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Buying a Mac for the first time

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Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby cute hat » Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:34 am

I am interested in buying a Mac. I currently have a desktop, and would prefer a laptop. All of the tech/spec things were handled by my ex when getting this Mac. So I would appreciate recommendations on what to get. I do writing, editing, viewing video, email, sending and receiving photos, simple graphics, that sort of thing. I don't do any games.
I'm looking at an Apple MacBook Pro 13.3 in/2.4GHz, Duel-Core i5 4 GB (2x2GB)/500GB/SuperDrive, with an Intel Core i5 Mobile processor.
Frankly, none of this makes much sense to me. (Don't beat me up for this. I'm old.)
Any advise? What should I be looking for? Would this meet my needs? What accessories should I get?
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby fennel » Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:43 am

I think the 15-inch size is worth the difference in price. Far less cramped. I also recommend the low-glare screen. The default option requires a lot of fussing to avoid glare, depending on the environment.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby fisticuffs » Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:58 am

I'm comfortable with the 13" Bought a used aluminum one on eBay for $600 a couple years ago and loaded it out with 8GB of RAM. it's a beast. It also came loaded with Adobe CS5 so that was cool too.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby Athena » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:15 am

Generally speaking you can't go wrong with a new/newer Mac. They don't make low end Macs that go as bare bones as PCs. If you go over the Apple store in the West Towne Mall you can try out the different options. For a laptop the feel of it in your hands is very important. You want to be sure you like the size of the screen and the weight of the computer.

For accessories, I'd recommend a lapdesk that is large enough to comfortably hold a mouse on the side. I've never gotten used to any of the non-mouse devices to be able to use them as well as a mouse. Then it's nice to have a bag to carry all that stuff around.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby Ducatista » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:45 am

I've owned and used a zillion Macs, all the way back to my first Mac Plus in 1987. My current 13" MacBook Air (about a year old, so not the newest model) is far and away my favorite. Screen resolution is so good that size is manageable even for working on page layouts, though at the office I have an auxiliary Cinema display that makes it much easier to work in spreadsheets or multiple documents. I think the Air/additional display combo would be a great setup for a home office.

The Air replaced a 17" MacBook Pro. Man, was I glad to get rid of that boat anchor. At the end of every day I used to think: do I REALLY need my computer tonight? Any time I could avoid lugging it home, I would. And overseas travel, oof. Compared to the 17", the Air is incredibly portable. SO easy for travel, and I happily carry it from work to home and back every day. Battery life is fantastic, too. I can take notes throughout a daylong meeting without needing to recharge.

No CD/DVD drive, so I bought an external drive that I've used exactly twice in the past year.

I'm on my computer all day, and I don't have an external mouse or keyboard. If I did much photo retouching or vector art anymore I'd get an auxiliary mouse, but I don't, so the big, multi-function trackpad is perfect for me.

And since we're (kind of) on the subject: Fuck Microsoft Office. Excel took a crap on my machine about a month ago, forcing me to switch to Numbers (its iWork equivalent) as I waited for IT to come round for a diagnosis/reinstall. It was a revelation. Numbers is so far superior to Excel that I told IT to forget about fixing it. I deleted that turd from my machine and haven't looked back. Numbers exports flawlessly for my unenlightened coworkers, so I'm set. I still have to use Outlook for workplace compatibility, but I'm starting to wean myself from Word, too. I don't know how Office can look itself in the mirror every morning. Piece. O. Crap.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby cute hat » Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:28 pm

This is all very helpful. If I knew more about what I was doing, I would consider buying something on craigslist. So iWork is better than the Window office suite? That's all I've ever used.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby green union terrace chair » Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:32 pm

cute hat wrote:This is all very helpful. If I knew more about what I was doing, I would consider buying something on craigslist. So iWork is better than the Window office suite? That's all I've ever used.

Be careful about craigslist, just because you'll have a hard time returning it if there's something wrong and that's how a lot of stolen gear moves.

I'd recommend trying out a few at the Apple Store to see what size screen works best for you, then getting the cheapest version in that size. The things you listed as your primary activity will not tax any current system. If you can find a model from the last line of updates before the current models, you can save money without any noticeable loss of power / features. If you start dabbling in older models, just make sure you're getting an Intel CPU. The newer OS versions don't run on the previous CPUs.

Don't be afraid of "refurbished" models. These are generally computers that had some sort of problem, were sent back to the factory or a reseller and had a pro open it up and fix it.

I've used this company for accessories, they sell a lot of previous generation stuff:
https://www.megamacs.com/new_show_cat.p ... =ALT-mbpro
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby Petro » Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:28 pm

I have little to add that hasn't already been stated in this thread, aside from reiterating that you should make sure to spend some time with the 13" MBP in the Apple store before buying.

I personally don't know if I could deal with the screen's low resolution. (It's limited to 1280x800, even the 13" MBA has a higher-res BTO option.)

If you're willing to throw down a few extra bucks, I'd look into an SSD. I picked up my current MBP last summer and paid a slightly outrageous amount for a very fast aftermarket SSD and I love it. The thing boots in about 10 seconds flat and opening apps is all-but instantaneous. I really think my next move will be yanking the internal optical drive and replacing it with a bigger spinning-magnetic-media drive for bulk storage. (Along with some intelligent scripts to spin it down when it's not in use.)

Also: Don't get the memory from Apple if you've got a reasonably techy friend that owns a Phillips 00 screwdriver.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby Shorty » Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:36 pm

Apple on line store sells refurbs if you want to save some money.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby Ducatista » Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:55 pm

Petro wrote:I have little to add that hasn't already been stated in this thread, aside from reiterating that you should make sure to spend some time with the 13" MBP in the Apple store before buying.

I personally don't know if I could deal with the screen's low resolution. (It's limited to 1280x800, even the 13" MBA has a higher-res BTO option.)

Yup. My 13" MacBook Air is a super-crisp 1440x900. I get max screen real estate by viewing things small and using reading glasses (which I use a fair bit anyway, now that I'm in my mid 40s).
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby john_titor » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:20 pm

cute hat wrote:I am interested in buying a Mac.


If you don't have to have a Mac, you can get a decent Windows laptop of equal quality for less money.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:39 pm

Can someone explain the obsession with Mac. No offence, but the cost is crazy compared to any other laptops. Is it worth the price when it will be obsolete within a few years? Just askin.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby fennel » Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:16 pm

Stebben84 wrote:Can someone explain the obsession with Mac. No offence, but the cost is crazy compared to any other laptops. Is it worth the price when it will be obsolete within a few years? Just askin.
For me it's about stability and the fact that I don't want to spend my time struggling with a clunky OS. I've been been in the "I-world" professionally for about 15 years. Pre-OS X, Apple had some pretty serious drawbacks, but they had the good sense to move to unix-land.
If I weren't using OS X, I'd be using some linux distro (on much cheaper hardware), where I probably wouldn't notice the difference for a lot of the work I do. But when it comes to the GUI, linux environments are just as clunky as Windows. (Though much more customizable, of course.) And if you're a fan of open-source tools, you really, really want to be in a unix/linux environment.

So, while the price does seem a bit obscene, I think the overall cost diminishes the more work you do.

Beyond laptops/desktops, so far I have no interest in other Apple products. They always seem to lack some critical feature that only I need, apparently.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby Petro » Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:50 am

Stebben84 wrote:Can someone explain the obsession with Mac. No offence, but the cost is crazy compared to any other laptops. Is it worth the price when it will be obsolete within a few years? Just askin.


I'll be the first to admit that there's a fair number of rabid Mac fans that attempt to spread their gospel of Apple and do a pretty poor job. In fact, that's lead to a pretty wicked backlash of rabid anti-Apple zealots. (Check the comments on any Infinite Loop story on Arstechnica for an example.)

That being said, Apple does a lot of things right.

1.) Their products are truly well designed, well built and use quality components that are often months, if not years ahead of their counterparts from lower-priced competitors. Apple's been the pioneer in adopting new wifi tech (they were the first to make 3x3:3 802.11n commonplace in all of their devices - heck they were the first to make 5ghz common place), new bluetooth tech, displayport, firewire, standard SSDs in affordable notebooks, and even the now seemingly ubiquitous metal unibody enclosure.

2.) They seem expensive, but they can't be built more cheaply than Apple does it. Apple is the undisputed king of the supply chain. Just a quick example - Intel launched an "Ultrabook" initiative last year. A $300M slush fund geared toward making notebooks that, well, basically were MacBook Airs but weren't made by Apple. (This was engineered to create a larger marketplace for Intel's 17W TDP parts that they'd built explicitly after Apple threatened to drop them if they couldn't make a lower power CPU.)

The Ultrabook initiative seemed promising at first, but it rapidly became increasingly apparent that it simply wasn't possible for PC manufacturers to deliver the required featureset in a small enough case while having reasonable battery life. The initial round of Ultrabooks were overpriced and a step in the right direction - the second and later crops were a pathetic failure. (A VGA port on a $1200 notebook in 2012? Really?) The first sign that this would be the case was the manufacturers screaming for discounts on CPUs from Intel. Intel refused, natch.

3.) They're expensive, but they also retain value surprisingly well. If you buy a new PC it'll depreciate more quickly than a new car. This is very much not the case with Apple gear. Since it's viewed as an expensive luxury by many people, there's a pretty enthusiastic secondary market of people who are willing to pay a pretty substantial chunk of change for a used Mac. Additionally, their service (via AppleCare) is transferrable between owners, and rather fantastic.

4.) They're pretty safe for techie neophytes. After a few years of embarrassing defeats at pwn2own, Apple's actually done quite a bit to improve their security model. Sandboxed apps, address space layout randomization, and the constantly attacked xprotector are all steps in the right direction - but Apple's best line of defense thus far has been their small market share. People just don't target macs for malware like they do PCs.

I could go on for longer, but I need to stop fooling around and haul myself into work. Just for the sake of argument, I'll end by mentioning that I've only owned my own Mac for a bit less than a year. I've been using them professionally for several years at this point, and my Mac at home shares a network with a couple PCs and big honkin' freebsd box. I'm not especially biased in favor of Apple - I'll use whatever computer's best for a particular task.

That being said, I really like my Mac.
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Re: Buying a Mac for the first time

Postby fisticuffs » Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:32 am

I think the price issue also gets thrown out of proportion because Apple doesn't make any inferior laptops while just about everybody else does. When you're comparing based on pure specs with a low end Toshiba from Best Buy you're not getting the whole story. The Mac has better parts all around. Better display, better case, better track pad, better mother board, better RAM, better drives, and often times better processors (although you can get the latest Intel's on a cheap board in a $600 Toshiba). There's is a Mac tax it's just no where near as huge as most people seem to think it is. Twice, and three times get thrown around a lot in these threads a lot and that's simply not true. For the components you'd be lucky to save 10% buying a PC and then as stated earlier that PC would be worthless in a year while the Mac would go for damn near what you paid for it.
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