first time mac for grad student-help!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by buckylove7, Dec 10, 2009.

  1. buckylove7 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2009
    Hi everyone! I need some computer buying advice (obviously). I have a 5 year old Toshiba laptop that is hanging on for dear life, and since it's random shut offs and slow speed are driving me nuts, I am looking to buy a mac to replace it.

    I am set to begin grad school (masters in physician assistant studies) in August 2010, and since I know very little about macs I was wondering what machine would best fit my needs.

    I will be using the computer mostly for power points, word processing, and internet browsing. I have a fair amount of music and I love to take pictures as well.

    Here's where my predicament comes in. I love the look of the MBP's, but I am afraid it will be too much computer for my needs. I could buy a refurb aluminum macbook, but am concerned about the quality. Spec-wise it seems to me that the newest version of the Macbook, which I can get at my university's tech store for $949, is probably my best bet but I'm just not to thrilled with how they look.

    What are your recommendations for this picky grad student?

    Also, do you recommend I buy a new computer now, or wait until closer to August (or at least until my current one dies)?
  2. ziggyonice macrumors 68020


    Mar 12, 2006
    Rural America
    Glad to hear you're interested in a Mac. :)

    Both the MacBook and the MacBook Pros are great computers. More than likely, the regular MacBook would meet your requirements, although the 13" MacBook Pro has some nice advantages that the MacBook doesn't.

    You mention that you're concerned that the Pro is "too much computer" for your use. True, the MacBook Pro is faster, but it also has a few other touches you'd prefer...

    • The MacBook Pro has a backlit keyboard, so when it's dark, they keys light up and the screen dims.
    • The MacBook Pro has an SD card slot, so when you take all those pictures from your camera, you can just put the card into the slot to import your photos.
    • The MacBook Pro is made of aluminum, which can take a little more of a hit than the plastic MacBook could.

    So while the MacBook Pro is more powerful, it has some other advantages that you may prefer (besides just being faster, etc.). Either way, if you're not going to be in school 'til August, I'd only get the computer if you really need it. The reason why is because I'm sure that between now and August, there's going to be at least one update to both the MacBook Pro (probably in January) and the MacBook (probably in May).

    So unless you need it, I'd wait for just a little while longer. Otherwise, if you just can't take it anymore on your old PC, the Mac will always be a great choice, regardless of when you get it.
  3. Demosthenes X macrumors 68000

    Demosthenes X

    Oct 21, 2008
    No it's not...
  4. rmb7984 macrumors regular


    Apr 1, 2008
    Tampa, FL
    As a graduate student who has owned the previous version of the white MacBook and the late 2008 Unibody MacBook, I highly recommend you get a Unibody. I absolutely love the form factor. It's lighter and sturdier than the white one. If I was buying now, I'd get the entry level MacBook Pro. However, if money is a concern, and it always is when you're a grad student, then go with a refurb unibody MacBook 2.4. It's a great machine and will be more than sufficient for your purposes.

    Good luck and welcome to the community!
  5. buckylove7 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2009
    Thanks for the quick replies!

    My main reasons for wanting to purchase a new computer in the near future is that the fan is broken on my Toshiba, causing it to be so loud that I can hear it from downstairs in my apartment. Also, my 40GB (yes, 40) hard drive is 99% full, so I really can't do a whole lot (I have an external hard drive, but it's kind of a hassle to switch stuff back and forth).

    I know there is really no way to know, but do you anticipate any major changes to the MBP in early 2010? The way I see it, anything will be an upgrade to what I have now so unless Apple does something really revolutionary with the MBP, wouldn't it make more sense just to get myself a new machine now?
  6. NeuralControl macrumors 6502a

    Dec 3, 2009
    First off, congratulations on acceptance into PA school. Good luck in your future endeavors.
    Apple really went to town with the Unibody MBPs in terms of "revolutionary" features, as compared to the previous generation. They were updated once again this past June with an SD card slot and built-in, high capacity batteries. It's extremely unlikely the will have any radical changes to the MBPs anytime soon. It's likely the new versions will include an updated processor and possibly larger harddrives, stock. Of course, no one can know for sure what is to come.
    If you are in need of a computer, get it now. If you can wait a month or two, do that. Just know there will always be new technology on the horizon and your computer will never be "new" for long.
    Get the computer when you feel the time is right. Use it, enjoy it, and don't worry about what's going to come out in the future.
    Good luck!
  7. steveotron macrumors member

    Nov 22, 2009
    Fellow grad student here, and I was in the market for a new Mac as well. I decided on an iMac ($1,049 with no tax) instead of the MacBook or MBP, as my 3-year-old MBP is still going strong, and I wanted a desktop for now. I'll probably get a 13" MBP when they do a complete redesign, whenever that is.

    You might want to look at other retailers to get your Mac as well. The discounts on the MacBook and 13" MBP are typically $50 with an education discount, but if you live in a state where a place like doesn't charge tax, you might be getting a better deal there instead. And if you live near a MicroCenter store, the new white, unibody MacBooks are currently $1,000 (regular price), but they have a $200 rebate going on right now, which is way better than the education discount.

    That said, my school's store (Illinois) had a pretty good sale going on, with the 13" MBP for $1,049 with no sales tax, but it was only for today. Typical advice from a grad student, but do your research when it comes to pricing!

    EDIT: I'm also a little picky and like the newest, latest stuff, but I know the last-gen MacBooks are on clearance at a lot of schools. UC Irvine has the last-gen MacBook for $699, and my school has them for $799. Just putting another option out there.
  8. buckylove7 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2009
    Thanks for the continuing advice, especially as far as pricing is concerned!

    At my school's store I can get the last gen macbook for $699, the new macbook for $949, and a new MBP for $1049.

    I saw amazon is selling the aluminum macbooks for $900 and am considering jumping on this offer, as I prefer the aluminum to the white. Would this be a good deal, or am I better off buying one of the newer version?

    Frankly, anything I get will be better than what I have now, but I am concerned that if I buy an older model macbook I will be left in the dust, so to speak
  9. Velin macrumors 65816


    Jul 23, 2008
    Hearst Castle
    Seriously, get a new late-model unibody aluminum Macbook Pro. 13" or 15" will be fine for your needs. They're not that much more expensive than a Macbook, yet they have some great features that make them superlative portable computers.

    You will be very happy with it. A unibody aluminum Mackbook Pro will take you through grad school and beyond. They are among the easiest laptops to upgrade on the market and you are going to love using it.
  10. iFirmware macrumors newbie

    Dec 8, 2009
    i suggest looking in the refurb section on apple's websites, some good deals there... My sister is a uni student and she uses her macbook pro unibody and loves it, her friends with the white macbook have a lot of aesthetical issues like cracking and stuff but thats the uni lifestyle i suppose... either way, any 2008 or newer macbook or macbook pro will be awesome for you
  11. aaronxsubaru macrumors newbie

    Dec 22, 2008
    also every year mac gives a free ipod with the purchase of a computer for students, if you could hold out untill july to buy one. you can get a 8g iPod touch or up to $200 off another ipod
  12. buckylove7 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2009
    Hey everyone! I think I've come fairly close to a decision: I can probably stomach the white macbook in exchange for saving a little bit of money (I have to eat somehow...).

    I have been comparison shopping, and am wondering if this is too good to be true:

    If it's legit, then I think I may have found a computer. The only downside being that I would miss out on the free printer offered by my school.

  13. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
  14. kmaute macrumors 6502


    Oct 5, 2008
    In my opinion, it's horrible to switch to a Mac and stay on the same old software platform (i.e. MS Office). Check out the links in my signature, they were lifesavers in Grad school. Enjoy the ride... Grad school is amazing.
  15. buckylove7 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2009
    Hi all, one last stupid question: is that macbook on the macconnection link I posted the most recent model (the one released this fall?). Thanks!
  16. kmaute macrumors 6502


    Oct 5, 2008
  17. Jason Beck macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

    Oct 19, 2009
    Cedar City, Utah
    I am selling my MBP right now, ad is up at
    I wanted to sell locally but if I could help a fellow
    macrumors member out, I would. It's only 3
    months old and I am looking to buy a Mac Mini
    with the money I get from the sale. It comes with
    Office 2008 (legit) and a premium notebook bag by
    This isn't spam or anything. Just drop me a line if your interested.
  18. iOrlando macrumors 68000

    Jul 20, 2008
    long, needless answers.

    heres the gist:

    you could get away with any macbook apple offers with the activities that you would be doing. So your decision will come down to how much money you want to spend and what you want your macbook to look like. (white, aluminum, larger screen..etc).

    you can compare on apple's website using your own judgement and likes.

    see easy enough.
  19. buckylove7 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2009
    Update: I went ahead and bought the white macbook from macconnection with their sweet $105 mail in rebate (please, no lectures on mail in rebates. I'm a college student and need to save money any way I can!). From the looks of things it should be delivered today!

    Thanks for all of the help!
  20. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas

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