Questions from a mac newbie. (MacBook vs. MacBook Pro)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Aea, May 23, 2007.

  1. Aea macrumors 6502a


    May 23, 2007
    Denver, Colorado
    I'm heading to college in the fall and I'm looking to get a new laptop from Apple. I've never had a mac before, but I'm quite interested in one since the specs are very competitive, and the aesthetics are top-notch.

    I'm currently torn between either the MB or the MBP, I'm leaning towards the latter, but that all depends on how much free cash I have. The MBP is quite nice, but it's quite expensive even with the education discount (by all estimates close to $2500).

    Other then the obvious word processing and internet use, I also do quite a bit of web design and programming, and I wouldn't mind a laptop capable of playing some higher end games, thus my desire toward getting a MBP.

    I won't be buying until later in the summer when hopefully apple does the iPod promo, and the MBPs (if I am getting one) get's upgraded. I have plenty of questions to go around though...

    How upgradable are the Macs?
    I want to future proof the laptop to the max that I could, however customizing to maximize through apple is damn expensive (3GB Ram for $750!?). I've been browsing crucial and notice that they sell ram for both the MB and the MBP, is there a slot (on the back or some other place) that's easily accessable to stick more ram in, or would I have to bring it to a shop or something. Neither are truely problematic, as I'd like to get up to 4GBs on the MBP (following that expected upgrade), or 2GBs on the MB, for cheaper then it'd cost from Apple. Are the HDs upgradable as well? These don't seem to be much cheaper on the market (granted you also get your original harddrive in addition, perhaps as a backup? I assume they can only support one harddrive).

    How reliable are the MBs / MBPs?
    I am quite concerned about battery life, as I'll probably have one recharge cycle per month, and I'm afraid that my laptop battery would end up being useless after a few months. I don't have the option to plugin everytime I want to use my laptop. I've heard that apple hardware is generally reliable, and if it fails then AppleCare to the rescue (or something to that extent). I've heard that some people have problems with their laptops yellowing, I assume this problem is localized to the plastic MBs? Are there any other real reliability issues I should know of?

    How well does OS X behave with Windows Programs?
    I have *cough* windows XP, I've heard people using programs like parallels to run windows software. I have Office, and I don't want to buy (either full or student) Office for my new mac, will it run with parallels? Will games (specifically looking at EVE Online, and some FPSs) run with parallels? I have no clue how parallels even works, so a quick primer would be quite appreciated.

    Anything Else?
    Is there anything else I should know before buying a MB or a MBP? How much do replacement batteries cost?

    Well, I think those are all the questions I have for now, I hope :)
  2. Spizzo macrumors 6502

    Feb 1, 2004
    Pacific NW
    You'd save lots of $$ buying from Crucial. I bought 2 gigs from them for my iMac for about $125. That's about all you'd need for your mb/mbp.

    I've always used external (Firewire/USB 2) drives. You can get them for dirt cheap.

    I've used AppleCare to replace the logic board on my PB. Had it back within a week. Other than that, no real problems.

    Good Luck! :D
  3. wheezy macrumors 65816


    Apr 7, 2005
    Alpine, UT
    Upgrading the memory isn't difficult at all on either laptop, I have a Macbook and it took about 5 minutes. Upgrading the HD on the Macbook is just as easy, both memory and HD are accessible from the battery bay. I picked up a 1GB Crucial stick for my MB for $55 with a $20 MIR. Wait for the deals, maxing out the ram won't be hard.

    There is a recall on MB batteries right now, they are having some issues, but I believe there is an extended 2 yr warranty on them up to 300 cycles.

    As for working with Windows, Boot Camp is free for dual booting into OS X or XP/Vista. And honestly, it's easier to install Windows on a Mac than it is on a Dell. Boot Camp has you burn a CD with all the needed drivers, does the partitioning, does everything you need to install Windows, works like a champ.

    Go Mac.. hardware has plenty of power and actually more bang for the buck vs a PC when you consider in the software that you get in iLife.
  4. Aea thread starter macrumors 6502a


    May 23, 2007
    Denver, Colorado
    Thanks for the quick reply Spizzo, I was considering maxing out my ram however (that is, if I do get a MBP), since it is relatively inexpensive and can provide a massive boost to speed once the laptop ages. I'm not a bit fan of external hard drives, I'm more looking for speed rather then capacity, I never liked the thought of slow rpm hard drives, and using an external drive would only seem to add slowness.
  5. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    I can't answer all of your questions, but just to get a better grasp of your situation, I'll start by asking you some questions.

    1. Is money a problem? If you do have a spending limit, then this should be your first consideration.

    2. How did you arrive at $2500 for a mbp with a student discount? The only model at that price for students is the 17", and if are considering that, how can you be torn between that and the macbook line? They are very differnt machines, and if you are considering one, the other shouldn't even be on your RADAR. Most people have a tough time deciding between the mb and the entry level mbp, which for students would be $1800.

    3. Realize that you will not be able to play all games with OSX. You can use Bootcamp and play all the games you want, but remember that some games never get Mac titles. Would you still want a mbp if this is the case?

    4. You're going off to college, so what is your major? Grad school? Profession? These things make a difference, just ask any law student who had a Mac before 2006.

    5. Have you checked your school's website? Do they have certain requirments? It's rare now, but some schools will refuse to support Macs (unless you're going to Stanford, which tells students to buy them!)

    Now for a few answers:
    1. I think extra batteries for students are about $90-100. Go to the Apple store online, and do a search for batteries.
    2. DON'T buy RAM from Apple. Go third party and install it yourself, much cheaper.
    3. The HD on the macbook is easier to replace than the HD on the macbook pro. Either way, it's probably best to go with an external drive and just go with whatever size you think is appropriate.
    4. Whenever you figure how much money you have to spend, count some for tax, Applecare, and a case.
  6. Aea thread starter macrumors 6502a


    May 23, 2007
    Denver, Colorado
    Parents are refusing to spend more then $1500, the rest I have to fork up, so depending if I can hold a job all summer, then it's definately going for the MBP.

    Well, I'm considering starting at the middle tier, adding ram, then Applecare, the airline adaptor, it adds up pretty fast.

    With bootcamp parallels can it still play games? Games aren't that much of a major decider for me, but I would love to play EVE Online and other games on the mac.

    I'm going to DU (undergrad), and they recomend Macs or Windows (but urge XP for the latter and not Vista, mmm, sanity)...

    Thanks for the answers. I've been reading negative reviews about the additional batteries, has this problem been addressed yet or are people still listening. (Batteries seem to be a common source of controversy).

    I've already figured that RAM is senseless to buy from apple after seeing their prices, damn insane :)

    Does parallels works as a replacement to bootcamp, I love the idea of using OS X instead of vista or XP, without having to reboot and go through all that trouble :)
  7. apfhex macrumors 68030


    Aug 8, 2006
    Northern California
    What Parallels does is create a virtual PC that you can install an OS on. It's a tad slower and some things aren't supported, but it fits some peoples needs perfectly. Office will work, games won't (no 3d support yet). Gaming with Windows installed natively using BootCamp will be just like you're using a PC, so anything that meets the hardware requirements will work.

    Well, why NOT still want the MBP? Have OS X and Windows on it, instead of being stuck with just Windows.
  8. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    That's a good position to be in then. Work hard, save up, and then buy what you feel is the best. A $1500 contribution from your parents will get you pretty far. that case, I understand your subtotal. Before you go and add the entire Apple store's worth of accessories, ask yourself if they are needed.

    Parallels is different from Bootcamp. Bootcamp allows you to boot into Windows, but you won't have OSX running at the same time. Parallels runs while OSX is still running. Look more into this so you know what you want.

    You're ok then. I'm at Berkeley, and they too don't recommend Vista:rolleyes:

    I don't know enough about the batteries, but do a search to find out more.

    Keep us updated.
  9. iBookG4user macrumors 604


    Jun 27, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    The MacBook has an easily accessible hard drive, while the MacBook Pro does not have one that is easy to get to. I believe that the MacBook Pro is limited to 3.2GB of RAM currently, so you would not gain much by having 2 2GB sticks in it. You can get RAM dirt cheap at I bought 2GB of Patriot RAM from them and it's worked perfectly in my MacBook Pro. The MacBook is limited to 2GB of RAM, so you would be stuck with 2GB if you bought the MacBook. And yes, both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro only support one hard drive.

    I have not had any major hardware issues, although I did send my MacBook Pro in to AppleCare for a heat issue, but that was not major. Generally all the Apple computers I've owned have been reliable. And yes the yellowing issue is only affecting the MacBooks, although I believe that issue has been resolved.

    You might consider moving to NeoOffice J, it's a free word processor that is completely compatible with Word. On Parallels, you have the choice between it and vmware fusion. Both programs allow you to install windows in a virtual machine, which means that you run it within a window under Mac OS X, so you are running two OS's at the same time. Parallels has no 3D support at all, so if the games that you're talking about are 3D, then you're out of luck. VMware fusion on the other hand has Direct X 8.1 support, so older 3D games will work. As one would expect you want at least 2GB of RAM to run either parallels or vmware fusion comfortably, the more RAM the better. Another option to consider would be Boot Camp, it allows you to boot into windows from the start, so you are either running Mac OS X or Windows XP. BootCamp has full 3D support and would be the ideal solution if you are a gamer.

    Replacement batteries for the MacBook Pro are $130, I don't know what the price for the MacBook is though. One thing you should consider is if you want a glossy screen or not, I personally like the matte option which is not available on the MacBook. Matte is much easier on your eyes and colours are not saturated as they are with glossy, although I'm a Graphic Designer so I need colour accuracy, you may differ in your preferences.
  10. iMacZealot macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2005
    Since I have a PowerPC mac, which is incapable of using Bootcamp or Parallels, but I believe you can play pretty much any game.

    Bootcamp is in beta form from Apple, and allows your Mac to run XP (or any other OS.) Parallels, on the other hand, costs $79 and juxtaposes (isn't that a cool word?) OS X and XP.

    I'm about two miles away from DU right now, and they don't seem to have a preference. Just be sure to get Office (which you can run in Parallels or Bootcamp).

    Apple batteries (you know, the ones that weren't recalled) are generally good batteries. You can always bump it up by turning off Bluetooth and WiFi whenever you aren't using them.

    Oh, and what are you planning on getting into? My advice is that a MacBook will suit any student except for those going into creative industries, who should seek a MBP instead.
  11. Aea thread starter macrumors 6502a


    May 23, 2007
    Denver, Colorado
    Majoring in Biology and then getting a BS in the Premed track, which by itself doesn't have extreme computer requirements, but I'm also a webdesign / programming enthusist (what a... juxtaposition :D), and spend quite a bit of time in front of a computer, hence I'm leaning toward the MBP.
  12. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    Biology doesn't seem like a computer-heavy major, so either one would be ok. Personally, I would get the mbp if I had the money (which I do, waiting to be spent on a new mbp once they're updated). Get the Pro and enjoy it, especially since you like webdesign as a hobby. The bigger screen will give you a great deal of increased work area. Even though the screens have only 2.1" between them in terms of diagonal space, the macbook has 25% less work area when compared to a mbp. That's something to think about when making your purchase.
  13. jellz macrumors regular

    May 5, 2007
    Rofl. I was wondering if the name Calboy actually had anything to do w/ Cal. LAMEEEEE :rolleyes:
  14. iMacZealot macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2005
    I'd go for the Pro then. It's only an extra $300 in which to work, and it seems like it'd be a good fit for you.
  15. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    First of all, don't buy the airline adapter. In all likelihood the little cap on the end will get stuck in the hole in your seat, and you'll have to buy a whole new unit to replace it. Conserve battery power, or read a book.

    Next, don't bother buying Office if you're a bio major. Equation editor pales in comparison to the power of a good LaTeX editor like TeXShop or eMacs. The language will take you about a week to learn what you need to know in order to write your labs. It outputs directly to pdf.

    You might need Excel though, in which case I'd probably just download (Office :) ) or NeoOffice/OpenOffice.

    When I was buying a computer last year I was on the fence about the MB/MBP like you were. I'm extremely glad I went with the Pro. It's fast, has form factor, and does everything I need it to do- including lots of scientific computing (I work at CERN), number crunching in Mathematica, and image analysis for photogrammetry measurements.

    RAM upgrades involve unscrewing 3 screws and dropping in the memory sticks. Takes 5 minutes or less. Hard drive upgrades are more involved, but it's doable by yourself although I'd just get a bigger HD from Apple then use external(s) if you need more space.

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