Is it better for me to buy a desktop+macbook or just MBP?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by earthbound, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. earthbound macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2007
    I will be buying a new computer in the next few months, but I haven’t been able to decide which one to get. I've recently been thinking of switching to OS X and this is giving me more choices as well. I have an old Fujitsu laptop and during the 3+ years I've had it I've only carried it with me twice, so I feel that it’s better for me to buy a desktop (pc/mac) instead - it’s cheaper and I can regularly use a bigger monitor. But here’s my dilemma: I might study abroad in Japan next year and I’d like to have a computer with me for school work and keeping in contact with my family. I'm desperate for some suggestions. Should I buy...

    (1) desktop now + a low-end macbook/cheap notebook for study abroad
    (2) low-end 15" MBP
    (3) other suggestions... ?

    Some questions...

    (1) Connecting a laptop to an external monitor nearly all of the time is kind of pointless, but does it have a negative effect on the laptop at all?
    (2) I most likely don’t need bootcamp once I switch, but if I ever do, does it run smoothly on Mac Mini? Does it make MBP hotter?

    Other things to consider...

    The only heavy programs I will be using is Photoshop and Illustrator, and I won’t be using them everyday - at least not on my computer.
    Budget is around $2500 for either desktop+notebook or a MBP.

    Here are the choices that I'm considering...

    Dell Vostro 400
    Intel® Core™2 Duo Proc E6550 (2.33GHz,4MB L2Cache,1333FSB)
    Genuine Windows® XP Home
    2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz - 2DIMMs
    250GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
    Free Upgrade! From DVD to DVD+RW
    128MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8300GS
    3 Year Limited Hardware Warranty with Next Business Day On-Site Service
    3 Year CompleteCare Accidental Damage Service
    $1037 + tax = $1119.86
    --> which leaves me with ~$1300 for monitor + a notebook

    Mac Mini
    2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 2x1GB
    120GB Serial ATA drive
    SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
    Apple Wireless Keyboard & wireless Mighty Mouse
    Mac OS X - U.S. English
    AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac mini (w/or w/o Display) - Auto-enroll
    $1,142.00 + tax = $1,243.64
    --> which leaves me with ~$1250 for monitor + a notebook

    2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 2x1GB
    250GB Serial ATA Drive
    SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
    Apple wireless Mighty Mouse
    Apple Wireless Keyboard (English) + Mac OS X
    AppleCare Protection Plan for iMac - Auto-enroll
    ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB memory
    20-inch glossy widescreen LCD
    AirPort Extreme
    $1,453.00 + tax = $1,582.32
    --> which leaves me with ~$900 for a notebook

    low-end MBP
    $2,167.00 + tax = $2,359.86
    --> which leaves me with ~$100 for monitor (uhhh...)

    ** I can't say I like the design of iMac very much, especially the glossy monitor. It's not a matter of distraction, it's a matter of eye strain. I use computer 3-7 hours everyday - 19” matte at work and 17” glossy Fujitsu at home. Needless to say I can feel the difference. But if many of you believe it's the best solution for me, I will keep this option in mind.

    Any help is appreciated.

    Thank you in advance!
  2. mistasopz macrumors regular

    Apr 14, 2006
    I would get a MB and the Dell. You get the best of both worlds then.

    Power wise, the dell has a better processor, ram, harddrive and videocard. Plus you can get a non-glossy screen.

    The mac mini is a joke, I wouldn't consider it even if it was $200 cheaper.

    The MB is a good choice for a mac because it should be able to nicely run everything you require providing that you don't do heavy photoshop or video editing. Your PC can handle graphics and games and everything pertaining to power and your MB can run Mac OS and you can have all the functionality you want.

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. Tumeg101 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 30, 2007
    Orange County, California
    I say, the stock low end iMac and the stock Mid-End MacBook...
    and buy 3rd party ram (much much cheaper)
  4. dooker777 macrumors member

    Sep 23, 2007
    How about buy a desktop (iMac) now and hold off on the laptop? Get the laptop if you go to Japan. If you go, then sell the iMac and use the funds toward a laptop and accessories.
  5. mets1125 macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2007
    Queens, NY
    I would buy the dell and the MB. It makes sense financially and like another poster says your getting the best of both worlds.
  6. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    You wrote that you weren't going to be using Photoshop or Illustrator on your own computer much, so I have to ask, is there any benefit you would see from a desktop?

    Considering the fact that you want to study aboard in Japan (so cool!!!:cool:), I think you might want to consider the main in the butt a desktop is going to be when it comes time to fly home or even travel between the four islands. With a notebook, this is much easier. Assuming that your non-Photoshop/Illustrator needs are basic (ie, IM, Word/word processing, email, web surfing, etc), then I don't see why even the mid level (or black, because it's so much better looking:eek:) macbook wouldn't do fine on its own. Just because you have $2500 doesn't mean you have to spend it all;)

    However, you also mentioned a dislike of glossy screens. Trust me, I know what you mean. I had to choose matte as well, and if you think having it on a stationary monitor is bad, wait until you're on a bullet train and all you get is one giant reflection on your screen (I'm speaking in hyperbole of course, but it does bother some people, as you have obviously indicated having a lower opinion of said screens).

    If you are worried about future possibilities(and as a prepared buyer, you ought to be), I suggest you go for the base mbp. At the current time, it is a very attractive offering. However, you will probably be making your purchase in a while, so maybe you should wait until after Leopard comes out and hold on for a little while longer. Assuming the macbooks get SR (which I'm sure they will before the year ends), then that would be the smarter purchase.

    Best of luck:)

    PS: Have fun in Japan:)
  7. MAcNIAC macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2006
    The macbook has plenty of power for photoshop and illustrator. If you dont game, and these are the most intensive programs you use you wont benefit from an iMac or MBP over a macbook.

    i think the perfect solution for you is a macbook, and a big external monitor - and it'd be heaps cheaper than a MBP! If you go to japan, disconnect your monitor and you are good to go.
  8. juanm macrumors 65816


    May 1, 2006
    Fury 161
    At home, we currently have:
    Low end last gen iMac (my mother)
    Low end last gen MacBook Pro (me) - with 4Gb of RAM.
    Mid first gen MacBook (it used to be mine, now it's my sister)
    I have a desktop PC too.

    So apart from the Mac mini, (not worth it, if compared to the iMac) I have all the computers (more or less) you are considering.

    My advice:

    1: Forget the Dell. It has better specs, so it looks better on paper. That's it.
    2: I always find myself using the iMac instead of the MBP. It's just better for home use. If there's one computer I'll get in the future, it's an iMac.
    3: The MacBook is extremely powerful for it's price and size. I *really* miss mine, even though I have now a much better and faster machine.

    Bottom line, my advice is:
    Low end iMac + Mid MacBook, and bump the RAM to 2Gb (not more). If I had to do it again, I'd probably go for this setup for myself. Or MacBook + Big monitor, and bump the RAM to 2Gb, it's your call.
    Also I've heard that Macs are cheap in Japan...
  9. seany916 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2006
    Southern California
    iMac would be the prettiest and most reliable setup.

    MB with a Dell monitor (much cheaper, great monitors) would be very flexible, but wires plugged in might be a pain.

    FWIW, I keep a fan blowing on my MBP if I do any processor intensive work on it. (computer lifted 1 inch from table w/ easy airflow) It gets hot enough on the bottom left that it will burn my hand if I touch it. Fan keeps it cool enought to pick up easily. MB will be even hotter on the inside, but might not feel that way on the outside. My computer gets buggy if I let it get too hot. Hope this helps.
  10. bailey35mm macrumors newbie

    Sep 28, 2007
    Also I've heard that Macs are cheap in Japan...[/QUOTE]

    I live in Japan, and bought my MBP here. Macs are actually slightly more expensive than the US prices. One advantage of shopping at an Apple store here in Japan is that, if you ask, they can change your keyboard to the US style and get you pre-set to OS X in English. At the Nagoya Apple Store they have a British guy who works there and has been a great help. I say buy a Macbook Pro. It would suck to either ship a large computer here, or have to leave one behind.
  11. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    I'd say get a refurbished current low-end MBP for $1699 + Applecare if you think you will be traveling and will need something for school.

    Though spending $1299 on a refurbished high-end MacBook will likely be a better deal.

    In either case, you can always get a larger dell displays, keyboard, and mouse to give either the desktop feel.


    Plus buying a MacBook/Pro and an iMac/Mini is redundant -- since they are all running laptop chipsets, so the only thing different is GPU, the screen, and the MacBooks lack of a current chipset (but that only sacks you 1GB right now.)
  12. maccompaq macrumors 65816


    Mar 6, 2007
    Get the Dell Vostro 400 with XP Home, 2 GB memory and also get the Vostro 1500 laptop with XP Home, 2 GB memory with the Intel Core2 Duo and the 128MB GPU. It is almost as fast as the MacBook Pro and much cheaper. You will have saved lots lots of money.
  13. earthbound thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2007
    Thanks for the replies, guys. Not only are they helpful, but some options you mentioned save me money, which is always a good thing ;)

    The dell/macbook is the most the sensible choice financially, and I get to have both Windows and OS X like you guys said. A couple of you mentioned iMac, though, so I think I will go to Best Buy sometime soon to check out the glossy screen and see if I like it.

    Well, I did mentioned that won't be using Photoshop/Illustrator on my own computer everyday and it's true that on weekdays I only use these programs at work, but on weekends it's a different story, especially since I've taken digital painting as a hobby. But who knows? With newer computer, faster processor, and better workflow that put my current Intel Pentium 4 + 512 MB memory to shame, I might even use Photoshop/Illustrator at home more often :D And also having a large 19"-22" monitor for everyday use - not only for graphic works - is very important to me, and it's something that I can't get from a laptop.

    I can save a lot of money by buying a high-end Macbook and an external monitor, but will it be alright for me to use a Macbook with an external monitor virtually all the time? Will it have any negative effect on the laptop at all? Hmm... if they really do update the Macbook with Santa Rosa this year, I see myself going with this option. (and if they start offering matte option for iMac, I'd go for it without a second thought, but... too many if's here...)

    Ah, yes, the main reason why the MBP still appeals to me. If I do go with MBP, I have to dig deeper in my pocket for the large monitor I really want, but for the advantage you said above, it might be worth it to stretch my wallet a little bit. We'll see.

    I still have about a month before I have to make a decision, so any more opinions are appreciated :)
  14. mcmacmcmac macrumors member

    Oct 2, 2007

    Im about to purchase a MBP and plan to have it hooked up to an external when at home (most of the time). I have yet to hear of any problems of having a MBP hooked up to an external for extended periods of time.
  15. MAcNIAC macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2006
    sure it's OK to use a MB with the lid closed all the time, it's an advertised feature - if you are worried about heat get applecare.

    the external monitor setup gives you - a cheap set up, a big external monitor of your choice, a small laptop for the rare times when you are on the road with it, & the ability to use dual display.
  16. jackc macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2003
    You're thinking about buying a Dell desktop and a MacBook? That's crazy talk! Definitely go with the external monitor.
  17. Hoo03 macrumors regular

    Feb 23, 2007
    Can you elaborate how to do this? Currently I have my MB and I am "forced" to use 2 screens. When I closed the lid, both MB and external monitor goes into hibernation mode.

    Any recommendation would be helpful. Thanks.
  18. bassism macrumors member

    Dec 22, 2004
    I will second the recommendation for a Macbook with a nice display.
    Once upon a time I had a G5 and an ibook. I found that I used the ibook all the time and rarely touched the G5, despite it being far faster. I can only imagine that with a Macbook and a slightly-faster Dell, you would find yourself in the same situation.
  19. suneohair macrumors 68020


    Aug 27, 2006
  20. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    I think that considering all things, a mbp would be a better bet for you. I think that you'll find it to be only slightly better at the moment, but in the long term, you might notice that certain things about it are superior (matte screen, bigger trackpad, higher RAM limit[as of now that is], better speakers, etc). Take your time deciding though, because the new macbooks might be surprising in value. Keep your eyes peeled for updates and do a cost to feature analysis. Write down all the features you get with each notebook over the other (ie, macbook is smaller, so that would be +1 for it, while mbp has a bigger screen, so +1 for it, if either of these things is important to you). Then compare the total number/quality of the features you gain by buying the mbp. If it ends up being only two features that you mildly care about, your money is better spent on the macbook. If, however, there are a few features that you really care about, then invest the extra money in the mbp.
  21. big macrumors 65816


    Feb 20, 2002
    for what it is worth, dual screens is the way to go, so with the MBP, you get lots of real estate

    With the MB lid down, it will sleep, just dim the screen down so its totally turned off, and the MB will not go to sleep
  22. Erasmus macrumors 68030


    Jun 22, 2006
    Hiding from Omnius in Australia
    Buy the 2.2 MBP. It's really awesome, and you won't regret it. Sure, it's a bunch more expensive than the MB, but it's faster, with a nicer screen, more RAM, bigger HDD, and a really good GPU. Even if you don't think you'll use it, it's always good to have. It's almost exactly the same size and weight as the MB. And it's just a better machine. The MB's look and feel like toys. Sorry all you MB lovers, but it's true.

    Forget the desktop, it's too much of a hassle keeping data up to date between the two. Especially if you have any plans of taking the notebook to Uni/school/other places. Just buy yourself an external mouse, and you're set.

    And forget the dell. Sure, it looks good on paper, but as another said before, that's all. Boot camp is good, you still get a good long battery life, and the computer doesn't get hot. Had my first Windows Blue Screen a few days ago. Then comes the disk check, the worry, and a whole lot of extra trouble. I can't imagine having to use Windows all the time.

    And are you sure you need an external monitor? Seems like just a waste of money to me. 1440x900 is plenty enough for me.
  23. teflon macrumors 6502a


    May 28, 2007
    I'd suggest a mbp for your uses. A mb + monitor would be fine if you don't move, but if you're going to Japan, then you're stuck with only your laptop. Since you don't like the glossy screen and 13'' might be too small, mbp seems to be the way to go. Actually, if you don't plan to move it around a lot, then a refurbished 17'' might be great, especially for when you move to Japan. You can get them for $2400 right now or $2600 for the HD version. Bit out of your budget, but worth it if it's going to be your standalone monitor for a year.

    Edit: Assuming you're a student (since you're going to study abroad), you should be able to get laptops around the same price as the refurb after the student discount.
  24. MAcNIAC macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2006
    you need a keyboard and mouse attached to use an external monitor with the lid closed.
    under "video out" - i'm sure this used to be better promoted when the MB's were launched???
  25. earthbound thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2007
    Yes, I'm sure about getting the external monitor. I've been wanting a 19"-22" monitor for everyday home use, and larger screens will give me ample space when I paint digitally. I use 1400x1050 on my 17" Fujitsu right now (I never max out the resolution because it makes text too small) and I always wish for a bigger monitor when I paint. I'm not sure how I'd fare with smaller 15.4" screen without having an external monitor.

    Large screen is pretty much the reason why I considered getting a desktop, since I won't be carrying my computer anywhere with me except for the duration that I study abroad. But after seeing how many of you recommend MB/MBP+external monitor, it reassures me that I won't harm the notebook even if I use it a lot with an external monitor. And either way, it's better to have one computer rather than two separate ones.

    (And yes, I did check out the iMac at BestBuy. I was really taken aback at how reflective it is. It's many times over more glossy than my current Fujitsu laptop. iMac's out of the question).

    So... you guys have helped me narrow down my choices to Macbook+monitor or MBP(+monitor). Here's a little list I've compiled...

    (1) Macbook + monitor
    + cheaper
    + personally, I think it's more ideal for a first Mac
    - in the long run I think I'd want MBP...
    + ...but I feel more comfortable taking a Macbook than a $2000+ MBP with me to Japan, where I might need to carry it around to find Wi-Fi access...
    + ...and I can sell the Macbook and get a newer MBP before I graduate...
    - ...though I'm not sure where I'd stand financially after study abroad (in Tokyo, no less)
    (I will wait until the Santa Rosa refresh, if it doesn't come this year, I will go for MBP)

    (2) MBP
    - more expensive
    - possibly not enough money for an external monitor
    + better specs
    - I'm not sure I want to carry it around with me to places with Wi-Fi access when I study abroad...
    + ...but then I won't be stuck with a smaller, glossy screen during my stay in Japan (though chances are I'm not going to use my computer that much when I'm in Japan - certainly not for design work/painting)

    What do you guys think?

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