Which system to buy

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by tommymcguck, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. tommymcguck macrumors newbie

    Sep 30, 2008
    Hi everyone,

    I have run into the old pickle of which apple product/products is best for my situation, so have come for some advice. Here's my situation...

    I have just come back from overseas and don't have a computer or much money, so cost will be a consideration in this. I'm a uni student, but I don't start uni again until the start of march (I live in Australia). The main things I do on computers is surf the web, watch movies, listen to a whole bunch of music, write essays, make cue cards (for study), play the occasional games (pretty much just counter strike source, so not too graphics intense) and occasionally edit a few RAW photos and even less often a little bit of video editing. Because I am studying, portability is going to be a big thing, however I also want something that will be powerful enough to last me a good 4-5 years and still run well with what ever software advances come in that time.

    Just before I went overseas I had a base model 13" MacBook pro, with a data doubler from OWC and a SSD. Long story, but this laptop is long gone. I do still have the SSD and data doubler though, so they can be used in another macbook pro or a mac mini. I loved this set up but there were times when I thought it was still a bit too heavy than I would have liked. I ride to uni, so the lighter the better.

    After a lot of thinking I have narrowed it down to a few options (not in order of preference)...

    1. Get another base model 13" MacBook pro - $1400

    2. Mac mini coupled with an iPad. I would go for the 2.5ghz model with discrete graphics. If I went for this option I would get the mini now and the iPad closer to the start of uni, just because of money issues - $1480

    3. MacBook air 1.7ghz 128GB HDD - $1450

    All the prices would come down a little with my student discount. I also already have a display, keyboard and mouse, so these will be used with the mini or as a second display for either laptop.

    Any experience with any of these set ups would be much appreciated, or even just general advice would be great. I am very interested in some comments from people who have used an iPad for note taking at university.


  2. JoeSixPack macrumors member


    Oct 4, 2008
    For what its worth, I love my iPad and iPhone but would not want to try to take notes on either. I would not recommend an iPad (or any tablet) as something to type a lot onto - unless you add a keyboard but then you essentially have a two piece laptop.

    And when you graduate the logic ends up being the same in the workplace, the iPhone is the best personal smartphone out there but most professionals still have their work Blackberry just because you need the real keyboard for long work emails.
  3. Sonhascome macrumors 6502

    Feb 18, 2010
    It doesn't sound like you need too much. I'd say you could probably get away with the base model, definitely get a ssd though!
  4. tommymcguck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 30, 2008
    I should have clarified a little. When I say note taking it isn't exactly typing out a whole lot that a lecturer says. We are given the PowerPoint slides before the lecture in a PDF, so it would only be small amounts of detail that I would be taking note of. Of course I would do all my essay writing on the desktop.

    I suppose another thing I am interested in is the longevity of the computers. The main thing holding me back from the MacBook air is its processor. How is it expected to perform in 3-4 years compared to the pro or mini considering both would have SSDs in them?
  5. KylePowers, Dec 24, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2011

    KylePowers macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2011
    I tried the whole note-taking route with an iPad for almost a whole semester, but in the end, I just gave up.

    I used a capacitive touch screen stylus with the UPAD app (the best note-taking app I came across at the time) and it was really... neat, for lack of a better word, for a while. I had folders for all my classes with subfolders for lectures, quizzes, homeworks, etc. I could annotate PDFs and create new documents with different types of paper, colors, line widths, line colors, etc. I could highlight and insert photos and whatnot.

    It was nice because all I had to take to class was my iPad. No more binders, notebooks, textbooks, etc. But in the end, I gave up. The iPad just wasn't meant to take notes on. It slows you down because you're spending all this time worrying about formats and if your writing is legible and if everything is saved correctly and blahblahblah.

    I moved back to binders/notebooks/pencils this semester and it all just felt more natural to me. Now if you strictly want to just use an iPad to read lecture notes (PDFs, etc) and maybe use it as an alternative to hardcover textbooks, then that's not a bad idea. It's nice to read on, but I again, prefer to print everything out, hole punch everything, sort everything into categories and binders... that sort of stuff.
    I ended up selling my iPad 2 and putting the money toward an 11in 2011 4GB/128GB MacBook Air. Couldn't be happier. I can still do everything I could on an iPad (aside from touch screen games, of course) while also having a full-on computing experience.

    It's virtually the same size as an iPad, has comparable instant-on times, and double the hard drive space. Of course, the battery is about half compared to the iPad, but it's a good tradeoff in my opinion. I always throw it in my bag when I go to class, because it adds virtually no weight, nor does it really take up any space.

    Now I love the MBA and would recommend it to anyone, but to be used as their main computer for four years with some gaming? I'm not too sure. I use a 27in iMac when I'm at my apartment (which is near campus) for better productivity and occasional gaming. My MBA serves as more of a leisure machine (though I've had a multitude of productive moments on it) when I'm at my apartment.

    What I would suggest is:
    1) As a university student, definitely own a laptop. There'll be times when you'll need a fully functional computing device and you're not at your home/dorm/apartment- Like in class, or doing group work at a partner's place, or at a library trying to finish a paper.
    2) Because of my first suggestion, that narrows us down to either an MBP or MBA. In your scenario, it might be best to go MBP.

    All the CPUs are Sandy Bridge, so there won't be much difference regarding the longevity between the MBP, MBA, and Mini in the next four years (I'd imagine). With the MBP at least, you can upgrade the RAM and hard drive. And you already said you had an SSD, so MBP is probably your best bet.

    The only advantage I see with an MBA over an MBP (assuming you go 13"), is the size and screen resolution. The MBP is about twice as thick-ish and almost weighs twice as much, but if you're throwing it into a backpack, you won't really notice.

    Anywho, let us know what you go with!

    EDIT- Don't be afraid to check out refurb deals, going second-hand, or even going back a generation. Might be able to find some sweet deals and get two computers or maybe an MBP and an iPad 1. I love my iMac+MBA combo =D
  6. David085 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 9, 2009
    Get a MBA since it already have a ssd drive installed and is much thinner
  7. tommymcguck thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 30, 2008
    Thanks Powers, super helpfull. Gonna have to sleep on it a bit more. Will keep you all in the loop. Cheers

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