Cheap entry level starter mac

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Matt98svt, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. Matt98svt macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    #1
    Hi all,
    I have had iPhones and iPads for several years now but never owned a Mac computer.
    I'm doing research on the buying guides here but had a few questions about shopping for a basic used Mac to start out with. First and foremost I want something used and cheap but not so dated that it that won't run current software or will be agonizingly slow. From what I understand you can update the software for free to the lastest version just like iOS on my iPhone/iPad. If this is so why do so many of the used macs I've been looking at on eBay have Yosemite and mountain lion and the older software vs the newest el capitain software? I have been looking at iMacs and MacBook airs but read about graphic card issues in the older MacBook airs and not sure of what year iMac I should be looking at. I'm seeing lots of core duo powered iMacs which seems really really old to me but in my price range..under $400...and a handful of i3 machines ( the older i5 processor iMacs are out of my price range) but just want to do basic task on it. I have a dell i7 quad core with 16gb and SSD i use most of the time so again this is just to toy with. Is there a perticular iMac or MacBook (year and model) that someone can recommend thats a good starter Mac?
     
  2. Algus macrumors regular

    Algus

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Location:
    Arizona
    #2
    Ideally you will get something 2011 or newer that is using a core i5 CPU. Some of the 2010 machines with the Core 2 Duos are not entirely inadequate but there is a big performance difference between the C2D and the Core CPUs but with a 2011 you are not missing much vs a 2015.

    Lots of reasons NOT to update to the latest version of an OS. There are always new features and these features can break compatibility with older software. Off the top of my head, a few of my games that rely on Wineskin (a piece of software that allows Windows games to run on OS X) do not work in El Capitan but worked fine in Yosemite. By and large though, average users will probably be fine with updating to the latest version.

    Shop around but here is an example of a Macbook Pro that would be a good purchase for you

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/APPLE-MACBO...602829?hash=item2ca75f514d:g:HzwAAOSwLnlWnc6h

    The nice thing about 2011 and 2012 (non retina) Macbook Pros is that they can have the RAM and SSD upgraded so down the road when you get more money you can put new RAM and an SSD in your laptop. This will make it almost as fast as a brand new 2015 Macbook Pro.
     
  3. nenad83 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2015
    #3
    +1
    2012 first pick because of usb 3.0
     
  4. CooperBox macrumors 6502a

    CooperBox

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2010
    Location:
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    #4
    I think one of the most under-estimated Macs is the late 2009 or 2010 White Unibody Macbook, model A1342. These are a Core 2 Duo with 2.2gGHz (2009) or 2.4GHz (2010) with 4Gb RAM and a superb 13" screen.
    They can be upgraded to the latest OS, and I believe are officially still supported.
    Don't let the fact that these are not Intel i5 or i7 powered put you off, (unless you plan very intense video editing plus other apps simultaneously) they are still very capable machines, and (icing on the cake) almost certainly well within your budget.
    And if you find an immaculate one with it's box with all the accessories, and after a few months dislike it for any reason - I'll buy it. I've been after one 'as-new' for a reasonable price (~$400) for quite some time.
    When I find one, I will certainly run it on Snow Leopard (OS 10.6) as to date it's my preferred system, certainly over Mavericks or Yosemite!
    Definitely worth checking out.
     
  5. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Location:
    Virginia
    #5
    It sounds like you just want to try out OS X to see if you like it. Unfortunately, you're probably setting yourself up for a bad experience as you are probably going to end up with a pretty slow system at that price point, primarily because you aren't likely to get an SSD.

    I have a late 2008 MBPro (15"). This has a C2D and is extremely easy to upgrade with 8GBRAM and a SATA SSD. With these upgrades, this system is still extremely usable. Yosemite is supported. point being that C2D is OK for simple things - browsing, email, iTunes and Office. I would try to stay away from the Core Duo and get at least a Core 2 Duo if possible.

    Here's a link to some extremely inexpensive macs from a vendor that I believe will be safer to deal with than eBay or cragslist. Please note that many of these iMacs have small and slow HDD and low amounts of RAM. The RAM is easy to upgrade, but the Drive in an iMac is definitely not!
    https://www.powermax.com/productcategory/used-macs-intel-imac-20-inch
     
  6. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #6
    If your Dell is a desktop then the best bet is a Mac mini -- you can use your existing keyboard, mouse, and display and a KVM switch to make it easier to go back and forth. Any mini since 2009 will run the latest OS and can be upgraded to an SSD and 8GB RAM. Should be able to pull this off for your $400 budget.
     
  7. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #7
    I love the 2013 Airs. Superb battery, wifi, usb3, awesome PCI SSD that is still faster than almost anything else out there. Graphics not amazing but still a big jump above the 2012 model. 2014 and 2015 didn't add anything.
     
  8. rusty2192 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2008
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #8
    I agree with the Mini. A 2012 Mini would be perfect as you can upgrade the RAM extremely easily and the hard drive with just a bit if work. Or, you can add an SSD to the original HDD and roll your own fusion drive to get the best of both worlds.

    If you don't have a monitor, you could even use your tv just to get a feeling for it. Although I don't recommend that for long. I did it until I found a good deal on good monitor and I was ready to move on.
     
  9. charlyham macrumors regular

    charlyham

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    #9
    I agree with CooperBox, the mid 2010 white macbook is extremely capable of doing what you say you need and they can be found within your budget. I have one that a buddy gave me about a year ago. I upgraded the memory from 2gb to 4gb and added a Samsung EVO SSD and it is doing everything I need it to do (no heavy video edits). There are some now on eBay.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Apple-MacBo...4&pid=100005&rk=3&rkt=6&sd=262058131698&rt=nc

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Apple-MacBo...id=100009&rk=1&rkt=1&mehot=ag&sd=381505386382

    Whatever you decide on, have fun and welcome to the Bright Side.
     
  10. Matt98svt thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    #10
    Thank you all for your input. It looks like I have a few options. I do not have a monitor and keyboard as my dell is a laptop so it's probably gonna be a MacBook Pro laptop or iMac over the Mac mini. I'm seeing a seller on eBay that has the 2011 i5 MacBook Pro with a ssd in excellent shape for $550ish so considering going above my budget to get something like that that will be faster and have better resale. On the other end I see some of the 2009-10 models with core duo 2 sometimes go for much much cheaper that would still work for my needs. I have an extra ssd that I took out of my last laptop laying around as well. It's a Samsung 840 250gb drive but has Windows on it but I'm guessing I can erase that and just clone the Mac software on to it and use in a iMac or MacBook Pro. Thank you all again for your input and I will post the details of the one I end up getting
     
  11. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Location:
    Virginia
    #11
    Regarding using your existing SSD. Yes, extremely easy to install OS/X. Installing in an iMac is challenging. Installing in a MB Pro may be easy depending on the year. Make sure you do a little research on the model you are considering before committing - iFixIt probably has a video showing how to access the specific model.
     
  12. tibas92013, Jan 27, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016

    tibas92013 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Location:
    Costa Rica
    #12
    Please note; I am not a "Legacy or almost Legacy-type" Mac Owner "Fanboy", so;

    I recommend that you Save-up a few more dollars and buy a Refurbished MM that meets your needs from the Apple On-Line Store. I have bought two(2) Refurbished MM's in the last three(3) years along with AppleCare and I am one happy Apple Refurbished Customer!

    Buying Refurbished Apple Products form the Apple On-line Store is like buying new in terms of the one(1) year guarantee with the option at the end of this one(1) year to buy Apple Care protection for two(2) more years.

    Also, I personally would not buy any Apple Computer without at least a 256GB SSD. My MM(Late 2012),2.5 GHz, 4 GB Ram,500GB HD which really meets my basic computer needs but the 500GB HD is somewhat of a "bottleneck" compared to my other MM(Late 2014),2.8GHZ,8GB RAM,256GB SSD which starts-up almost instantly,stays very cool during extensive session and Apps open quickly.

    So, why not experience the absolute pleasure of the "Apple Experience" right-out-of-the-gate" by really getting an almost up-to-date Apple Computer that meets your present needs and maybe for a few more years!
     
  13. miffytherabbit macrumors newbie

    miffytherabbit

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2016
    #13
    Before I clicked on the post, and only read the "Cheap entry level starter Mac" header, the first thing that came into my head was a Mac Mini. I thought the above quote was sensible, as was @Panch0's observation that there might be disappointment in store going for something like a Core 2 Duo iMac. Bearing in mind that the last Core 2 Duo iMac came out seven years ago this October (or at least I think it did), the experience is going to feel a bit squashed or truncated. Even though El Capitan will run on iMacs going way back to 2006, it might not be an optimal experience. Even my older 2010 iMac didn't feel very smooth running Mavericks (the last OS I put on to it). I guess that a lot of others might not have had any performance issues in the way I've described, though.

    We got a new Mac Mini to replace the one we have for general household use last summer (it is the 2.6ghz late 2014 model), and it is really very good, especially for the price. It is snappy, it runs everything surprisingly quickly and it even manages to function as a family gaming computer to boot. Whilst it isn't as fast my work Mac, for the price it really feels like a steal, especially when it runs El Capitan so smoothly.

    Thanks ^^
     
  14. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #14
    The 2009 mini I'm using this very moment, upgraded with a SSD and 4GB of RAM (originally 2GB) is running El Capitan just fine and is faster than the work supplied, 4 year old HP Z400 workstation with a Xeon processor. Much smaller as well.
     
  15. T5BRICK macrumors 604

    T5BRICK

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2006
    Location:
    Oregon
    #15
    Just find a cheap used Mac Mini. Something with a i5 or better.
     
  16. RedCroissant Suspended

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2011
    #16

    Well I am a long time Mac user and love and I can tell you that I recently got an amazing computer, a mac Pro 1,1 for $200. The previous owner upgraded the RAM to 8GB and it had a 250GB HDD in there and it has Bluetooth and WiFi as well. I used my existing HDDs from another Mac setup and I now have a 2.5TB HDD setup inside the machine connected to my HD display. Now I have a Quad core Xeon piece of awesomeness.

    So if I were you and the budget of $400 is important for you to try something out, you should be looking for an older Mac Pro that will maximize your budget and give you the experience that you're hoping for. My Mac Pro isn't even technically supported for the more recent versions of OS X, but it will run Yosemite with a couple of tweaks. Don't limit yourself to the more recent bargain machines!
     
  17. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #17
    Lots of iron for the price, but it's really old iron. Geekbench 2 score of 4833. Even the much hated 2014 base mini is 5923. Of course the MP has better graphics options and internal drives.
     
  18. RedCroissant Suspended

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2011
    #18
    As far as the GB scores go, sure the MP loses (although slightly). However, an older MP that outperforms the mac mini the 2,1 with the 8-core destroys the mini in performance and shouldn't be that much more expensive.

    And the upgradeability is the main reason that I decided to go with it because i can upgrade the CPU, the super drives, the HDDs (easily), RAID configurations are simple, the graphics options are a must if I'm going to get this machine to run Mavericks and/or Yosemite. And right now I have an eSATA expansion card in there that I might/might not continue to use.

    I love this machine and it handily beats my PowerMac G5 Quad.
     
  19. adam9c1 macrumors 65816

    adam9c1

    Joined:
    May 2, 2012
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    #19
    I'm very happy with a Mid 2010 MBP C2D
    I replaced the 5400 rpm HD with a Crucial SSD and the machine flies.

    You can get one for around $400 if you look around here, and upgrade to the SSD down the road.

    Apple simply loves to install slow 5400 RPM spinner drives for years...
     

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