Buying my first mac (and my first laptop) - need advice!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by beamerxl, Jul 18, 2006.

  1. beamerxl macrumors newbie

    Jul 18, 2006
    I've used Windows my entire life and have never really had any complaints about it, but I'm looking to buy a laptop and think I might like to give Macs a try. Unfortunately, I know absolutely nothing about them, so I hope you all can lead me in the right direction :) .

    First and foremost, I'm looking for something cheap, preferably less than $1000. I noticed that the cheapest off-the-shelf Mac laptop is right over $1000, so I wouldn't mind looking into older models that might fit my needs.

    I'm looking for something light and easy to carry. Some of my friends have laptops that are so clunky they may as well be carrying around their desktop. I don't want something so small that I need to pull out a magnifying glass to see, but you get the idea.

    I'd basically be using it for web surfing, typing notes in class, and basic music/movie playback. There's a chance I could use it for video editing, but it isn't a primary concern for me. I am a physics students and I will be using a few processor-intensive applications like Mathematica and Matlab, so I'm not sure how well those types of program mesh with Mac software/hardware.

    One question I had: is it possible/easy to network a Mac laptop with my Windows desktop for file sharing?

    Also, please help clarify my understanding of Boot Camp. It lets me install both Windows and Mac OS on my computer, and choose to boot one of the two whenever I wish? Basically, I can run my Mac like normal, but always have Windows around in case there's something I can't get to work right on Mac? Do I need a certain generation of laptop to be able to run Boot Camp?

    So, what type of laptop would you recommend for me? I am very computer knowledgeable, so don't be afraid to throw out technical terms.

  2. Xander562 macrumors 68000


    Apr 2, 2006
    Ok for your needs i would suggest a refurbished Macbook. you should buy it refurbished. its a little cheaper. but with creative shopping i think you can get it for even less. i'm not sure so look around before you buy. A Macbook will fit your needs nicely, nice and small so you can carry it to class. it is VERY easy to network a mac and a PC to share files. i too was expecting it to be difficult. but if you already have two PC networked. just connect your mac to the network and it will slip right in.
    Oh, and you NEED an INTEL mac to run windows, that leaves out any older laptops from Apple. so that's a Macbook <-- (what i suggest) MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, or iMac to choose from.
    basically after you go through the Boot Camp setup you can boot into windows or OSX, your OSX side is completely uneffected, and your windows side will run normal (plus a few minor glitches that you can read about on these forums, stuff like glowing red headphone jack, no bluetooth/iSight support, sound always comes from speakers even when headphones are plugged in).
    So all in all i would suggest a Macbook. Perhaps a refurbished one. You will be very happy.
    i just switched from a PC a month ago, and i have no regrets. OSX is easy to learn, and if you have any other questions there's always Macrumors!

    if your thinking about adding more/maxing out your RAM i would reccomend buying from some other retailer than Apple (its way overpriced) and installing it yourself. its very easy you can see it here.

    whew, i think that's it, so if your confused/have any questions dont hesitate to ask.
  3. TaKashMoney macrumors 6502

    Jul 15, 2005
    Alright, lets see if this helps, fellow physics major.

    You are exactly right about bootcamp. It creates a new partition on your hardrive and enables you to dual-boot, i.e boot up in either Mac OSX or Windows. When in windows, you essentially have a windows computer (albeit with a much prettier white enclosure). You will always have Windows by your side, and all programs will then obviously run at native speeds. Unfortunately, when you are in windows you are also completely susceptible to all windows' malware - although it won't affect the mac osx partition in the least. You essentially get the best (and worst) of both worlds. Another option is for you to use virtualization software ( Parallels) which actually enables you to run windows while you are running Mac OSX (i.e. no need to restart computer or create seperate partition). Unfortunately I believe ( someone correct me if im wrong) that it will run at only 80% of native speed, but I believe you are not quite as susceptible to malware.

    This ability to run windows ( either bootcamp or parallels) at native speeds has only been possible in the past year because of Apple's decision to switch to Intel processors from their previous PowerPC days. Because of this, no previous Mac laptops (none before the Macbooks/Macbook Pros) will allow you to do this without taking extreme (almost unworkable) performance hits. Unfortunately this means you are stuck with the Macbooks, which are slightly above your budget. In my opinion the macbooks would be everything and more than you could ever need and want as described in your post. All programs will fly. Video editing would be a breeze. And Mathematica can run natively in Windows. It is small, light, and packs some very cool features (camera, remote control, beautiful screen, scrolling trackpad, Sudden motion sensor, wireless, bluetooth)

    So what about that price tag? Well as a student (college i assume) you are eligible for a number of little perks. First of all, you most likely can take advantage of education discounts that can take as much as $100 off the purchase of a macbook ($50 for the lowest priced one). Furthermore, apple is currently running a promotion for all students. Buy any mac and receive a free ipod nano. A $179 value I believe. So we have: $1,099 Macbook- $50 education discount - $179 Nano (assuming you sell it) = $870 . Right in your price range.

    Hope this helps!

    Oh yeah, networking and file sharing is a snap. My ibook is doing just that (and sharing a printer) to my dell desktop at school. Go gators!
  4. Xander562 macrumors 68000


    Apr 2, 2006
    i think you're right about parrallels, but i heard somewhere that in parrallels you cant run 3D games or something? i'm not sure, it could have been BS, i have not tested this myself.
  5. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    For you, I'd get a MacBook and not a slightly used Powerbook or anything of the sort, just so you can install Windows and go to it whenever you choose. Matlab is a cpu hog, and it may run better in Intel and Windows than on a Mac. Not too sure about Matlab on Intel Macs, actually. If I knew I had to run Matlab, I'd make sure I had the ability to run WindowsXP on a fast PC. ;)

    I'd just splurge and make this a long-term investment, because that's what it is. You need portability, and this is going to let you do everything and more --- more than most WinPC laptops could let you do.

    I'd get a MacBook, 1GB of RAM (2 x 512MB sticks from or someplace), Bootcamp (free), and a copy of Windows (this "might" be free ;) ). Use your student discount at an Apple store or, and you'll save some money. :)

    Parallels is nice, but not as fast as just booting into WindowsXP via Bootcamp. Parallels also won't utilize your graphics card and CoreImage stuff. If you don't know what that means, don't worry. Just know that Parallels isn't as good as running a straight-up version of WinBlowsXP.

    -- Abstract (PhD physics student)
  6. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    Right. Parallels doesn't support accelerated graphics, so 3D stuff is dog slow. It does do a great job with other video related things, like Windows Media Player, etc.
  7. Moe macrumors regular

    Apr 27, 2003
    At this point, Matlab doesn't run under OS-X on Intel Macs, and the Mac version is an X11 port anyway. Definitely look toward Boot Camp for that.
  8. MacAnkka macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2006
    Just a small correction. Bluetooth does work in Bootcamp. I've used my Wacom Graphire Bluetooth tablet in Bootcamp and it works quite well. The biggest "glitch" in Bootcamp, imo, is the lack of support for the two-finger right click. You either have to use an external mouse or map some key/key-combination as right click to be able to use right-click in Bootcamp.
  9. Xander562 macrumors 68000


    Apr 2, 2006
    Sorry, my mistake.
    As for the two finger right click, why would it? Its in Windows. does the two finger scroll work? i havent tried recently, (i have an external mouse) but from what i rememer it didnt.

    I have a 15" MBP and the two finger click doesnt even work in OSX.
  10. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    I thought 10.4.7 gave the 15" MBP the right-click ability (after you turned it on in System Preferences)?

    Running Windows in Parallels, the 2-finger right-click and 2-finger scroll work great. :)

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