Which Macbook for a student?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by wilfried, Aug 4, 2008.

  1. wilfried macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2008
    I'm helping a friend shop for a computer for her son who's starting college in the fall. I think a Macbook should be perfectly adequate for him, but the other parent has in her head that he needs a Macbook Pro. The boy has some interest in graphic arts or design, and may take some classes in that vein, though it's not at all clear that he'll major in it, but parent 2 thinks that a potential interest in graphics warrants forking out for the Mackbook Pro. She also has some sense that it would help timeproof the purchase; I think they hope that whatever they buy can get him through four years of college. Money is very much an issue for them, so they can't just say, "what the heck, let's drop an extra $700 just in case," though they are willing to scrape if the kid really needs it. I'm also looking for a reality check for myself; I think I'm reasonably sensible about computers, but I don't do graphics work, and I was in school back in the days of the Mac Plus, so I don't have any real world sense of what students expect to have or use these days.

    So, given the above, which do you think is the sensible purchase? Does the student need a Macbook Pro if he takes a few classes in graphic design? What if he majors in it? If the Macbook is the way to go, I could use some ammunition for parent 2 to talk her down. She's headstrong, but naive about computers, and is I think a bit freaked about the decision, leading to "let's get everything and the kitchen sink to cover our bases," with a bit of "only the best for my kid" thrown in.

    If they go for the Macbook, does it make sense to step up to the 2.4GHz white model? I don't think the black Macbook is worth the price for some extra storage (and bragging rights in the library).
  2. tmelvin macrumors 6502


    Mar 17, 2008
    If it were my son, I'd go the MB route. The MBP is nice, but way over the top for his needs. I do some basic Web authoring, personal photo, and network designs for my job, and the MB is perfectly capable of handling it.

    I'd go with the MB, SuperDrive model, w/base memory. Go to Crucial or similar, and max out the RAM to 4GB. When he gets to his 2nd or 3rd year of school, and he decides that graphics is his major, he can sell the MB and put it toward an MBP. Also, make sure he looks at both refurb and new /w student discounts. If he gets it now, or in the next week or two, he gets the Touch. If he doesn't want it/need it, he can sell that too, saving some $$$$
  3. FuuFuu macrumors regular


    Jul 8, 2008

    i was a freshmen in college last year and i had a lot of friend doing arts and design. its not likely to your friends son to be using anything complex designing as to the point you need a mbp. even though a macbook only has a integrated graphics card, it can handle the classes he is going to take for now.

    if you don't already know, college students gets a discount on macbooks. free ipod touch, and a printer, and $100 discount. sell the touch and printer for another $250ish off on the macbook.

    One of the best things about apple is that its resell price is amazing. Let him take college for a year with the macbook(get the $999, you would only pay $750 with the discounts). if he decides his major as its art and design, and if they recommend a mbp(which i think they will), sell the macbook and buy a mbp.
  4. timeconsumer macrumors 68000


    Aug 1, 2008

    Please Note: My response is to "taking a few classes in graphic-design" For majoring in graphic design perhaps somebody else would be more helpful.

    To be honest with the above description I really don't think a MBP would be needed. However, it's true, the MBP would be "future proofing" since it does have a dedicated video card.

    As far as the 2.1 to 2.4 upgrade, it's probably not noticeable. I think most of us would suggest an upgrade to 4GB of ram would be more beneficial than the 2.1 to 2.4 upgrade. Get the ram through another website, like newegg, and use ifixit.com to install it. Since it's a user replaceable part it will not void any warranties.

    As far as the black macbook, don't get me wrong it's INCREDIBLY nice. But, after typing on it for a few days, the keys start to show grease marks and it requires to clean a lot. The white on the other hand isn't bad at all. I would also suggest an Incase Hardshell to help keep from being scratched.
  5. iOrlando macrumors 68000

    Jul 20, 2008
    depends on what kind of design programs. As a freshman, chances are he/she wont be using anything so advanced that the base model macbook can't handle.

    I would suggest the base model mac with a memory upgrade (will come into use with alot of programs open at the same time).

    Education discount will bring total to $999.

    Not much difference between base and the next model up. Only if he wants to burn dvds...and have more storage for music and movies, but base model is adequate.

    BTW...its college..freshmen usually always get things bigger and more powerful then they really need. SOoo many freshmen make their mommies and daddies buy the pro just because...
  6. jroller macrumors regular

    Jul 24, 2008
    Charleston, SC
    I teach Photoshop and InDesign and advise the yearbook at a local high school. I have a lab of about thirty Macs I purchased (with yearbook $) over the course of the last eight years. I am responsible for all aspects of the lab, including purchases and maintenance. We have machines that we use in production and class that are seven years old. They work fine, albeit a lot more slowly than the others.

    There is no reason to buy the MBPro. I agree with the argument that the Pro is better at future-proofing, but it is a negligible concern.

    In my experience, the Pro, which I am typing this on and love dearly, is not worth it in this case, especially when the family will have to stretch out to afford it (but also regardless of that fact).

    I do also agree with the recommendation to go to 4 gigs of RAM; that will be the most significant difference if this student does begin doing graphically intensive work. (Yeah, the dedicated graphics card would be "better" than the onboard one, but not worth it for a "potentital" graphics student).

    Get the MB; it will be a fine choice.
  7. wilfried thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2008
    Now, what accessories to go with the Macbook?

    Thanks everyone for your input; it's always nice when people tell you what you want to hear. ;)

    If it were me, I would probably go for the 2.4ghz Macbook. $200 for a bigger hard drive, superdrive, and slight speed boost seems not unreasonable, but then my finances aren't as tight as theirs.

    Now my question is, what sort of accessories should they get? I have a very short list:

    * RAM - Actually, if they get a model that comes with 2gb, I might suggest that they hold off on more RAM. The student can see how it works for him, and install later if needed.

    * External hard drive - I consider this essential for Time Machine, and of course extra storage can't hurt. Now we just have to get him to actually back up regularly.

    * Lock - Sounds like a good idea to prevent theft at the library or wherever, but do students actually use these?

    So any thoughts on other essentials for a student? Again, I know what I would want, but I haven't been a student in a very long time. Thanks as always for any suggestions.
  8. dasikes macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2008
    Btw, the MacBook is fully capable of running pro apps, such as the Final Cut Suite 2. So, it's more than capable enough for graphic design.

    It's more powerful than people give it credit. And for being lighter and more cost effective than the MBP, it's certainly a good choice for any student.

    Oh, and "timeproof" doesn't really apply here as a concern. Any computer should last through college, and as far as hopes of a graphic design major, take it from a student: majors can change easily. I started here at UA KNOWING what I wanted to do, luckily, but it sounds like the design route is just a good idea to him, not a passion yet. He could decide the business aspect of it's too much, or expected pay may not be suiting, or he could decide to become a monk... anything can happen, so don't drop a bunch of money into an expensive machine that may be totally unnecessary.

    I'll be getting a laptop soon. I do plenty of videography/editing work on the side, and I'm certainly not capable of justifying a Macbook Pro, so I highly doubt he will be, either.
  9. dasikes macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2008
    I am a student, who also runs pro apps all the time (my job on campus is editing, and I do lots of freelance work). Here's my advice:

    2GB is PLENTY of RAM, particularly for the general student needs with Mac OSX. Windows requires more RAM than OSX, which is why you see PC laptops loaded down with the stuff more and more. OSX is very efficient, leaving more memory for application use. I'll be upgrading my iMac to 4GB soon, but I've been very happy with 2GB. I just want more :D
    EDIT: oh, and Apple charges incredibly high for RAM. If any upgrades are decided with RAM, go to Crucial.

    External hard drive, definitely a necessity, and they're ALWAYS on sale somewhere. I'd recommend getting a bus powered one (I love my LaCie Rugged) so that there's no power supply required. This is very handy for students, particularly any student taking a post-production or graphic design course: just carry the project in a drive back and forth from class and home!

    Lock - GREAT idea, never used by students. Either most of us are overly trusting, or are smart enough just to never leave our laptops unattended.

    Hope this helps!!

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