MacBook Pro 13" or iMac 21"?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by terrificbatman, Jul 24, 2010.

  1. terrificbatman macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2010
    Hey guys,

    I'm the proud user of an HP laptop that's close to five years old. After so much use, the fans are dying and it gets too hot and too noisy. The case is kind of falling apart, and the battery doesn't deliver more than 10 minutes of solo action. Though I take it with me on trips, I always end up missing the whole bunch of peripherals I use with it - speakers, mouse, a reliable AC charger, sometimes my external HD. It now fills a backpack rather than a lean shoulder bag.

    So I'm finally considering buy a new pc. A Mac.

    Having been sold on the software front, the hardware seems to answer my prayers: a 10-hour battery, a solid unibody case that doesn't heat up, a smaller screen, a large touchpad. I'm talking about the 13" Macbook Pro. I imagine just closing the lid and popping it into a bag, then going out, no hassles. Some cons I've ran into:

    -Is less screen space really tolerable? I use a 15.4" screen at the moment and I wonder if I'll lose too much screen space, considering that Macs have a constant bar at the top and a larger taskbar than PCs.
    -Is it true that you can forgo using a mouse? Some friends have told me they've given up using one completely, but as a frequent mouse user, I believe I'll need one if I have heavier multitasking to do. Plus, if I want to use mine as it is, it'll definitely be a problem, as the USB ports are on the left, and I use it on the right. I know I can buy a Magic Mouse or some bluetooth mouse, but it's still a con if I have to spend more money.
    -Ergonomics. Using a laptop as a desktop PC, I'm used to spending a lot of time at a desk, so I wonder if having the keyboard so close to the screen is doing me any good. Bending over to see what I'm doing and moving a wired mouse around the desk hasn't been comfortable at all. Then again, maybe I should just work in the different settings (Starbucks, library, kitchen table, sofa, bed, etc.) instead of being in the desk all day.

    So here I turn to the iMac 21".

    "Huge, beautiful screen", a better processor that promises to last for a long time, no need to have external speakers, a 500gb drive that releases me from having an external HD plugged in all the time, and wireless peripherals. Then again, I still found two cons:

    -The graphics card specs don't seem to be all that different from the ones you get with the MacBook. I've also seen some videos online that refer to the iMac as being faster than the MacBook with heavier tasks, like exporting video, though the speed is the same with normal tasks.
    -No portability whatsoever. This is a major issue. I've entertained buying an iPhone to replace an array of mobile device (camera, iPod touch) and I wonder if using it with the bluetooth keyboard is enough to do most things while on vacation. On the other hand, I can just use my current laptop on trips, and buy a netbook some time down the line. Having just finished college, I'll be looking for a new job and moving around a bit, so flexibility will be a virtue.

    Sorry if the post is too long. As I said, I don't have much more than a thousand $ to spend, so I really can't opt for the bigger, more powerful versions of these Macs. Thanks for the help!

  2. spinnerlys Guest


    Sep 7, 2008
    forlod bygningen
    As your 15" HP is five years old, it might have a small resolution.

    The 13" MacBook Pro has 1280 x 800, which is not much, but may be enough, especially if you connect an external display to it (up to 30" - 2560 x 1600).

    The Menu Bar (the bar at the top) actually save screen real estate, as not every window has a menu (like in Windows), as there is that menu bar for every application which changes upon application change. A huge life and space saver in my eyes and one of the big pros of Mac OS.

    The Dock (what you call task bar) can be adjusted in size and position and it can also be hidden, so it does not really take up that much space.

    As you speak of a USB mouse, that mouse surely has a cable which is long enough to be connected to the left side, while the cable goes behind the screen to the right side.

    Ergonomics might be a bit weak, especially as you have to look down onto the screen, but that can be solved via a third-party stand or some books under the Mac and an external USB keyboard. Use a passive USB hub to connect low powered USB devices and you still have one USB port free.

    I'm a mouse user too, but the multi touch trackpad has many advantages you don't want to miss. Have a look at BetterTouchTool for more gestures.

    If you don't do any graphic intensive stuff like playing the latest games at full speed or resolution, the MBP is quite a capable machine, and with an external monitor quite a good desktop replacement.

    Also have a look at the following links, as the information presented there might be helpful in your future endeavours into Mac OS X and could clear up initial confusion and may even prevent harm to your system or your files.

    Mac OS X Basics

    Switch 101 - guide with articles made by Apple on how to accustom yourself, after you switched to Mac OS X from Windows​

    Mac 101 - How to get started with Mac OS X​

    Find out how - tutorial videos made by Apple on how to do certain thing in Mac OS X​

    Pro tips - tips made available by Apple for easier ways of doing certain tasks​

    Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcuts - Learn about common Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts.​

    Mac OS X Beginner's Guide by MacRumors - learn about software, media players, shortcuts and some useful tips, tricks and hints​

    Mac Guides - tutorials, product guides and more​

    MRoogle - a very effective tool to search these fora using Google and made available by edesignuk, introductory threads: 1, 2 and 3

  3. wordoflife macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    I would go with the Macbook Pro personally because your laptop is getting really old and your laptop can serve as desktop (well kinda, you know what I mean) but the iMac cannot be portable. The screen resolution from your 15.4 inch laptop is more than likely 1280x800 which is the same resolution as the 13 inch Macbook Pro, so you are not loosing any pixels in the transition.
  4. J&JPolangin macrumors 68030

    Jul 5, 2008
    Thule GL @ the TOW
    ...go refurb, this is the current page on apple right now... get either the current or prev gen whitebook and buy applecare with the savings and bump the ram up yourself to 4Gb....
  5. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    I would go with the MacBook Pro. They are great machines, and I love mine. Yeah, the 13" screen is smallish, but when I am using it, I really don't notice that. Yeah, you have the menu bar at the top, but that's like the taskbar at the bottom on windows, plus windows apps usually have a "menu bar" built into the window that the program is in, taking up the same amount of space. I have my dock auto-hide, because it does take up a bit too much room if it is a decent size and always up. The trackpad on the unibody Macs is a thing of beauty. It's smooth, doesn't resist finger motion, is spacious, and has intuitive and properly functioning additional features. I have seen the two finger scroll or an area of the trackpad used for scrolling on windows machines, but it is never well executed. The keyboard is also excellent. I must say, the ergonomics aren't the best I have seen, but they are manageable.

    Either machine would be great, but if you're concerned about portability, go for the MBP.
  6. terrificbatman thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2010
    Thank you for the replies so far. Let me add a couple of points and answers:

    -My current laptop has a 1200x800 resolution, but I'm thinking I'll have to squint my eyes to see things smaller.

    -On the Menu bar and the Dock, thanks for advice. The browser worries me a bit more than most programs. I use Chrome and I'll have to deal with a new bar on top of it. As for the Dock being hidden, I hope I can cope with that by getting Growl notifications instead of blinking taskbar icons. Also, and this is related to the former point, how does the 'no maximize button' work in a 13.3" screen? Won't you want the windows as big as they can get?

    -I can't get a refurbished iMac as I don't live in the US.

    -Like I said, I'd like to do without any extra peripherals, otherwise the experience appears to be flawed. If I plugged an MBP to an external display, like an LCD tv, I'd most likely not be using it for regular work, but showing things to friends, or watching movies. Nevertheless, yes, I think I can still use my USB mouse because the wire is long enough.

    -As for 'as long as you don't play the latest games', one of the problems I had with my current laptop is that I had a year/year and a half to play the latest games, and then my pc wasn't up-to-date anymore. I understand this is normal, but I do want to get to play the latest games out of the box when I purchase a new laptop.
  7. wordoflife macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    You won't have to squint your eyes at all. Try it at the store.
  8. tunerX Suspended


    Nov 5, 2009
    How often do you plan on using it. The iMac isn't a system for carrying around the house. The benefit with the iMac is the larger screen options but you sacrifice transportability.

    The iMac has the opposite tradeoffs, high mobility less screen real estate.

    Either can be had with comparable performance specs at reasonable prices.
  9. SnowLeopard2008, Jul 25, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 4, 2011

    SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604


    Jul 4, 2008
    Silicon Valley
    He needs portability. Go with a MacBook Pro and get a cheap external monitor. A nice 24" costs like $200 or less these days. That way, you have a bigger screen than the 21.5" iMac and portability. It's what I do, 15" MBP + 24" monitor. I also have an iPad and iPhone 4, but in my situation, it's not enough for me when I'm on the go. But that's just me, maybe the OP requires something lesser than me.

    EDIT: Just read the part where the OP says he doesn't want an external monitor. Ignore the above.

    The "no maximize" button doesn't automatically maximize windows (which is really stupid), it optimizes the window size based on the content within. iMovie will maximize, Safari won't, etc. You can always drag the window to be bigger if you need to. Taskbar icons won't blink except for a few like Mail or iChat. If you use Twitter, Tweetie will have small red dot on the icon. But nothing will blink or be a distraction, exactly what I consider Growl to be. I'd still go with a 13" MBP because you can take it wherever you go. The iMac doesn't offer that much of a performance boost and you don't seem to do anything CPU or GPU intensive like video editing, 3D modeling, rendering, photography, graphic design, etc. If you did do those things, I'd suggest the 27" iMac or the 15" MBP because it has better hardware. And in certain cases, the Mac Pro.
  10. terrificbatman thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2010
    Well, external displays always seem too much work.

    See here, for example:

    The guy has four different cables plugged in so he can have 'normal work' with his laptop setting. What does your desk look like after all this?

    I'm sensitive to the argument of actual sitting work vs. working on the move. I think maybe 5% of all my pc time has been spent with the laptop outside the home. 200$ is also a fine netbook price for me.

    So again.. performance and ergonomics.. how do they compare?
  11. SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604


    Jul 4, 2008
    Silicon Valley
    I'll upload a picture of my desk in a bit. I have my MBP on a Griffin Elevator stand but that was recently, I've used it just fine without a stand for a year. I have one cable to make the external monitor work. The Mini DisplayPort adapter connected to a DVI cable. Together, it makes one cable that goes from MBP to 24" monitor.

    Performance and ergonomics. The iMac is due for a refresh, so the lower end models still have the 9400M GPU which is pretty good but the 330M is better. For normal tasks, a faster clocked CPU is almost no advantage. For stuff like video editing, photography, etc. the faster clocked CPU is an advantage.

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