CompSci Senior: Macbook Pro or MacMini?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Earendil, May 20, 2008.

  1. Earendil macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    I'm sure people see my thread title and think I'm confused, as I just listed two machines on completely opposite ends of the price spectrum. Here is the deal, in a few short points:

    1. I'm going into my senior year as a Computer Science Student.
    2. I have an aging Powerbook 1.25 ghz (anyone remember Motorola?)
    3. Summer Internship will pay very well.

    That is where I'm at, now for what I want:

    1. Run Windows applications, For development and other
    2. Run modern applications without lagging and hanging
    3. Not spend so much that I can't pay for my senior yea of college (that would suck)
    4. Get something that will hold me for 12-18 months, as I won't have another income check until I have a job post-uni.

    Just the facts, ma'am:
    1. I have around $2500 to spend on a computer, but that leaves me no money for my car, little spending money for the year, etc etc. I could pay a few college bills, and sink the rest into a computer. My next main machine I want to be a mid-high range Macbook Pro.
    2. I currently have a full external setup for my Powerbook, including 20" LCD, keyboard, mouse, HD.
    3. I will not have another source of income until after I graduate and am employed.

    So I figure my two choices are:
    1. Sink all my money into the machine I want, keep it for 2-4 years, and pray to God I don't need any extra money in the next 12 months past what I can foresee (Yeah, I'm not that blessed).
    2. Go for the lowest end computer that does what I want, and have it tied me over until I have a consistent good income where I can get the machine I want. I'd also have money for an iPhone, more camera gear, other gadets, and still have a safety net of money left over.

    Closing note:
    I do not think that my Powerbook is going to make it this time period. First, it's now 4.5 years old, and I'd be asking it to go another 12-18 months. She is still running well as I take care of her software side, and she's been a beast, having nothing but an HD failure over the course of some heavy abuse (backpacking costa rica with lappy anyone?). But I *need* a computer for school, and having one that can double for some windows dev would be a huge bonus.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this? Sorry about the long explanation :rolleyes:

  2. italiano40 macrumors 65816


    Oct 7, 2007
    i would go with the macbook pro that is what i use and i am in compsci
  3. Earendil thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    I follow Macrumors and other rumors closely. I'm well aware the MacMini *should* be updated (or dropped entirely) soon, and that the Macbook Pros are bound to see an update in the next couple months.
    So no matter what course I choose, I will wait for the update cycle to pass so that I'm getting the most bang for my buck, either by buying new, or getting the previous revision.
  4. Eric. macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2008
    It sounds like it would be best for you to compromise for the time being and get something newer that will do the job. Have you considered getting a closeout/refurbished Macbook Pro? Even getting the cheapest one you can find will be better than your Powerbook and you could probably sell it for nearly as much in a couple of years to get the MBP that you really want. Or as you have the Mac mini as another choice, would a Macbook with a couple gigs of RAM do the job you need it to do until you could get a MBP?

    There's always the PC side of things as well. You could build something quite a bit more powerful than the Mac Mini for the same price. I don't know if you absolutely require it to be a Mac though.
  5. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    A current chipset refurb MacBook + AppleCare + Ext Drive might be a good choice, as long as integrated graphics would hold you.

    Offers the plus of a huge upgrade in durability, which for a struggling student may be worth the downgrade alone.

    See way too many threads of student tripping over a cord, or simply knocking their machine onto the floor the night of a BIG DEADLINE.
  6. LotusLord macrumors 6502a


    Apr 28, 2008
    The Capital of the Land of Cheese and Beer
    This seems like a good idea to me, provided the integrated graphics are good enough for you.
  7. jeremy.king macrumors 603


    Jul 23, 2002
    Fuquay Varina, NC
  8. Earendil thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    I'm not sure which side of things you are arguing for, or if you are offering up a third option.

    That options is a lot less powerful than the Macbook Pro option, which I want in my professional life post university, and want to last me 2-4 years. And yet it is also a lot more expensive than a Mac Mini, while still offering about the same power and speed (assuming Mini's are updated soon).

    I *do* still have a functioning laptop that I can take notes with in my few remaining gen ed classes, and for casual coffee shop surfing.

    With my current monitor+keyboard+mouse wouldn't a $500 mini +edu discount (or refurb) offer me far more bang for my buck?
    Do you dislike the Mini option? Why would you choose the Macbook?

    I hope I don't come across as criticizing, I'm just curious why exactly you suggested what you did :)
  9. SDLSteve macrumors 6502

    Dec 27, 2004
    Macbook Pro. It'll take at least two months for any new refurb to show up on the site.
  10. Earendil thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    Not something I had considered, interesting. I may look into this and see what this does for my budget. See what I can get compared to a MacMini. However It's not so much the long term cost of computers that I'm concerned with, as much as the immediate availability of cash, and having that cash last another year.

    I'm not sure what the Macbook offers over a mini, except the portability and the extra $700 (if you think applecare in addition). Thoughts on that?

    [/QUOTE]There's always the PC side of things as well. You could build something quite a bit more powerful than the Mac Mini for the same price. I don't know if you absolutely require it to be a Mac though.[/QUOTE]

    Also not something I had considered...
    However, if my Powerbook dies, I would be without a way to use the majority of my programs and files. Yes, I could get all my word docs off, but most other info would be useless until I got another OSX machine. Plus, I don't know if I can imagine a world where a Windows based machine is my only computer ;-)

    Off the top of your heard, what do you think $500-$700 gets you in the build yourself market these days? I won't blame you if you're off by a bit, just curious. I'm thinking I'd have to do a lot of research before I could come up with my own figures. Never build my own machine or looked into it, however it's easily within my capabilities, and sounds like fun :D
  11. iShater macrumors 604


    Aug 13, 2002
    If portability is NOT big on your list, it makes sense with all the external components that you already have to go with a MacMini.

    You can either get:
    1) Refurbished MacMini -
    Why refurbished? because it comes with the 1 year full warranty from Apple, has all the latest software they ship with new systems, and will save you money. (They seem to be out of them at the moment though).

    2) An edu-discounted MacMini-
    You are a student, so I think you can save maybe $50 or so on it.

    With the money you save, buy a copy of windows and Vmware/parallels and you will be set for school and beyond.

    While getting a MB/MBP would be sweet, I don't see a justification for it, especially if your budget is tight. A nice computer won't make you sleep better if you are broke. :)
  12. fatcat23 macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2008
    Apple Developer Discount

    Whatever you choose to purchase, buy it from the apple online store and use the developer student discount. You buy the developer licence for $99 and then you get one hardware purchase discount and a free copy of the latest os for free.

    There is a special section for students, and since your comp sci you would definitely qualify.

    Also after you make your purchase, buy applecare off ebay and not from apple, as you could probably save $100-150 this way.

    An example of savings would be the 17"MBP being 2400 instead of 3100 CAD.
    It's a huge saving. Everything is discounted including the displays and accessories. As well as any Build to order upgrades you add on(extra ram, hd, etc.)

    Also I would buy a mb if i was you. Unless you need the dedicated vram.

    Edit (Warning):
    They will check to make sure your a developer and don't just use it for normal non developer stuff. This is mostly for others, as i don't want to be blamed if you get in trouble from apple, etc.

    Comp sci and Engineering student wont have a problem to qualify, maybe(probably) other's too. But i can vouch for comp sci and engineering students.
  13. steeler macrumors regular

    Jan 30, 2008
    As a former CompSci student, I opted for the portability of a laptop -- that was important to me since I lived off campus. It was during the dark ages of my computing life, so it was a Windows laptop, but it served its purpose. If I were making that same decision today, it would be a MacBook or MacBook Pro, probably one of the Apple store refurbs. This was suggested earlier in the thread, but I wanted to add a little more weight to it. It seems like a good idea to me.
  14. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Nothing wrong with the Mini, but if it is for college, having a computer in class or portable will likely help.

    The Macbook being made of plastic, is a college students friend. The MacBook Pro is rather fragile.

    The money you save getting the MacBook is welcome, as is the durability.

    Might be able to get away with the PowerBook for most in class stuff, but if the test requires Windows it won't work. All depends on the school and what requirements some of their departments might have. Though they are swinging more Mac recently anyhow, which helps.


    Right now without an update, the Mini is rather long in the tooth, and in a few years. :eek:


    If you cannot afford Apple Care, and have a credit card ... check to see if that has a warranty doubling on electronics and/or computers.
  15. ayeying macrumors 601


    Dec 5, 2007
    Yay Area, CA
    Go with the MacBook Pro if you want portability. Mac Mini if you don't. Easy and Simple. Remember the MacBook Pro is far more powerful (due to the dedicated graphics card) then the Mini.
  16. Earendil thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    So, based on what I'm reading here, it sounds like I should:

    Go with my dream machine Macbook Pro if I come into some more money.

    Go with a refurb/used low end Macbook Pro, and resell in a year to get my dream machine.

    Get a Macbook if portability is a concern (and it isn't right now)

    Get a Mac Mini if the power is great enough for my needs. No one has voiced any concerns doing dev work in wondows/OSX with this option, or playing simple/old games, so I figure this option works.

    Two last questions (and I'm of course open to other opinions):
    1. I know the resale value for Apple computers is still good, but how good? If I buy a refurb Macbook Pro for say $2000, what might I expect to get in a years time for it? $1500? $1000? $500? Ballpark might be a nice thing from anyone who has been watching the market. I swear I won't hold you to your guess!
    2. What are the limiting factors of the Mini? It uses a 2.5in Drive, right? The graphics card is another one, but that will be a personal preference thing. If internet in my house is only available by Wireless, what are my options for the Mini?

    Cheers all,
  17. fatcat23 macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2008
    A lowend 15.4 Macbook pro is 1679 Canadian and the mid white macbook is 1214 Canadian on the Developer Site and the lowend macbook is 1034 Canadian. All prices are plus the $100 fee. Convert to american which is cheaper btw.

    The mac mini is so slow. If you really want to get it, wait for a upgrade (if at all).

    Why would you not use the developer discount when you are developer yourself????? Seriously, I'm confused. Do you have a reason or did you not read my earlier post?
  18. Earendil thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    Sorry, I meant to mention that the Developer discount is being accounted for. I would certainly use it if I were to go for the MacBook Pro.

    However, I am not looking to get a Macbook Pro just to get a nice looking case, there are things in it that I want to have in the machine I will have for some time. VRAM being a big one.

    While a Mini may be slow, it's a helluva lot faster than a 1.25ghz G4 (Pre intel, for the youngins). But this machine had the max VRAM at the time, 64mb, and every port known to man, including FW800. It has served me very very well, and is in fact STILL serving me. But the ability to run Windows and OSX on the same machine is appealing for development work, the Mini would make it a heck of a lot easier to manage the photos my dSLR spits out, and it would handle WCIII better than my powerbook ;-)
    I'm liking the mini more and more (pending updates), but I'm still open to arguments in the other direction :)

    I won't be ready to make the purchase until mid summer, so we'll see where the market stands then. But unless the prices come down a tiny bit, or the hardware shifts in a way that I find acceptable at a lower price point, OR my financial situation changes, than I think I'll go for something less than what I want in order to hold me over until my career delivers its first check.

    I do have one question about the Developer discount scene. What is the difference (cost wise) between the Student developer and the Developer, because I believe an OSX Developer also gets discounts on hardware?
  19. fatcat23 macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2008
    No worries about not remembering....I was just really confused. lol.

    The developer discount works nicely. The more money you spend the greater % in savings you recieve. Which makes it great if you want the macbook pro.

  20. bart rijksen macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2008
    Macbook pro. The mac mini will be slow, and outdated in 1-2 years, and you'll have to get a new computer to have it handle the big application. A macbook pro is much better for the long run. Get the macbook pro.
  21. Earendil thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    Well, I think people are mixing up my goals here after all these posts, which is to be expected :)

    I am aware that the Mini is garbage, but it is cheap OSX Garbage that weighs in considerably faster than my 1.25ghz G4 PB. When I bought this thing it was top of the line, I bought it instead of a car, and dropped some $2500 on it four years ago before college. At the time I sprung for things like the 64mb VRAM over the 32, and have since put more RAM in it and faster/larger HDs.

    So, I've got the interesting scenario of having a summer only income, until after I graduate and get a job. My current Powerbook *works*, and handles my school work. For my major there are Lab computers available, and I quite like using them because a bunch of the guys in the major choose to use them and it's great community.

    However, during the school year and this summer, I can see myself wanting to do windows development. I can see myself wanting to at least dink around with iPhone dev, perhaps even really get into it (Need an intel mac for that too). And a Mini *would* beyond a shadow of a doubt be faster than my Powerbook working things like Photoshop. Hell, having a computer that can handle HD video would be nice, as mine currently can not.

    That said, a Mini is not portable, and my life style is benefited greatly by having a mobile computer (but I still have my PB), so in the LONG run I am going to get a Macbook Pro, the question is whether I get it now and sacrifice extra money and other things (like an iPhone), or I wait a year and get it then, after I've used a Mini to hold me over.

    Obviously I don't want a Mini for a long term machine, it would never last me 3 years, and would be holding me back once my Powerbook actually bites the bullet in the mobility category.

    So, unless anyone thinks the Mini will be slower than my Powerbook in any test of speed, OR you don't think the Mini has any draw backs other than speed (when compared to other latest and greatest), than I think I'll go for the Mini pending a revision. Unless of course I get a bigger paycheck sometime soon :)

    As for the developer question, I was having a brain fart. I was thinking the discount was similar to the EDU discount, where you prove on a per purchase basis that you qualify for it, when in reality I KNOW that it's based on being a paid ADC member. Without looking, I'm guessing the only difference is that the Student Developer pays a smaller yearly fee to be an ADC member.

    Thanks all,

    For the fun of it, xBench has some average submitted scores up on they website. They list the following scores. And you think the Mini is slow compared to the Macbook Pro, look at what I'm dealing with! :(

    iMac (CRT) 13.5
    Alum Powerbook 42.5
    Mini (old) 46.8
    Mini (Intel duo) 95
    Macbook Pro (Core 2) 107.3

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