Replace current laptop w/ MBA or go iMac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by KylePowers, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. KylePowers, Jun 14, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2011

    KylePowers macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    #1
    Howdy,

    I've been (im)patiently awaiting the upcoming MBA, and I'm not afraid to wait longer, but I've been second guessing my use for one. I think my initial reason for jumping to the Mac bandwagon was to delve in some iOS development... just as a hobby of course (I do a little Android, but meh, I own an iPhone 4 and iPad 2). So I was thinking of just replacing my 2009 Sony Z (2.66GHz C2D, 1600x900 13.1in screen, 4GB RAM, 320 7200RPM HDD, Nvidia 9300M GS, etc etc) with a 2011 MBA (presumably a 13in ultimate).

    BUT, my Sony Z is still in pretty great condition (normal 2 year wear and tear, I suppose) and it's small enough for me to take to class, libraries, etc (as for some background: I'm an upcoming 3rd year electrical engineer).

    Common applications I use are: Windows office, Visio, Mathcad, MATLAB, Firefox/Chrome, FileZilla (I'm not too picky about FTP applications though), and presumably will be using more engineering software as my studies continue (maybe Cadence and what not). I use a couple photo editing programs, but nothing too intense and not too frequently (I'm a very, very amateur photographer). I also don't game (on my computer at least... I have a 360 and PS3). Pretty simple application requirements for the most part.

    So, I was thinking of just getting an iMac, that way I could have a pretty nice balance in terms of mobility and operating systems (portable Sony Z with Windows on the go, nicely spec'd iMac with OSX back at home). In the end, I'm torn. So I thought maybe the well-mac-acquainted forum users here at Mac Rumors could help me out (again, this would be my first Mac).

    I really, really like the 27in iMac, but I was thinking of going for the up-scale 21.5in with an SSD (I think a 27in with SSD would be out of my price range). I doubt I'd go for an i7 (though, I'd like to if I could, just because), and will probably upgrade the RAM myself in the future (if need be).

    Since my 2nd year, whenever I'm at home (erm, my apartment) using my Sony Z, I usually hook it up to my 24in 1920x1200 Samsung LCD, used in conjunction with a Logitech MX mouse (talk about an ergonomic mouse!). So I sort of have a dual monitor setup going on already, but sometimes my Sony Z overheats easily (oh, and it only lasts ~2-2.5 hours on battery on normal usage without being connected to an external monitor).

    Like I mentioned earlier, I'll probably be waiting for the next MBA to release, as well as the Back to School promotion (although, I can get the Intel corporate discount... which surprisingly sometimes isn't as good as an educational discount or anywhere near as much as you'd think it'd be).

    Anywho, let me know what you think. Thanks!

    Cheers

    EDIT: I guess the impending 2011 Mac Mini could also be an option, as I already have a 1920x1200 monitor and mouse. I also have a 2TB external USB drive, if that's worth mentioning.
     
  2. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #2
    Are the apps you use available for OS X and how intensive they are (sorry, I'm not very familiar with them). It sounds like the iMac could be better suited for your needs, especially if you need a decent amount of CPU and GPU power. Your PC should be usable for another year or two so you could use it until it's not sufficient and then invest on a new laptop, possibly a Mac.
     
  3. alust2013 macrumors 601

    alust2013

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    #3
    I'd probably consider the iMac, give that you already have a pretty nice laptop. As for size of the iMac, I'd probably get the 27" and consider the SSD later. Since it's always plugged in, it's easy to just let the iMac sleep, so you don't have to worry about boot and loading times that the SSD would help with.

    I am currently working on the base 2010 27" iMac and it is a great machine. I use it at home and my 2008 unibody MacBook at school/around the house. Even the base version of the iMac (especially the 2011) has more power than most people know what to do with, so I wouldn't worry about which one to get, as the GPU isn't a factor for gaming. You could also add a SSD later if you felt the need to.
     
  4. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    #4
    Sound advice, sound advice. I've looked up some of the applications I use (and may use in the future, depending on which routes I take within my EE major)
    • Mathcad - Windows only
    • MATLAB - Windows only
    • Cadence - Looks like Windows only
    • Visio - It doesn't look like Office for Mac includes Visio, so I think Windows only
    So it looks as if most of the applications I need for my major are all Windows only, which would mean either using my Sony Z or virtualizing/bootcamping XP/7 to run them. It's hard to say how CPU/GPU intensive these applications are, but I can state from experience that I've experienced lag on my laptop with juse Mathcad (MATLAB and Cadence programs would be more intensive, I'd imagine). Visio is just another Windows program, but can definitely get hardcore depending on the detail and scale of work being done within it.

    Hmm, you also make a good point. I've just always wanted an SSD (wanted to see what all the hoopla is about), but quite obviously I would leave it on most of the time, like you mentioned. So the SSD is easily user-replaceable/accessible? I was thinking of just getting a 1TB HDD, then buying an SSD for cheaper and just shoving it in there, but I wasn't sure if I could do that.

    Thanks so far though guys! I appreciate it.
     
  5. Orlandoech macrumors 68040

    Orlandoech

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  6. alust2013 macrumors 601

    alust2013

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    #6
    Technically, the SSD is not supposed to be installed by the user, but it can be done. An easier option would be to connect it via thunderbolt when thunderbolt enclosures become available. That would be just as fast as connecting it internally, but without the hassle and the risk of voiding the warranty.
     
  7. Orlandoech macrumors 68040

    Orlandoech

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    #7
    Also at an absurd cost.
     
  8. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #8
    While I don't usually recommend this on a Mac site, I think you would be better off with a PC desktop. Why? Because all of your main apps are Windows only. While virtualization is an option, it's never as good as running Windows natively. As you said your apps are somehow heavy, you would need Boot Camp for optimal performance. IMO that makes the point of getting a Mac a bit moot, especially if you already have a good screen so iMac's 27" screen isn't the selling point either.

    In fact, if you sold your current PC, you might be able to get a nice desktop PC and MBA. That would give you the best of both worlds. A high performance PC at home with Windows for the heavy lifting and ultraportable MBA to carry with you in classes etc.

    Just my thoughts.

    Unless you have some insider information on the pricing of unreleased TB enclosures, your post is nothing else but speculation.
     
  9. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

    Joined:
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    #9
    Noted. Thanks!
    Ah, I see. Am I correct in assuming that there is a spot for an SSD and a spot for a regular HDD? What size SSD do they use/fit? Are answers for the previous two questions applicable to the 21.5in?
    Agreed (assuming you were referring to the price of an SSD?)! $500 is absurd. At least there's a $50 discount for students, $30 for Intel employees (lamesauce), and $50 for military/federal lol

    Hmm, I'm highly considering going with an iMac. Seems like the smarter purchase, as I tend to do most of my work at my desk anyway. But would a 21.5in dual-monitored with a 24in 1920x1080 be better than a 27in? (I guess total pixels would be 3840x1080 vs 2550x1440... but then again, 27in + 24in would be a whole new level of epicness... for me at least haha)

    GASP. haha, no I understand. I built a custom PC a few years ago (like 6 now that I think about it... crap I'm old). But I really didn't use it as much as I thought it would, and now it's just sitting in storage unused and not worth nearly as much as I paid for it. Going off of that, I don't think I could get as much for my Sony Z as I'd like (you can't even really find them on Ebay). *sigh*... I guess I'll just play the waiting game and weigh my options for a few more weeks. I still want to play around in Xcode though D=
     
  10. PraisiX-windows macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 19, 2011
    #10
    If you use those programs you noted in school, I'd say the laptop would have to be running windows ideally, although you could of course use bootcamp or something similar.

    I'd say go for a Mac mini (perhaps even a refreshed one, if they're out in a survivable amount of time), so that you can play around with apps for iOS while at home, and as for the notebook either continue to use your current one in school or even get a new one there as well.

    If you want to play around with a dual screen setup as well, I believe Acer makes 22" screens for under 100 dollars with 1920x1080 so you could add that to the 24" and have fun with that also.

    I obviously don't know your budget, but perhaps this could be the cheaper solution.
     
  11. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

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    Mar 5, 2011
    #11
    Hmm, well, as for budget... I'm trying to keep it below two grand, but who knows if I'll even bite. Everything's up in the air right now, and I guess it just doesn't make sense for me to switch to OSX if the majority of my apps are Windows dependent.

    While I'm not too sure what this upcoming year will bring in terms of software usage (in terms of frequency, that is), I don't really use Mathcad all too often. And I only use MATLAB and Visio every once and a while. And I probably won't be using any Cadence software until my 4th year (not too sure though).

    Le sigh.
     
  12. plumosa macrumors regular

    plumosa

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Location:
    Australia
    #12
    A slightly different suggestion, keep the windows laptop at home as a desktop replacement and get the MBA for school. This way you have something ultralight and portable (with a much longer lasting battery) and then you have your sony for the heavy lifting, native windows programs usage. In a couple of years, buy the imac.


    I did staggered purchasing like that and I'm quite happy with the results. I'm getting ready to buy the MBA as soon as the new one comes out. :)
     
  13. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

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    #13
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_1_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/528.18 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile/7E18 Safari/528.16)

    Sorry guys if this has been confusing... Home refers to my apartment at school, the place I reside when not in class.

    Does this change anyone's opinions?
     
  14. plumosa macrumors regular

    plumosa

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    Australia
    #15
    sorry if my reply was confusing, I did mean exactly as you are going to use it. So my opinion remains the same. I'm basing my opinion on the pitiful battery life you're getting on your sony and the fact that you probably won't need to use your windows only software while in class since I imagine they have computer labs for that? So keep the sony at home hooked up to the monitor and plugged in, and have the air for everything else.
     
  15. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    #16
    You're totally correct. I have no idea how I missed that. But again, Idk how often I'll even use MATLAB, as I only used it a couple times in a course my first year, but maybe I'll be seeing it more this upcoming year. I only used it in a lab actually, but perhaps I may have to buy it (it's a pretty relevant piece of software, so I think it's still important to consider it. It's nice to know it can swing either way though).
    The thing here is that 1) a 13in MBA isn't that much more portable than a Sony Z (about half a pound difference in weight), and 2) I'm pretty sure a 2011 (or even 2010) MBA could out perform my Z. So it'd almost be redundant to have the Z still hanging around. I was hoping to actually sell it if I got the MBA, and put the money towards it (or my other expenses, like my apartment). I'd keep it if I got an iMac, however.

    You're right though that I do have some labs (as in, scheduled times) where I use Windows-only programs and actually, most of my libraries' computers are all installed with class-required software, to make it easier on the students (outside of class time). I have however, used Mathcad numerous times on my personal computer, so that's something Windows-only that I definitely need to consider (which runs okay on my current computer).

    Decisions, decisions, decisions. I wish I could afford a new MBA and a new iMac :p
     
  16. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #17
    How about Los Refurbos? 829$ for base 11" MBA (wait for the update, that will go down) and 1369$ for 2.8GHz i7 iMac (late 2009). A bit over two grands but you get what you want, MBA+iMac. I personally have that setup and find it brilliant.
     
  17. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    #18
    Hmm, maybe, maybe. It's just that with an iPad 2 already, I feel an 11" would sort of intrude on its territory. I realize the two serve different purposes (or can, at least), it's just their screen sizes are too close for me personally. I'd much prefer the 13in, especially since its resolution is much closer to my Z's (1440x900 vs 1600x900). Don't get me wrong though, the 11" and its footprint are gorgeous.

    A couple questions if I were to go 2011 iMac:
    1. Are the performance differences distinguishable between an i5 and i7? I realize it depends on what one would use their computer for, but is it enough to warrant the ~$180 upgrade?
    2. Would anyone recommend switching from the standard 1TB to the 256GB SSD, since I already have an external USB 2TB HDD? My music collection is only like 30GB, my pictures ~75GB, and my documents 130GB. I don't have any shows/videos as I'm an avid Netflix/Hulu user.
    3. Should I get the Magic Trackpad over the Magic Mouse since I already have (what I feel is) a nice mouse? (Again, Logitech Performance MX)
    4. Is there a noticeable difference between the 6770 and the 6970 graphics cards? Or is that something that would only effect me if I were to be gaming extensively?
    I feel as if a base 27in would stomp my current computing experience, but I'm being torn in multiple directions, having considered "future proofing" (even though I'd probably yearn for a new one after 2 years), wants vs needs, budget, etc. Typical consumer issues experienced by the masses, I'm sure.

    Thanks for everything though guys, it's been helpful!
     
  18. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #19
    i7 can be up to ~30% is heavily threaded tasks, thanks to Hyper-Threading. I'm not sure how much it would affect your workflow, considering that even the i5 is a massive upgrade from your current system. Because you don't need the better GPU, I think your best option is to just go with the base 27". You save 300$ compared to the high-end one and nearly 500$ compared to the i7 one. That money can be spent on RAM upgrade (3rd party, of course) and possibly a Thunderbolt SSD down the road (so don't get the Apple one).

    Magic Mouse vs Trackpad is totally up to you but Lion will have a lot use for the Trackpad so I would go with it instead. You have a good mouse already like you said.
     
  19. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

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    #20
    Ah, indeed. I think I can settle for that, while of course first waiting on the impending MBA refresh (maybe) and definitely the back to school promotion. Right now however, I can get a base 27 iMac for $1676.87 via corporate discount (a couple bucks cheaper than the educational discount), tax included. I think it'd be a little cheaper to go with Amazon, but then I couldn't switch the mouse for the trackpad.

    If you buy from an Apple store (in person), is the option to switch the mouse with a trackpad still available? Because I could easily drive up to New Hampshire and get a tax free purchase (which is what I did for my iPad 2) and save ~$80. Hmm...

    Anyone have any recommendation on RAM upgrades (brand, site, etc)? Are there 2 slots or 4? I'm assuming the standard 4GB is 2x2GB?
     
  20. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #21
    You can't switch it in-store. However, if you save 80$ by buying it from the store, why not buy it there and also buy the Trackpad separately? You can sell the Magic Mouse and still win some $. I would say it will fetch around 50$ if it's brand new.

    Four slots, up to 32GB (4x8GB). The stock 4GB is indeed 2x2GB. E.g. this will work. It's 1x4GB which would make your total RAM 8GB, leaving one slot empty for future upgrades so it will be easy and cheap to upgrade to 12GB if needed.
     
  21. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

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    #22
    That's certainly a possibility. And hot damn, RAM is cheap. Since I'm guessing any DDR3 1333 RAM will work, what's the difference between PC3 10600, 10660, 10666? Or is that trivial enough to not worry about?

    Anyone have any opinions between iWork and Microsoft Office? I can get both for ridiculously cheap at my university, so just curious.

    Also, is AppleCare worth it? I got it for my iPhone 4 last year, but I haven't needed it yet (knock on wood). It just seems to me that something that sits on a desk all day is a lot less prone to drops, misuse, being shuffled around in a bag, etc, compared to a phone/tablet/notebook.

    As for the Apple Remote... that's something I could instead use my iPhone for, right? I've used the Remote app for iTunes before, so is that essentially the same thing? Or is the Apple Remote baked into more software, etc.?

    Lastly, is there any benefit to the Apple Charger? I mean, do their rechargeable batteries out perform others that are available?

    Thanks ^_^
     
  22. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #23
    They are all the same. I don't know why OEMs are listing their products with three different types but there is no difference between them. Well, at least they get more page space in NewEgg :p

    Both have free trials so you could give them a try before buying. If you need strict Windows compatibility, then Office for Mac is the only good choice.

    AppleCare divides people into two. There are some people who praise it and others who say you could as well throw your money into a well. I think it's pretty cheap for iMac (179$ IIRC) so it's not a lot $. If you ever need service, that service would cost more than AppleCare so if you use it once, it has already paid itself back. Because you are from the US, I would recommend it because you don't have similar consumer protection laws like we have here in Europe.

    I think Remote app only works with iTunes but there are remotes for other software too, such as VLC and Plex. If you like to use the iMac for watching videos, then I would invest on a remote. It's only 19$ and at least I have a lot use for mine.

    When it came, there were threads saying that it's a pretty good deal. It's not actually Apple's (the batteries are Sanyo's or something) and a similar thingy with 4 batteries was about 20 bucks. Apple one gets you 6 batteries for 30$ for not a bad deal IMO.
     
  23. KylePowers thread starter macrumors 68000

    KylePowers

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    #24
    Thanks a bunch Hellhammer, I really appreciate it.

    With MacRumors' recent article about Apple's B2S promo launching tomorrow and the confirmation of the $100 gift card, does anyone have any recommendations on which Apps to procure from the Mac App Store? Again, I'm a Mac noob.

    I do have an iPad 2 and iPhone 4, so I'm sure I could easily find some ways to spend that $100 lol
     
  24. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #25
    There aren't that many good apps in the Mac App Store. If you prefer iWork, then you could buy it or only parts of it (benefit of MAS, no need to buy whole suite). Otherwise I think your money is better spent on iTunes media or iOS apps. Although, if it's a gift card, you could just sell it ;)
     

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