Macbook Air (refurb) + iMac VS 17" Macbook Pro; Have $3,500 to spend for college.

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by MilesT, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. MilesT macrumors newbie

    Feb 22, 2010
    I have a $3.5k budget for my college Apple(s). I am going to be attending Dartmouth for a Biophysical Chemistry Major this coming year also picking up a minor in CS.

    I was debating with a 27" iMac with Quad core i7 and 8GB ram for $2K+ plus a Macbok Air refurb under $1.3K.

    with student discount under $3.4K

    Pro: I have a heavy duty machine and a portable machine in which the portable machine will only need to sync a few QT video clips, JPEGS, PDF, and other word documents for class studies/notes etc. This setup might last longer than only a Macbook cuse if i need to upgrade i can upgrade one or the other. I satisfy my crush for the macbook air (obviously not a standalone laptop) while having a strong desktop that performs.
    I use Adobe photoshop and Illustrator moderately, Garageband and Logic Studio (occasionally but intensively), Molegro, Matlab, Mathematica, Probably other coding applications as I dwell into my CS minor.
    These apps are based on my hobbies and predicted to be using in the future. I realized the need for a sophisticated computer when i embarked on this independent group study: The theory behind it has to account for many data points, centered on Matlab, but has high potential to expand. Naturally I will most likely be part taking in as "intense" if not much more intense research during my undergraduate years with my intended major. Backup major is BME.

    Con: I have two computers, not the safest thing in a college environment. I have heard stories abt stolen notebooks, etc. iMac might be an Overkill if i look at the grand scheme of things, When I plan on actually perusing guided research with professor heavy-duty equipment will probably be given to me via access. Two computers may be a hassle at times. I do movie editing and music remixing as my hobby. Play in an orchestra in which i use some of my equipment to record our performances. Also i LOVE photography.

    Macbook 15" 3.06Ghz Duo 8GB ram. Just under $3K

    Pros: One Laptop. less tedious. Cheaper, and portable (if we average the portability of the iMac and Macbook air). still pretty powerful, since i will most likely have access to Campus computers, then it should be just fine for my personal needs and heavy duty stuff can be done at campus comps. I am not as confined to one spot as i am with an iMac. Huge campus network keeps macbook useful to remote with campus computers with Student ID login. has a line-in and line-out unlike the air, i have used it countless times on my current macbook when i use garageband. If i have a multimedia presentation, like a 1.5 GB movie powerpoint in front of a large hall, will perform better i assume with if it's graphic intense unlike the macbook air.

    Con: still, relatively less power than the iMac. kinda bulky to carry around all the time, i have a herniated disk in my lower back and with a heavy book bag, every pound counts. Campus computers have limitations on what you may or may not install, so programs like molegro are restricted in library computers at least. Other open source third party applications are also restricted. If the iMac might be an overkill, this one might be an underkill, I think an overkill is to be in the safe side, yet still, more pricey and despite my budget being $3.5K, i still wanna save some money if possible.

    People who have been through rigorous Undergraduate schools, what would you recommend? One laptop or one desktop and one laptop.
  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    MacBook Air will be a lot more nicer to carry between classes but having two computers is always an extra hassle.

    How about MacBook Pro and an external monitor? 15" isn't that bad to carry around but then you could have extra screen estate when you're in your dorm doing what you're doing. The cons would be its slowness compared to iMac though...

    If you're fine with two computers, get iMac and MBA but if you want to have one computer then MBP.
  3. Chupa Chupa macrumors G5

    Chupa Chupa

    Jul 16, 2002
    Why blow your entire wad? Take a look at the 13" MBP -- actually wait until the new models ship. I use to be a 15" guy myself but after I bought my 13" I'll never look at another 15" again. 13" is slightly lighter but a lot more mobile, like the MBA, but with more power and easier connectivity. If you need more screen real estate buy a cheap 22" monitor (something that won't make you cry if it gets stolen) to use in the dorm.

    By my math you'll have about $2200 left. As you increase your major courses and your computing needs elevate sell the 13" and trade up for the latest and greatest. You could easily afford to upgrade every year while in school with your bounty if you feel the need. To me that is a lot smarter than being stuck with a 4 year old MBA/iMac.
  4. dangerfish macrumors 6502

    Aug 28, 2007
    You have to decide what is important to you. I had a Macbook Air and I LOVED it. So easy to carry around and plenty powerful for web surfing, word processing, etc. But alas, the battery life killed it for me. I upgraded to a 15" Macbook Pro and the battery life is AWESOME. But it is significantly heavier. In my instance, the battery life was more important than the portability. I think a max'd out 27" is overkill for you. Especially if you are living in a college dorm. I would think it highly unlikely that you will have a place for it to fit. I would recommend a 15" or 17" Macbook Pro and an external monitor for use when you are back in your room. You could also save a $100 by upgrading the RAM yourself (if you even really needed it).
  5. Nein01 macrumors 6502


    Dec 1, 2009
    why upgrade every year though? that seems so wasteful to me. my theory has always been: buy the latest and greatest that you can afford and make it LAST. apple care will have you covered for the first 3 years anyway.

    i bought my powermac g5 dual 2.0 ghz about 5 years ago and the ONLY reason i need a new computer now is because apple made the switch to intel so soon after my purchase that ppc chips are starting to be unsupported by newer software that i need to use - the main example being toon boom animate pro.

    if i had bought my mac just ONE semester later, who knows how long i could keep using this machine? everything else still runs well - photoshop, aftereffects and the rest of adobe cs3, maya 2008, final cut, logic, even WoW runs decently on this thing.

    right now i'm waiting for the refresh to hit so i can buy a top-of-the-line 17" mbp for around $3500 (i'm guessing)

    i'm positive it will last me at least 5 years, but i'm hoping for more like 8 or 10. as long as nothing goes horribly wrong that is..

    anyway, OP i suggest you buy the best laptop you can afford (a mac of course) for the power and portability. definitely wait until the new ones are released though if you can.
  6. iMacThere4Iam macrumors regular

    Dec 28, 2009
    Completely agree. Don't spend all your money right off the bat. Wait for the upgrade, or better yet, the summer, when Apple throws in a printer and a nano. Beer's expensive.
  7. mcruzader macrumors regular

    Sep 10, 2008
    I was in your position a while back. I wanted an air for portability and had a mini as a desktop, ended up selling both, getting a top of the line refurbished MBP 15" with the 24" Apple Cinema Display and I must say, I am glad I went this way, it feels like I have the best of both worlds, if you do decide to buy the MBP though make sure you get ram and hdd from newegg or such, sell the ones you took out to offset the cost. Let us know what you do and good luck.
  8. Cam42 macrumors member

    Jun 28, 2009
    MacBook Pro and external display (Apple Cinema Display if you can swing it) is the way to go. Only one computer, yet large screen when you're in your dorm.

    If you do decide to get an iMac and a MacBook Air, maybe paying for a 50GB Dropbox account would be a good investment
  9. mcruzader macrumors regular

    Sep 10, 2008
    To add to the setup of a MBP with an Apple LED display, I would suggest getting the twelve south bookarc, it just makes the whole experience so much better.
  10. MilesT thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 22, 2010

    It is not the screen that I am concerned about. I already have a 24" widescreen to my disposal if i need it, it's the power that i am debating over. Also the combination 1 vs 2 macs. I already have a dropbox account that I can do with 1GB free account, only pdf and image files get synced really.

    TO other posters: I will be waiting till education discounts and itouch + printer deals are available, i do need a small free color printer :-D, and buy the laptops refurb when i choose to buy them. And I was assuming to wait long enough for the new Air comes out (if it does this summer) and buy in October when refurbished ones are available. School starts in September, I have time as of now, just thinking ahead.
  11. Lloyd Christmas macrumors regular

    May 12, 2009
    Get a 15 MBP

    Having been in school for the past 4 years, I have found that most people who use macs are looked upon as having a little extra money laying around that they needed to spend. If you were to roll into class with a MBA and a 27 Imac in the dorm room, many people will be looking to steal the stuff from you cause you can afford it. I would stick with a 15 MBP with all the goodies you want that way people cant steal it when your away from your room. (and dont say you will put a lock on it, if there is a will there is a way) Lloyd
  12. bradenjobson macrumors newbie

    Feb 23, 2010
    I completely Agree, Wait for the upgrade and let apple thow in the printer and ipod.
  13. rickvanr macrumors 68040


    Apr 10, 2002
    I agree with a lot of the other posters.

    Two computers are a hassle, you'll just end up using one more then the other and it's a pain to get a file you want on one when it's on the other.

    Almost 3 years later my 2.4GHz MBP is still keeping pace and mobility is awesome. Wait for the new 13 or 15 i3/i5/i7 or whatever we're going to get in a MBP and go for the quickest. A nice keyboard and mouse and use them at home with the monitor you said you had and you're set.
  14. SDub90 macrumors 6502a

    Nov 9, 2009
    Long Island
    I'd have to agree as well. I have a core duo macbook and it has lasted me almost 4 years now and I have no reason to upgrade. I'm an industrial and mechanical engineering major and used to run solidworks in a virtual machine just fine - can't think of anything that it won't be able to run.

    You'd be surprised how much the laptops will do and how long they'll last.

    My advice would be (assuming you're starting in the fall) to wait until june or july and grab the latest 13 or 15 inch macbook pro and maybe grab an external display if you need something big and using a TV won't be enough.
  15. duky macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2007
    North Carolina
    I don't think it matters whether it's a rigorous school or not, it should all be the same. It seems that most people are suggesting that you spend less money and just go with a single, lower end machine. It sounds as if you have already allocated the funds to your setup and have no problem purchasing these machines. If that is indeed the case, then hear me out.

    I had a 24" iMac and MacBook Air so I will speak from experience. Using Windows Live Sync I had no problem keeping my documents and music (60gb) in Sync so I don't think two computers will be a problem for you at all and I would highly recommend the setup.

    I've gone from one setup to the next -- started with a Windows desktop as my sole computer freshman year, then I bought a MacBook and had both the MacBook and tower. Ultimately I sold the tower and used a 24" monitor with the MacBook. Over time this became too slow for me and I bought an iMac to use as my primary and a unibody 13" MacBook as a secondary. The MacBook was too heavy as a secondary computer so I went for a MacBook Air and that was by far the best setup I had (MacBook Air + iMac). Now I've sold my iMac and am deciding between a MBP + ACD, 27" iMac and Mac Pro.

    As great as the display on the 27" iMac is, I am leaning towards the MBP because it is more upgradeable than the iMac in my opinion (I can put an SSD in it whenever I want) and it is more portable: 15" MacBook Pro with 24" ACD (or 27 if it ever comes out) as my primary computer and keeping my MacBook Air as my secondary. Whenever I need more power/connectivity on the go I will take the MBP with me, otherwise it will mostly be the MBA on the go. I hope this helps. It might be a bit over $3500 though if you go for the MBA w/ SSD (which is the only way to go IMO). The Mac Pro would be great as well but costs way too much and since I don't need all that power it's really a waste.

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