College Buying Advice

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by DJLC, Jul 7, 2011.

  1. DJLC macrumors 6502a

    DJLC

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Location:
    Mooresville, NC
    #1
    So I'm finally off to a "real" college in August after getting my Associate's from the local community college. I'll be doing a computer science major w/ a minor in new media, which encompasses video editing, sound design, web design, and 3d design. I currently have a late 2006 white MacBook - 2GHz C2D, 2GB RAM, 500GB 7200RPM drive. I think it has a bad logic board: OS X occasionally panics because of an unresponsive processor; randomly gets sluggish; has issues w/ sleeping, USB power, and clamshell mode; and has occasional graphics glitches (ie., news feed screensaver occasionally jumps around instead of flowing smoothly).

    All that said, I definitely need a more powerful Mac for video editing and programming and all that rot. I'm just not sure which option will give me the best value and greatest longevity. Here's what I've been considering:
    1) Buy new iMac + repair current MacBook for taking notes / on-the-go use.
    2) Buy new MacBook Pro 15".
    3) Buy new iMac + new MacBook Air (when revision is released) for notes / on-the-go.
    4) Buy new iMac + iPad for notes / on-the-go.

    Aside from that, I'm getting a baby-size laser printer and will continue using my 20" Dell display. What do you guys think?
     
  2. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 6, 2004
    #2
    I got the first iPad with a few months left of grad school but I still took my old MacBook to school everyday, sometimes leaving it in the car.

    I found myself using the iPad between classes for checking email and casual surfing, but not for real work.

    The iPad was convenient, and essentially replaced my iPhone for email.

    If I was spending a whole day at campus, I needed my MacBook to do research...

    Unlimited browser, word, and excel files...

    I think you need to tell us more about how close you will live to campus and how much of your day you will spend their ( which is hard to estimate).

    For me, and I wasn't even doing multimedia or computer science in school, option 4 is definitely a no go. You are going to want some type of laptop in and between classes to experiment with what you just learned minutes ago. Or to carry into your profs office to ask for help.

    The problem is that since you are on a Mac site, you probably want to learn programming for iOS?

    So far I am voting for MBP 15" with your Dell 20" plus 16 or 32 GB iPad wif

    You are going to be sitting in class a lot and may prefer to work on the couch or in bed with a laptop?

    Just things to consider
     
  3. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 6, 2004
    #3
    I addition.

    The 15" MBP are just as fast as the 21" iMacs in most respects or faster. You'll enjoy having a good enough or better computer with you all the time rather than waiting to get home to try newly learned material.

    I had a old black MacBook and MacMini (running two displays) in grad school and wish I would have sold them both for a 15" MBP to use with my 24" Dell.
    And now the 15" MBP are quad-core :)

    After a long day of school or work and school, sometimes you don't feel like sitting at another desk.

    Just telling you my experiences :)
     
  4. kuebby macrumors 68000

    kuebby

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    SFV
    #4
    I live close to campus, and therefore do most of my work there, so a combination of iMac+iPad (plus iPhone), suits me well. All I really use the iPad for is taking notes in class, I do all my real work on the iMac. Once I got the bigger screen I just haven't been able to part with it (and it is better to have the screen built in rather than use an external monitor, in my opinion).
     
  5. rockyroad55 macrumors 601

    rockyroad55

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Location:
    Phila, PA
    #5
    I'm just like you in college and have the same type of setup except mine is a hybrid of option 1.

    I have an iMac at home and use the unibody macbook as my day to day computer. When I am out, I take my macbook with me for light work such as the occasional BlackBoard assignment or to send an email or look up something. I come home, plop the macbook away, and return to my imac for everything else. I use DropBox so everything on my macbook is saved there and can be accessed through the iMac, but that will change once iCloud is ready to go.
     
  6. FrankHahn macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 17, 2011
    #6
    I think that the third option "3) Buy new iMac + new MacBook Air (when revision is released) for notes / on-the-go" is the optimal one. If the iMac panel does not give you troubles, you will be very happy with them.
     
  7. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #7
    I agree with this, in fact I have a similar setup (Mac Pro + MacBook Air), for pretty much the same use as the OP (CS Major combined with Video Editing and Sound Design) - the only reason I went for a Mac Pro is that my Video Editing isnt in my course (instead I freelance doing it to fund my CS degree) and I love my BlackMagic card. The MacBook Air is the best thing I have ever bought for taking Notes, Its light enough it goes with me everywhere, and for coding I love just being able to close everything but TextWrangler and Terminal. And an iMac will run Final Cut/AVID and any DAW with absolute ease (Had the current iMacs been around when I bought my Mac Pro, I would've been sorely tempted to abandon expansion in favour of one).
     
  8. DJLC thread starter macrumors 6502a

    DJLC

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Location:
    Mooresville, NC
    #8
    I'll be living on campus, unfortunately. With that in mind, I'm starting to think I should try to keep expensive electronics to a minimum! Plus, from what I've heard from you guys, I feel like a 15" Macbook Pro with an external monitor would probably be best for me at this point. Same power as an iMac with way more flexibility. Maybe add an iPad later on -- I'm not sure if I'll be into iOS programming or not. Seems likely, if I can come up with something that will sell! I do get more work done at a desktop, but having a MacBook in clamshell mode provides the same feeling.

    Meanwhile, is it even worth repairing or selling my old MacBook? I suppose I could keep it and make a little Compressor cluster...
     
  9. Lagmonster macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2007
    #9
    If living in a dorm, I suggest the MBP 15 with a monitor that would work for TV as well.
     
  10. DJLC thread starter macrumors 6502a

    DJLC

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Location:
    Mooresville, NC
    #10
    Yeah, I'm thinking about just taking my 42" HDTV and using that as a TV / monitor combo instead of having the 20" Dell. Or I'll bring my eyeTV USB dongle.
     
  11. iMikeT macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2006
    Location:
    California
    #11

    Don't fall into the trap of buying a portable to do a desktop's job, especially if you are planning on using what ever you get years into the future.

    Just my personal experience. Years ago, I was suckered into the idea of complete mobile computing. The thought of having my work where ever I went was great. I bought a portable Mac, which was powerful at the time but nowhere near as powerful as its desktop counterpart. I would say that during the first 15 months or so of use, everything ran fairly well. However, the novelty quickly faded. I began to realize that my usage habits were not what I expected. In fact, I treated my portable as if it were a desktop. It rarely left the table that it would sit on for years. Over time, its age began to show as it began to struggle to run modern software and complete processor intensive tasks.

    Am I knocking portables down? Absolutely not. In fact, I'm typing this on that very machine right now. What I'm trying to say is to think of a portable as your every day car that gets your from point A to B, it does the job but there's no need of working it too hard. Now think of a desktop as a truck. This does all of the heavy lifting that your every day driver isn't suited for.

    I recently purchased a 27" iMac (Mid-2011), BTO with the specs to the max (CPU and GPU). Before I sent it back for an exchange (topic: Running the iMac gauntlet), this is by far the best computer I have every owned or used. As it sat on my desk, I realized that this is exactly the decision that I should have made all those years ago.
     
  12. DreamscapeRuins macrumors member

    DreamscapeRuins

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2011
    Location:
    Inside your mind
    #12
    This is exactly what I did, except I bought a new iMac and a new MBP for notes. Im in the same major - and pretty much the same minor - as you. I've only had them for a week (Prior, I had a 2007 MB), but I'm sure they're going to be amazing for what I need them to do.

    I'd be against buying just one portable machine. For the editing, I believe you're going to need the desktop (this is in my personal opinion). So, if you buy ONE machine, make it the iMac. But I'd also consider pairing it with another laptop for notes.

    As for the iPad, I've had one for awhile now. Its not the best note-taker in the world.
     
  13. rockyroad55 macrumors 601

    rockyroad55

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Location:
    Phila, PA
    #13
    If you're living on campus, I'd go with a MBP and maybe an external but I do not see you needing that.
     
  14. Dkrogh macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2009
    #14
    I would say it depends on your budget.

    Once you have an idea of what you can buy besides what you think you want make a decision then. Also you should address your needs first.
     
  15. bender o macrumors 6502

    bender o

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2009
    #15
    If you already have the Dell screen I'd go for a Hackintosh Mac Pro (save some money on a Mac Pro) and a Macbook Pro or Air for taking notes.

    I'm not at any of your majors so I didn't need that much power so I just bought a baseline 2010 MBP which I upgraded to 8GB RAM and I absolutely LOVE IT for taking notes in class, I ended having like a book of each class, everything organized and shared with my girlfriend with dropbox, it has to be the best thing I've ever done.

    By the way, I didn't go for the Hackintosh because I don't really EVER sit down, I'm always lying down on my bed so I had no use for a desktop computer hahaha.

    Oh and also, don't even think about studying your notes from the iPad, I did that and almost failed a class (yeah I know probably it wasn't JUST the iPad thing but I swear I studied as I always do) so the laser printer is a MUST at least mine saved me :)
     
  16. DJLC thread starter macrumors 6502a

    DJLC

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Location:
    Mooresville, NC
    #16
    Well, I'm kind of in the same boat now. I use my late '06 MacBook as a desktop most of the time, only taking it with me when I go to work or need to do something elsewhere. Like I said in my first post, it's certainly showing its age now. Cracked palmrest (that was replaced 4 times before AppleCare ran out) and overall slowness, which I attribute to a likely-bad logic board. I actually had to force Final Cut Studio 3 to install b/c I don't have enough VRAM for it. That said, looking at the iMac, it really just looks like a MacBook Pro in a different case with a bigger LCD panel to me. However, I'm open to the idea of getting a new, high-end iMac and simply repairing my existing MacBook for notes. I don't really see any reason to replace it with an Air for notes... this runs Word / Pages just fine.

    As far as money goes, my budget for this is directly correlated to how much I sell my old car for. I'm hoping to get between $2k and $2.5k. I could toss in an extra couple hundred on top of that if I needed to.
     
  17. iMikeT macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2006
    Location:
    California
    #17

    When Apple first transitioned the iMac to use Intel CPUs, they were using the same Core Duo chips that were also found in the MacBook Pro. In fact, the guts of the iMac were no different than that of the MacBook Pro and for a while, the iMac was nothing more than the desktop version the MacBook Pro. However, in 2009 Apple began to use desktop Core i-series CPUs in the iMac, marking the first time since the PPCG5 CPU that the iMac used desktop chips. Today, the guts of the iMac are a combination of desktop and high-end portable hardware. The reason for this is to reduce heat as much as possible while keeping the all-in-one form factor.

    Personally, I would love a Mac Pro as my desktop machine. However, it is way out of my budget. If I went ahead and bought a Mac Pro configured the way I wanted plus getting a Cinema Display, I could buy two high-end iMacs configured the way I wanted and the base model MacBook Pro for roughly the same price. Since I don't have that kind of cash, I made the compromise of going ahead and buying the high-end iMac. To be honest, the iMac, even with having a high-end laptop GPU and using laptop grade RAM, is plenty fast for my needs (photography and graphics processing on top of everyday use). I think having a 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7 desktop CPU makes all the difference. Before having something to truly differentiate the iMac from the MacBook Pro, I also thought of it as a "MacBook Pro on a stick", if you will. But after using the newest iMac and truly running it through its paces, I will not be thinking that way again.



    I purchased my iMac using the education discount. The iMac, configured to my specs, was $2,169 alone. After adding Apple Care, the free printer (after rebate), and taxes, my total was $2,600. I'll be getting $100 back from the printer rebate making the grand total $2,500.
     
  18. Junkie2 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2008
    #18
    It may sound dumb, but ~20% of my college classes did not allow me to use my computer. I found that the lower tier colleges tend to disallow computers while the top ranked schools accept them. Case in point 95% of my classes at a top 25 school let me use my macbook pro (just not math), while only around 40% let me use my macbook pro in my local state school.

    go figure. I dont know if this applies to you at all but its definitely something to keep in mind.

    IMO i'd go with a decked out macbook pro. I freakin love mine and will most likely never get a new computer (late 2008 first edition unibody) .
     
  19. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #19
    Thankgod I live in the UK. So far in college I have been able to use a computer (and have done so) in 100% of my classes. But I dont think a single portable will be that optimal for video editing or sound design, the only portable I could survive with is a 15/17" MacBook Pro with a Cinema Display as an external to do what I do (Which is basically Final Cut Studio, CS5.5 and Logic Studio) - I would Never underestimate how much better DAW and NLEs are at 2560*1440 compared to 1920*1200 and below - and then you get too tempted to just use the laptop as a desktop. Its much better to "let each element be true to itself" (- Steve Jobs, iMac G4 Intro) and get a laptop thats the ultimate laptop (11" Air for me, but no bigger than a 13" Model), and a Powerful Desktop to do the heavy lifting (iMac/Mac Pro).
     
  20. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    Tallahassee, Florida
    #20
    3. iMac for power when you need to edit and the MBA for taking to class and/or typing notes on. I have an 07 MB that I'm actually selling right now to fund for a new MBP or maybe an Air if the refresh is a good one and the prices are right.

    Because you're editing and doing media oriented things, you're going to need a higher graphics card.
     
  21. DJLC thread starter macrumors 6502a

    DJLC

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Location:
    Mooresville, NC
    #21
    I'm starting to lean toward getting a 27" iMac w/ 3.1GHz Core i7 and replacing the logic board in my old MacBook. I can replace it for $399 and possibly upgrade to a SSD. IMO, this will be very comparable in speed to a new MacBook Air without having to spend another grand. I have no problems with the portability of this MacBook, so I don't feel like I need to spend an extra $600 to get a shiny, thin, gorgeous Air.

    As for using it in class, I'm not at all worried about that. I will be going to a state school, but it's the top ranked campus with small class sizes and etc. They're very tech friendly; I can even have my own wireless router in the dorm!
     
  22. CD4287 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2011
    #22
    Most "tech friendly" schools won't let you have your own wireless routers in the dorms (unless you are on private ISP as opposed to the schools) for security reasons. The school I went to installed wireless in the dorms about 4 years ago and had wireless in the academic buildings and green spaces.
     
  23. iMikeT macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2006
    Location:
    California
    #23

    I think you mean the Core i5 as the i7 runs at 3.4GHz.

    Good luck with repairing the MacBook. Are you going to do it on your own or will you be sending it out?
     
  24. Airforcekid macrumors 65816

    Airforcekid

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Location:
    United States of America
    #24
    3 is what I did and have now the perfect setup an iPad dosent hurt with them too!
     

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