When to buy my first mac for grad school

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by psstudent, Apr 30, 2008.

  1. psstudent macrumors newbie

    Apr 30, 2008
    Hello all,

    I'm entering grad school in Sept. of this year and need a new notebook to accompany me in my new endeavor. I've had virtually no experience with mac's, but everyone I know who has one (including my soon to be adviser) seems to love their computer. So I've decided to purchase a macbook this summer. The question is when? From what I can tell it seems that a lot of people believe that a new macbook redesign will be coming out sometime before the beginning of the next school year, and if there is a chance that it will be a major redesign I could wait for that (as far as patients goes).
    My two major concerns are this. First, I will not have time to familiarize myself with my new notebook after September 1st. So anything I need to use it for I need to know how to do by then. Second, do there tend to be bug problems with the first release after a major apple redesign? I would like to have the cool new design, but if it means that I risk getting a buggy or less reliable machine then I would rather have the older version.
    So how long do you guys think that it would take for the average, somewhat computer illiterate, user to adapt from a pc platform to a mac platform? BTW, I will be using the computer primarily to write papers, and do statistical number crunching. So things like graphical design and gaming are not a concern. I would also like to use the notebook to manage my music, and watch movies on plane rides back home though. So what do you guys think? Should I wait to purchase until later, and if so how late is too late? Also do I need to purchase a copy of ms office for my new mac, or do you think that I should use iwork to write my academic papers? Finally, please remember that I am on a grad students budget and therefore this machine will need to last me at least 3+ years. I'm currently considering the mid-level macbook. So what do you guys think?

    Thank you for the advice.
  2. jamesybsu macrumors regular

    Jun 12, 2007
    Graduate school huh? I will be attending grad school myself this fall. First of all, I am glad to hear your going to the mac side, they are great and you will love it. to your questions:

    1 - Personally, I would wait to buy your new computer until at least the begining of August. I say this for a number of reasons, number one, apple usually has a promotion where if you buy a mac you get an ipod, so that's a nice offer. Second, you never know what Apple has up their sleeve and what they might come out with as far as a new design, etc. They will most likely be updating the speed, etc so if you want this computer to last you 3+ years I would wait until at least August.
    2 - as far as switching to the OSX from windows, it won't take you much time at all to adjust. I mean the close button is on the other side of the screen but you will fall in love with all the features OSX has to offer. I would give yourself a week to learn the basics, and you'll just pick up stuff after that as you learn new features.
    As far as software, you might want to wait to get office until you get to school and see what their policy is our buy academic programs. I know where I am at I can download mac office (and windows office) legally for free. However I must admit the new office is rather annoying and I find myself using iLife a lot more, especially Keynote.

    Hope that helps!
  3. digitalnicotine macrumors 65816


    Jan 11, 2008
    You sound like you have a pretty good idea what you need, and I think you're dead on with a mid level Macbook. If you can hold off until about mid June, chances are they will update at WDC 08 (it's June 9-13). If not, then I'm not sure what the next likely update time will be, but you could obviously use some of the summer to get familiar with your new machine.

    It'll easily last you 3 years for the things you'll be needing it for, and if you're able to jump on this new update in June, you'll be set. As far as issues go, you have nothing to worry about. If for some reason the new release has major issues, Apple will fix the problem, or replace your machine. All Macs come with a 1 year warranty, and the option to purchase a total of 3 years with Apple Care. It's unlikely to be an issue, anyway.

    The thing about Mac's is that they make OSX and choose the hardware they install on their machines to integrate well. PC manufacturers, who use Windows, have a large range of parts from a large range of manufacturers that are constantly changing. They have to rely on 3rd party drivers for their components, and pray they will integrate well with whatever version of Windows the customer selects. It's a lot more of a crap shoot when dealing with new release PC's.

    I suggest you get Apple Care, to ensure your investment is sound for the entire 3 years. You can purchase it anytime within the first year of ownership, and even if you don't ever need to use it, the piece of mind alone is worth it. Don't buy it from Apple, get it on eBay or Amazon for a lower price. :)

    Once you get your machine in June-ish, feel free to post your questions as you learn Leopard. It's a delightful operating system, and once you feel comfortable with it, you'll understand why your advisor has recommended Macs. There are video tutorials to help you along on the Apple site, as well as a Mac beginners guide on this site.

    Be sure to check into educational discount options before making your purchase. As far as doing writing assignments, the built in software on your new Macbook will be more than sufficient, but there is also a Mac version of Office, should you need more. Again, your student discount will come in handy if that's the case.

    How long it takes you to adjust is not something I can predict, but I suspect the more willing you are to read the guides and post your questions, the faster you'll realize how intuitive OSX is, and how it makes computing a pleasant experience, rather than the exercise in frustration tolerance that Windows is known for. It took me about 2 weeks to feel confident and comfortable in OSX, but I didn't use any guides or tutorials. Good luck to you. :)
  4. psstudent thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 30, 2008
    Thanks for the advice. I've decided to wait and see what is announced at WWDC. Thank you for helping my reason prevail. I was, and am still having control issues in regards to this purchase, but I am determined to not let my id win on this one.
  5. StuBeck macrumors 6502

    May 6, 2008
    Do you have a student id now? If not, you may want to wait until you get your student ID, the discount you get is pretty big with the educational discount. For me, its almost 30 percent because in the UK they include a 3 year parts and labor warranty with the system.

    If you can't wait to get the system until you get a student id, at least wait on applecare. You should be able to save about a 1/3rd off of the price. Definitely get applecare though. i had a macbook pro and while it didn't have any horrible issues (none of my PC notebooks have either) it did have a lot more small issues. I never got it fixed because I couldn't be without my system for a week or more to fix the keyboard, but with another 2 years of use I think I would have had to.

    I'm sort of in the same boat, but I'm finishing grad school now. I'm going to wait until the middle of June or later to get a macbook, hoping for the free ipod deal, and new macbooks. I want to get it before I finish in September since its £713 with the discounts, but £1000 without!
  6. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    1. Yes there are. MacBooks had all sorts of problems that dragged out for at least 12 months. I know this because I purchased a MacBook during week 23 of release, thinking the flaws would have been discovered and sorted out by now.

    I ended up purchasing a laptop with ALL known problems, and these problems hadn't been ironed out yet. I realize that I just had some bad luck, but everything from the dirty palmrest (uncleanable) to the screen flicker (had 2 or 3 new screens on that MacBook) made the entire thing a poor experience. That computer was finally replaced for free after a year of hell, but things are good now. The older the design, the lower the chances of there being defects. You only get problems when you redesign the case, or replace an old component with a better one (eg: The LCD when transitioning from 15" PowerBook to 15" MBP, even though they used the same case design).

    2. Even if there's a redesign, you may like the old design better and be perfectly content.
  7. psstudent thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 30, 2008
    Thanks for the posts regarding educational discounts, and reliability issues. I have been counting on getting them since I am currently enrolled as an undergrad (I'm graduating on Sunday!). Hopefully graduation presents will pay for most of the macbook. I'm also considering purchasing time capsule and an external LCD for use at home. Does anyone have advice in regards to hooking up a roughly 20" monitor or flat panel t.v. to to the macbook? Any advice related to time capsule? Also, if I decide I like the old macbooks better after the new ones come out could I run into trouble when trying to purchase one from apple? What kind of window can I expect to have durring which the older or newer models will both be available?

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