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Mr. Dee

macrumors 603
Original poster
Dec 4, 2003
Came across an article on from Jason Snell about purchasing a Mac for a student. Now, obvious exceptions include family where money is no exception and obviously know you have a genius and you want to give them the best tools to learn.

Taking into consideration, a MacBook Pro is really a premium device, is this something you really would burden the cost of for a 16 year old or younger? Take another scenario, you have a HP Stream laptop or MacBook Air and your child comes to you asking for 13 or 15 inch MacBook Pro. They give you some sound reasons why they need it: durable design, great operating system, really well done apps, have desire to learn video editing, code in swift, little photo editing on the side, will take them through high school and college.

I would love for parents to chime in. My take, if you are willing to mow lawns for a couple years, in addition to household chores like wash dishes, plus your own allowance, sure, I would chip in and help you buy it.

At the same time, I just feel like it would be overkill for a student. Sure, if they have an after school job, save from their allowance, go ahead and buy it.
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macrumors 68000
Sep 11, 2014
Interesting question. For my kids (if I had any) :

17 and younger, no buy a used Mac on craigslist for a decent price. If they want to buy a new one for themselves then thats perfectly fine.
18+, no college: $750 towards a Mac.
18+, college: $1000 towards a new Mac, $2 matching per $1 their contribution afterwards
18+ with some scholarship: New Mac
18+ with Full Ride: Top trim Mac and choice of 2x Displays
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macrumors 6502a
Sep 9, 2009
I always hand down my laptop to my significant other or my son.

That being said, your case seems different, ie you need to purchase a separate computer.

First off, keep in mind that Apple sells refurbished units with 1yr warranty and there are CL/ebay sales of used models with AppleCare. That should lower your initial outlay regardless of choice.

Mr. Dee

macrumors 603
Original poster
Dec 4, 2003
My personal opinion, 10 to 12, a cheap $329 iPad and you can used a shared family computer if you need to work on projects like type up a paper, light photo and video editing. For 13 to 16, an HP Stream or Chromebook. If they plan on going to college after high school or community college and they need a Mac, half of the money towards a MacBook Air.

Again, if they save the money on their own, even if they are 12, I say they can have it. Personally, I am not giving no 10 to 16 year old a tricked out 15 inch MBP 2017.


macrumors 68030
Jan 11, 2002
I would assume any geek over the age of 8 somehow has a computer of their own. Either their parents buy them one, or they cobble together something from scrap computers. I grew up with a fair bit of both, lol - alternating from having one of the more expensive setups on the forum, to a really cheap craigslist find that needed some fixing.

If one can afford to buy their kid a Mac without financial pain, why are we even having this discussion? Don't want them to be a spoiled brat? I could understand that. Let's see. Are they already programming other languages? Have they shown promise in doing video/picture editing? Do they already own a Mac - like some kinda used/craigslist find? Are they willing to work their way up from something off craigslist or a mac mini? Why the laptop?

I mean, the gap between an HP stream and a 15" MacBook Pro is pretty large. There's lots of great options in between.

That said, I do think every teen should have a computer, and every teen should know how they work! Just like some people expect their teens to know how to do an oil change on their car, if I had a teen I'd expect them to know how to build their own computer, what a hard drive looks like, and how to reinstall the operating system. If I had a teenage kid I'd probably be trying pretty hard to get them hooked on making little robots, drones, and other widgets - they'd probably have a lot of legos and raspberry pis. :)

Conversely, I happen to believe an iPad is a terrible computer for a kid that's old enough to know how to build one. At that point you're forcing them into a locked down platform!
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macrumors 6502a
Dec 16, 2010
When my son entered middle school 5 years ago, it was requirement for him to have a laptop. So we got him a refurbished Mid-2012 MacBook Pro. There was no way I would get him the Dell laptop that the school recommended. In fact, I had to convince the school to let him use a Mac. And he uses that Mac to this day.
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Open Casket

macrumors member
May 3, 2017
Unnecessary for school and university.
Also makes them a target for crime and is a big responsibility for them - even if you are insured, they will feel bad if they drop it, or it gets wet.
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macrumors 604
Aug 18, 2016
My kids are 9 & 11. Nearly all of their friends have had an iPad for several years (my kids included). Although my husband and I are against the notion of a laptop for them right now, I can absolutely see the need for one for them by late middle school/early high school. As it is, they use my old iMac and will be upgraded to my current 2012 iMac by the end of the summer. I would much rather they use a real computer and learn to type properly (I actually just bought a typing class for them, but they haven't started it yet).

A personal computer of some sort seems pretty much mandatory for high schoolers in this day and age. Quibbling over Mac vs PC is no different for that age than adults, IMO, especially if cost isn't a factor.


macrumors 6502a
Apr 5, 2015
I got my first Mac (and first computer) when I was 16. I saved almost all of the money I got from working for a full year in order to afford it. This is more than 10 years ago now, but I think that once you are 13 or above that you can make your own money and afford nice stuff (if that is your thing). I don't think I would buy a brand new $2000 laptop for a teenager, but I do think a teenager can save up and afford one if they really wanted it. I am of the opinion that you only truly appreciate money if you have to earn then yourself. I realize that other people might not see it the same way, and that's perfectly fine :)

Mr. Dee

macrumors 603
Original poster
Dec 4, 2003
When I look through Apple's current lineup of notebooks, it just seems hard to make it a justified out of pocket expense. As someone, a MacBook Pro or even then retina MacBook is sure to make them a target for theft. Apple had the right balance when they had the polycarbonate MacBook and iBooks many years ago. Apple is obviously not going back in that direction and I don't see cost coming down, if anything, its actually going up more. The MacBook Air I believe is something Apple should maintain because it looks the most less ostentatious among its lineup that doesn't say - look at me, steal me, or easy to damage'.
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macrumors 68020
Jun 27, 2011
I personally wouldn't buy a teen a Mbp. They are costly laptops. There are windows laptops out there that are a fraction of the price. For example, I recently brought an Asus laptop as a secondary laptop. It has Kaby Lake, 250gb,core i5, fingerprint scanner and 8gb ram and it was Only $650 which is less than half I paid for my Mbp.

My point is you can get a decent laptop for kid/teen without breaking the bank. And if my teen wanted mbp, they would have to buy it themselves. I didn't get my first mbp until I was 24 years old with a full time job. And I felt proud buying it because I earned.

I would want my kids to understand the value of things.
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Jun 15, 2017
Rockville, MD
If I'm paying, than you get a used one, something that works and will last long enough to buy your own.

You wouldn't be able to play games on it, it's for educational purposes only. If you want to play games on it, than save your money and buy a gaming PC. But I'd prefer, you and I play together on PS4.

What I did at my friend's request, is i built a cheap desktop PC for his sons, that you can play basic games on it. But boys mom, keeps them active and busy, that they barely have the time in the day to use it.

If money is no object, I'll buy you a new one. But, you doing a ton of chores to earn it, at a minimum wage rate. I will also try to do your chores before you, to teach you to be more competitive and more responsible. And so there is no "I forgot to do my chores" excuse. You will have a white board with your chores schedule.
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macrumors member
Dec 17, 2016
Jason Snell got it absolutely right about tailoring computer purchases to the individual child.

Financial circumstances aside, parents should base their decision based on providing the appropriate tool commensurate with the child's commitment to using the computer for learning as well as the child's specific talent(s) and ability to care for the device.

I've often heard people who are now leaders in the computer industry emphasize how important is was that they had nearly unlimited access to expensive, powerful computers during their early school years. One person whose name I don't recall mentioned that he did computer work for the military as his part time job during his high school years. They would order anything and everything he wanted or needed including gear running into the tens of thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, a student who is interested in language arts or history may find that an iPad or Chromebook suits their needs best and would consider a MacBook of any stripe to be overly complicated and annoying.

If gaming is the main interest challenging the child to learn to build their own rig starting with a Raspberry Pi or Arduino may be a good choice.

Failure to put the primary focus on how best to nurture a child's individual talents and abilities will frustrate the child and be a waste of money.


macrumors 601
Aug 14, 2015
Land of Smiles
I bought all my 3 sons MBP/MBA from there early teens all the way through Uni

They got replacements every 2 or 3 years or when I went on to MBA 2011 they got my 1 year cycle hand me downs

It was thier choice and they managed fine with light gaming and WOW was tolerable

If I had a preference now it would be to go for Win10 laptops over Apple although you can bootcamp but this just adds to the cost.

IMO there is more IRL disadvantages by going Apple esp for software options and flexibility.

Of my 3 sons only one who's now has a PHD and is a lecturer is still with Apple for personal stuff, but all his research projects are on Win PC's/laptops as that's industry norm especially for engineering


macrumors 6502
Oct 9, 2008
As the parent of an 11 Y/O: Depends on the use case and the child's workload, but for general web use, school work, etc I'd either go for a 1st gen 12" Macbook or, if I couldn't find one, a used Macbook Air. 13" non touch MbP If that was the absolute only option at the time... and even then I'd surf the refurb site heavy for a few days.

When he gets to 16-18, if he's starting to do coding or processor intensive apps [video transcoding etc] I'd re-evaluate, but I can't imagine almost ANY child needing more than the processing power of a 15w Ultra low voltage machine for their use case.

For contrast, if you were to ask my FATHER, his answer would be "the cheapest Wal Mart Special you can find". There's merit to this in that, should water be spilled, backpacks dropped, forgotten, tossed around, overstuffed.... they're semi disposable. Yes, they're plasticky, they may not have a great screen, the trackpad is almost assuredly garbage.... but the silicon is enough for what they'd most likely need to do.

Fortunately for my son, I'm [spoiled] very conscious of how the hardware quality affects usage, and would never EVER get him something that was horrible to use [in case I ever had to use or work on it] . Still, he's 11. He doesn't NEED a brand new ANYTHING in tech [mostly because my hand me downs are better than most family's best equipment] .

Hope that gives you a little added insight. :)


macrumors 65816
Apr 28, 2008
I still remember when my dad got me my first laptop. I was 17 and getting ready to start my first year at college. It was a huge, plasticky, 2.5" thick HP pavilion running windows XP. But I was so ridiculously happy to have my first laptop, none of that mattered.

At the risk of sounding really these days don't know how good they have it!


macrumors 6502a
Jan 12, 2013
I have bought my granddaughter the latest iPad every two years since she was 13, she prizes them and takes above her age care of them. I will be gifting her my fully maxed out 2015 15" MacBook Pro next year when she starts college. Why, first of all because I'm a grandparent and can spoil her if I want. Second, or then again maybe first, she has had 1A colleges asking about/following her since she was a high school freshman for basketball. She is also a self motivated straight A student. As far as I am concerned, for her, these devices are a requirement, not an option.


macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
Do you recall the popular YouTube video named "United breaks guitars" ...?

Well, here's a Fishrrman prediction:
"Kids break computers".

So don't spend too much on one intended for a kid.
Perhaps a used one in decent shape will be fine.

Even a teen will be rough on them. A friend bought Macs for his college-bound kids (and they WERE NOT wild ones), and a few years later both MacBooks looked like they had been "rode hard and put up wet."


macrumors 6502
Mar 17, 2011
Moscow, Russia
If you have bought a mac for yourself, not buying one for your kid just seems wrong. In my opinion a parent shouldn't spend more money on himself than the rest of the family. Each family member does his own part of chores, whether it's a job, housekeeping or studying. Rewards should be given out fairly. Otherwise don't be surprised when your kids don't support you in your old age.

Mr. Dee

macrumors 603
Original poster
Dec 4, 2003
If you have bought a mac for yourself, not buying one for your kid just seems wrong. In my opinion a parent shouldn't spend more money on himself than the rest of the family. Each family member does his own part of chores, whether it's a job, housekeeping or studying. Rewards should be given out fairly. Otherwise don't be surprised when your kids don't support you in your old age.
So, I spent $4,000 on a 2017 15 inch MBP and I should pick up one for the child just because? Why do they need to have a MacBook Pro specifically? Why not a cheap Dell with Linux? In fact, it might be even more advantageous for them to have that. Macs are not tinker boxes. I would rather build a desktop with them, so they can learn how it works and be interested in computers from a more technical/engineering aspect. A MacBook Pro, boot macOS and load apps, thats not learning anything really about how computers work.

One of things I have learn't about the greatest operating system developer, Dave Cutler, he is so good at software development because knows hardware really well.
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macrumors 6502a
Aug 1, 2011
Well, the Macbook Pro is just a computer. Sure it's an expensive computer, but it's still just a computer.

I don't see any reason why any child of any age that is using a computer shouldn't use a Macbook Pro simply because it's expensive.

Whether or not you buy one for a child should only depend on what you can afford. Everything else is just noise.


Jun 13, 2015
Here's the original article:

sensible advice, really.

First off: the columnist is writing for mac users-- people who prefer Darwin to Windows. That's easily the tightest constraint.

You can't lug a mac mini, or an imac, or mac pro to a lecture.
you can't type on an ipad. You can write on an ipad pro, which would make for nice note taking device. But there's a small matter of file exchange. With a mac, if someone gives you a dat file on a usb stick, there's so much you can do with it-- even programming your own data analysis app. With an ipad, it's a right pain.
Which leaves the macbook air, the macbook, and the various iterations of the macbook pro.

The macbook air isn't retina. Considering how much reading one does in college, it's arguably time to move on.

which leaves the macbook and the macbook pro. One is somewhat underpowered for video production, which happens to be a thing that students are sometimes asked to do. The other is expensive. But at least it doesn't have a touchbar.

It may be a case of apple not producing affordable machines, or compromising the least expensive machines.

(one of the reasons I have an imac is that I recognize that I am a klutz. I dropped my Powerbook 140 more than once in college. Nowadays, I use an ipad, ofttimes wrapped in a thick case when I need to be portable.)

A new mac comes with a warranty. A used mac comes with potential headaches.
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