New Mac Buyer With Questions

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by Mem, Jul 1, 2004.

  1. Mem macrumors member

    Jul 1, 2004
    I'm currently in the process of shopping for my first laptop (And my first Apple if I do end up purchasing one, which I hope!) I will be bringing the laptop with me to college so I'm looking for a "desk top replacement". I recently purchased a Dell Dimension 4600 and have had nothing but problems with it and Windows XP.

    I first started looking at Apples because I thought I might like something entirely different. For comfort sake, I'm only looking at laptops with a 15+ in. screen. This eliminates all apples except the 15' and 17' Powerbooks, which look really nice, but are incredibly expensive. I started looking at HPs only because I've always had good luck buying printers from them and have also looked at Compaqs, IBMs, and others.

    After taking a little field trip to CompUSA to look at the HP model I was going to buy in person I passed the Apples and needless to say after seeing the Powerbooks, I wasn't too fond of the HP. So, now I'm back to looking at Apples, but price is still an issue.

    Here’s what I’m looking at getting…
    PowerBook 1.33GHz (15.2" TFT)
    512MB DDR333 SDRAM - 1 SO-DIMM
    AirPort Extreme Card
    1.33GHz PowerPC G4 with 64MB Graphics Memory
    Backlit Keyboard/Mac OS - U.S. English
    Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
    60GB Ultra ATA drive @ 4200 rpm
    APP for PowerBook (w/ or w/o display) - Enrollment Kit
    Office 2004 for Mac - Student and Teacher Edition

    I’m getting $200.00 off with the student discount as well as money off the APP and Student Office.

    I plan to use the Powerbook for running the Office software and web browsing, as well as some minimal photo editing (software is included as a part of iLife, right?). This photo editing is provided that my digital camera is compatible with the Mac (Minolta Dimage G500-anybody know for sure? I think it should be fine). I want a notebook that runs smoothly, and doesn't crash constantly, a company which has good technical support, and a notebook that's durable, attractive, and most of all has great performance. Screen comfort is also very important to me, but I also want to be able to bring it with me places so I decided on the 15 in Powerbook. Is there any need to update to the higher 15 in configuration? I don’t think I’d use the superdrive, but there is the faster processor and hard drive to consider. Do you think that would be overkill for what I plan to do with it? The computer will not be used for gaming at all.

    Being a first time Mac buyer/user and coming from the PC/Windows World my concerns are…
    - file sharing is said to be “seamless” between PCs and Mac users. Will I have any problems sharing files with PC users via disk, IM or Network?

    - will I have a problem with my Digital camera?

    - I will be hooking up to a college network (fairly small school) and am not sure what kind of internet is going to be provided. I know I’m covered for wireless, should that be available to me, but how would the Powerbook work with dialup (is there a spot to plug in a phone line?) or DSL.

    -I’m also a little concerned about having to use a whole new operating system (Very happy to say goodbye to Windows! But, I’m worried about how hard Panther will be for me to pick up)

    -And, of course, price (I am a student, after all)…

    I'm willing to make an investment here just so long as it's for a quality system. Also, are there any deals, promotions or anything new that Apple's coming out with that I should wait till later in the summer to buy?

    Sorry for the extremely long post, I've got a lot of questions and I’m hoping you Mac Geniuses can help a newcomer out.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
  2. Groovsonic macrumors regular

    Oct 4, 2002
    Near Chicago, Illinois
    Hope this helps...

    You should have no problem sharing files between PCs and Macs. IM file sharing works fine, same with disks.

    Getting hooked up to the net is really easy. If you are using dialup, just plug in to the modem and enter a few access #'s in the the prefs panel, much like a PC (only it will work!). Getting on with DSL, cable or T1 is even easier because you basically just plug it in and it works.

    As far as using Panther vs. Windows, I can tell you that much of it works in the same way. Its all very intuitive. It took me about an hour to get my legs in OSX. Its pretty easy, and if you have problems, there are places like MacRumors that can help you out.

    As far as cost goes, yep, the tend to be a little pricey, but if you can afford it, you wont be sorry. The great thing is that if you decide to upgrade you can always sell it on eBay or something and get a good chunk of your money back. Macs have a reputation for good resale value.

    I got my first mac (17in iMac 800mhz) after multiple terrible experiences with PCs and I was so happy with the decision that when I went off to college, I got an iBook. In my experience, my Macs crash much less often and are more fun to use than my PCs were. Also, they look good and are a really great conversation starter if you walk around with a mac.

    By the way, what college are you going to... Just curious.

  3. MemphisSoulStew macrumors regular

    May 10, 2004
    I can't answer all of your questions, but hope this helps:

    iPhoto, part of iLife, has basic picture editing: brightness and contrast levels, cropping, removing red-eye.

    According to Apple your camera is OS X compatible

    I've got a new 12" PB with the same processor and HD specs as the Combo drive 15" and it runs Office perfectly, copes easily with iPhoto editing and also with more complex Photoshop Elements picture editing, and it plays games well into the bargain - Call Of Duty and MoH Breakthrough have given me hours of entertainment, and play well despite having only the stock 256MB of RAM (I know, I'll upgrade the RAM soon...) IMHO if you won't need the Super Drive, there's no real need to go for the better spec for your needs.

    All the PBs have a phone line port and an Ethernet port, so you'll have no problems there.

    Not hard at all - I'd recommend David Pogue's OS X Missing Manual, Panther Edition though. Very readable, packed with more information than you'll ever need, including how to network with PCs, and well worth the investment. I found myself reading it while I was nowhere near a Mac, then wanting to get back on the computer to try out stuff I'd just read about.

    PBs were updated only recently, no changes were announced at the WWDC, so it's very unlikely that there will be any changes to the PB line over the summer. Buy it now, if you've got the money, and learn to love it before you take it to college.
  4. upperblue79 macrumors regular


    Mar 26, 2004
    Little Rock, AR
    If you go with the mac you will love it. Switching from the windows world to os x was great. It was really easy to learn because most everything is where I thought it would be, no more hunting to find things like I used to do in windows. I purchased a 12" powerbook 800 mhz and does all you want to do perfectly and I also do movie editing with final cut pro so you will have no problems with the things you need to do.
  5. jimjiminyjim macrumors 6502


    Feb 24, 2003
    Why not get two computers?

    Option A:
    Powerbook 15" 1.33 Ghz Airport Extreme

    Option B:

    eMac 1.25 Ghz + Airport extreme
    iBook 12" 1 Ghz + Airport extreme
    $2056. Add $200 for a DVD burner in the eMac...

    These are non-education U.S. Prices from the Apple Store!
  6. jimjiminyjim macrumors 6502


    Feb 24, 2003
    This way you get one 17" screen (on the eMac) and more convenient portability with the iBook. If you don't really need Airport and aren't interested in all the upcoming wireless technologies, you can get the two computers for less money than the one powerbook! ($1898). I don't know what the education prices would be, but obviously they'll be comparable. Admittedly, you won't get quite the top-end video card and a slightly slower processor, but for web browsing, occasional image editing and office, you'll never know the difference.
  7. solvs macrumors 603


    Jun 25, 2002
    LaLaLand, CA
    I know you want a 15+" screen, but I think the 14" iBook would be perfect for you. It's cheaper, you can afford to bump up the RAM, and it has better battery life. Down side is - it's slower, can't upgrade as much, lower screen res, etc.

    If nothing else, check the refurb store. You can pick up an old 15" pretty cheap (comparitively).
  8. mac_gal macrumors member

    Jun 23, 2004
    I think you'll be thrilled with a 15" Powerbook. I just switched a month ago with a 15" Powerbook and I couldn't tell you enough, it's great. No problems whatsoever.

    Don't forget that as a student, you qualify for Apple's educational discount. I think it's a $200 discount for 15" Powerbooks. This discount still applies if you decide to custom-build your Powerbook through Apple.

    Apple Education Store

    Edit: oops, you mentioned this in your post :eek:
  9. Mem thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 1, 2004
  10. rueyeet macrumors 65816


    Jun 10, 2003
    I'll second the vote for a 14" iBook. If possible, go back to CompUSA or another Apple retailer to compare the 14" iBook with the 15" Powerbook. It's just not that much difference in screen size, and the iBook will do everything you need it to--a Powerbook is kind of overkill for basics like web, email, Office, and photo retouching. Plus, AirPort (WiFi) reception is still better in the iBooks, and their polycarbonate casing is more durable than the aluminum of the Powerbook.

    The only thing a Powerbook will get you that an iBook won't, given your projected usage (besides that extra inch of screen size) would be a PC card slot, and the ability to span over another display. Doesn't seem like you'll need either.

    Just make sure to get more than the stock memory, preferably from a reputable outlet like Crucial, and you should be all set! :)
  11. OziMac macrumors 6502

    Oct 24, 2003
    Well, the extra screen of space is actually far more than it sounds because the resolution is so much higher. I agree that perhaps the iBook is the way to go, but would recommend the 12" iBook well over the 14" because they have the same screen resolution and the 12"s performance will be very competitive with the 14"s for a much better price, and better battery life an portability.

    Unless you prefer larger pixels (which you can emulate with the 12" by making fonts larger), then its the 12" all the way :)

    And Jimjiminyjim makes a good value proposition too. But that depends on how much overkill you want :)
  12. goodknight411 macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2004
    MiddlaNowhere, Arkansas
    What school are you going to? i had a "you can't use a mac here" problem with mine but i think it's worked out.
    I suggest BTO the 15" superdrive, because when you take out the superdrive, and add/remove stuff you need/don't need, the cost can be a couple hundred less than the combo-drive. That's what i did. Don't know if it'll work for you.
  13. jknight8907 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 14, 2004
    Hudson Valley NY
    I would suggest the 12" PowerBook. It's got the same processor as the 15" you mentioned, but it's a lot cheaper. If you don't mind the smaller screen, that should be great for your purposes.
  14. TreeHugger macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2004
    Before you buy any software, check with your school if they have a liscense agreement with Microsoft or Apple.
    I will start at Bowdoin College, and will get MS Office X for free...
    So check with your school before you buy anything software wise...
  15. Mem thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 1, 2004
    My Issues with the iBook...
    -I think the 14in, lower resolution screen would make a big difference to me (You wouldn't think 1.2 inches would make a difference but a few months ago I went from a 17 in screen (with a 16 in viewing area) to a 15in screen and it annoyed the heck out of me)

    -Secondly, I want something that going to last me a while (I'm hoping to squeeze 5 years out of it) and I'm under the impression that the Powerbook would allow me more "growing room" not only memory wise, but also software wise and future editions of the Mac Operating System (I see Tiger isn't too far away)

    What do you think. I appreciate everything eveyone has mentioned so far. :D
  16. crazzyeddie macrumors 68030


    Dec 7, 2002
    Florida, USA
    If you want this thing to last for 5 years... you NEED to get the 1.5ghz G4. Basically what you should do is get the 1.5ghz version, downgrade to a Combo drive (from Superdrive) and I would also upgrade the VRAM to 128MB if you plan on doing ANY gaming at all ever in the foreseeable future. Also, if you are impatient, upgrade the hard drive to the 80GB 5400rpm. It will be significantly faster than the 4200rpm and is worth $50.

    If you want to add lots of RAM later, upgrade to 1 512MB SO-DIMM instead of the standard 2 256 SO-DIMMs that Apple gives you. This will save you a ton of money in the future.

    Really the most important upgrade(s) at this point are the CPU and video, since those are NOT upgradable in the future. EVERYTHING else can be upgraded and/or replaced including the optical drive and hard drive, so make sure you put all available money into CPU and video card.
  17. Mem thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 1, 2004
    I will be doing absolutely no gaming....promise ;). So If I go up to the 1.5 should I still upgrade to the VRAM to 128MB? I just don't know what else that would help with.

    Also, do you think I need the upper end 80GB Hard Drive? Or could I get away with the lower end 80 GB?

    Thanks again
  18. atszyman macrumors 68020


    Sep 16, 2003
    The Dallas 'burbs
    If you are not doing any gaming check this out, it should cement 64 over 128MB VRAM.
  19. abhishekit macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2003
    akron , ohio
    Just to add something, are you getting Office 2004 from Apple store? Because if you are going to college, it would be like 15-20$ there. So that would save you some dough.

  20. goodknight411 macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2004
    MiddlaNowhere, Arkansas
    Problem with getting Office from your school is if they don't run macs, they'll only have a windows version.
  21. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    Interestingly, though, the final advice they give is:

    "If you are planning to special order your PowerBook direct from Apple (or Small Dog), you might as well get the 128MB video memory upgrade -- Why? -- because at $50, it's a bargain."

    I'm not sure why they think so - given the test results. It seems like a waste of $50 - again, based on the test results. Perhaps they feel future apps will take more advantage of the additional memory.
  22. atszyman macrumors 68020


    Sep 16, 2003
    The Dallas 'burbs
    Well it's no longer $50, it's now $100, and if you are really trying to save every penny this let's you know that you don't really get much of a performance boost for the money.
  23. Mem thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 1, 2004
    Just a concern I have after reading some iBook reviews. Reviewers are complaining that text (like in word processing programs) is difficult to read. Is this true? This would make a significant difference to me. And if it is true, does the Powerbook 15in have the same problem?
  24. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    The pixel size is similar on all of the PB screens, so text will be the same relative size (roughly). Also, from visits to the local Apple Store, I haven't seen any noticeable difference between the screen quality on the iBook and PB - they look identical to me.

    However, that's only true if you have the word docs set to show the same size (i.e., 100%, 150%, etc.). If you do a zoom-to-fit, then, obviously, everything will be smaller on the 12" screen than on the 15" screen.
  25. MacMissionary macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2004
    Mac buyer with Questions

    I'm a middle school teacher, and this year we borrowed an iMac for two weeks. The kids had never seen any Macs over 7.5, becasue we went to all PCs a few years ago. I had kids on it nonstop from 7:30 am until 4 or 5 at night. They couldn't get enough! We never had one problem, and that is with many different users.

    We raised the money to buy one, but ran into IT problems, so I bought a 12" G3 iBook, 900mh. SAme use. It was used constantly all day long, many different users, and NO problems!!! That was January through May. If you call the Apple Store and talk to them, they are really helpful. They have daily specials, and mine was only $799.

    Meanwhile, I also bought a 20" iMac for home. I love it! I didn't think I would like the 12" screen. Wrong. I love it! I use it all evening, while I surf, do work, email. I have no problems with seeing anything on it, and I'm old!

    The kids picked up on iPhoto and iMovie right away. They learned it really quickly...even special ed students! I did not teach them, becasue I was teaching the class. they figured out everything on their own. They began disliking the PCs at home! If you like photography, you will love iMovie. Do you like music? The kids have gone wild with Garage BAnd, too. Everything they do just makes them more creative. At the end of the year we had a film festival with over 40 films...from 12 and 13 year olds who learned it on their own! If they can do it, think what you can do!

    I love the iBook. Be sure to buy from Apple education. You get tons of programs that you won't get if you buy it some where else.

    Good luck, you will love whatever you choose!

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