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Extensive buying list for a future student and perfectionist


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 1, 2010
Hello everybody 

for a long time I have been frequently checking macrumors to stay on top of all the information around mac. I joined the family two month ago with my iPad, the first apple device ever (that I bought, of course).
This October I will start with university and having nothing better to do I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the perfect equipment for a student who is kind of a perfectionist when it comes to high-tech. I have some money left after month of travelling so it would be great if some of you experts could check my list/ideas for my dorm setup.

Important points:
• Subject involves tons of writing and reading
• I study in England but come from Germany, so I will travel back and forth very often
• I want to keep as many things as possible digital, flexible and lightweight
• I want to do light gaming but only occasionally but need lots of space for music and movies
• I use my stuff a lot, and even though I want to protect it very well for resale value, I am not always thaaat careful when it comes to using my stuff. I will lug around everything in my bag and travel with it a lot.
• My budget is comparatively big but I am not a super rich kid with a no-limit credit card ;)

For writing, research and media:
• 13’ MacBook Pro 2,26Ghz
• Adding a 1000Gb 2,5’ Harddrive (does anybody know a good one, couldn’t fine anything)
• What kind of protection do I need? Is the following a bit too much? :
Twelve South Surface Pad,
ProTouch Keyboard Protector, MacBook 13" Arctic
See-Thru Case for 13-Inch MacBooks
Incase Neoprene Sleeve for 13-inch MacBook

For books and notes: (got it already)
• 16Gb iPad
• Apple Case
• Full Body Cover

For international Calls with Skype and because I always wanted one:
• iPhone 4
• Screen Protector: if possible anti-glare, any recommendations?
• Apple Case for free (will buy early enough to get it )

• 24’ monitor Samsung SyncMaster 2494HM
o official apple is too expensive to by two of them (Home and Dorm)
o it is quite big, any experiences, whether e.g. 21’ are enough for watching movies etc. too?
o Monitor stand, to hide Laptop under it

• 1000Gb External Harddrive
o for Backups with Time Machine
o Which one should I buy, if possible FireWire 800, no external Power. 2.5’. Is that already possible? I know, it is a lot to ask for.

• Airport Express
o (got probably only Ethernet in our dorms, so important for the iPad)

• iP 49 Docking Station
o For Music inside/outside
o Do I need computer speakers for “serious” sound in my 1 room apartment? That means music loud enough for 5-10 drunk people. ;)

• Bose Companion 2
o Is it worth it? Remember, I have to carry it on an airplane every two month.
o Maybe only the TwelveSouth Bass?

• Sennheiser MM 400
o Anything on a similar performance level but cheaper? Does anybody know something about the duration of the batteries?

• iPad Dock
o (is there one that fits the Apple Case, cause the official one doesn’t, right?)

• Magic Mouse
o (really worth it? Have a Logitech Nano, but that blocks a usb Port, not sure about that)

• CableJive DuaLink
o Less cables while travelling!
• Scosche USB 2.0 Sync cable for iPod and iPhone
• USB Stick
o for carrying small Data packages

• I think last week I found a kind of organizer case for all the stuff but can’t find it anymore. Any hints?
• So it is possible to switch the plug ins on the power supply cables, but where can I buy single ones? I will be in the States, England and Germany a lot, all of which have different connectors, so I will need at least two of the three kinds, but don’t want to buy the traveller pack two times. Any ideas?

I know that are tons of questions, sorry for that. Maybe it will help anybody else too, who tries to figure out his life on the road/train as an apple fanboy . ;)

Thank you for your help in advance!

Best regards!


macrumors 68030
Jul 21, 2009
United Kingdom
There is no 1000GB 2.5" drive. Biggest is a western digital 640GB. In regards to protection I just use a neoprene sleeve when carrying.

Get a time capsule for your backups.

Id scrap the iPhone 4 if you also want a gaming PC. A 13" MBP won't cut it for gaming.

The speck candy shell for ipad has a flap that allows it to work with the dock.

Sorry I can't be of more help.


May 8, 2008
On the Magic Mouse:

If you are use to using a 'regular mouse', like a Logitech (like I am), I think you'll find that Magic Mouse is a pain to use. When I upgraded to a Mac about two months ago I tried to get use to the MM, but its low form factor ultimately made it unusable for me. I'd recommend just getting a USB hub to use if you're worried about running out of USB ports. I found a Belkin 4 port model that works great for my needs.

There is no way I could recommend the MM to anyone in good faith in terms of every day usability.


On the monitor:

I was a History major in undergrad and had to do a lot of research intensive papers and found that 20 inch WS monitor worked great. I had a 14 inch laptop which is where I kept MS Word open and on the monitor I had various historical databases open and other sources. I think that you'll find a 24 inch monitor is a bit to big, my brother has a 24 monitor paired with a 13 macbook and the screen dwarfs his desk and is almost unusable when trying to work from both screens at the same time. (Though I suppose this depends on how close you like to be to your desk. He prefers to use his laptop keyboard which then dictates that he sit close to the monitors.) The 21.5 screen on my current Mac is great for watching movies and should be more than adequate in a dorm room. I use to watch tv shows and movies from Netflix on my old monitor while laying in bed with no problems viewing wise.


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 1, 2010
Thank you guys!

Hmm the 640gb is a 500gb external is already full and I wanted to get some free space. Having the Macbook + external harddrive + backup would result in lugging around a whole lot more. Isn't Time Capsule a) likely to fail after a few month and b) rather big in terms of size? I thought about it at first, but wasn't sure. btw.: is it possbile to connect an external harddrive to the MB and then backup both of them at the same time to the TC?

Thanks for the advice with the MM, that was my impression too.

For gaming i don't need much, so it will fit the bill I think. :)

Doesn't the MB gets easily scratched? I want to sell it on ebay after a few years, so I definitely want to avoid that.


macrumors 6502
Dec 1, 2009
I don't think you're thinking enough like a true college student :). I like to cut costs everywhere I can find and I wouldn't buy a lot of the things you'd like to have.

International Calls:
iPhone 4 and its plan was just way too expensive for me to even think about getting. Depending on how much you are on the phone, I would opt just to cut this out of your plan and just Skype/iChat with people at home on your computer.

Peripheria (sp?):
Just buy one monitor and keep it where you would be doing the most work. I barely went home when I was in college and when I did, I never got any studying or work done. If you can/will do a lot of work at home, it might be worth it to buy an extra monitor, but I really can't recommend it at this point. The 28" monitor I have now is pretty excessive and I can tell you now that you won't need something this big. However, I would get something reasonable like a 21" or 24" depending on price. If you aren't an art major or something, just buy any decent quality monitor you can find on sale. The Syncmaster you suggested is pretty nice, but I'm pretty sure you can find a 21" for around 100 USD that would have about the same resolution (1600x1050 or so) as that Syncmaster. Size isn't as important as max resolution in the case of monitors like these, IMO. If you can afford 2 of those Samsungs, I might recommend you just buy one Apple monitor because those things are freakin gorgeous.

You can't find this as a 2.5", and it won't be worth it to buy seeing as the price would probably be around $150-$200. I would spend $50-$100 buying a decent quality 1-2TB 3.5" external. There are many choices and I would try to look for a good deal.

Airport Express:
Don't do it. Most dorms (at least here in the United States) have wireless running now. If not, I would still opt to just bring an ethernet cable and just keep your laptop plugged in at all times, since you will have that external you'll keep it plugged into anyways. If you must have wireless, I'd opt for something cheap and reliable like a Linksys, etc for ~$10-30 on sale.

Sound Gear:
I only bought my Logitech i4's because I found em on sale for $30. I wouldn't buy any docking stations because they simply aren't worth it for me. You'd probably want to invest in a good pair of headphones because you'll use em a lot if you like music, etc (unlike me) and you have a roommate.

Magic Mouse:
Don't do it. Hurts my hand and you already have a good mouse.

CableJive DuaLink:
Not worth the price for me.

Traveler Packs:
I don't like to travel, so no recommendations here from me. I've never seen any on sale on slickdeals, but that might be because I never really looked for it.

I guess to end it, I'm super frugal and I don't like to pay retail on things that I deem to be not essential. I'll buy things if I see a good deal and I'd like to have it. I don't know what your financial situation is, but regardless, I think it's pretty important to learn to save your money and spend it wisely. Good luck with your decisions and have fun in college.


macrumors 68020
Jun 25, 2009
I joined the family two month ago with my iPad, the first apple device ever (that I bought, of course).

It's not a family. If it was, I would have already killed several of my siblings or myself.

About your list - I think it's OK, but I don't see the point of spending so much money on so many things that you'll hardly use in the end.

I think you might need a keyboard, though. If you'll have the iPad connected on the Samsung display, you'll need a Mini DisplayPort to DVI connector and you'll love to use the MacBook Pro as a matte iMac.


macrumors 604
Sep 19, 2003
That's a lot of stuff. You're an international student, you need to think light. Do you really need an iPhone, MacBook, AND an iPad? If I were you I'd do this:

Sell the iPad, using the extra money towards a 15" highres MBP, foregoing the need to buy a separate bulky monitor. Also, the 512MB 330m should be fine for games if you use Bootcamp.

Keep the free iPod that you will get with it, or sell it and get the new touch, hopefully with Facetime and a retina display, in September. If you are going to be using skype anyway for international calling, why bother with an iPhone's expensive service plan?

Buy an Airport Express only if your dorm doesn't have wireless Internet. Time Capsules are very overpriced. For an external, I recommend a Lacie d2--it has FW 800, 400, and USB. It's around $140. If you can get away with USB only you can get 1 TB for a lot less.


macrumors 68030
Jul 5, 2008
Thule GL @ the TOW is for having fun, studying to get good grades, working to pay for school and have drinking/gas money in your pocket, etc... I'd go with a refurb iMac or edu discount iMac and a netbook where you need portability (drop it or lose it, your only out a couple hundred $$ vise any apple product)... skype is great for free/cheap phone calls and you should look into a pre-paid phone for "emergency situations" = you don't need an expensive iPhone calling plan to pay while in school...

I have the Bose Companion 2's and like them but got them from a clearance rack for 50% off = I don't think I would have kept them at full price...

You may also want to wait to see what your room mate is like before making any of these expensive purchases (also see if your parents home insurance covers them in your dorm room)...


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 1, 2010
Okay, having looked through all your very helpful hints and recommendations I came to the following final questions: :)

How do you handle your backups? with a 250HDD built in and a 1tb for media I am afraid of the day my external will crash.
I found the TC a bit overpriced too so I am not sure about that as a solution.

But yeah, I cut my list a little shorter after your posts. ;)


May 8, 2008
Yeah, the TC is way overpriced and as a side note, all internet connected devices at my university had to be registered for network access and TCs were not supported.

Personally I like Western Digital drives. At Best Buy, in the US at least and I would imagine Amazon elsewhere, you can get a decent 1.5 TB or 2 TB drive for about $150 USD. Short of going all the way and setting up a Drobo, I think that one or two of these drives would be the best option.

In fact I'm planning on getting this 1.5 TB model at Best Buy in the near future to back up my iMac and external drive I use for ripping movies.

I just noticed that it went on sale today for $95. Not too shabby.


macrumors 65816
Nov 9, 2009
Don't buy:

Monitor, not even one
Hardshells of any kind
all the other stuff mentioned

Only thing you NEED as a student is your brain and your MBP 13". Maybe a girl but you wont attract any with a dorm full of geek toys.

Alcohol is quite expensive in UK so save your money. If you still have to much money left per month send it to my bank account.

Ernsthaft, lass es. Grüße.


macrumors 6502a
Jul 7, 2008
You can't find this as a 2.5", and it won't be worth it to buy seeing as the price would probably be around $150-$200. I would spend $50-$100 buying a decent quality 1-2TB 3.5" external. There are many choices and I would try to look for a good deal.

I completely disagree with the first line of this statement. You can find several 2.5" 1TB internal and external hard drives. Western Digital makes the My Passport Essential Series in the 1TB 2.5" form factor. The Mac version of this drive sells for about 130 bucks on Amazon. There is also a cheaper, but slightly larger (still 1 tb, 2.5") "elements" version which is on sale for $100 right now at Amazon.

EDIT: here is the link for the 1TB Passport for Mac drive


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 1, 2010
@iPhysicist: That is the reason I buy all the stuff, I already have my girl and want to stay out of trouble, so I just try to scare off all other girls with my geek room. ;)

And yeah, alcohol is expensive...but i just come from Canada right now, so it can't get worse!

The WD looks great, thanks a lot! I just need to find a 1tb internal that fits and all my backup worries are solved. :)

P.S.: iPad for reading PDF books is awesome. Just finished my first one of the prep. reading list and having 50+ book marks + all my annotations in a normal book... (I use iAnnotate) and I have about 20 books with me in one light device. :)


macrumors 6502a
Aug 24, 2008
I think you should start school before shelling out the cash. I don't think you'll be using the stuff the way you think you will use them. I know I didn't. And you didn't give us a lot of background on what you will be doing.

All I really use is a second display, an apple keyboard, mouse, external drive, good speakers and of course my 13" macbook.

For the iPhone, I don't really see where it fits in your stuff. I'd rather get an iPhone + 13" MBP than iPad + 13" MBP. I mean, you can run the apps and do possibly more on the iPad I don't see what you'll be doing with it that you wouldn't be able to do with your computer + ipad.

Get the big drive in the MBP and a neoprene case, no real need for more.

24" display sounds good. Don't hide your MBP under it, having them side by side is fantastic you can see so much more stuff with the additional screen space, also the computer's fans don't work as hard when it's open.

I don't know if all your stuff will fit on the on board 250gb or how much content you create. If you just have some occasional photos and generally just type some documents for school, 1TB should be plenty to split some space to fit stuff like movies on one side and time machine on the other. You can even do some backups of really important stuff at your parents place in Germany and access them over web, if let's say something really bad happened like a fire and destroyed both your HDDs at the same time.

For the docking station/speakers, just get a really good set a single really good set of speakers and stick to that. I know I would never listen to music on my docking station if it sounds like crap compared to my computer's system, especially in a one room apartment, you can't be more than a few feet away from either one.

--> also, I seriously doubt you will want to bring your speakers, monitor and all your stuff with you on the plane when visiting. As I said, you probably won't go there to study and for the amount of time you will, I think just the laptop + iPad will do a great job.

Get an keyboard, I like the apple one as it feels pretty much the same as one the laptop, only a bit lower and has a bit of a slant. It lets you put the keyboard comfortably in front of where you are working and also acts a USB hub.

As for the cabling you were talking about, I don't think you will be bringing you computer and iPad with you everywhere you go all day long everyday. And don't forget, you won't far away from your dorm. As I said, I don't really see what's the point of buying all this stuff until you actually start school and you probably won't need it right away. Heck I know a lot of people who are in university right now and don't have a computer.


macrumors regular
Jun 14, 2009
I am not in exactly the same situation as you as I am studying for a degree from home with the Open University, but I am doing similar subjects to you, so hopefully my experiences will help you.

Firstly, think carefully about whether you need a wireless base station. If it's only for your iPad and you have a reasonable amount of money available, would you be better to sell that and swap it for a 3G model, and use that for Skype etc. as well rather than getting an iPhone?

Case: A neoprene sleeve is a good, lightweight bet you can carry in a bigger bag. I have recently been looking into buying one of those clear military grade plastic coatings, and you might want to think about that for added protection.

Monitor: From my experience, definitely get one, and I would say 24" is ideal, although 21" might be ok if it's good quality, and would probably fit better on your desk. You will need the room for all the documents you will read and create. Like the above reviewer said, I think you would find it an advantage to be able to see both screens at once, though.

Mouse: I haven't used the MM, but I think you will need something more comfortable-I think you might do well to try this:

Backup drives: Go cheap and multiple. You never know when things will break, so don't keep all your eggs in one basket. If you keep several, you can rotate them between dorm and Germany, giving you an offsite backup as well. Also consider using a service such as Mozy to back up key academic work. Also get plenty of cheap USB keys for immediate backup and transport of files.

Headphones: Can't offer buying tips, but I got a pair of £20 Phillips in-ear buds that give really good sound but I wouldn't break my heart over if they get lost.

Depending on how you use the external monitor you may want to look into getting an external keyboard.

iPhone: For your needs, I wouldn't. Get the free iPod Touch with your Mac as a portable system. Use Skype on that, and email wherever there is a WiFi network. If you need to make other calls, get yourself a cheap contract from somewhere like Dialaphone (but for goodness sake remember to send in the cashback claims). Save money here as much as possible.

Use the cash you have saved to invest in what will really help you at Uni-good software:

Scrivener: Just so useful for everything. If you don't already have it, download the trial and then buy it.

DevonThink: I don't think you'll find it overkill to buy this right at the start of your Uni career and scale it as you go on. You will be astounded at the amount of files you collect, so make finding them easy.

Omnigraffle: Amazingly useful in so many ways.

Ditto 'Curio'.

Microsoft Office and 'Endnote': Probably required, almost certainly needed.

VoodooPad: I find it invaluable for building up a bank of notes-you may too. TRy the free version and see.

Skim: It's free. Use it.

Macjournal: If your course requires you to use a learning journal, this is ideal.

Virus Checker: Before anyone screams at me, I know you won't have problems with viruses on your mac, but you can pass them on to windows users. The OU requires every submission to be virus checked-your Uni probably will too.

iPad apps: Whichever model you opt for, you will find it more useful as time goes on. You already have iAnnotate (good choice). Add Pages, maybe Keynote, a good notes app of your choice (Notebooks is really good), Outliner, and a really good To-Do list. (PI crashes, To-Do looks good but isn't great to use, Taska is great but simple, I haven't yet tried Things or Omnifocus, but I recommend you try at least one of these. Maybe get SaiSuke depending on how good you find the default calendar, and trawl the productivity section of the store for other apps you think you'll use.

I am a total perfectionist, and if I had the money I would add several things to my set up, but they would mostly be small things such as the kensington mouse. Don't spend the cash just because you have it-wait and see on some of the extras-you have no idea yet if you'll use them. Good luck and enjoy your studies!


macrumors 6502
Nov 9, 2008
And yeah, alcohol is expensive...but i just come from Canada right now, so it can't get worse!


Canada is the worse of the developed countries. However, it has the best reputation. I still don't understand why.:confused:


macrumors regular
Jul 10, 2008
Man, spend your money on LIVING, not on all that ****.

I don't believe there's any reason to have more than one iOS device.

Don't be so dependent upon 'stuff'.


macrumors 604
Jan 26, 2008
Isla Nublar
FWIW I LOVE the magic mouse. I hated it for the first hour I had it than grew to absolutely love it.

That being said I use it for every day stuff like surfing, emails, internet, word documents, etc.

When I open up Maya, or Unity, or something that requires three buttons I switch to my logitech mx performance mouse (I think thats what its called).

I used to have the nano and I like the MM much much better then the nano.


macrumors 6502
Dec 1, 2009
I completely disagree with the first line of this statement. You can find several 2.5" 1TB internal and external hard drives. Western Digital makes the My Passport Essential Series in the 1TB 2.5" form factor. The Mac version of this drive sells for about 130 bucks on Amazon. There is also a cheaper, but slightly larger (still 1 tb, 2.5") "elements" version which is on sale for $100 right now at Amazon.

EDIT: here is the link for the 1TB Passport for Mac drive

Sorry about that. That's a pretty decent drive too, although I'm too frugal to buy it at that price and would just buy a 500GB drive for ~$50 now. Just to add to the information, you shouldn't care if it's a Mac version or a PC version because the software that comes packaged with the drives are basically useless to me and are more of a hassle because they preopen apps when you plug them in. If you find a PC version of the same drive for cheap, opt for that one and format it in HFS+ or FAT32 or just install MacFUSE and stuff to get NTFS to read/write on Mac.
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