if mobility is truly a concern. It seems to me that a MacPro is overkill for your needs, so my recommendation would be to look at a MB/MBP + display. I'm sure others will chime in with their ideas as well.


macrumors 6502a
May 16, 2006
It sounds to me like your main focus is portability. You want to sit with your husband and work while he watches tv, you want to take something out to your cabin. A Macpro would be overkill for your needs, plus kind of heavy to lug around. :)

I'm in a similar situation looking to upgrade soon. I find my life more mobile and I tend to take a fair amount of outdoor photos I also like to play a game or two from time to time. So I'm leaning towards a portable. Something you may want to ask yourself is how good is your eyesight? Mine is so-so. So portable with a large display at home. I use phototoshop and illustrator so maybe 2 monitor support might be a way for me to go. The macbook doesn't work for me because 13.3 inch screen too small for me and only supports up to 23 inch screen (I may want a 24" dell LCD--cheaper and comes with extras like USB & card readers). You dont need a high end graphics card for photoshop it helps with screen redraws if you have really large files, but you shouldn't need it. So macbook is not bad and reasonably priced.

I'm leaning towards a macbook pro because it supports higher resolutions and dual display. You can go to the 30inch display if you really want to. Since it comes with an ATI graphics--I should be able to get a monitor that supports pivoting to portrait mode, if you are into that. It also has faster hard drive options. A slow hard drive can really bottleneck you. Photoshop has its own virtual memory system and uses some of your hard drive space. Having a good quick drive is important. The screen is a 15.4 inch which is better for my eyes, the 17inch is just too big for me to lug around.:) I would get an external hardrive (firewire) for back up. I feel that the macbook pro version gives me a few extra options and if i want to venture into other areas it will give me flexibility to do that.

All of that being said--alot more could be but others will chime in--nothing beats going down to an apple store and playing with the machines themselves. It will give you a better feel for what you want.

One last thing, there are rumors that the pro line will see a bump in cpu in the next month or so. I' m going to hold off until at least late september before I make my decision.

Good luck:)


macrumors 65816
Sep 6, 2005
My personal recommendation would be a white 2.0 Macbook with 2 GB of ram (mind as well top it out now so you don't have to upgrade 2 years down the road) and an external display (either the one you're using now or a 23" ACD or 24" Dell Widescreen Monitor).


macrumors regular
Jul 24, 2006
I agree with abstract on the MBP with 2 gigs of ram and an external display as this is exactly what I have. Ill tell you how I use my mac and you can compare my use to how you plan to be using yours.

I use my mac primarly in my room hooked up to my external display which is a 19 inch Viewsonic LCD. It is great for some major photoshop/dreamweaver work which I do alot of. I also have just recently started using Iphoto to manage my pictures which is great and im working on bringing over all of my old pictures from a PC to my mac because it is so much eaiser to organize them. I also have 2 external drives one is for when I am on the road(usb powerd) and the other one is for backing up and storage of movies.

As for portability, I go to my office every day where we have a G4 tower with photoshop 7 on it. It runs great for that but there are a few features of CS2 that I need as well as files and all my email is setup on my MBP so I just bring it with me to the office and hook it up right next to the G4 and use both of them. I also just recently went on vacation out of the country and it saved our trip. As it turns out our digital camera card was full when we left and if we did not have my laptop we would have been out of luck on pictures for that trip. I also every evening downloaded the pictures from the camera to my mac and then created a book in Iphoto so that I could get it printed when I got home.

This setup works great for me as im sure it will for you. There are a few problems with this setup though. One is that I cant backup the same way when im on vacation as I can when im at home. Also sometimes it is a hassle to disconect everything when I want to bring my laptop somewhere although it is not too bad and only takes a couple of min.

You were mentioning the macpro and the imac, I dont think that these would be very good for your needs espeicaly since you wanted portability. If you decide to go with the laptop which I suggest you do then you have to decide between the Macbook and the Macbook Pro, I think that the macbook pro is much better espeiclay since it can drive the bigger display, and has a bigger display itself.

Anyways good luck with your decision on your new computer :)


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 15, 2006
Thanks to all

Just wanted to thank those who replyed. I appreciate that you took the time to consider my question! So far, it seems the Mac Book Pro and large display is winning! However, I've had any other display than Mac– I wasn't even sure you could use a Dell display with a Mac. No issues? Do you consider the Dell display better than the 23" Mac one?


macrumors Penryn
Dec 27, 2002
Location Location Location
Other than the frame of the display, the Dell is as good or better than Apple displays. They're also much cheaper.

And like I said in this thread:

get the version with the matte screen unless you plan on colour calibrating your screen with something like a GretagMacbeth, but that will cost you hundreds of dollars. The reason is because if you edit photos and make brochures that look nice on your super bright, oversaturated LCD, it'll likely look dull and undersaturated on other screens. I mean, if you have a bright, oversaturated screen, and you edit photos so that the colours don't look oversaturated, and so it doesn't look too bright on your glossy MBP screen, then on most displays that are less bright and aren't oversaturated, your photos will look dull.
Matte screens are still bright, but the colours aren't as saturated. Calibrating the screen is a nice, but expensive solution.


macrumors 6502
Jun 25, 2005
I agree with the MBP/external monitor suggestion. In all likelihood, an iMac won't be much more powerful (only major difference is in hard drives), and you lose out on portability.

For the ExpressCard/34 slot in your (hypothetical) MBP, look for a FW800 or eSATA card. This will let you run a couple of external 3.5" external hard drives at high speed when you're at home, just about making up any difference between the iMac and the MBP.

(That said, I had to return my MBP and am very wary of jumping into those waters soon.)


macrumors regular
Jul 24, 2006
LittleButterfly said:
Just wanted to thank those who replyed. I appreciate that you took the time to consider my question! So far, it seems the Mac Book Pro and large display is winning! However, I've had any other display than Mac– I wasn't even sure you could use a Dell display with a Mac. No issues? Do you consider the Dell display better than the 23" Mac one?
I am using a 19 inch ViewSonic VA1912wb and have had no issues with it at all and the size is perfect for me. You should be able to use any display with a DVI input(well you can use it if it has a VGA but it wont look as good and you need the adapter) with your mac.


macrumors 68000
Jun 29, 2006
I agree with the MBP + external monitor suggestions! 15" is a perfect blend of portability and power (it sounds so cliche, I know!).