Cheapest future proof Mac

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Ltdan316, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. Ltdan316 macrumors newbie


    Jul 19, 2015
    I'm considering buying a 2008 Mac Pro off of eBay. They are affordable and seem to be upgradable. How future proof would this be? Im looking for something to last 5-7 years. Is there a better option?

    I am a student who recently went back college to get a degree. I have an iPad and that's what I like to take to class. I like to take handwritten notes on it. But I need to run desktop applications every now and then. I also would like to work in a home office with a big monitor when I don't feel like looking at the smaller iPad screen. I'm also a keyboard fanatic, and I prefer mechanical keyboards which is why I don't have a MacBook. I had a 2014 MacBook Pro, but hated the keyboard. I liked the keyboard from my 2007 white MacBook WAY better. My current setup is an iPad Air with the Logitech k811 keyboard which I like a lot. I tried using that keyboard paired with the MacBook Pro but the whole setup felt awkward and wasn't good for productivity.

    I'm looking for a variety of ideas and opinions and I would like to hear how all of you like your current products so that I can make the best decision for myself.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. riviera74 macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2015
    Fort Myers FL
    Consider an iMac instead. A Mac Pro of that vintage is nice, but the question I would have is whether that Mac Pro can run Yosemite and El Capitan. Apple does have a habit of making software contingent on newer hardware. An iMac (especially the 27 inch Retina display) should last you for at least the next five years.
  3. imaccooper macrumors regular


    May 29, 2014
    North Carolina
    I've been in a similar situation and it helped me to think about it like this.

    Your basically wanting a 2008 Mac Pro to last until 2020 minimum (5 years). Put yourself in the same scenario but push it back a few years. For instance, it would be similar to buying a 2003 computer in 2010 and wanting it to last until today.

    I'm not saying it is a bad idea necessarily, but you must certainly consider that it will be a very old machine at that point. As you say, they are upgradable and it could very well work out for you, but it helped me to think about it like that.

    As for other options, I don't know your budget, but considering your suggestion of a cheap computer I'll keep it lower. Also, it doesn't appear that you are going to run anything very advanced (if you are then please note that so we can suggest accordingly) so a base model will probably be fine with the only exceptions being potential for additional ram up to probably 8gb and a SSD instead of a standard HDD.

    a quad core 2012 mini is a great computer to buy and I think that will certainly make the 5 year mark. They are difficult to find but you may get some off the refurb store or continuing to check eBay.

    Assuming you don't have a screen (or even if you do and would want two screens), You could look at the iMac. Obviously the newer you can go budget wise the better. I just sold a 2009 iMac a few months ago and it was still running as fast as ever.

    Although they are not available in quad core, the new minis are still excellent machines for normal tasks and would have no trouble fitting your need or lasting at least 5 years. I would suggest refurb to save money and probably the 2014 model.

    One more option which would help should you need to take your full computer to class for any reason.

    I know you mentioned this didn't work originally, but if you spent a little bit on your accessories and setup, it could work better. Get a refurb (2014-2015) 11" MacBook Air and then get a nice screen and mouse to pair with your keyboard. You can run the computer in clamshell mode which means that it stays shut and put away while you work on the big screen and separate keyboard and mouse. This setup would be identical to having a standard desktop, but provides you with the potential to take your computer with you if you really need to.
  4. LorenK macrumors 6502

    Dec 26, 2007
    I have a 2008 Mac Pro, which I bought a long time ago it seems, but it is still running strong, while every peripheral (and a crappy Wintel box) seems to crash and burn. I have not upgraded to Yosemite, simply because I don't see the need, but everything that I've read says that because it runs 64bit, there should be no issue on an upgrade, and I haven't read anything here to suggest otherwise. The real issue seems to be graphics cards, but so long as you either stick to Apple approved cards, even that doesn't seem to be a problem. My 3,1 has been upgraded with an SSD PCIe card, a new graphics card (not Mac specific, hence my reluctance to upgrade to Yosemite, a USB 3.0 PCIe card and an eSATA PCIe card. I also started with a quad and added a second processor. It is a workhorse and it just works.
  5. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Yep I agree with Riviera here, any iMac from 2012 onwards will be a much better bet for you than a 2008 mac pro. Although a 2012 quad core mac mini may well be your best bet price wise...

    Unless you tell us what those "desktop apps" are we can't really make any informed suggestions.

    I love my rMBP though and use it for all my studying.
  6. Ltdan316 thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jul 19, 2015
    All interesting points. I haven't thought about the iMac before. I do have a 27 inch 1440p monitor, having two would be awesome. I used my MacBook Pro as a clamshell desktop and it worked really well. The problem is that I never took it anywhere and so I never took it off the charger. It is my understanding that the battery will go bad if it isn't used every once in a while. So I think a desktop would suit me better. In the interest of getting a machine to last that long, how important is it to be able to upgrade the graphics card?

    I'm not planning on doing anything too intensive. My starting budget is around $800. For me, that is a lot of money. I have to upgrade my phone every couple of years and my iPad will probably need to be upgraded in the next two years. I don't want to be doing that with a computer also. So I'm thinking that I want a desktop that will last me and if I have to spend a little money to keep it working in the future.
  7. Florpy macrumors newbie


    Nov 25, 2014
    ABC 4
    You want a new 2015 Mac Mini. The 2008 Mac Pro's future is now the past.
  8. Khalanad75 macrumors 6502


    Jul 8, 2015
    land of confusion
    Since you already have the monitor, I would look at the mid level mac mini. The ram is soldered so it is not upgradable, but comes with 8 gigs base which should be good for years to come.
  9. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    I'll just toss one more consideration onto the "buy an old Mac" scenario - availability of parts, should parts be needed. Apple stops stocking parts after around 7 years, and also declines to provide repair service (if they don't have the parts, there's little point to offering service or training staff to repair them). So if you did need something down the road, it's eBay time, and it's at least conceivable that you'd have to purchase an entire machine to obtain something like the main logic board.

    Further, while OS X El Capitan will run on any machine capable of running Yosemite, currently, the Early 2008 Mac Pro is the oldest Mac Pro model supported on Yosemite. I wouldn't count on the situation lasting for very many more OS X update cycles.
  10. Andres Cantu macrumors 68030

    Andres Cantu

    May 31, 2015
    Rio Grande Valley in South Texas
    With the budget and years of usage you've stated, I would consider the mid-level Mac Mini 2014. It's $699, but you can probably find it cheaper than that if you look around. You can order it with a Fusion Drive, but the price would go up to $899. It all depends on whether you value the SSD speeds more than $200.

    I wouldn't consider buying an older machine though, as you never know when Apple might drop support for them.
  11. aberrero macrumors 6502a

    Jan 12, 2010
    You can get a 2012 retina MBP for around $1100 on ebay. A much better buy that can last at least another 2-3 years with great performance, another 5 with adequate performance.
  12. DavidLynch macrumors 6502a

    Apr 9, 2015
    You can do really well with that budget, even with a MacBook Pro. I just purchased a 2012 MacBook Pro i7 for just shy of $700 on eBay with 8GB ram. Still had some AppleCare left. I upgraded the HDD to a 240GB SSD for another $80 and it's a great machine and could still be upgraded a bit further (2X ram).
  13. ssgbryan macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    Get an 8 core 2009 Mac Pro. These can be picked up for around your budget. The 2008 cost more to run, both in memory costs and in electricity.

    CMPs have the advantage of being very well made. I managed 7 years out of my 1st gen MP & I could still be running it, I just wanted a newer machine - I need more cores for what I do (3d art).

    Unlike the other mac products, this can actually be upgraded short of buying a new machine. They take the latest video cards, can hold up to 5 3.5" hard drives, and it is trivial (and cheap) to add eSata Ports , 3.1 USB, etc. It is also fairly easy to move to a pair of 5 core 3.46Ghz CPUs if you need the horsepower.
  14. spatlese44 macrumors 6502

    Dec 13, 2007
    As a practical matter, I find it useful to divide purchase price by the number usable years I think the machine has left. Someone can correct me if they know better, but I thought that after 7 years Apple considers a Mac obsolete. Give it maybe another year until the OS it can run is no longer supported and it's generally something like 8 years. Given that, an $800 new Mac Mini would cost about $100 a year and a 2008 anything is a year away from worthless. Some may care less about software support, but I do. $1200 iMac is $150 a year, etc..

    Given some of the prices people are asking, it's not uncommon for me to come to the conclusion that new is cheaper.
  15. Hastings101 macrumors 68020


    Jun 22, 2010
    Honestly, any Mac made after 2012 should be good to go. Hardware seems to have hit the point where even five year old computers are still fast enough for average use without much slowdown; outside of gaming and professional work software isn't really outdating hardware anymore. Whatever you pick will probably last you until it dies.

    Like someone said earlier the old Mac Pro you picked might be unsupported by Apple, and that machine is already seven years old... so it might not have that much life left in it. I'd suggest a newer Mac Mini with a fusion drive or SSD and an external display. An iMac would also be a great choice, and much better for you if you game or need to use more demanding software. Whatever you choose it'll likely work great until the thing dies.

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