In need of a new Mac. What to do?

Belm

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
235
9
inb4 tl;dr

So, my old Pentium 4 Dell desktop finally died after 6 years of valiant service and I need a new computer. I had been wanting to get a Mac for years but couldn't really bring myself to buy one having a working computer already. For the past couple months I've been using an old Dell laptop that my mom let me use since it's just been chilling in her basement. In other words, now is the time to buy for me.

Basically I only need the computer for Word, Excel, web browsing, iTunes (160GB library), and maybe some video streaming to my PS3. I won't be doing any serious video editing, no photoshop, no games (that's why I have my PS3) or anything taxing. The thing that I might really need is hard drive space. Now, I have a 1TB WD Caviar Black from my desktop that works still (it's basically new) and I plan to put that in an enclosure but I don't want to have to lug it around with me all the time. I really only want to use it as a Time Machine and for storing movies.

The dilemma that I'm facing is that I don't know which Mac to buy. I plan to get the Mac from the refurb store so impeding updates don't really concern me.

So far, I've narrowed my options to 4:

July 2011 13" Macbook Air w/256GB SSD for $1349
Feb. 2011 Base model 13" Macbook Pro + iPad 2 for $1349
Feb. 2011 Base model 15" Macbook Pro for $1349
May 2011 Base model iMac + iPad 2 for $1418 (the dark horse candidate)

I like the screen resolution on the Air and the SSD but I'm a bit worried about the amount of drive space and maybe the 4GB of RAM for the future. I don't plan to buy another computer for a while and I'd like to have some expandability (if it's even needed). I like the quickness of the Air a lot after playing around with one. Also, I like the small form factor since I like to move around while doing my work. I don't think I'd take it to class with me all that time (I type really slow) but it'd be nice to be able to throw in my bag and go sometimes.

For the 13" Pro, I like that it's only $929 but the 1280x800 screen resolution and the glossiness may get annoying. I played around with one at the Apple store and it seemed alright though. As for the HDD, it's only 320GB so I couldn't store everything on it but I would be able to replace it with a larger HDD or even an SSD if the price is reasonable. The RAM would be upgradable too. The battery would last a bit longer than the Air as well. As for the iPad, it would just be a bonus since I don't have an iPhone (I don't want a contract). I'd mostly use to for games and Comic Zeal and what ever else I can think to do with it.

I like the 15" Pro's screen the most (even though its glossy) but I don't know if I'll ever fully use the video card. I guess I could use it to play my free Steam copy of Portal 2 from the PS3 version. Other than the screen, the positives line up with the 13" Pro. The

The iMac is the long shot here. I've had desktops my whole life and I really don't want to get another but having an iPad and a laptop might be a tad redundant.

Thanks for making it through my horrible drivel!

Any advice?

Cliffs:
$1500 to spend, what do?
Only have basic computing needs
options:
13" Air w/ 256GB
13" Pro + iPad 2
15" Pro
21.5" iMac + iPad 2
 

Alaerian

Guest
Jan 6, 2005
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A barstool, Innis & Gunn in hand
Since your use is extremely light, I'd pick up an Air with the option of an external monitor. Do you require the 256GB upgrade? Do you actually need to carry around 256GB of stuff with you at all times? Or, could you work with a 128GB drive and an external for "sometimes" (since you specifically said you didn't want to lug it around all the time)? Use that extra cash towards the purchase of an external monitor. Then, you've got the best of both worlds - desktop and portable.
 

Stewart21

macrumors regular
Dec 9, 2011
187
0
South Yorkshire
I would recommend the Macbook Air. Store your music on an external HDD. Maybe keep a couple of playlists on the MBA for when you're out and about. Your computing requirements are fairly light and 4GB RAM will be fine for a few years, basically for the life of your MBA.

The combination of i5 CPU and the SSD makes it pretty quick, when I compared it against the MBP I thought the MBA was faster and I preferred the display on the MBA.

You could also use an external monitor when you're at home if you want a bigger display but I find it's fine, I actually almost prefer it to my iMac.

Stewart
 

snberk103

macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
5,503
87
An Island in the Salish Sea
inb4 tl;dr

So, my old Pentium 4 Dell desktop finally died ...

Any advice?

Cliffs:
$1500 to spend, what do?
Only have basic computing needs
options:
13" Air w/ 256GB
13" Pro + iPad 2
15" Pro
21.5" iMac + iPad 2
Regardless of which one you choose, make sure it has Thunderbolt. Right now there is not a lot of things you can do with it, but Intel is about to roll it out to the mainstream computer market. Assuming it catches on, it will allow for a lot of "upgrades" to even a modest system through the TB port. I know there is debate about the viability of TB, but you don't want to be without TB if it takes off.

If you think your needs will remain modest for 3 years or so, then the Air. You can always add peripherals over time to fill gaps.

If you think you may be needed something more serious in 3 years, then the 15" Pro (simply for the screen size) or the iMac.

Luck.
 

FuNGi

macrumors 65816
Feb 26, 2010
1,115
29
California
So, my old Pentium 4 Dell desktop finally died after 6 years -snip-
Basically I only need the computer for Word, Excel, web browsing, iTunes (160GB library), -snip- The thing that I might really need is hard drive space. Now, I have a 1TB WD Caviar Black from my desktop that works still (it's basically new) and I plan to -snip- use it as a Time Machine and for storing movies.

The dilemma that I'm facing is that I don't know which Mac to buy. I plan to get the Mac from the refurb store so impeding updates don't really concern me.

So far, I've narrowed my options to 4:

July 2011 13" Macbook Air w/256GB SSD for $1349
Feb. 2011 Base model 13" Macbook Pro + iPad 2 for $1349
Feb. 2011 Base model 15" Macbook Pro for $1349
May 2011 Base model iMac + iPad 2 for $1418 (the dark horse candidate)

-snip-
I like the 15" Pro's screen the most (even though its glossy) but I don't know if I'll ever fully use the video card. I guess I could use it to play my free Steam copy of Portal 2 from the PS3 version. -snip-

Any advice?

-snip-
Yes. Based on your distilled post you should get the 15" MBP. It is infinitely expandable and can be purchased with a high resolution screen. You may not think you need the graphics processor now, or more than 4 GB of RAM, but what if your needs change in 2 years?

You could also save up, throw in a SSD and feel like you got a new computer in a couple years.
 

James Craner

macrumors 68000
Sep 13, 2002
1,787
218
Bristol, UK
I agree with Alaerian, Macbook Air has had so many positive reviews, and if you are a light user it would be prefect. When you can afford it you can get an external monitor and have the best of both worlds. One way to solve the space requirement is to sign up to iTunes match and keep your music Library in the cloud. You have access to your entire music library when ever you have a WiFi connection.

I should add that if you can wait until March as we are expecting new MacBook Airs then.
 

McGiord

macrumors 601
Oct 5, 2003
4,536
287
Dark Castle
Get a MBP

I disagree about the Air.

As you are used to keep your computers for some years, the Air upgradability is very limited and expensive.

I will say get a 13" MBP, you can always connect it to a bigger display or TV and it will be rock solid for more years to come, and you can upgrade it to have more RAM and get larger internal storage: either HDD or SSD.
Also you can move the optical drive to an external enclosure and have both an SSD and a HDD.

About external HDD you can always connect as many as you need.
Get a couple for back ups, don't keep only one Time Machine backup.
It is always a good practice to clone your main HDD and keep a second backup of your key data: pictures, videos, music, docs, etc.

And about the upgrades you can do them anytime later on.
Check http://www.macsales.com

As for the iPad 2, wait one or two months as the rumored iPad 3 is coming soon, and then you can decide either getting the iPad 2 for less than what it costs today, or get the 3 instead.
 

KylePowers

macrumors 68000
Mar 5, 2011
1,688
197
I think above all else, get something with an SSD. Whether it's the MBA or you upgrade an MBP with one, it's the best computing advancement out there right now.

In situations where I don't need the screen real estate, I choose my 2011 11in MBA over my 2011 iMac 100% of the time. Think about it, my 2011 iMac has a quad-core CPU and 8GB of RAM, but I still consistently go for my MBA. Now when I upgrade my iMac to an SSD some time this year, that my change :p

For your uses, 4GB is ample. I wouldn't bother with 8GB unless you're video or photo editing, maybe running Windows 7 virtually, side-by-side with Lion, or planning on gaming (which you said you weren't). I mean yes, you can open like 40 tabs and push the limits of 4GB pretty easily, but I guess the best advice there is to not do that lol

As for the 13in MBP's resolution... I used to think the same thing. But then I got the 11in MBA (which is a little wider, but shorter in terms of resolution) and once I mastered Lion's multiple desktops and fullscreen apps, it was a whole new way of computing. For most tasks, there just isn't a necessity to have every window side-by-side. I mean, if it fits naturally, then sure. Like on my first desktop, I always have Twitter, Wunderlist, and iChat open next to one another because it fits nicely... But my second desktop is always my web browser. And if I need to open another app that doesn't fullscreen, I just open it or drag it to a third desktop and so on. You get used to it pretty fast.

As for MBA vs MBP+iPad 2... that's a tough choice. I personally sold my iPad 2 to get an 11in MBA because I wanted a full-fledged mobile computing device. The iPad 2 just didn't fit my requirements in that aspect. So I would never have an MBA and iPad 2. But an MBP and iPad 2? Now maybe, especially since the iPad 2 is way more mobile than an MBP. If you don't really plan on lugging your MBP around and don't need a complete computational experience on the go, then maybe that isn't a bad idea. But you might fudge your budget going MBP+SSD+iPad 2 though.

I personally would go 13in MBA. The novelty of the iPad wears off after a few months, in my experience. After four months, I was using it (in a leather case) as a mousepad for my iMac. I seldom ever turned it on. But I did, however, have an iPhone, so maybe the large crossover in operating system and apps was the reason why. With a 13in MBA, you get similar instant-on times and size/weight as the iPad, but with the functionality of an MBP. It's the best of both worlds. You also get a higher resolution than the MBP (with a not-as-glossy screen to boot).

With the 13in, you could keep a large SD card in it at all times with music/pictures/videos etc. The storage would be slower, but it's certainly a decent way to expand your storage. Within a year or so, I'd imagine SSDs price will decrease too, so upgrading your MBA wouldn't be too bad in the long run.
 

Belm

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
235
9
Thanks for all the responses!

I think that I'll go with the 256GB Air. I like the screen and I don't see my needs really increasing in the next 3 years or so. I think that I can cut my music collection down to accommodate the smaller disk space. Other than music I don't see anything else taking up much space. I also don't want to get an external monitor because I don't want to be tied to a desk and I like the screen on the Air.

I think I may still get an iPad but like I said, I'd only be using it for games, Comic Zeal and some light browsing. It's not something that's really important, just a want.

The 15" Pro seems overkill for my needs and I think that I'd get tired of the glossiness of the 13" Pro.
 

Alaerian

Guest
Jan 6, 2005
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A barstool, Innis & Gunn in hand
I also don't want to get an external monitor because I don't want to be tied to a desk and I like the screen on the Air.
You're missing the entire point of an external monitor. An external gives you the ability to plug into a larger screen for desk work but still allow freedom and portability. We're not saying to buy an external monitor, plug in your Air, and leave it there.
 

emac82

macrumors 6502
Feb 17, 2007
396
0
NB, Canada
I recommend a MBP (13" would be fine)....It's nice to have the bigger hard drive, and faster processor....plus you still have an optical drive if you need it (which you might not often, but still comes in handy)...

If you were going to buy an iMac, then yeah I could see having an Air or an iPad...but a MBP is a bit of the best of both worlds (portability and power)...
 

lc25

macrumors 6502
Jul 31, 2009
271
0
Either Macbook air with a cheap external monitor (24" ?) or a macbook pro 13" with a monitor at a later date.

If i was you i would go for the Pro just in case you really get into Mac and want to start doing more complex tasks at a later date.
 

wrinkster22

macrumors 68030
Jun 11, 2011
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Toronto
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James Craner said:
I agree with Alaerian, Macbook Air has had so many positive reviews, and if you are a light user it would be prefect. When you can afford it you can get an external monitor and have the best of both worlds. One way to solve the space requirement is to sign up to iTunes match and keep your music Library in the cloud. You have access to your entire music library when ever you have a WiFi connection.

I should add that if you can wait until March as we are expecting new MacBook Airs then.
I doubt the new airs will come in march...
 

SmurfBoxMasta

macrumors 65816
Nov 24, 2005
1,351
0
I'm only really here at night.
Regardless of which machine you get, go ahead & get 8GB of ram, from anywhere but apple.

It is so dirt cheap right now there is no reason not to get it, but these low prices wont stay that way for much longer.......

Granted you may not need it now, but as newer versions of OS X and all other software come out, they ALWAYS continue to require more & more ram.....then you WILL need it........
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,700
6,869
"I have a 1TB WD Caviar Black from my desktop that works still (it's basically new) and I plan to put that in an enclosure but I don't want to have to lug it around with me all the time. I really only want to use it as a Time Machine and for storing movies."

If the WD drive has a SATA interface, get one of these (instead of an "enclosure"):
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias=aps&field-keywords=usb+sata+dock&x=0&y=0
(many items shown, they all work the same, just pick one you like that's cheap)
These are very useful to have around, you can even boot the Mac from them.

If the drive has an older IDE interface, you'll need either an external enclosure, or, a "dongle" type device to connect it.
 

Belm

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
235
9
You're missing the entire point of an external monitor. An external gives you the ability to plug into a larger screen for desk work but still allow freedom and portability. We're not saying to buy an external monitor, plug in your Air, and leave it there.
Sorry, I misunderstood. I guess that it would be cool to have a monitor that I could go to. I've still got a 19" monitor from the Dell that I could use but it's 4:3. With the keyboard and mouse that I have now, I'd have a ready made desktop :D.

If the WD drive has a SATA interface, get one of these (instead of an "enclosure"):
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias=aps&field-keywords=usb+sata+dock&x=0&y=0
(many items shown, they all work the same, just pick one you like that's cheap)
These are very useful to have around, you can even boot the Mac from them.

If the drive has an older IDE interface, you'll need either an external enclosure, or, a "dongle" type device to connect it.
The drive is SATA 3 and just last night I bought this Macally enclosure. Is there a big difference between docks and enclosures?
 

Alaerian

Guest
Jan 6, 2005
1,928
0
A barstool, Innis & Gunn in hand
Sorry, I misunderstood. I guess that it would be cool to have a monitor that I could go to. I've still got a 19" monitor from the Dell that I could use but it's 4:3. With the keyboard and mouse that I have now, I'd have a ready made desktop :D.
Exactly! You'd have the freedom of both a desktop and a notebook. An external monitor could be picked up at any time. If you aren't ready to get one just yet, keep your eyes on sites like NewEgg and watch for killer deals. When you see one, pounce on it. Best of both worlds.
 

mgipe

macrumors demi-god
Oct 6, 2009
673
143
CA
Don't forget to include the software in your budget. If you need to run Windows or windows apps, you will need to buy a copy. Otherwise you will need to buy the Mac version of MS Office.

I think you will like the air.
 

Belm

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 20, 2009
235
9
Don't forget to include the software in your budget. If you need to run Windows or windows apps, you will need to buy a copy. Otherwise you will need to buy the Mac version of MS Office.

I think you will like the air.
I'll definitely need the Mac version of office which is $90 or so on Amazon which isn't so bad, I guess. I probably won't need Windows but if I do, I'd have a Windows system available to me. Other than Office, I don't really know what other paid software I would need. I'll do a search on the forums to see!
 
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