Grad student - 1st time buyer - Need secondary notebook

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by potkettleblack, Apr 28, 2008.

  1. potkettleblack macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2008
    I will be enrolling as a graduate student in about one month, and I've decided to make the switch to :apple:. I've done some homework, but as a new buyer making a pretty big investment, I need some guidance from experienced users.

    I will have an iMac at home as my primary machine, but I need a notebook to take to class and the library daily. So it will be a secondary machine, but it will get a lot of use. I will be purchasing it with a student loan, so anything under approx. $2400 is not prohibitively expensive. I don't want to take out more loans than is reasonable, but my main concern is to get the most suitable machine for my needs. Taking into account the student discount + applecare, prices of the machines I'm considering are:

    MB: $1182 (base white) through $1582 (BlackBook)
    MBA: $1882
    MBP: $2038

    • Lightweight is a huge plus because it will be in and out of my backpack a few times every day, but I realize that none of the notebooks are very heavy.
    • 15.4'' is fine, but I prefer the smaller screen size.
    • I dislike the look of the white MacBook.
    • I will need to install Windows (for use on occasional exams only).
    • I will use the machine for word processing/document storage, internet, small music library... not really a power notebook user, but a frequent user.
    • All else being equal, I would actually prefer not to have a built-in optical drive, because I never use one (and I prefer simplicity over extra components).
    • The limited ports of the MBA would not be an inconvenience for me.
    I wish I could wait for the next refresh of the MB and MBP this summer or fall to see what happens with that, but I can't.

    I would really appreciate recommendations... thank you!
  2. jjahshik32 macrumors 603

    Sep 4, 2006
    If you have a primary computer for the speed I'd recommend either a mba or macbook pro. The lowest end macbook pro is $1799 with student discount and a lowest end macbook air is $1699 with student discount.. only a $100 difference! So I think the best price/performance is to get the lower end macbook pro.

    Actually the macbook pro can be your laptop/desktop kind of deal. I find the 15" small and great for desktop hooked up to a external monitor.
  3. kumbaya macrumors regular

    Jan 12, 2005
  4. JoshLV macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2008
    Las Vegas
    Since you have a primary computer at your dorm/apt/house, I would say that your best bet is a MBA. It is light, extremely mobile and capable of whatever you need. If you didn't have a primary computer, I would say go with the MBP. Personally, I have a MBP and no experience with the MBA. If you do decide to go with the MBP you will be very happy with it! Going in to college this August, I am certain that it will do everything I will need it to do. :apple:
  5. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    MBA or MB. Don't get the pro, it's too big and bulky for frequent travelers. I had a 14" thin and light. it was very light. I got the 15" MBP (just one inch bigger) but that one inch makes a world of difference.
  6. Telp macrumors 68040


    Feb 6, 2007
    If i were you i would go MacBook Air. Its small, rugged, lightweight, powerful (in its own way). Its everything your looking for. It will be perfect to carry around, and is made for what you need it for. MacBook Pro, although a great machine, is too much for you. You won't need the extra power, or weight, or screen size, although if you ever do decide you need it, youll have it, although i suspect the Air would be fine for those needs too if its not a professional basis (such as a professional editor).
  7. Mernak macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2006
    Kirkland, WA
    I would go for either the MBA or MB, not the pro. the MBA is really cool, but I think that the extra money that you would spend could better go to something else. You could always see if they have any refurb blackBooks, since you don't like the white ones.
  8. Telp macrumors 68040


    Feb 6, 2007
    Good suggestion too. Refurbs are always a great way to go, and often overlooked. On the other hand, i love the Air and wish i had one :) therefor i will continue to push for you to get one. :p Your decision though. Refurbs are very trustworthy though, as im sure many people would not trust a previously used computer.d
  9. CrzyCanuck72 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 10, 2003
    it sounds like you haven't bought the iMac yet... curious why you're spending so much more money to buy two computers rather than just buying a laptop and an external monitor... I would save yourself a boatload of money and buy the black MB (only 'cause you say you don't like the white) and an external monitor. The MB is very portable, and for your needs would work well as your primary machine.

    If you do already have the iMac, disregard.
  10. Phatpat macrumors 6502a


    Jun 15, 2003
    Cambridge, MA
    Just a hunch, but I'd say whatever laptop you get gradually assimilates all of the functions of your desktop. The laptop will most likely become your primary computer, however hard you try not to let it. With that in mind, I'd say go for decent performance at a good size. Get the black Macbook from Amazon for $1399. You'll appreciate the extra hard drive space and speed over the MBA.
  11. poopyhead macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2004
    in the toe-jam of greatness (Fort Worth)
    might want to look at a base macbook, upgrade the ram and get a spec case to change the color (about $1100 bucks instead of 1700 or more)

    this is what I plan to do in in the fall to replace my powerbook 17"
  12. tMac85 macrumors 65816


    Sep 15, 2007
    in a great place
    yeah go with the blackbook. it will be just fine for you.
  13. MrFusion macrumors 6502a

    Jun 8, 2005
    Macbook Pro or MacBook Air? Come on guys, It's a student, not a multimillionaire. Cost is an issue. Since you have to take out loans for and you already have an iMac for your primary computing needs, I say cost is THE issue. You have to pay those loans back, don't you?

    Macbooks are sturdy and lightweight enough to travel around the world.
    Black is nothing more than a price premium.
    Windows runs fine on a MacBook, under emulation.
    Don't need a optical drive? Get the combo drive, it's cheaper.
    I do a bit more than word processing and document storage, and a Macbook can handle it

    Get the cheapest, save the rest (or buy stock). Buy your dream computer from you first paycheck.
    I am so glad not to have any students loans!
  14. Lunja macrumors 6502


    May 15, 2005
    Lincoln UK
    Just out of curiosity, what will you use the iMac for?

    Unless you are taking a computer-intensive course such as digital animation or CAD, you may find that an iMac is surplus to your needs...

    I agree with the other people here that buying a BlackBook or MBP along with a monitor, keyboard (should you prefer) and external HD for home use would be a wiser use of your money. Plus, having one computer, rather than constantly having to sync and send files back and forth between two machines, will be a more effective use of your studying (read: 'Partying') time...
  15. potkettleblack thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2008
    Thank you for the responses! Based on all the advice I've received, I've narrowed it down to the BlackBook or the MacBook Air.

    As a light but frequent notebook user I don't think I would be taking much advantage of the superior specs of the BlackBook, so basically I need to decide if the $300-400 price increase is worth it for ultra-portability (and aesthetics as a bonus).

    Assuming I keep this set up for at least the three years I will be in school, would I be willing to pay $100 a year to and carry 2.2 lbs less on my back every day, and have generally sweeter looking machine? And touchpad gestures? :p Maybe... but maybe I'm a sucker. I have a few days to decide so I'll sleep on it.

    By the way, the external home set-up idea is good, and one I considered, but I will have an iMac because it was a generous surprise graduation gift from my parents, and I absolutely love the thing (plus I would feel rude returning it/selling it).

    Thanks again.
  16. zainjetha macrumors 6502a

    Aug 11, 2007
    Go for MBA, may be a little more expensive however sounds like what you need. You don't the large harddisk of the MB, you can just transfer what you need between MBA and iMac when you need it.
  17. mckyvlle macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2007
    London, UK
    Hi, I'm a grad student too. I'm currently using a BlackBook as my only computer, and it ROCKS! :cool: Here's why: The CPU is no slouch, perhaps no match for a Xeon workstation running Linux; but being able to run a quick simulation on the spot instead of running back to the lab sure is useful. Being able to burn out a DVD quickly for cow-orkers is pretty useful too! Along with the ability to plug in the USB sticks or hard drives that everyone seems to have these days, while keeping my mouse or my own USB stick plugged in.

    But of course, there is the über-cool backlit keyboard on the MacBook Air... ;)
  18. macfriend1 macrumors regular

    Mar 14, 2007
  19. shu82 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 10, 2007
    Rocket City, AL
    As a person who is trying to raise a family, pay a mortgage, and student loans; don't go overboard!

    Buy a low end refurb imac, and buy a pismo. You'll spend about 1200, and get 95% of the functionality.

    Remember 20K in student loans means 200/mo. for the next 30 years!!!
  20. izibo macrumors 6502

    Oct 6, 2004
    Hopefully I can be a bit helpful. I'm a grad student at a large school. I bike to school (about 4 miles) and I pretty much spend all day on campus shuffling from one building to another building to lab to the library.

    I started out the year with a blackbook. I loved it. It did everything I needed. I was content. But, when the MBA came out, I sold the blackbook and picked up the base 80gb model.

    The size and weight, while they don't seem to make that big of a difference on paper, make a huge difference in portability. Having lugged around both for a while, I think the choice is simple: go with the Air. I'm extraordinarily happy that I switched from a blackbook to an Air.

    And truth be told, I have never EVER had to burn a CD or DVD on the go (why would you) and hardly even use a single USB none the less have ever had to use two USB devices. Just the occasional USB stick to shuffle something to a friend. Everything else (including my labs network) goes through wifi just fine.
  21. potkettleblack thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2008
    Studying law (money is money, but this computer loan is a drop in the bucket of the loans I will be taking out for schooling). I will be living thriftily and saving where I can--won't have a car or cable or Netflix, etc--but I don't want to skimp on a notebook since it will be a big part of my daily tasks as a student. Skimping in this area in the past is the reason I've used cheap crap PCs for the past several years and run into problems. :p

    As for portability, imagine me with the largest NorthFace-style backpack available, filled with heavy legal casebooks, a sack lunch, and various other necessities. :) I won't have quite the commute you have, izibo, but about a 15-20 minute walk. Thanks so much for the insight, that's generally what I've heard from others as well (but you're the first student I've found who has had direct experience with both), thank you.
  22. godukelakerfan macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2008

    • Gosh, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you're a pre-1L law student!
  23. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I would think the MBA may also start appearing as a refurb item in the next 1-2 months, but it might be that long before it happens? When does law school start? You mentioned you can't wait till the mid-summer....

    If you're open to Windows or Linux PCs, you might also look into something like the HP MiniNote or Asus EeePC 900... they're both (I think? The Eee definitely is) lighter than the MBA and also quite a bit less expensive. It's probably less realistic to expect them to last three years happily, but then you could buy and replace the Eee on a yearly basis for the cost of the MBA.... :eek:
  24. potkettleblack thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2008
    good guess goduke!

    Thanks krishnan, and good point. :D I decided to go with a black macbook, though. That way if I decide that I don't need the iMac, I can try to deal with that at that time (won't be so rude to sell it after some time has passed, if that's what I decide to do). Save money now + potential to save more money later + the more I think about it, the Air maybe just isn't my style--too flashy still. :eek:

    Thanks for the help, all. These forums are great.
  25. QCassidy352 macrumors G4


    Mar 20, 2003
    Bay Area
    I've had an ibook/macbook as my sole computer my whole time in law school (one exam to go and I'm done!!) and it's worked quite well. Since you already have the imac, though, it sounds like you made a good choice.

    Oh, one more thing - although you're right to save money where you can... go for the netflix!! Totally worth it. :D

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