First-time Mac buyer looking for a college laptop

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by 99redballoons, May 29, 2009.

  1. 99redballoons macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    #1
    I'll be a freshman in college this fall, and I'm looking to replace my current laptop (Dell Inspiron 1501) which is steadily dying. The trouble is, I'm not sure which model to buy. I'm not too savvy with computer specs and such.

    I'm hoping this laptop will last me through the 3-4 years of undergraduate. (Should I drop $349 on AppleCare? That's quite a hefty price tag; is it worth it?) Also, I plan on gaming quite often and I'm hoping to see an increase in performance speed and graphics from my current laptop, which shouldn't be too difficult considering its specs (2GB RAM, AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor 1.7GHz, ATI Radeon Xpress).

    Is it likely the MacBook/Pro series will update within the time frame of the back-to-school promo? Should I wait until the last week before the promo is over, in case an update happens?

    The MBP 15" 2.66 looks quite attractive, but of course, I'd like to save money wherever possible. Will the 2.4 do? Is 2GB RAM enough? (The sluggishness of this laptop really frustrates me at times, but I'm not even entirely sure if this is related to the amount of RAM.)

    Also, should I buy any accompanying software? I realize MBP comes with OSX and iLife, but is iWork necessary? Worth paying for? I heard Macs are less susceptible to malware, etc. attacks. Does this eliminate the need to buy security software?
     
  2. EX1127 macrumors 6502

    EX1127

    Joined:
    May 26, 2009
    Location:
    Louisiana
    #2
    I went through this last year when i was getting mine. The first and formost thing you should see is if your college has requirements for the laptop that you need to get.
     
  3. 99redballoons thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 29, 2009
    #3
    I don't think so. I'm going to a state school and I'm not majoring in anything computer-related.
     
  4. EX1127 macrumors 6502

    EX1127

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    May 26, 2009
    Location:
    Louisiana
    #4
    The MacBook might update im not sure either should probably wait till after the conference in June.


    Dependent on your use of the computer will be the decider on updating ram. I dont game on this one so i wouldnt know that answer.

    As for the viruses its very true they dont get any or they have a rare occurrence of getting them. I decided to run a scan on mine for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it was perfectly fine
     
  5. Zagreus macrumors member

    Zagreus

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    Jan 9, 2009
    Location:
    Bradford, West Yorkshire, U.K
    #5
    I agree with the above poster, in terms of the RAM and processor upgrades it really depends on exactly what you are going to do with the computer. If you're taking it to college then I'd assume you're going to be playing music, light photo editing, little video editing, writing essays that sort of thing, then 2 GB of RAM is probably enough with a 2.4GHz processor. But if you're doing anything more processor or RAM intensive, Photoshop, Final Cut etc then the upgrades will show themselves to be more useful.

    In terms of AppleCare I would say that if you're expecting the laptop to last for 3 - 4 years then you should invest in it, not just because of the support you get but at least for piece of mind. In this vein I would also recommend a good backup strategy because you don't want to be losing work in finals week etc. But with AppleCare at least you know if your system does fail for some reason you can be guaranteed a replacement as long as you haven't voided the warranty for some reason.
     
  6. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    Mar 2, 2008
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    Always a day away
    #6
    I have a MacBook and an iMac, and I have AppleCare on each. Granted, it didn't cost $349; but once you're enrolled in college you can get it cheaper.

    Just a friendly bit of advice, and not a lecture: stick with school work and leave the gaming for between-semester breaks. I speak from experience. ;)


    Typically no. The back-to-school promo seems to be a tool to help Apple dump some older stock. They're not gonna update the laptops AND give you a free iPod. Though that would be nice.

    Save your money and get the 2.4. Spend your savings on upgrading the RAM to 4 Gb.

    Honestly, I would wait until you're in class and see if it's going to make a difference. The majority of people you share files with will likely be using Office; however, it isn't necessarily a given that you'll be sharing a lot of files.

    I think the new Macs come with trials of Office and iWork - give them each a test drive before you buy either.

    Neither of these will have any sway, really, in what the school will recommend to you (if they make recommendations) or what they will require (if they have a requirement). It's not too soon to talk to people in your future academic apartment to see if there are any requirements.
     
  7. donga macrumors 6502a

    donga

    Joined:
    May 16, 2005
    Location:
    AZ
    #7
    OP: you really need to check out the education store and see the prices you'll be paying, plus you get the BTS promo ipod deal and the always running printer deal

    Applecare for MBP is $239 and for MB is $183 in the education store.
     
  8. student_trap macrumors 68000

    student_trap

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2005
    Location:
    'Ol Smokey, UK
    #8
    Firstly, if it is that costly, applecare may not be worth it if you are already paying insurance for your stuff.

    Secondly, a macbook would suit your needs well enough i should think, personally i'd go with the white one (which has just been updated - although not majorly) and possibly bump the ram to 4 gigs and you'll be absolutely fine. TBH, for all my work here at uni I use a 10 year old ibook clamshell (although it is more snappy than my girlfriends 3 year old dell!), but i do have my mac pro for anything more serious.

    If you are only going to do the basics, id definitely go for the white macbook, save my money to spend on fun stuff at uni...like beer
     
  9. J&JPolangin macrumors 68030

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    Jul 5, 2008
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    Thule GL @ the TOW
    #9
    ...I have open office on my iMac and iWork... it just depends on what mood I'm in to use either program...
     
  10. alphaod macrumors Core

    alphaod

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Location:
    NYC
    #10
    If you can afford it, the best I would go is a 2.4GHz MacBook Pro. You can always upgrade the HDD and RAM for cheap (even if you can't do it yourself, I'm sure you have a friend who can install it for free). You won't see a performance issue, and it will pretty much run anything you need.

    If you want a 13" computer, then obviously the 2.0GHz MacBook is adequate—again cheap HDD and RAM upgrades.

    And yes keep out of video games while in college—you don't want to get screwed when your day's work gets out of sync. Speaking from experience here too.
     
  11. Airforcekid macrumors 65816

    Airforcekid

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    Sep 29, 2008
    Location:
    United States of America
    #11
    If you plan on carrying it get a high end 15 inch pro upgrade the ram and hard drive and get an external mouse/monitor for the SAME money you can get the white macbook and an iMac for gaming etc I would prefer the second setup one goes down you still have the other!
     
  12. Airforcekid macrumors 65816

    Airforcekid

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    #12
    I would rather have a nicer mac:)
     
  13. neiltc13 macrumors 68040

    neiltc13

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    May 27, 2006
    #13
    I'm assuming by the age of your Dell that it runs Windows, but I'm confused by your comment that there is a "need to buy security software". I haven't run any sort of security software or antivirus protection on any of my Windows machines for several years. They're all fine and from experience with other people's computers I'd say that this "security" software causes more harm than good. Microsoft has made incredible progress in the past couple of years in making its Operating Systems far more secure by default so I'd say that there definitely isn't a need for it now.

    iWork is a reasonable Office package but it isn't compatible with many standards. Apple claims that it will operate fine with Microsoft Office documents (the industry standard) but more often than not you'll find that formatting or alignment are completely destroyed when you try to export or import a Word document. Try Open Office which is completely free from www.openoffice.org - there is both a Windows and OS X version.

    You didn't really tell us what you want to use the computer for so it's impossible to make a recommendation, but as I do with everyone here who says they are a "first time Mac buyer" I will warn you that they have problems too. If you're hoping a Mac will be the perfect machine then I suggest you look elsewhere!
     
  14. js81 macrumors 65816

    js81

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2008
    Location:
    KY
    #14
    Any new Macbook/Pro will blow your old Dell out of the water. I think you'd be pretty happy regardless or your choice - its mostly preference and screen size. I, personally, think the newly updated white Macbook is the best deal, but its also bottom of the pile, so to speak. The 15" Pro is a good middle ground if you have the money to spend.
     
  15. 99redballoons thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    #15
    Alright, thanks guys! I think I will be going with a 13" MacBook 2.4 with the 4GB RAM upgrade. This also makes AppleCare cheaper ($183), though my school's bookstore doesn't give a discount.
     

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