from PC to Mac - iMac, MacBook or Mini?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by basement zombie, May 8, 2009.

  1. basement zombie macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2009
    #1
    Greetings all,

    I'm a lifelong PC owner, and have been hemming and hawing the last few years about going Mac. I've finally made the decision AND the stars are aligned - so I'm ready to go! I know there are multiple threads on topics just like these daily, and I have read through as many of them as I can. However, I couldn't find a thread which detailed advice for my specific needs. If money were no object, I'd dive right in without too much concern - but I need to choose the best solution for me because I won't be able to get another Mac for a while. I'd greatly appreciate your guidance and advice to help me choose the most appropriate Mac. I am choosing between the iMac, the MacBook and the Mac Mini. I want to be as cost-effective as possible, but that doesn't mean that I feel I need to skimp on everything.

    I live in the Boston area and have Apple stores available, but I have no problem with purchasing refurbished online for a better deal.

    I am really excited to be on the cusp of my first Mac because I think for the first time, I will have a computer that will make it simple and downright enjoyable to be creative. Here are the things I want my Mac for:

    • basic internet browsing, forums, multimedia, etc.
    • very basic officey productivity - word processing, a speadsheet program to organize lists/charts of nominal data (ie - no math). I don't need MS Office, but I do want to be able to save documents in MSOffice format so I can open and share them with PC users when necessary.
    • now the fun stuff! making music as a hobbyist - starting off with Garageband, and having the option and capability to upgrade to LogicExpress in the future if I so want/choose. This will be only for home recording use of bass, guitar and vocals/mics. I would be doing 1 track at a time the vast majority of the time. I don't have any of the necessary recording interface hardware yet - I plan to make these purchases after I get a computer. I am not a pro, and I don't need to have 'the top of the line' stuff. I just need stuff that will work well and not create big annoyances, headaches or have big gaps in effectiveness.
    • iTunes with a large library of music. I currently have 90gig of music, and a good amount of it is lossless.
    • very basic photo editing and perhaps photoshop in the future
    • any sort of creative artistic program that I can use to be creative visually. I'm a total hack and have never done this sort of thing before, but would love to dive in and start trying my hand at doing creative gig fliers for my band.

    I currently have the following:

    • Monitor: Samsung SyncMaster 731B - 17 in, flat panel computer monitor. Its a few years old, but works fine. I imagine this might be a candidate for use with MacMini or as a 2nd/dual monitor for the iMac or MacBook?
    • Western Digital Elements 1TB Black External Hard Drive - I currently am using this to hold all of my iTunes music and backup of my documents/files. Only ~100gig used thusfar.
    • A Microsoft optical mouse that I really like - has 5 buttons I think - two top, two side, and the rolling/tracking/scrolling wheel which also functions as a button.
    • Some generic Microsoft keyboard.

    I believe that the iMac might end up being the biggest bang for buck, the Mac Mini would be the cheapest (but would have to void the warranty to install a larger harddrive and such), and the Macbook would give me the most portability. That said, I don't absolutely need the portability of the macbook. Whatever I choose, its going to be my main computer. If I chose the Macbook, I think I would want/need to try to setup some way to have a 'workstation' for use at home, because when I'm not using its portability, I want to be able to enjoy the interface/use of a desktop - ie, larger screen, mouse, keyboard, etc. Thus, I would be using dual monitor and such.

    Anyhow - I'll shutup and let you knowledgeable folks give me guidance - much appreciated!
     
  2. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #2
    For a modest budget that would fit your needs, I'd go with:

    • Mac Mini (fast as you can afford and upgrade the RAM and hard disk if you're comfy opening up such a box)
    • iWork - Has Keynote (PowerPoint), Numbers (Excel-like) and Pages (Word) like with export to Office for sharing)
    • Use iPhoto for your basic photo needs
    • Buy Pixelmator, which has about 80% of Photoshop functions for $60 or so
    • Apple aluminum keyboard (watch out for the number pad)
    • Apple Might Mouse (a lot of people don't like it, but I love mine)

    Use your current display. You can add a second later (mini DisplayPort).
     
  3. sapota macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2008
    #3
    If you want a portable...on a budget...the white macbook (with the nvidia 9400 graphics) is a great choice ..you can get it on macmall or clubmac for ~$900.

    If you want a desktop. Given that you already have monitor...& since you are on a budget, the new Mac mini with nvidia 9400 is great. You can get it online for ~$575.

    & Never compare windows hardware spec with mac hardware specs....sometimes windows pc hardware specs seem too good for the price....you are usually getting substandard quality & windows os (xp & vista) require too much maintenance to run as smooth as OSX.

    I am not apple fanboy or anything...I come from a windows world...still use windows a lot. But there are lots of things (big & little) that OSX offers that you will never find in the windows world.

    Good luck on your windows to mac move.
     
  4. Squuiid macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2006
    #4
    Macbook Unibody. It will change the way you use your computer.
    I love just sitting on my couch, dining room table or balcony and browsing the net.
    I can connect it up to my projector easily and stream HD content from my Media server, Hulu, or just a Slingbox.

    All you need is a USB hub and a Mini Displayport to DVI or HDMI cable and you're all set. Another Mac power brick is useful too.


    Plug the USB hub with your mouse and keyboard, then monitor cable and power into the mac and you have a workstation.
    Unplug it and you can use anywhere in the house or out.
    Worth the extra cost IMO.:)

    Thought I'd mention I'm a Windows Sys admin and whilst I like Windows, Apple are best for home users by far. They 'just work' with little to no maintenance. Macs are also built of the highest quality and despite the price premium, totally worth it.
     
  5. js81 macrumors 65816

    js81

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2008
    Location:
    KY
    #5
    There's still that argument about voiding the warranty with upgrades? I've been told over and over that at least a memory upgrade will NOT void the warranty in a Mini. But then again, it seems that some here have been told otherwise. Suffice it to say, its an easy upgrade and if you're careful, no one will know the difference - keep your original memory to put in if you ever need service.

    Now the hard drive... that's another story. As far as I can tell, it might void the warranty, though you have to remove it to get to the memory any way. I say keep the original drive so you can re-install it, too. I say Mini and 4GB RAM with your current monitor - with a 1TB external, do you really need to upgrade the internal anyway? Good luck!
     
  6. basement zombie thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2009
    #6
    Thanks for the specific details and suggestions - definitely sounds like a viable plan! I would definitely seek to upgrade the memory and hard drive, as I see its much more cost effective to do so on my own. One concern I have is that I've read that removing and installing a different hard drive on my own may void the warranty. Is this true?

    Playing devil's advocate: one of the main things I am looking forward to using my Mac for is music creation. Might I experience negative/annoying limitations using the MacMini if I upgrade from Garageband to Logic Express? I am not expecting 'THE BEST' or top of the line performance that I could get from going with a Mac Pro...'does a fine job of' is perfectly fine for me. I'm not a 'power user,' nor have I ever been. My current PC is a cheap Compaq Presario Sempron that I bought in 2006 that was even cheap back then! :eek: :D

    Thank you much, sapota!

    One thing I'm having a difficult time figuring out for myself is that pendulum or balance for me regarding the 'pros' of having that portability, nice little all-in-one package of the macbook vs. the 'cons' of the possible decreased performance, possible decrease in quality of experience using a 13'inch screen and small keyboard/laptop format, possible decrease in performance compared to a refurbished iMac, possible hassle of creating a neat little desktop environment to use with my existing monitor, etc. Can you shed any light on your experiences with these issues/concerns?

    That portability is certainly a BIG draw and a major plus! I try to rationalize that I don't NEED the portability because as it is, I use this old Compaq Presario desktop 99% of the time. The remaining 1% of the time, I use an old Compaq laptop that I absolutely hate using because of how uncomfortable it feels to use - keyboard, interface, everything. Bleh.

    That said, a very good deal of the time, I will want to use it in a workstation environment.

    Hm! I assume a power brick is a power supply?

    Very cool! :cool: Thanks for sharing that - specifically your perspective as a Windows System Admin.

    Ok I'll address one which seems to be the biggest for me - that daily flexibility use to be able to enjoy the laptop'ness, but also be able to nicely integrate it into a little home workstation that I can put together to give me that enjoyed experience of using a desktop/workstation.

    Can you chime in about your experience creating and using a home work station like this? Can you direct me to any photos/images/video examples of a workstation like this? I have no frame of reference. Would it provide similar performance (maybe not equivalent, but 'close') to an iMac, or would an iMac user notice a big difference? I'm trying to figure out how much I would be sacrificing to forego the desktoppy greatness of an iMac for the (+) portability but possible (-) desktoppy experience and possible (-) performance...?

    Good to know!

    The hard drives that come with the Mac Minis are really small, and I think the cost to have Apple upgrade them is disproportionately high compared to doing it myself. I think I would want to upgrade the hard drive so I can not be concerned with how much stuff I have on my main hard drive. I don't need a ridiculous amount of internal storage, but I want to have enough to where I won't really be wanting to get more internally down the road.

    So that said, I am very concerned about the fact (I assume?) that I would be voiding the warranty by doing this on my own. If I paid for Apple to install the larger hard drive, I think I would be approaching the cost of a refurbished iMac, and I see that as diminishing returns on the Mac Mini.

    Two final concerns

    • The possibility of upgrading from Garageband to Logic Express - can anyone chime in and share their thoughts/experiences? Specifically, my concern is that I might experience significant limitations doing this on the Mac Mini or Macbook? Taking into account that I will be using this primarily for solo recording projects, usually doing 1 track at a time.
    • My current external 1TB HD - when I 'go Mac,' will it be much preferable for me to get an external HD that is Firewire, or faster than my current external? I use my current external for all of my iTunes songs and backup files, but I am wondering if for recording via Garageband and possibly Logic Express in the future, it might be greatly preferable to have a different (Firewire, etc?) external? I'd prefer, of course, to use what I have, but if I am going to experience some irritations with it, I may consider replacing it.

    Thanks again in advance! :)
     
  7. marksandvig macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 21, 2006
    #7
    Id honestly either go with the iMac or the Macbook.. The mini is cheaper, however, you will most likely void your warranty upgrading it, and it also sounds like your going to be keeping this machine for awhile. Ive had my Macbook for 3 years and it still runs great. So if you can afford the few extra bucks I would go with either of those for longevity purposes.
     
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #8
    Why replace the disk in the Mini? It's hardly worth the effort. Any replacement will be a notebook drive. If you need more space plug in a 1TB Firewire drive.

    I would only buy a notebook if you intend to move it around. You pay a premium for portibility which is worth it only if you use it that way. If it is going to stay on the desk get an iMac or Mini depending on your budget.

    Also think about the size of the screen. If you intend to use Logic and Final Cut both of these use up tons of screen space and you will need at least a 20" monitor.

    For your usage any current mac has enough "power" if it is loaded with RAM and maybe an external disk.
     
  9. LAS.mac macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 6, 2009
    Location:
    Mexico
    #9
    I'd go for a 24" iMac. It has been just updated. It's a nice machine, it has plenty of capabilities to do all you mentioned.
    And I've bought that last summer switching from PC after 15 years.
    You can either go for a refurbished, or buy a new one in NH.
    Also, I'd suggest to not spend moneys in advance for iwork.
    Neooffice is free, very capable, it saves to office formats.
    Give it a try, and you can always decide to skip to iWork later.

    Luigi
     
  10. limesmoothie macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2009
    Location:
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    #10
    +1

    If you have the bones of a 'docking system' at home (monitor, keyboard) then the MacBook is perfection, giving you portability and a desktop workstation when you need it. I work with PCs running Windows all day, have a desktop running Windows 7, a netbook running Linux but the MacBook has it all for me. I use it on the go and connect it to an external monitor in my study...my 32" TV...an interactive whiteboard for teaching...it is joyful to use.
     
  11. CarlisleUnited macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2007
    Location:
    Nederland
    #11
    OpenOffice 3.0 is decent, feels a bit like office 2003 so it may not be as esthetically satisfying as Office 2008 or iWork but does the job and best of all its free :D
     
  12. trevpimp macrumors regular

    trevpimp

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2009
    Location:
    Inside A Mac Box
    #12
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPod; U; CPU iPhone OS 2_2_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/525.18.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.1.1 Mobile/5H11a Safari/525.20)

    Go with iMac.

    Get the notebook only if you're going to move it a lot.
     
  13. The Hammer macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2008
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    #13
    I've read many posts that said upgrade the hard drive upgrade the memory just don't break anything and you haven't voided the warranty.
     
  14. basement zombie thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2009
    #14
    Looks like the majority of recommendations for me are being split rather evenly between the iMac and the Macbook. Decisions, decisions! :confused: :)

    limesmoothie - thanks for contributing. I have no frame of reference for a docking system and what it would be like to use. Could you post a photo of your docking system @ home? (or one that resembles yours?)

    Good point! Couldn't hurt to try it as a starting point.

    Thanks, Luigi. Whatever I finally choose to buy, I plan to buy refurbished. It appears I could get the late model 20" iMac for just under $1000, and the 24" iMac for just under $1200.

    Neooffice - is this not the same thing as Open Office?
     
  15. LAS.mac macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 6, 2009
    Location:
    Mexico
    #15
    No, it isn't. Actually Neooffice came first on mac. It is now at version 3.0.1 (I recall). It is built over Open Office platform, however since a month ago or so, Open Office wasn't directly available on mac, at least not natively. It is now, however. I did try Open Office, I cannot see a real improvement over Neooffice. I stick with that.
     

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